Interview with Author Michael David Matula
1. What inspired you to become an author? What was your inspiration for writing?
Actually, I kind of stumbled into it. I was originally more interested in drawing comics when I was a kid, and I only wrote stories so I could have something for my characters to do. The problem was, it was far faster for me to come up with an idea than it was for me to sketch out all the panels. So I wrote out a side story for one of my characters (which, coincidentally enough, was about a man escaping from hell) and I enjoyed the process so much that I started writing more and more. Eventually, I turned my short story into a full novel.
2. Favorite character to write about?
My favorite character to write is probably Samantha Reiss, aka “Sam.” She practically writes herself, which makes things easy for me. All I have to do is sit down by a keyboard and let Sam do her own thing. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she had a mind of her own.
3. Why did you chose paranormal?
I’ve always been fascinated by monsters and by outlandish settings. I was drawn to fantasy stories and Greek mythology as a kid, and I soaked all that stuff up. For me, paranormal creatures are like modern mythology. They’re our demigods, in a way.
4. Have you ever thought or considered writing in a different genre like erotica or just plain romance?
I’ve always been of the “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it” school of thought, and I’ve always liked experimenting with different genres. I actually have a few ideas for a YA romance that I’d love to write. They’re still mostly in the planning stages, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get more time to work on them soon. One of the stories doesn’t even have any monsters or sci-fi elements in it, which is unusual for me. It does involve drugs, guns, sex and violence, though, so maybe it’s not such a huge departure, after all…
5. Which character do you relate to the most?
Brandon Morales is the one who I based the most on my own personality, and he and I both share a number of the same experiences. But despite all that, I still find myself relating the most to Sam. She can be cynical and gruff, though as the story goes on, you see just how deeply she cares, and how much she’s been through. Her experiences have hardened her, to be sure, but she’d risk anything to help the people she loves.
6. Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Aside from the sequel to Try Not to Burn, I do have a few other projects in the works. One is a New Adult vampire novel set in Mob-controlled Chicago, which I recently finished revising. I’m hoping it will see the light of day sometime soon, as I’m very proud of the story.
7. How do you approach cover design?
I haven’t had much experience with book cover design, personally. For Try Not to Burn, the publisher handled most of that. He asked me for some suggestions, but ended up going a different way with it. I’d pitched him a rather involved idea about showing Hell City as a giant snow globe, with the flames eating away at the buildings and the dome itself, and ashes forming the snowflakes. It might have been cool, but it also would have been pretty tough to pull off.
8. Do you write as you go or do you have a pretty good idea of how the whole book is going to be?
For Try Not to Burn, I pretty much just wrote it by the seat of my pants. It happened organically, and the characters dictated where the story would go. Everything is new to the characters, so it felt right that it was new to me, as well. We were all experiencing the situations and the obstacles for the first time. That’s not to say I’ll do that for every book, though, as it can be a bit stressful to have to constantly think on the fly.
9. Who is your favorite author? Most influential?
For both, I’d say Nancy A. Collins, who wrote Sunglasses After Dark. That book was an eye-opener for me, and it helped convince me that writing was really something I wanted to do.
10. What kind of books do you like to read? What’s your favorite book?
I like fantasy and dark fiction, mostly. All time, my favorite book is still probably The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander. It was the first book I remember my mother reading to me, and it still gives me warm fuzzies when I think about it.
11.Where do you get your ideas from?
Just about everywhere. Sometimes they’ll come to me while I’m jogging, other times while I’m watching a movie, other times while I’m trying to go to sleep. I’ve always had an active imagination, and I often play out “What if” scenarios, whether I want to or not. Like if I’m out jogging and a car is coming, I sometimes picture the collision. Is that weird? If it is, then forget I said anything.
12. How do you get in the writing mood?
If I’m excited about the story I’m working on, then I’m pretty much always in a writing mood. I’m raring to go. When I’m struggling to figure out what to do with the story, and I’ve hit a wall, that’s when things get tricky. Sometimes I’ll go back to an old story that I’ve struggled with in the past, and I’ll work on that for a bit.
