Biography - Matthew M. Bartlett is the author of Gateways to Abomination, a fragmented novel in the guise of a collection of short weird fiction and The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts, an illustrated chapbook. His short stories have appeared in Resonator: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond, Faed, and High Strange Horror. He is a member of the New England Horror Writers. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife Katie and five cats. You can follow him on Facebook and visit his oft-neglected blog at www.matthewmbartlett.com.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
More than twenty years out of college, I still refer to myself as an English Major. I have a smart and beautiful wife, and we have five cats roaming around the house. I’m a reader, a movie fan, and I love horror and weird fiction with all my heart.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m a big time errand runner. I’ve often said that one of the main reasons I could never be in prison is because I’m always itching to go pick up a few things.
What’s your favourite food?
That’s a tough one. I’m quite fat. I’m going to say Fried Whole Belly Clams…or chicken korma…or…or…
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Perturbator, most definitely. And Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. And throw in a little Screeching Weasel for punk’s sake.
Tell us a dirty little secret?
I feel somehow off if I don’t have a black pen in my right front pocket.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Start writing earlier. Do it instead of, say, wandering around Best Buy.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
It was a long time ago, but I’d gotten into a bad long term relationship. What I did to get out of it was, in retrospect, not the best move. I just started being myself, so much so that she ended it. Passive aggression: it can be effective, but it’s a lot slower and less honest that Aggressive Aggression.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
My first loves were J.D. Salinger, Stephen King, and Hunter S. Thompson. I have a lot of favorites now, so I’ll be as brief as I can: Robert Aickman, Mark Samuels, Nathan Ballingrud, Thomas Ligotti, H.P. Lovecraft…
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great book I read was The Croning. I had trouble with the first section, but I kept with it, and I’m glad I did. A terrific read and a tremendous ending.
The last book that disappointed me was Insomnia by Stephen King. I just couldn’t hang with it. I feel as though I should wait a little and come back to it. It’s rare that I abandon a King book.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
Novel: Pet Sematary. It’s the first book I read that actively scared me. Movie? Kill List. It unfolds like a nightmare. It’s unflinching. My heart races whenever I watch it.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would it be?
Movie-wise, the goddamned jump scare. It’s cheap. Anticipating a shock is not the same thing as fear.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
I’d love to live near Salinger’s Seymour Glass. I suppose Randall Flagg would be a very obnoxious neighbour.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
I’d kill Ethan Frome in a terrible sled explosion.
And if you had free range what fictional character would you like to write for?
I’d like to put Holden Caulfield in Innsmouth and see what transpires.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I think it’s true that there is a Weird Renaissance. It’s an embarrassment of riches. I need to turn off the TV and start catching up.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing horror fiction right now?
There’s too much to read. If everyone could just stop releasing books for, let’s say, a year…no? Okay.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I’m waiting for the bad-review shoe to drop – I’ve been lucky so far. I think the Arkham Digest review still sticks with me, because Justin knew exactly what I was going for and took away from the book exactly what I hoped readers might.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
I’ve spent a half hour on a sentence, ten minutes on a word. It’s getting into the granular that sometimes stalls me out.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I don’t think I could ever write a sex scene…or a non-weird sex scene, anyway.
What do you think makes a good story?
Anything that jabs at the dark recesses of the imagination, suggests things squirming just under the surface, things that could pop up around any bend and send a life into sudden and unexpected chaos.
How important are names to you in your books?
Very important. Bad fictional names take me right out of it…even though I can’t quantify what makes a fictional name bad…
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A dictionary, a thesaurus…and I have this book called a Descriptionary…a dictionary arranged by theme. It’s brilliant.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Write every day. I forget who said it. I suspect many authors say it.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
Someone somewhere posited that horror writers must be terrible people in order to write about such terrible things. It’s so wide of the mark as to be absurd, but I think it’s a common misapprehension.
How do you market your work?
What avenues have you found to work best for your genre? *I’ve depended fairly heavily on Facebook, with very good results. Conventions are nice too, in that you get to meet fans of the genre and find out what they’re looking for.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
I like Foxcroft, a butcher/mystic who makes his first appearance in a new story for my next collection. He’s built like a pro-wrestler and is a complex character, neither hero nor villain.
How about the least favourite character?
What makes them less appealing to you? *My character *Emily Lavallee, the woman who is interviewed by police regarding the death of her husband by winged leeches. She’s such a whiner.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I can’t point to any one thing, but the occasional turn of phrase brings out a certain pride in me, particularly when I don’t remember having written it and wonder how the hell I came up with it.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Some early poetry and stuff I did online. I’d be delighted if that were to stay buried.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Gateways to Abomination is the culmination of years of work. It may always stand as a kind of time capsule for where I was at a certain time of my life. It’s a love letter to horror. Everything else comes from that book, in a sense.
What are you working on right now?
I’m trying a novel, because the idea of trying a novel seems so impossible to me.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
I wish someone would ask me what other hobbies I have. I could talk for hours about hot sauce. I have this fantasy about doing a podcast called Hot Sauce and Horrors…or, better yet, owning a shop called Hot Sauce and Horrorbooks.
Bizarre radio broadcasts luring dissolute souls into the dark woods of Western Massachusetts. Sinister old men in topcoats gathered at corners and in playgrounds. A long-dead sorcerer returning to obscene life in the form of an old buck goat. Welcome to Leeds, Massachusetts, where the drowned walk, where winged leeches blast angry static, where black magic casts a shadow over a cringing populace. You've tuned in to WXXT. The fracture in the stanchion. The drop of blood in your morning milk. The viper in the veins of the Pioneer Valley.
Connect with Matthew via the links below