Josh Matthews - Drop and Give me 20! 20 Hard Questions for Hard Authors
Pre Question - So, who are you?
I’m a former New Englander, born and raised right outside of Boston, who now lives in north Florida with my wife, teenage step-daughter, and four lovable but exasperating pets. I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for twenty-three years, which provided me the opportunity to travel around the world and be exposed to numerous cultures, many of which will appear in the Hell Gate saga. I’ve always been a fan of horror novels and monster movies, and the Hell Gate saga is my way of sharing that love with a new generation of fans.
1. Are you “An Author” -or- “A Writer”? What’s the difference? A writer. To me, the word author conjures up negative images of self-absorbed people bragging about their book that will change the world, like Brain Griffin on Family Guy. I consider myself a story teller. I’m not attempting to portray the human condition or make some brilliant political statement with Hell Gate. All I’m trying to do is tell the story of a sixteen-year-old boy attempting to save the world by closing down the gates to Hell that his mother inadvertently opened.
2. What is your biggest failure? Not having my own biological children. I am blessed to have a step-daughter who I consider my own child, and who sees me as her dad. The woman I was previously married to for twenty years never wanted children; because I stayed with her for so long, I deprived myself of the chance of being a biological father.
3. What is the worst lie you ever told?
You’re right – these are tough questions. When I was younger, I used to date several women at the same time and not tell the others about each other. I’ve matured since then.
4. Do you Google yourself?
Not often. I have Google Alert and Alert Talker that daily search the web and inform me when my name or the title of my book is picked up. When I do Google myself, it’s only to see if websites have posted reviews of Hell Gate that I’m not aware of.
5. How would your friends describe you? And what about your worst enemy?
The two words most of my friends would use to describe me are loyal and fun. I stand by people who are good to me, sometimes to my own detriment (although, the older I get the more likely I am not to hang around people who refuse to help themselves). I’m the type of guy who makes the inappropriate joke at the inappropriate time, but since most of my friends think the way I do, they usually try and stifle their laughter rather than glare at me disapprovingly.
As for my enemies, I don’t care how they would describe me as long as they’re not bad-mouthing me on social media, and even then I only care because I have my reputation as a writer to protect. These people are enemies for a reason.
6. What is your creative Kryptonite?
Since I work full-time as a writer, I often put in ten-hour days six or seven days a week either writing, editing, or marketing. After a few months I develop mental gridlock. My remedy is to put aside the writing and spend time with the family, binge watch TV, read a few books from my massive “to read” list, and play video games until I reach that boss fight I can’t beat. I find that after a few days the creative ideas start coming back to me and I want to go back and continue writing.
7. What popular movie/book/music, which others adore, do you secretly despise?
Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t despise the series because I’m jealous of her fame and fortune (okay, maybe I’m a little jealous). Stephanie brilliantly found a niche in the young adult market and tapped into it. My complaint is that everyone talks about what a great vampire novel she wrote. She didn’t. Stephanie wrote a very popular young adult romance that happened to be quirky and caught the audience’s imagination because she made the male character a sparkling teenage vampire. It’s how she portrayed vampires that turned me off. Maybe I despise the saga because I’m old school – I grew up watching vampires that didn’t date teenage girls but drank their blood and turned them into minions of the undead.
8. What is the worst criticism you ever received? How did it make you feel?
I’m a writer, which means I have an enlarged ego and think everything I write is the most brilliant work published since Hemingway or, in my case, Lovecraft. When a reader doesn’t give me a five-star review and eight paragraphs of praise on Amazon, my self-esteem gets slightly bruised. But truthfully, I don’t take to heart criticism of my work as long as it’s legitimate. (I had one person post on Amazon that he did not like my genre but decided to give my book a chance, became bored by the plot because it didn’t appeal to him, then gave me A three-star review but said the book was well written). I understand that everyone’s tastes are different, so if one or two people out of fifty don’t like my novel, I accept that. Now, if twenty-five people don’t like it, then I have to ask myself what’s wrong with it.
9. What is secret you’ve never told anyone?
Other than classified information I obtained while working for the CIA (and please don’t ask me about the Roswell aliens because then I’d have to kill you), my wife and close family know everything about me.
10. How long/how many rejections did you get before someone gave you your shot?
I started writing horror back in 2003 (under a different name) when the publishing market was the same as it had been for the past fifty years. Back then there were the five or six mainstream publishers from New York that you needed a literary agent to even contact, a handful of independent publishing houses, and dozens of “vanity” self-publishers; if you self-published your book it was the kiss of death because the prevailing thought was if your manuscript was any good, one of the big houses would have picked it up. It took me six years to get my first novel published, and I was told by many established writers to be grateful because the average wait time was ten years.
At that time, I followed the “traditional” path to success. I published short stories for free on various web-based anthologies, and then used those creds to sell short stories to anthologies being put out by independent publishers. It still took several years before I found a publisher willing to take a chance on my novel. However, once that first novel was in print, finding publishers for the rest of my work was easy.
