Josef Matulich is a writer, special effects artist and retired mime. Besides his Help Desk position at a Fortune 500 insurance company, he helps his wife Kit run a vintage and costume shop. He has a brace of short plays that have been produced locally and a few published articles and RPG games and supplements. His first novel “Camp Arcanum” was released by Post Mortem Press in March of 2014 with more of the series in the pipeline. With Kit and their son Aidan, Josef lives in a suburb of Columbus populated with foxes, hawks and deer which eat his tomatoes.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I wear a lot of hats. You could take it that means I do a lot of different things. I write, I costume and help run our vintage/costume shop, I make little monsters in my basement workshop. I am still a help desk operator for a major insurance company because our daughter ran up three million dollars’ worth of medical bills before she passed so I am never allowing my family to go without insurance.
I also have a lot of hats: a black felt gambler is my Travelling Hat. I have a Writing Fez which my wife keeps hiding because she is embarrassed to see me wearing it when she comes home. I also have a leather coachman and a bowler. It’s nice having a wife who buys for a costume store. In most circles, I’m The Guy with the Hat.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I enjoy on-line gaming too much, that is a major time-suck. I try to catch up on all the movies out there, which is a losing battle. Once a week I go out with a filmmaker friend to catch a film and vivisect it afterwards and talk writer stuff. I like the domestic things: cooking, gardening, cleaning enough that I can get to the kitchen and do cooking. I try to spend time with my wife outside the shop and hug my college-age son as he runs by.
What’s your favourite food?
Gnocchi is a great comfort food. There was a big Italian wing of our mixed extended family. Waffles are great anytime; waffles and milkshakes, something to be cautious of
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
I actually composed a soundtrack for Camp Arcanum: a range from Loreena McKennitt to Jethro Tull. For me IRL, “Nemesis” by Shriekback, Gremlins, and “People are Strange” though I can’t decide whether the Doors or Echo and the Bunnymen really did it better. I had an art teacher that played “déjà vu” by CSNY over and over again in class, so that has become part of my creative DNA.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Of the three, I would prefer Dark Fiction. My viewpoint on the world, in general, which is reflected in my writing is Dark Humor to the point of Ultraviolet.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I liked the authors that scattered their work all over the range: horrific to lyric to just plain goofy. Poe and Bradbury would be my two favourite classic authors. I took the complete works of EA Poe to summer camp at fourteen. My current favorites for modern work would be Barker, Gaiman and Pratchett. I have a silly soft spot for Butcher’s Dresden Files, too.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
I cut my teeth on all the pulpy horror novels of the 70s and 80s like The Rats, it’s hard to pick just one. My favourite horror movie of all time is still Alien, a haunted house in space. I really love the horror/comedy stuff like Hellboy or Sean of the Dead as those get both my funny bone and my need for rubber monsters.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
The mindless zombie horde. If I have a zombie in the vicinity, it’s up to something and somebody knows what it’s doing.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
My current neighbour is my nightmare neighbour, but let’s not talk about that. Harry Dresden would be both, I think. We could talk shop over the fence (I saw you riding the zombie T-rex last night. What’s the mileage on one of those things?) but there is still the problem of regular incursions of zombies, werewolves and other supernatural vermin.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I think genre is just a marketing strategy. True horror is a rare beast. We are up to our hips in slashes now: horror/comedy, horror/romance, horror/erotica (with cryptids!)
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I don’t think I qualified a book as “great” since I read “Lord of the Rings” at twelve. There are a few books lately that I appreciated for the effect they could produce. “Horns” pulled me into complete sympathy for the Devil by the time I got to the end. I wish I could have given my fourteen year old self “Unseen Academicals” because it said more about growing up the weird kid in Franklin TN than anything anyone else had to offer.
My biggest disappointment of the last few years was the last book of Pullman’s “Dark Materials.” It was like suddenly opening my eyes in the middle of my dream date with Drew Barrymore to realize I was making love to a vinyl sex doll.
How would you describe your writing style?
