Matt Shaw started writing when he was 25 years old. Always of a creative mind he originally wanted to be a filmmaker but the dream faded, like the dreams of so many other people, when the harsh reality of 'needing to earn a living' got in the way.
Now in his thirties Shaw has written over 40 publications and now started turning his stories into films (starting with MENU). His goal is to release a new book every few months and one film a year...
Hardworking, determined and looking forward to plaguing your nightmares.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi. My name is Matt and I’m an alcoholic (“Hi, Matt”, “Hello, Matt”, “Welcome”). Not really. I don’t drink. Not even water. I am a full-time author of nearly seventy titles now having found my corner of the market with extreme horror - which I fell into by accident when trying to disgust Graeme Reynolds of Horrific Tales Publishing (I didn’t disgust him by the way) with a book called Sick B*stards. I released the book expecting to upset a few horror readers because of the subjects it touched upon (incest and cannibalism) but people lapped it up… So I wrote more.
I have been writing since I was about 12. My first story was a parody of the television comedy Red Dwarf - amazingly called Red Elf. I remember the first line from it being, “What in Greek Buggery Bollocks is this?” Clearly - my first story was absolute trash but it didn’t stop me from sending it off (and receiving many nice rejection letters telling me to listen to my English Teacher). I went from that to a series of screenplays - really messed up film ideas - as I wanted to make films for a living. I did that from the age of fifteen until about twenty-three which is when I turned back to writing novels again with the book “im fine”; an account of my life and what it is like living with depression. At the time I was seeing psychiatrists for my dark thoughts and processes and they told me to keep a diary. “im fine” was my response and I ended up publishing it for others to read because I felt that the message within was important to share (reviews agree). It felt good to get work out there and - on the back of that - I started to get back into writing and my next story “Happy Ever After” was born! From that moment, I never looked back. Most of my early work being versions of my dusty screenplays which were just sitting in my attic.
What made you want to become an author?
I never set out to be an author. I wanted to make films. I wanted to direct, act and write. But to do that you need contacts and money. I had neither. I didn’t really have any friends. To this day I don’t have many ‘real’ friends. I have people I talk to on Facebook but I’ve never met them so it’s not like I can pop out for a drink with them. I live a hermit-style life which I am trying to change now by going out to where my readers are and treating them to meals and drinks etc as a thank you for supporting my work but… real friends that I can call when I feel down? Few and far between. It’s because of my lack of social life and need for telling stories that I started turning my screenplays into books in order to release them on Amazon’s KDP platform. Now - ten years later - I find myself doing it for a living full-time. Just as well really because I am rubbish at real jobs. I’m 34 years old and have had over 20 jobs…
How has your writing evolved over the years?
My earlier work - although horror - is tame compared to what I write now. The stories are more complicated in the way they’re told too. When I first started writing my stories would start at point a, move to point b and then end at point c. Now they start at point c, go to point b, hint at point a, back to point b… It’s fun messing with the timelines. It keeps readers guessing and allows for twists and turns the whole way which wouldn’t have worked if you were reading them in order. Admittedly not all of my stories are like that but - when they are rest assured I am grinning like an idiot (usually with my tongue sticking out the corner of my mouth) as I frantically type.
You write everything from erotica to extreme horror. What is your favourite genre to write and why?
I honestly enjoy them all. I do not believe in sticking to one genre and being a ‘one trick pony’. I want to continue pushing myself and trying new things to ensure I remain fresh. Also, with more genres out there, chances are there’s going to be a book in my collection for everyone. That being said - if I am having a bad day - it’s great to get down and nasty with the extreme stuff. In my head, when I murdering people, I am picturing those who have wronged me.
What is your routine when working on a book? (music, no music, work at certain times of the day, etc.)
I get up around seven, get out of bed around nine. And I don’t worry about nothin’ no, cause worryin’s a waste of my…. time.
Sorry - slipped into Guns N Roses then.
I set my alarm for 6:45am every day and try my best to get up then. I head to the gym and I get home from there about 9:00am. I spend however long it takes answering people who may have messaged me during the night (seems to be getting more and more) and then I start writing and don’t stop until 7pm when my wife comes home from work. I’ll have the odd break occasionally to do some house stuff (getting dinner ready for example) but I try to get as much writing done as possible. If I’m not feeling the vibe, I like to go for a long walk to clear my head and think things through.
