Monday, October 24, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 20: AMONG THE STACKS: Matt Hickman


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Matt.  Welcome to The Gal.  It's wonderful to have you here on *Day 20* of The Gal's 62 Days of Horror.  Let's start with an "easy" one: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Matt Hickman:
I'm 39 years old; I live in central England with my wife and two children.  I'm a qualified engineer.  For the day job I work in sales in the steel construction sector.  Although I love animals, I have no pets.  I have a very unhealthy obsession with bacon.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Matt Hickman:
I can waggle my ears without touching them.  I have a deep hated for oompa loompas.  I can do a really good impression of Shaggy from Scooby Doo.  I once lost a game of pool to a bloke with one arm.  I cannot stand chocolate, to the point the smell of it turns my stomach.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Matt Hickman:
That's a difficult one.  I think probably a Roald Dahl.  Fantastic Mr. Fox springs to mind although it could have been any one of his titles.  I also have early memories of The Iron Man and Stig of the Dump.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Matt Hickman:
I'm between books.  My last read was a short story called Flies by Andrew Lennon, my next two are beta reads for Matt Shaw and Stuart Keane respectively.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Matt Hickman:
I'm not really sure.  Probably the Harry Potter books.  I read them all in about a week when I borrowed them from my sister.  I'm also quite ashamed of the fact that I read one of the Bridget Jones's Diary.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Matt Hickman:
Starting to write was a natural transition for me.  I have been an avid reader all my life.  The past couple of years I have been a huge supporter of the indie writers in the scene - reading, sharing, and reviewing their work.  An opportunity came to submit for an anthology about twelve months ago.  Tentatively, I submitted a piece.  To my amazement, it got accepted.  Since then I haven't looked back.  Between now and then my output has been quite high.  I have appeared in numerous anthologies, written a novella and three full novels.  (Two were collaborated.)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Matt Hickman:
Not at all.  I just flip open the laptop when time allows and go at it.  I once wrote the best part of a 3000 word story in a MacDonald's on my lunch break.  I vividly remember one morning, awaking about three in the morning in a hotel where I was staying to write a couple of chapters that just popped into my head.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Matt Hickman:
Not really quirks, but I have a massive tendency to waffle.  Not adding unnecessary detail - literal waffle.  I've known myself to hammer out a page of text, read it back and think what the hell?  That is nothing like the vision I had in my head.  I also have a really bad atten... oh look, a dog.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Matt Hickman:
Besides the waffling, not really.  I really find it an enjoyable experience.  Writing is something that you should enjoy as much as reading if you really want to hammer that emphasis and enthusiasm across.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Matt Hickman:
My latest one - Amnesia.  I had a concept mapped out in my mind for the structure and body of the story.  I wanted it to be laced with tension and suspense until the whole thing unfolds into utter madness.  I put a lot of effort into character progression, and the way that the book works, I feel it really paid off.  I'm hoping that people will really feel for the characters.  In both good and bad ways.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Matt Hickman:
Everything I read inspires me in one form or another.  I always take something away from reading a book, whether it's a good or bad thing.  If I were to go into how many books I have been inspired by, I would be here all day.  (See above about waffling.)  I absolutely loved the work of Richard Laymon, however I don't think anything I have written so far that would be influenced directly by him.  That's before the fact that he was a million times better at writing than me.  I can find inspiration from anywhere, brilliant indie writers like Michael Bray, Matt ShawStuart KeaneKyle ScottDuncan RalstonJ.R. Park are continually putting out quality books that I tend to read a lot.  It's natural that I find inspiration in their styles, that's human nature.  I really think I'm just beginning to develop my own unique style.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Matt Hickman:
Anything can make a good story if written in the right way.  That's what I find appealing about anthologies with a theme.  I was part of a collection earlier this year called Easer Eggs & Bunny Boilers - a collection of stories with the theme of Easter.  It was amazing to see the brilliant creativity by the people involved.  No two stories were the same and they were all highly entertaining.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Matt Hickman:
It doesn't take too much for me if the character is written well.  Two that spring to mind for me immediately are Ted from Rotting Dead F*cks by Matt Shaw and the utility man from Something in the Dark by Michael Bray.  Both were terrific characters, soaked to the core with horrific traits, yet underpinned with dark humour.  In my short stories, I tend to run with a dark, humorous theme where possible.  One of my favorite stories is still from Behind Closed Doors featuring two well-known children's television characters along with a large sex toy.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Matt Hickman:
If any of my characters were like me, I think I would have been collected by the men in white coats years ago.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Matt Hickman:
Absolutely.  Despite the old saying, the cover is the first thing that people will judge against the quality of your product.  Except in one instance, I have always used Michael Bray for my covers.  He is extremely talented.  It usually involves a quick discussion about the concept and maybe a few tweaks before he returns with something mind-blowing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Matt Hickman:
I have learned an awful lot.  It really pays to listen to the people around you.  Most other writers are very open about offering advice on covers, publishing, marketing, etc.  Working with editors helps you strengthen your manuscript.  Listen to their advice and don't see it as a bad thing.  Remember their points and implement them in your writing next time round.  The same advice goes for reviews, although subjective, they can give some of the best feedback on a writer's good or bad habits.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Matt Hickman:
I don't really think I've fond one too hard yet.  I tend to attack it with a certain amount of enthusiasm which helps.  If I even begin to struggle, I close the laptop and return to it when I'm more in the frame of mind.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Matt Hickman:
As I mentioned, I'm still really developing my style.  I try to be as diverse as I can be.  One story may include an incredible amount of violence while another may be a play on a scenario where there is nothing gratuitous.  A recurring statement, more so from my shorter pieces, is that it leaves people thinking what the hell?!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Matt Hickman:
I like short, snappy book titles.  Most of mine are a single word.  For the novella Jeremy, I wrote about a boy that was bullied at school and neglected by his parents, but not in the truest sense of the word.  The title was based on a song by Pearl Jam with the same name.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Matt Hickman:
Writing shorts are fun, but there's nothing more fulfilling to me than completing a novel where all of the aspects that you have crafted eventually combine and result in a multi-aspect, technical piece of writing.  I'm not one for sitting down and writing pages and pages of plans for a novel; a lot of the time I'm not entirely sure how the next chapter will be mapped out until I start writing it.  Winging it in the truest sense of the word.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Matt Hickman:
I would say that my books are aimed at the mainstream horror or thriller fan.  At times you may find that it can border into extreme horror, however there are other elements that steer it out of that field.  A lot of my longer work may begin as drama, or thriller, but at some point it will most likely denigrate from that into something much, much darker.  I want readers to take one thing away - enjoyment.  If I can entertain a reader for a few hours and put a smile on their face, I'm a happy man.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Matt Hickman:
Apart from the aforementioned waffling, I've never really deleted or censored anything.  It is what it is; I tend to go with my initial gut instinct with things and hope that they pan out as originally intended.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Matt Hickman:
In that respect, nothing really to mention.  It's been an absolutely mental year, and one that has seen a lot of output.  I actually have no idea how I have achieved so much, given that my day job involves long hours and travelling.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Matt Hickman:
More of the same.  I'm currently working on a collaboration with Shaun Hupp and writing the sequel to Jeremy.  I have a story for inclusion in an anthology called VS for release in December where I  have been pitched against the extremely talented, Sisters of Slaughter - Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza.  More on that to come, and a Christmas anthology collated by Matt Shaw called Bah Humbug - both collections raising money for charity.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Matt Hickman:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Matt, it's been awesome having you here today.  (Another fangirl moment for me.)  I am so looking forward to what you have to offer us next, and hope to have you back again soon.
            Before you go, do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Matt Hickman:
Not really, I would like to thank anyone that has ever picked up one of my books and shared my journey with me so... oh look, a dog.