13. Do you listen to music while writing? If you do, what kind of music do you listen to?
Sometimes. Not as much as I used to. I usually enjoy writing with music on, but I’ve found that I concentrate better without it. When I do listen to music while I write, it’s usually something retro and familiar. Something that fades into the background.
14. What is your e-reader device of choice? Or do you prefer books in print?
I’m a bit of a caveman when it comes to technology, and I always seem to be a generation or two behind the curve. Once people have moved onto the downloading books directly to their brains (b-books?) I’m sure I’ll get into e-readers. That said, I do have a small but growing collection of e-books that I’ve picked up from Amazon (mostly from my fellow indie authors) and I do occasionally read them on my computer.
15.When did you first start writing?
I started writing in high school. Not well, of course, but that’s when I started trying to write.
16. What is the earliest memory you have of writing a story?
I wrote a story for an assignment at school when I was little. I think it was called “The Lost Mitten” or something like that. I drew and colored my own crude illustrations and the teacher laminated all of the class’ stories and made little books out of them. I think The Lost Mitten still exists somewhere, as I seem to remember seeing it not too long ago, but it’s since been lost again.
17. When did you first, without hesitation, called yourself a writer?
I’ve since learned the error of my ways, but I’d been pretty cocky when I started, so I imagine I called myself a writer straight away. It isn’t something I remember questioning.
18. What do you like to do in your downtime when not writing? Do you have any hobbies?
I like to sketch when I can find the time. I also enjoy listening to podcasts. Lately I’ve been trying to catch up on a few TV shows, as I went a long time without watching any TV except for Game of Thrones and Homeland, and I’ve only recently dipped my toes back into those waters. I never watch TV as it airs, though, so I’m always way behind.
19.What other talents besides writing do you have?
I like to delude myself into thinking I have a bit of skill at drawing, but most of the stuff I draw only looks vaguely reminiscent of what it’s supposed to look like.
20. Do you have any upcoming appearances/signings? When and where?
Starting on February 6th, I’ll be at CapriCon 34 in Wheeling, IL for a few days, signing books with a couple other Post Mortem Press authors. I’ll also be the featured author at the Tamale Hut Café in North Riverside, IL on Saturday, February 8th, where I’ll be doing a live reading from Try Not to Burn at 7:00 pm.
Here are a few specific questions about the book:
1. Why call it Hell city? I was fascinated with the place and loved how it was so mysterious.
Thank you very much. I wanted it to be unlike most of the other depictions of the afterlife that I’d seen. And in my story, since overcrowding in the afterlife has become an issue, a city seemed to make the most sense. The demons themselves simply call it the first stage of the Gauntlet, but I figured the inmates would have a more colorful name for the place. Also, most of the inmates think Hell City is all that there is, and don’t yet know that it’s only a part of a much greater whole.
2. Will there be a little romance in the second book?
Most definitely. The seeds were planted in the first book, and certain events happen in the second book which not only bring some characters much closer together, but also push other characters further apart. I wish I could be more specific about what happens, but all I can say is that there is more of an emphasis on the romance in the second book.
3. Inmates, why call them inmates?They call themselves inmates because as far as they know, they’re all stuck here for eternity, with nowhere else to go, and no hope of release due to good behavior. I approached the story as if the afterlife is mankind’s oldest prison system, and Hell City is the maximum security wing. It isn’t until Brand arrives and shakes things up that the characters realize they actually might have a chance at something other than eternal punishment.
This one is just a bonus question, for me: If you could have one super power or become a certain paranormal (like a vampire, werewolf, etc) what would it be and why?
If I could, I’d pick Wolverine’s mutant healing factor. Flying might be fun, I suppose, but if I could have the ability to heal instantly from any wound and to live for a couple of centuries? Yeah, I could go for that.
Thank you so much for answering all my questions.
Review and more to come tomorrow. Suleika