Whilst I write I either have trashy films on in the background or whatever music I am listening to at the time. Other times, if really in the zone, I have complete silence; just the stories playing through in my head.
Out of all your 70+ books, who is your favourite character?
I don’t actually have a favourite character. I mean, obviously I liked writing about the loveable rogue that was Peter Jenkins (Happy Ever After) but at the same time I loved the serial killer from ART, and his wicked ways. These days, I’m more interested in getting great stories out there than putting too much focus on ONE character otherwise the stories become about them and you tend not to care about anything else. I want to create favourite worlds where everyone is as important as the last person read about.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I rarely name my characters because names annoy me. I always forget them. When I need a name though - and this is a complicated process - I look at who is online on Facebook. I pick a first name, I pick a surname. There you have it - I have a character!
The exception to this was the book The 8TH - the bullies in that story are people who actually bullied me in school. The victims in the book, they’re people who suffered alongside me at school. What’s the point of being an author if you can’t get revenge in your own make believe world?!
Which of your books are you most proud of?
Happy Ever After, im fine, the Sick B*stards books, Porn, Whore and The 8TH are my personal favourites (in no particular order) but I’m proud of all of the books I’ve written; even the ones which have been less well-received such as my spider story Infestation. I really enjoyed that but I guess it was a step too far from what I usually write and it hasn’t found a market yet. The same with Heaven’s Calling and The Missing Years of Thomas Pritchard; two completely different style books. I LOVE those stories but - as of yet - they’re yet to find their market. Those who read them, enjoy them but not many folk are picking them up at the moment.
Given the depravity you often write, is there anything you refuse to put in your books, besides harming/killing animals? Have you ever taken a story “too far?”
There is nothing I will not write about and I am willing to accept the consequences of that. What’s the point of having extreme stories and then censoring yourself? There’s no point. If it is needed for the story, it goes in. I have harmed animals in a couple of books but it’s not something I like to write about. If it is needed in the story and there is no way forward without it, I’ll do it but - yeah - I am an animal person. If someone hurts an animal in front of me I tend to get very angry. Once - for example - my friend set fire to a caterpillar. He just picked it up and put it on a leaf and then held a lighter to it. I was so angry. We were about fourteen at the time and I wanted to call him the harshest word I could think of to express how pissed I was with him. What came out of my mouth? For some reason my angered brain decided to call him a ‘cunt-waggle’. No idea where that came from.
You are one of the most successful horror writers in the UK right now. What do you hope aspiring authors learn from you?
I hope they understand it doesn’t come from one book but many and a lot of hard work and tears and tantrums. I hope they understand it’s not about pushing your book but marketing yourself instead. People don’t respond to book adverts - especially when you’re new - as much as they respond to individuals. If they like you as a person, they’re more likely to invest in your work. It’s a big industry to try and get noticed in and not everyone will make it, you need to remember that. Somehow, I got lucky. I do not expect it to remain so but rest assured I will work damned hard to continue on this path. If you are put off from hard work, negative reviews and people attacking YOU because of what you write - find another job.
What, in your opinion, is the best horror film and book ever made?
I enjoyed the films MAMA and Sinister but they weren’t really horror. The Ring, The Grudge and even The EYE (not the American remakes) were great. Very clever and spooky. My favourite ghost story book is “The Woman in Black”. The film of that was dire though. Avoid it.
Oh, one film that has stuck with me through the years - definitely Jaws. Every time I go to the sea I think of it or even hum that stupid tune. That’s a powerful film right there. Never read the book though.
What scares you?
I was thinking about this when I was writing The Big Blue - a story about a group lost at sea in a life-raft. I came to the conclusion the sea actually scares me. If you can see your feet it’s fine but the moment the water goes dark - I don’t like it and I want to get out. It’s not knowing what is underneath you. And of course it’s that bastard film Jaws going through my head.
I was once standing on a beach in Cuba in the dead of night. The water was still and the moon shimmered off the surface. The lady I was with at the time said it was beautiful but I got creeped out and couldn’t get off the beach fast enough; my brain thinking of all the souls who’ve perished within the waters and the monsters (some known, some unknown) beneath the surface. Yep. Bollocks to that.
I also got scared working on a book once. The book was The Cabin. It’s a ghost story and in the book there is a series of bangs on a wall, designed to scare the main character. Well I was well into the story when - suddenly - the postman banged on the door behind me. I nearly shat myself.