About the author:
Matt is an avid fan of horror fiction.  He spends a majority of his free time reading books from both established and independent authors.  With a diverse knowledge of the genre, he has now tried his hand at writing horror.  With the support of his peers, some of which are established writers themselves, he now approaches a new career, one that will see him take horror by storm.  His influences lead right back to traditional horror, such as Edgar Allan PoeBram Stoker and William Hope Hodgson through to the more traditional horror writers, such as Stephen KingRichard LaymonDean KoontzJames Herbert and Clive Barker to newer names, such as Alex KavaJ.A. KonrathBryan SmithMatt ShawMichael BrayIain Rob WrightGraeme ReynoldsTim Miller and Ian Woodhead right the way through to emerging writers, such as Stuart KeaneJack RollinsKyle M. ScottAndrew Lennon and Shaun Hupp.
            He currently resides in Tipton, a small town in the West Midlands, with his partner and two children.  He travels the width breadth of the UK on a regular basis as a Sales Manager for a construction company.
            Since his debut release last year, he has been featured in numerous short story collections, as well as self-publishing a novella, two novels, and a novel through Matt Shaw Publications.

About the books:
An eleven year old schoolboy shouldn't find his life complicated. Jeremy does.
            Jeremy is a normal young boy.  His father is a successful business man, and often spoils the boy with lavish, expensive rewards to compensate for their lack of quality time together.  His mother is a socialite who feeds off her husband's healthy income; she spends more time at the salon than with her son, and considers Jeremy to be nothing but a hindrance.
            He has two best friends: Cole and Samuel.  the boys have been close since primary school.  The boys rarely get in trouble and perform well academically.  They are generally respected by their superiors and their peers.
            When the boys start secondary school, a run in with one of the bullies results in a freak accident, one that puts Jeremy in a coma and leaves him fighting for his life.
            When he awakes and finds himself in rehabilitation, he soon begins to learn that something much more sinister has been awoken within.

Matt Shaw presents Amnesia, a new novel from author Matt Hickman.

Six strangers; three men, three women awake in a sterile medical facility.  Apart from two of the group, their minds totally blank as to how they arrived there, or the purpose of their detainment.  Locks have been secured on each of the doors, and iron bars on the windows; no way to escape.  Surveillance cameras on the walls indicate that they are being studied.
            When they stumble across some official paperwork by a company, The Hampton Group, headed up by a mysterious doctor, it begins to transpire that the group were volunteers in a medical trial.  The trial for a revolutionary new drug that can abate the development of cancer cells.
            As time goes by, a few of the subjects begin to show some signs of erratic behavior.  Is it a side effect of the medical trial, or something much more sinister?

(Co-written with Andrew Lennon)

July 2013, Manchester, UK.  A murder investigation team, led by DCI Mark Gunn, is assigned to probe into the brutal mutilations of four women found dead from various locations around the city centre.  The evidence gathered from the scene of the crimes, and the extreme nature of the women's death, indicates that the team are looking for a dangerous, deranged maniac.  As the case unfolds, and the team finds itself buried deep within the seedy, sleazy underworld of the city, characteristics between the murders increase proportionally with the body count.  The only thing that the team cannot find is motive.

(Co-written with Stuart Keane)

Given the afternoon off, Odette decides to take this rare time to romantically surprise her boyfriend, Gavin.  With flowers in arm and a smile on her face, she visits his home... and is shocked at what she finds.
            Gavin is in bed with Shay, his other girlfriend.
            Initially devastated, Odette channels her anger and accidentally unleashes the dormant beast within; a psychopathic brutality she has somehow managed to control for a decade.
            But she's not alone.
            Shay also harbours the same insanity, one a little closer to her apparently sane surface, and when the women realise Gavin has jilted them both, they take their violent urges out on their beau.
            Which leaves only two...

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