Ginger Nuts of Horror
Matt Shaw is the author of over 200 stories (shorts, novellas, novels). Known primarily for his extreme horror range of books, he also works in other genres such as thriller, psychological, erotica and even children’s stories.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m pretty sure everyone knows me by now. I mean, the reports on Crimewatch were very thorough although they still haven’t found me yet. Even so, can I skip this? How about “arsehole” or, as hinted at in someone else’s interview “talentless”? I’m just me, happily working as full-time author for the last five years and now moving over the world of films with my feature length directorial debut filming this coming January. Won’t lie, kind of shitting myself about that one…
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m always writing or working. Sadly, that is my life. Well, I say sadly but I’m having fun. It’s just I do miss playing Xbox, you know? Occasionally I get to play on the HTC Vive because they’re quick to play games but – yeah – it’s very occasionally. I seem to be travelling a lot in both the UK and US for book signings so, really, time to myself is rare.
What does Splatterpunk mean to you? What attracts you to writing in this genre?
A genre that has lots of explicit descriptions detailing horrific, violent and sexual scenes. People think it’s all about writing for shock value but I don’t feel that. To me, it has to have a plot and a reason to the horrors. You can write them as extreme as you want, but they need a point otherwise it’s just dull.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
Down the drain. Because extreme horror has popped up again over the last few years, everyone thinks that they can write it so the market is oversaturated with books that are – as mentioned above – shocks for the sake of shocks. Readers don’t really want that and seem to be moving away from the genre again. Or rather, this branch of the horror genre. I’m still trying to see where they are heading. I think with any genre it has its day, you know? People LOVE it and can’t get enough, then they like it and then they’re bored of it and find something else. Later on (weeks, months, years) they come back again and the cycle begins again.
As a horror writer, do you consider any topic off limits? Is there a topic or subject you would never write about?
There is nothing I haven’t written about. So long as there is a point to it, anything is fine. I do, however, tread more carefully. For example, there is a scene in one book that details with a child being sexually assaulted by an adult. I wrote about it because it is what shaped the character. I did not go into massive detail though because it is not needed. I also don’t like writing about animal slaughter but – again – it has to have a point and it’s not something I dwell on. If a dog needs to get run over, it gets run over. If a person needs to get run over, their guts are spread down the road, we describe their facial expression, the noises made as they gurgle blood… People get really sensitive with animal stuff.
What do you most enjoy about the short story format? What do you find challenging?
This is going to sound arrogant but I don’t find it challenging. That’s not to say my stories are amazing and perfect but, I just enjoy the whole process of a short. It’s quick so you can skip all the padding and boring stuff and get straight to the point before slapping in a twist. I can write a short story in a day, or less, and then refine it over time. Sometimes I just leave it and move onto something else. For me they’re training exercises that I do before I start a newer, longer project.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
My mind. I saw doctors when I was younger for anger. I don’t know why my imagination is active and leaning towards the darker side of life. No one has told me and I can’t figure it out for myself – as pathetic as that sounds. Given that stories are always in my head though, it’s not something that I want to question too much. What if I figure it out and then lose it?
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
“Keep it simple” – this was advice at film school but I think it works in my writing world too. I get straight to the point of the story, keep the worlds small. I make the characters detailed and throw them in a situation that is simple in the set-up but detailed in the execution and twists. I think if I were to be one of these writers who builds huge worlds within the one book, I would get bored and lost! I don’t have the attention span to be a Stephen King!
What piece of your own work are you most proud of? Which book or story do you think is a good ‘jumping on’ point for new readers?
I’m most proud of the book “Tears”. It’s not horror. They’re actually stories touching upon human emotion, grief and loss with a hint of the supernatural. They’re tragic, they’re moving and I just love them. A good starting point for my work – for horror lovers though – would be “Sick B*stards” as it’s the book that made me who I am. I released it as a joke, thinking it would upset loads of people and they lapped it up. Reviews were positive, film rights sold and I quit my job. That was when I realised there was a gap in the extreme horror market.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I just finished a thriller called “How I Die”. It’s about a man who can look at a stranger and foresee their death. People come from all around the world to see him, so they can learn what is to become of them. Curious people who want to know, for example, is it worth living a healthy lifestyle – after a heart attack – if they’re to die of a heart attack anyway? There’s more to it than that but I don’t want to ruin the surprise although – because it’s so different to my usual stuff – I’m not sure if it will ever be released. I might keep that for me. As for what I am working on now all I will say is that it is disgusting and the title is “Dribble”. I’ll leave that there other than to say you won’t look at your Gran the same way again.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
I want Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron to ask if I am up for a threesome. The answer would be “no” because I am happily married but it would be great to be asked. That’s a lie. I so would.
A row with a boyfriend leads to unexpected and bloody consequences... A high powered CEO undertakes a highly unusual therapy to take his career to the next level… A mother frantically searches for her child as the world burns… Featuring new fiction by Adam Millard, Matt Shaw, Bracken MacLeod, John Boden, Duncan Ralston, Rich Hawkins, Glenn Rolfe, George Daniel Lea, Tim Curran, WD Gagliani & Dave Benton and Kristopher Rufty. A charity anthology. Edited by Jack Bantry & Kit Power