Take us through an average day in the life of “The” Matt Shaw
My day is boring. I get up, I go to the gym, I write. That’s it. Sometimes I’ll meet my mum for something to eat at lunchtime. At 7pm I stop writing and watch television with my wife eating whatever meal I’ve cooked for us. Occasionally - when bored - I’ll do a silly video for my Facebook page (like the naked dance I did to answer a one star review or the video I made trying to get a condom on my head) but those videos are few and far between. I might make more…
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Think about writing.
Favourite food and drink?
I eat shit. Not literally, that wouldn’t be good for you although I have seen some videos of people doing that which made me gag. I like junk food though. Drinks - I only really drink sparkling apple juice or J20s. If there are biscuits in the house, I’ll have a cup of tea so I can dunk them but I’m not really a food person. Oh - I am a sucker for a fillet steak though. Nom nom nom.
Where would you want to go on your ultimate holiday?
Australia. I went once and loved it. I loved the people, the vibe, everything. I want to go for a year and stay in all the best hotels and limos everywhere and first class flights… Which is why I’ve never booked it. Can you imagine the cost? I was once told, if you need to ask the price for something you can’t afford it. Well - clearly I can’t afford this ultimate holiday.
There is a brothel in Germany called The Mega Brothel which looks like fun though. Maybe that will be a second place contender?
How does it feel to have fans and who, to this point, has been your creepiest fan?
I hate the word ‘fan’. I have readers and friends. Film stars have fans. I am not a film star, I am a monkey with a keyboard. It is lovely hearing from people who write to me about my work though. It’s humbling to hear from them and nice to know they’re enjoying the work. The flip side to that - though - is the more people you attract, the more chance you’re going to get in the firing line from people that genuinely hate you too. Sometimes people get in touch with links to various discussion threads stating I should take a look. I do and see complete strangers calling me assholes (and worse) because of what I write. Fair enough if people do not like my work but am I really an asshole because they don’t like my story? I think that’s a bit sad really, more so because it says more about the individuals concerned. There are plenty of writers I do not like, I just don’t read their stuff anymore. I don’t call them names because their book didn’t float my boat.
But back to when my readers get in touch - I love it and make a point of replying to everyone (which seems to take longer and longer these days). I’ve even been accused of being a secretary to Matt Shaw which made me laugh. And then - when you reply - you get another response back where they’re thrilled to have heard back because they never believed I would. Well I do and always will. And this year I am going one step further. I am going to be randomly surprising those who support my work. For example, in May, I am taking one of my readers and her husband out for a meal as a thank you for following me for all these years. I am sending books out, one off tee shirt designs… Basically - I want to show my appreciation for people giving me their time and what better way of doing it than with presents? Everyone loves presents!
The creepiest fan was a guy who asked me to send a picture of myself with a knife to my throat. That was weird. I declined. I sent him a picture of my cock.
What projects do you have going right now?
I have just finished writing MONSTER with Michael Bray (due out April 1st). Our second book since working on ART together, a story we both loved. We’ve finished the first draft and are now working on making it tighter. We’re both thrilled with the story and nervous at the same time because it is the darkest thing either of us has written before. We know we will upset some but hopefully the audience we’re going for - the ones who enjoy extreme - will go crazy for it. Regardless, it’s a pleasure working with Michael and we’ve been talking about doing more projects together. Our two styles compliment each other and we just ‘get’ one another. I literally tell him a rough outline for what I need him to write and he comes back with these fully fledged scenes and characters which are far better than I could have imagined.
I am also working on an untitled book that I am aiming to market as the sickest book in existence. The first ten pages are pure evil. If you like gore, you’ll go crazy for it. It’s not just about blood and sex though - there is a cracking story in here too. Really excited for this and how far I will go with it.
I am working on the screenplay for Love Life but that’s as much as I can say about that right now until contracts are signed. I have a couple of film options sold in America. I’ve more erotica in the pipeline (so to speak) and four more books planned before July so… busy busy.
What is one question you wish someone would ask you?
“Hey - are you Matt Shaw?”
I would then say no.
Where can readers learn more about you?
You can find me on www.facebook.com/mattshawpublications
On both places, I’m pretty much an open book!
Anyway - no more questions to answer so I am buggering off. Thanks awfully for having me.