Definitely Joking in the Graveyard. Life and Fiction are generally so horrific that you have to poke fun to relieve the tension. Or create more. I tend to be very talky; my first writing projects were plays and screenplays and I stick with what I feel are my strengths. The first draft of Camp Arcanum was in screenplay form and then I novelised my own work.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Mostly, I’m glad to have anyone set eyes on my work at all and I take the reviews as helpful artifacts of the reader/writer interaction. I received one review from Hellnotes on Camp Arcanum that I relished because it made me sound like an author who actually knew what he was doing.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
That great middle land of a big project, where you have to lay the groundwork for the huge climactic set pieces with niggling little developments. It’s like gnawing your way through the dry Salisbury steak so you can have your pudding.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I’m not sure about writing, but I turned down an effects job to construct a pit of dead babies. There are some things that just aren’t done.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
I don’t have any arguments about authors & what they’ve done with their characters, but with movies: I am so Team-Dead-Sparkly-Pedo-Vampire.
What do you think makes a good story?
I like a valid character arc, sharp dialogue, and at least one point in the plot where audience can say: “Gee, I didn’t see that coming.” Some may say that makes the story only clever, but I like clever. Clever is what I’m capable of.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
If I am going to make a character do anything evil or disturbing, I make sure that it is a created name that is not ever going to match a real person. I was in a writer’s group with Lois McMaster Bujold over twenty years ago when she was writing “Mountains of Mourning”. She asked me if I minded if she named the murderer after me. I had no problem with that, even after the story became popular and a variation of the family name became attached to the concept of eugenic infanticide. When my daughter later suffered birth anoxia and developed some severe handicaps, that did set off some strong resonances in my tiny brain. I try to avoid that with others.
There are some hidden meanings in names of some characters in Camp Arcanum, but I leave them in the dark until someone is intrigued enough to ask.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
The biggest thing I’ve discovered as I got older is that I can write a lot quicker than when I started and that I don’t really need the amount of oversight and hand-holding I asked for starting out. Not that I don’t solicit input, I just don’t delay my work waiting for validation anymore.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Besides gel pens, college-lined binder paper and bad movies playing in the background? I think every author needs a brain, a heart and a working set of genitals because that is what human stories are all about.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Lois McMaster Bujold told me two things I frequently repeat: “Store it in the mail.” and “The publisher only pays for the last page.”
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
The best way I found to market Camp Arcanum is to get out in the trenches and sell it directly to potential fans. I just need to be more places or more people.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Eleazar: he is a law unto himself and a total loon. He gets to make theatrical gestures while throwing machete’s at semi-invisible monsters. What’s not to love?
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Even the folks doing evil are pretty enjoyable in their villainy. I least like the total pawns in the story, but a few of them are needed.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
I used to be such a fame-whore when I was young, but now I would definitely go with respect. I want just enough fame for folks to know I have work for sale.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Camp Arcanum is my first novel, so I am very proud of it. There are other things in progress, so we’ll see in the future.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
There was a screenplay I wrote as a commission in three-months of nose to grindstone obsession. It fell into development Hell and has yet to see the light of day. I would love to put it out of my mind so I could be pleasantly surprised by the final greenlight without the months and years of ulcers.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Camp Arcanum, again the first and only, but I am finishing the rewrites on the sequel and halfway through the first draft of the next. I have files for at least three more books or screenplays ready to pick up as I finish the Arcanum Faire books. We’ll see which is best in five years.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
“Is any of this crap real?” I have a normal life punctuated with moments of Glaring Weirdness. A few of the incidents of Camp Arcanum were inspired by real events. Not wanting to go all “Shirley Jackson” on you, I’ll wait until someone thinks to ask.
Find out more about Joseph by following the links below
Facebook: Josef Matulich – guy who writes funny/scary stuff
Amazon Author Page
“Witches, magick, demons, monsters, laughter and power tools. What more could anyone ask?”
Dennis L. McKiernan, author of STOLEN CROWN, a novel of Mithgar
"Ingenious and vivid."
Lois McMaster Bujold, multiple HUGO and NEBULA Award winning author of PALADIN OF SOULS
A comedy about sex, magick, and power tools.
Marc Sindri, prankster and contractor, comes to Arcanum Ohio to build a renaissance faire in only seven months. A man with a reputation for delivering miracles and a bad history with crazy people who believe in magical conspiracies, he soon finds himself in a small town filled with magick and intrigue. In spite of the recurring pain in the back of his head that reminds him of what happens when pretty girls smile, he gets caught up in a love triangle between Brenwyn, head of the local Wiccan coven, and Jeremiah, her demonologist ex. As Marc tries to meet his impossible deadlines, he navigates a landscape of witches, demons, power tools and undead skinless bunnies.
The Heart and Soul of Horror Author Interviews