Back with a new interview with Matthew Sylvester! Been a busy week for me with a return to some freelance work and editing, so back to the Scar work den I go! *vanishes with a wisp of black edgelord cloak*.
STARTING OFF WITH A BANG
Introduce yourself! An easy question to start off with. Who are you, what do you write?
Matthew Sylvester. Currently writing GameLit/LitRPG, alternate history, military sci-fi and urban fantasy.
Is this your first time in SPFBO?
Yes, I never had a book which fit into the categories, and then I missed a couple whilst I faffed around with my entry, Hell Hound.
What book did you enter into this year’s event?
Hell Hound, an urban fantasy, and the first in the trilogy.
Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?
Definitely, both of them in fact. Jane and Dawn came out so well, and I really love how their friendship isn’t affected by Jane’s unrequited love for Dawn. They take a lot of beatings, but still get up and keep going.
What was the inspiration for the story? What are your future project(s)?
I used to take my daughters to a lot of dance classes in a nearby town, and would just sit in the car or the Wetherspoons (I know, but safest pub with cheapest coffee in that town), and write.
I’ve read urban fantasy for years, so I thought I’d write a short story. And gradually that short story turned into a full-blown novel with Jane getting her own Instagram, twitter and Facebook accounts so that when I was out and about, I could keep building her world into ours. Or our world into hers.
Book two – Be-were – is roughly 60% there and takes on a darker theme, and book three will follow that arc.
What are the key themes and/or messages in the book?
Key theme for me is the friendship of the two characters. Dawn accepts Jane is in love with her, and Jane accepts that Dawn will never love her in that way, but it doesn’t affect their friendship or loyalty to each other.
Never giving up is also key. I put my characters through a lot, and force them to keep going. I don’t like overpowered characters, so I think it’s important to show them as normal people (as normal as you can get in an urban fantasy), desperately trying to do their job.
What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?
Getting it edited and publishing. I procrastinated for a year. I’m not sure why. I think I was worried that I was a) writing about characters with Sikh (Jane) and black (Dawn) heritage, Jane was also a lesbian, and I didn’t want to come across as trying to appropriate those for my own gain.
What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
Most definitely! This was always planned as a trilogy, with the option for more depending on how well it was received. I’m utterly terrible at the sales bit of self-publishing, so poor sales won’t reflect whether or not I write them, it’s just a matter of not diving into another shiny project.
These are going to be increasingly difficult for Jane and Dawn, but I can’t say much more without spoiling the arc. However, there will be more werewolves, a werebear, love interests, and Team Seelie will also make its debut.
MORE RAMBLES ABOUT WRITING
What is your favorite book you’ve written?
That’s hard! It’s like having to choose which is my favourite child. I suppose it depends on the day. Sometimes it’s the book I’m currently writing (I’m writing a trilogy for Mountaindale Press), but I do still have a great fondness for Blaise Maximillian and the Bitter Defeat series I’m writing.
Who are your favorite authors?
Philip Reeve, Ursula Le Guin, R A Salvatore, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, Robin Hobb, Ben Aaronovitch, Mike Cole, Jim Butcher, Dan Abnett, Jonathan Green, Joe Abercombie, Jon Evans, Stewart Hotston, the list goes on!
What makes a good villain?
Believability. You have to dislike them as well. If you’re sympathetic to them or their cause, they’re really just anti-heroes.
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
No. But the20booksto50k group is amazing.
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Stewart Hotston, Dawn Chapman, Dakota Krout, Andries Louws, and again the list could go on.
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
That you can think you’re done, but then once your editor and publisher get their hands on it, book one becomes book one and two with a ton of extra writing.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
Plotter. Well, I write a chapter plan, and then find that ‘they go hunting vampires and have a fight’ becomes three chapters. So I have plan, but unrealistic expectations as to what actually makes a chapter.
If you had to give up both snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
Neither. I can write with both or not. Sometimes I write with films on in the background as well. But I write in sprints, so a session for me is only 15-30 minutes and then I have a nice break 😊
Which is your favourite season to write in, and why?
Winter, because that’s when you really have an excuse to stay in and basically hibernate.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I take people I would want to know, or who I would want to have as a leader (in the case of Blaise Maximillian), or emulate in certain ways (again Blaise, he’s the sort of officer I would want to be if I was in the forces). And then I just write them. They evolve as the books do.
What is your writing process? Do you have one? What is your workspace like?
Sprints are best for me. I’ve got dictation software and a proper mic, but I’m useless at the training part of it. I’d rather just write. So when I do write, I do it in sprints as per the Chris Fox method. No corrections or editing, just words, words, words. I’m up to about 3k an hour that way.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
My brain won’t stop coming up with ideas. It can come from a simple conversation, playing a game, reading a history book, TV anywhere. I’m like a magpie, and it’s infuriating!
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
Um, at least forty. A lot are in one planned series for a special forces unit created in 1918, so the books will span a wide era of history.
However, I really do want to write Tyrannamechasaurus Rex. It’s a sci-fi where giant cyborg dinosaur mecha are piloted by humans sitting in their craniums. The story will be based around the daughter of a powerful house who loses everything and has to put together an army to get it back.
Do you have any new series planned?
Yes, I have at least two more LitRPG/GameLit series, Shadow Company, Outer Rim (a whole sci-fi universe where I can do everything from Westerns to Space Operas), Lost Legion (set in the Outer Rim series) and Bastard of the 9th. The last one should be fun as it features a Centurion who retires in Hibernia, only to be told that his pension is on the other side of the Empire. And his horse, Bastard, is stolen. He and his close companion are then forced to travel through the Empire in a never-ending quest to get the horse back whilst stumbling into adventures along the way.
MORE ABOUT YOU
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Airsoft, Xbox, gaming, martial arts, reading, watching series and films, kayaking, whisky tasting, walking with the family, painting miniatures, and I’ve just started doing a Star Wars Rebel trooper outfit to cosplay in.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Either actor, or military intelligence.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
Huh, daddy or chips. Coffee, but only just.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
Mars, so I could claim a patch of land as mine and officially be a Martian.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
John Wick, Jyn Erso, Harry Dresden. We travel the world right wrongs. I’d be the useless sidekick. The gofer.
What superpower would you most like?
To think of book and have it appear fully written, perfectly edited, with a blinding cover, blurb, marketing material and ready to upload.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
The old style Dresden Files (where they looked like files), and the Rivers of London series.
If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be and what would you cook?
Keanu Reeves and I’d do something simple like Wagyu steak, chips, fried onion and red wine/bourbon.
Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.
I have two cats, but much prefer dogs.
It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and pandemic comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?
Wind down the support group. Aside from my full-time job and my writing, I’m also running a 150-strong community support group with my wife. We haven’t truly had a day off since before lockdown in the UK, and it would be great to just hire a campervan and track around Scotland visiting distilleries, writing and crafting (my wife has a jewellery business).
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are all good, and I’m sure Jane wouldn’t mind if you said hello either!
I’m more than easy to find as I’m all over Facebook and Twitter, Jane might be harder, so here’s a few links.
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/jane.doeagent
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/janedoechronicles/