Mark Matthews has worked in the behavioral health field for nearly 20 years, including psychiatric hospitals, runaway shelters, and substance abuse treatment centers. His first novel, Stray, is based on experiences working in a treatment center with an animal shelter right next door within barking distance. He is an avid runner, and his second novel, The Jade Rabbit, is the story of a woman, adopted from China, who is raised in Detroit and runs marathons to deal with lingering trauma. Both novels have received excellent reviews.
"On the Lips of Children" is his first novel with Books of the Dead Press, and is based on a predawn run on a dark San Diego trail just as described in the novel.
He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, a licensed professional counselor, and lives near Detroit with his wife and 2 daughters. He blogs at; Running, Writing, and Chasing the Dragon. Or follow him on twitter at @matthews_mark
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I am the author of 3 novels, a recovering alcoholic and addict, and a therapist who has worked in the behavioural health field for nearly 20 years, including psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse treatment, and runaway shelters. I’ve ran 13 marathons, have 2 children, and writers have always been my heroes.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Dark Fiction would be tops, Horror is second. Labels, of course, always fall short. When my brain goes to story lines, it goes to some extreme conflicts. I see fiction as life with the volume turned up, and nothing does this like a little darkness to outline the glow of the human spirit. You need the dark to see the stars, as my character Dante says after snorting some bath-salts.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have been on a Gillian Flynn kick. I love how she writes dark characters with a seriously twisted bent, but does this so well she can move about mainstream society and her darkness is accepted because her glows. I of course grew up on King, and love the worlds of Clive Barker.
What are you reading now?
I’m finishing up NOS4A2 (but the damn phone keeps ringing. No matter how many phones I burn in the stove, they just keep ringing) and I’m also diving into the full line from Books of The Dead Press.
Which book do you wish you had written?
The Game of Thrones -A Song of Ice and Fire series. Can you imagine making a world and characters so deep that the world goes crazy when you kill them off? Damn, a dream come true. The series feels likes rich, historical fiction with such vivid characters.
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Running is what gets my creative juices going. It is what drinking and drugging used to be. The ideas and passages pour out of me like sweat. Sometimes it looks like shit when it hits the paper, but not always. And I use music to set tone. This latest novel is written to the songs of Nine Inch Nails and The White Stripes. My novel Stray was written to Lou Reed’s song “Heroin”, and The Jade Rabbit is written to Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
If I had to present one book to be judged for entrance into the literary pearly gates, On the Lips of Children would be it, but I love them all.
What is the hardest lesson you've learned with regards to your writing?
That 50% of what I write might be crap, but it’s important I write it anyway, because you can chisel and chisel away at the crap and find a gold nugget inside. (or maybe that’s corn?)
What do you like to do to relax?
I run, I read, and I also follow a handful of TV shows. I really think we’re in a golden age of television as series get smarter. I credit this to the success of The Sopranos. There are too many shows out there to follow, but I’m a huge Breaking Bad fan, and I loved the first season of American Horror Story. (The second one, I felt, fell into horror cliché)
Can you tell us about your latest book, On the Lips of Children, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
It’s the story of a tattoo artist, his human canvass, and their child get kidnapped by a blood-thirsty tweaker family living in a San Diego to Tijuana drug tunnel.
It’s been called “Stephen King’s Misery on bath salts, in a cave”, and “dark fiction at its visceral best.” It’s also been said it will make you rethink vampires. Even though it “doesn't feature vampires at all. What's featured is infinitely worse.”
The idea came from a predawn run in San Diego that was so dark I could barely see the trail, and ran by faith, not by sight. As I ran, bodies of sleeping homeless men were strewn about the trail, some of them shuffling as I passed, some rising, and my imagination grew. What if these men were part of some insidious network, what if they were after me? I felt the specter of Tijuana not far from me, and then ideas grew. I had visited Tijuana, and did more research into drug cartels and Tijuana kidnappings, and came up with the idea of a mother who was trapped with her babies in a drug tunnel and would do anything for their survival, even if it meant the lives of others.
I do think that the novel has universal appeal, meaning I think my mom will like it as much as the kid next door who lives in his basement with the blacked-out windows. The graphic gore in the prologue and the extreme situations to come only highlight the power and endurance of the human spirit, as well as the things we’ll all do to survive. Mother is indeed the name for God on the lips of all children, and love for family is at the core of this story.
My next piece of fiction has the working title ‘Placebo’ and is about a new opiate drug that creates an incredible explosion of well being in its user. Unfortunately, the users then have cravings that create havoc for one Detroit community when the addicts feed off each other. One psychiatrist thinks he has the answer, but it just may rely heavily on the Placebo effect.
Read a guest post from Mark HERE