Everything has changed, however. A writer can get his/her novel published a few weeks after completing the manuscript and, if they are excellent at marketing, can do as well on line as if they had gone with a mainstream publisher. Self-publishing no longer has the stigma it once did, although now the problem lies in so many writers releasing poorly-edited and poorly-formatted works that readers are getting nervous about trying new talent. And a new trend is that many readers feel the writers should give away their books for free. This has led to a number of independent publishers closing down or cutting back on operations, which makes it more difficult for writers who want to be published traditionally. It will be interesting to see where the market is in ten years.
11. What was the last movie/book which made you cry? The election night coverage, and not because of who won or loss. My best friend, whom I have known since elementary school, was a huge political junkie like me. Every election night we would chat on the phone for hours, waiting for each state to announce the winner, and yelping or whining depending on which candidate won. He died last summer of a super-infection. While watching this year’s election results, I couldn’t help but cry because he was not there to share the night.
12. Can you describe a single, personal moment in your life which made you, you?
It was when I was a senior in high school. I had this awesome astronomy teacher, Mr. Ferguson, an anti-Vietnam protestor from the 1960s. At the time, I was thinking of going to law school. He said to me: “Choose your path wisely. You can either be incredibly wealthy or incredibly happy, but rarely will you have both.” I chose the latter. If I hadn’t, I probably never would have worked for the CIA or become a writer. No regrets.
13. On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your writer’s ego?
It’s a sliding scale, but I would say it defaults to 8. When I go to a convention and someone brings a bunch of my books to sign because they bought them on Amazon and fell in love with them, the ego meter hits 10. When I go to a convention the next week and sell only 1 book, then it drops to 3 and I begin wondering if I should change careers and become a Walmart greeter.
14. What is your first dream you can remember?
I snuck into the living room when I was seven and watched King Kong with my parents. (It wasn’t really sneaking. I “hid” under a TV tray. My covert skills were less developed back then.) We lived in a second-floor apartment. That night, I dreamed that Kong was looking at me through my window the same way he looked through the window at Fay Wray during his rampage in New York. I made my mother pull down the curtain at night for months after that.
15. Have you ever been in a fight/punched in the face? How did/would you react?
16. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Getting the mindset correct, and that is not meant to be insulting. Men and women think differently about certain concepts, especially when it comes to love, loyalty, and honor. Although Hell Gate is told from Jason’s point of view, the two other main characters are Sasha and Jeanette. I want to attract female readers, but that will never happen if I have Sasha and Jeanette think and act like a sixteen-year-old boy.
17. Who/what was your favorite, and least favorite, character to write? Why?
I don’t have a least favorite character. All the characters in my books are necessary, even if only to serve as cannon fodder to crank up the death toll. If I include a character in my books, I have as much fun with them as I can.
My favorite characters are Jason, Andre, and Sasha. Jason undergoes such a massive transformation in Hell Gate I can’t help but love his character. Andre is the perfect foil for Jason, a tough no-nonsense leader who pushes Jason to be better than he is; I love writing a character who is an asshole one moment and a hero the next. Sasha is an incredible female warrior, beautiful yet as tough as anyone else on the team, and still torn between seeing Jason as a brother-like figure or as a love interest.
My least likable characters are Jacque and Bishop Fiorello. They represent what’s wrong with today’s world and what will sadly carry over into any post-apocalyptic society—those who will struggle to retain power and privilege no matter how much those around them suffer. They’re villains in a sense, and I love creating despicable bad guys.
18. I see you are a New Englander. From my time in the military I’ve had a lot of friends from the region. What are some of the pet peeves you have concerning the stereotypes of people from New England? Follow up, do you have a life-sized Tom Brady cut out?
Sorry, no Tom Brady cut outs, partly because my wife (a good ole southern gal and a Gators fan) despises him.
I don’t get bothered by the stereotypes because so many of them are true. (Have you ever driven in Boston?) I do get frustrated when people constantly make fun of my accent or the way I talk, although sometimes it’s well deserved. My wife was driving somewhere and asked for directions. She needed to make a U-turn, so I told her “bang a U-ey here.” She stared at me as if I had just spoken in an ancient alien dialect.
19. Waking from a hard night of rowdiness with some friends, you quickly discover the world has been taken over by 7-foot tall cats who can speak and have advanced weaponry. You can have one weapon of your choice, three books and one luxury item ...what do you do?
As a CIA officer I’ve been trained to adapt and overcome. Since I refuse to accept my new cat overlords (I am not cleaning the litter box used by a seven-foot cat), I will fight back. So my choices are:
Weapon: A 50-caliber rifle with a silencer and a sniper scope
Books: Final Exit for Cats: A Feline Suicide Guide (for use as anti-cat propaganda)
Think Like a Cat (part of my know-your-enemy program)
Any book on how to make catnip (we must break the enemy’s morale)
Luxury item: The largest laser pointer I can find to distract my enemies
20. What would you like fans and potential fans to know about you as a person?
I love my fans. As I said earlier, I consider myself a story teller, but what good is that if no one is listening to the tales I spin. If you have a question about my book, or a comment or criticism, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I answer all my mail, although depending on my workload it may take a few days.
Thanks so much Josh! For more information about him check out the following links!
FB Hell Gate: https://www.facebook.com/HellGateSaga/
Hell Gate on Amazon: