The BIG and Debut James Matthews Q&A
Ask me Anything! Plus, whats planned and coming soon!
Thank you very much for all your questions, whether through GA or e-mail. I got 13 in all (lucky for some) and am happy to answer all of them. So you should all have an answer. I am not leaving any out. Lol. Some I will keep short as they do not really need explaining. Some do.
After the Q&A, I will be giving you my rough plans story-wise for those who follow and read my work. Moreover, a brief rundown of how my life concerning getting writing done is going at the moment.
So let's kick off with the Q&A.
So Derry654 asked? Do you enjoy writing sex scenes, and do they turn you on?
This one made me chuckle. Erm, no, I actually don't like writing sex scenes in my books as sometimes I make myself blush, and my later work has fewer of them, you'll probably notice? It's funny, but when I first started writing, I had the impression that all gay stories should have steamy sex scenes in them, but I have realised that this is not the case if it's a decent story. You'll find some beginner Authors jam pack their stories with graphic scenes of sex, rape and bondage because they think it will gain them a gold star. To me, it's a turn off because you can tell the writer has tried to bulk fill a story with it, pushing away quality dialogue and scene-setting that could be there instead. And sex books are 2 a penny all over the internet. Also, a sex scene in a story has to be done well and explained in detail. I believe this because sex is very personal, and intimacy is harder to get across to a reader than, say, a hug or a fight. But details are good only if you want to have the scene front and centre; however, sometimes a sex scene can be off-page and just mentioned, with it having an equal impact on the storyline and the reader. I don't think rape should ever be glorified in a book. By all means, write a rape scene if you must (I have), but only write what is necessary to get the scene across to the reader. I've read rape scenes in stories where it is obvious the Author is getting satisfaction out of that part of the scene and dialogue, and that says to me quite a lot about the writer behind the book. When writing romance (As I do), it is obvious that a couple, newly met as such, will eventually venture between the sheets, but too much sex in a book is like too much dessert; it's sickly, and you soon tire of it. I personally think more than three or four full-on sex scenes in a novel is sufficient if you must add them at all. Writing about love and friendship is more valuable per word than sex. Do I get turned on by my own writing of sex scenes? Hmm, well, not when I am typing them in during my writing. It had been known once I read the chapter back to stir some... feelings? Well, you get the picture,
ConnarKelp asked How old are you?
I am 34. Which is actually my actual age. I lied about it when I first joined GA as I wanted readers to think I was older, so I was taken more seriously as a writer. Stupid, really, but I was new to authoring so, I hope I can be forgiven?
Del Thomson asked. What is your favourite novel you have written, and which one are you most proud of?
Okay, So I think my favourite novel I wrote is actually the Lad from Castle Bay Down. It was one of my last (Classic pre-2016) novels. I like it the most because I read it back to myself and thought the style was clear, fresh, and a bit DomLuka(ish). He was an Author I really respected, always writing rich Characters and keeping his readers wanting more. The Lad From Castlebay Down, I think, was the only novel I really enjoyed writing from start to finish. As in, there was no writers block with it. I was knocking out thousands of words a day, and my fingers could not keep up with my brain - I completed that book (pre-edited) in less than 2 weeks. So yeah, that one. And The book I will always be most proud of is Puppy For Sale. That was an epic challenge for me as much of the story was written while I was suffering from bad headaches and had some personal issues I was dealing with family-wise. Some of that emotion is probably there in the book. I often think of Puppy for Sale as my version of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album. It's often the case you can produce some of your best work at some of the shittest periods in your life. Plus, at over 180k words (I think), it's my longest book.
Margrim asked I was wondering if you tend to have other stories completed or almost completed before you begin to publish them, or whether you are just a few chapters ahead? I'm impressed with how quickly you manage to get new chapters completed if that's the case!
Also, do you tend to write from a fairly detailed outline or keep it simple and let the characters take you off on unexpected tangents?
Some might know I stopped writing in late 2016. It was an awful year for me depression wise, and I just didn't feel I had anything left to write about. Most of my work was left in raw, unedited format on an old hard drive. So yes, I had lots of stories completed, but when I left GA, Castle Roland and shut down my own site, I binned everything on the net. So all I had left was unedited copies which had to be made right again from scratch. So what you are seeing on the GA schedule is mainly finished and what I call my "Classics", which were written between 2013 and 2016. In answer to your question about how far ahead I am. I don't like to write from laptop to publish because I want to have a few chapters in the bank (as it were) so I can make sure continuity and timelines are correct. I often see other authors on GA do this, and I think it takes out some of the quality in their stories as you can see the words are coming straight from their head onto the site, and it shows. I mean, I am an amateur writer, so maybe that opinion is invalid or harsh, seeing as I don't have a degree in English or Literature, but I do think you need to keep a tight leash on your timelines and plots to make them come out the best. I can't understand people who write 700-word chapters? What the hell is that all about? A chapter is there for an author to move the story on - to change direction or open a new plot. How can you move stories on every 700 words? I think it's strange, but it's an opinion. Just put bloody page breaks in and crack on. There is one Author who does this constantly. One chapter was just 460 words. Man, Bang out a 15000 worder and let the reader have something to enjoy!! (I'm getting off my soapbox now.
In answer to your second question Mawgrim, I have an arc in mind and a rough beginning. I am useless at endings, as some readers will testify to me in the comments. In some novels, I wrap up really well, and in some, I leave a few things not explained. Endlings are a weakness in my writing skills, I think. But before I start a new project, I can basically read off the first chapter in my head word for word before I have even written it, then have an arc in mind and then fuck the ending up, hahaha. One more thing to mention I think that is important to your question. It has been known for me to bin five or six chapters completely and re-write them. This happened in The Saturday Boy. I read it back and thought it was bland. When I get those periods, I stop writing for a couple of weeks because I know the quality is not there, and I am running low on imagination juice. But usually, after a break, I can sit back down, and it all comes flowing again.
Hans asked, Who are your editors, and how do you make such great chapters.
*Blushes* Thank you, that's sweet of you to say. Well, I have had many editors over the years. Male, female, straight, gay, old and young. Most have taught me a hell of a lot. A couple were pretty useless and clearly not fit to offer services as editors. But each brought their own ideas, styles and advice to my books. Really though, the best ones were the ones who tore my work to pieces line by line and pushed me hard to be more creative in my styling and grammar. At first, I got distraught with this and took it as a personal attack on my work. In fact, I told one of my editors to go fuck themselves, and how dare they pull my writing to pieces. But they did it because it was shit I later accepted, not because they were being nasty as I took it at the time. These days I enjoy criticism much more than praise because I want to improve. Plus, now I am in SUCH A BETTER PLACE mentally, I can deal with negativity a lot better. So right now, I use a triple lock system that consists of a self-designed spelling spotter (top secret, haha. it Took me 3 months to build). I also use another piece of software I paid for, and I have a human, hahaha. The human has requested to remain anonymous, but each chapter goes to them after I have run it through my own self-editing (I do self-edit now too) and software, and then I get it back 24 hours later to be published. It should be (almost) error-free by this time, but this is not a perfect system, and I am still caught out with a few errors here and there. But, the difference from my early work to something like Him in the Dust is astounding.
Sam S asked. Why did you leave GA?
I debated whether I should answer this one as I am under certain terms of not talking about certain things. But I did say I would be honest and answer all questions that came my way. All I can really say is that I was at a low point in my life and decided that as well as stopping writing, I would leave the site too after a disagreement here on GA. It's all in the past now, and I am here to write and write alone. Any community, cyber or in real society has politics, and people disagree and have strong opinions on things, me included, but it's right that the purpose of GA is to publish and read stories. Nothing more, nothing less. As I mentioned, I am in a much better place now, and I am happy to be here again, uploading my work again and writing new material.
MarkB (My beta Reader) asked Do you notice any style changes yourself between your writing then and now?
Wow, Okay, here goes...
I started reading gay fiction in about 2012, I think. I was a latecomer, not really knowing that it existed online. Embarrassingly enough, I used to just read the pure sex stories to get off, hahaha. But then I found nifty and spotted some gems in there. I think the first real story I read that was not all about sex was caring for Cody. Dunno where that is now, but yeah, that was the first.
Then I thought about writing something myself. I Didn't have a clue where to start, how to write correctly, where the little bits of grammar icons and stuff went. All I knew about was full stops and commas. So I joined GA (the first time) in early 2015, I believe and met a guy called R***** (Current GA member). And I wrote my first story - For Everything You Are, and he agreed to edit it. I sent him the first chapter, and he basically tore it to shreds. I was angry, hurt and almost told him to fuck off. Because I saw it as an attack on my efforts rather than him trying to help me. Over time he taught me the basics of where stuff should go and how good flowing sentences should be placed. I finished that story with his help and placed it on Gay Authors, and it got a good following and decent reviews. The Original is still on my hard drive, and I have read it back in its raw form - It's awful!
So I think that is the long version of answering your question. No, my style has not changed. I'm just a little more seasoned and open to criticism. I am a fond user of the 3 dots to show real thought or a pause (some hate it... I love it :P) So you'll always know a story by me, cos it's got loads of them in it...right? Lol.
I want people to be honest about my work. People just saying authors write good stories does not help any writer. Sometimes a chapter does need to be torn to shreds. Some chapters... and even stories need to be binned completely.
I have about 25-30 stories that I have written which will probably never see the light of day because either the plots are uninteresting, or they are in too much of a state to put right. A few to mention
- Wotherine (A WWII novel)
- Our Boat Our Home (Another WWII novel about a gay captain of a German U Boat)
- Jordan and the Grease Monkey (Straight forward drama with loads of drug use)
- Take me Out (Romance between an Israeli and Palestinian guy)
Just a few there - all crap!
If you're also interested (And you might be bored by now haha), All my stories have acted as therapy for me. Growing up as a gay kid in the very late '90s was hell where I lived. ALL of my stories address a little bit of me in them. (at least the 2014-2016 ones do). Most of my characters are based on real people I knew/know, and some of the plots in my stories which deal with mental health are me in disguise. The names of some people I really knew. And you may have noticed I am pretty clued up with prescription medication and drug use storylines. This is also from experience and a little bit of me.
Over the years of writing, it has allowed me (in a way) to put down on paper and re-live those dark days of being a young gay kid, and it's helped me to bury the past. Some people have asked who I am in all of my stories, and the truth is the closest Character I have written who is essentially me is Joey from The Saturday Boy. His job as a kid, personality, obsessions, depression and insecurity was me. So yeah, There we are - Joey is James Matthews And I don't think I have ever told anyone that.
Claire asked, Nealy, all your stories have dealt with depression, drugs, violence and suicide. How do they reflect in your real-life, and are you talking from experience as they seem really accurate and detailed descriptions?
Thanks, Claire. So I get asked this a lot privately. I think with the depression thing, I have a lot of experience with it. Anxiety, panic attacks, stress, depression. You name it, I have suffered with it. My parents did too, which is why I think I am wired up this way. So In my stories, I can always give an accurate account and storyline of what something like, say, a panic attack feels like. Or what it is like to feel so low you want to sleep all day and not face the world. As many young people have, I have tried a few class A drugs (I think Class A is UK speak, perhaps?)Anyway, E, Cocaine, Ket I've done. But never injected anything into my body. I am not a pot smoker, and I do not take drugs anymore apart from what the doctor prescribes me. If I need to include a scene in one of my stories, as I did with a meth scene, I will research it from a few sources on the internet and then be confident enough to write it down in the chapter.
I feel really passionate that if you write about something that you don't know about? Do your fucking research. Nothing irritates me more when I see Authors on here or elsewhere writing about a topic they don't know anything about or have not bothered to research. It makes them look stupid and is lazy. I read a story where one guy said the Titanic was 800 metres long. I mean, she was a big girl but come on, wake up! Haha. (as I write and no cheating, I think it was about 270-280) I might be out, but I would have just looked that up. Lastly, I have been through some dark days but never thought about suicide. It's just not in my DNA to think like that. Sure I feel fucking low at times. But life is always worth living. Plus, as I was told, you need the bad times to appreciate the good times. That's why we have weekdays and weekends. It's a good point.
Fatboy asked. Do you have a Partner?
Yes, I do. I stole him out of a nightclub when we were both drunk one night. That was 15 years ago.
Snowcat31 asked, are any of your characters based on you, or have you got a character that most resembles you?
Wow, I got asked this really recently, and I can't remember who I wrote back to answer it for the life of me. Well, yes, there is someone who I wrote who is basically me as a teenager, and that is Joey from The Saturday Boy. I did the same job as him in my grandparents' pub as a kid, and I also had the same sort of personality. So yes, everyone knows now, Joey is James Matthews. I even had a friend do what Shaun eventually did, but my friend was female (Was careful there to avoid spoilers, haha)
Alexa1991 asked You look really straight in your picture. Are you gay in real life?
Okay, firstly, Alexa, you must drive your friends nuts when you go around their houses. Lol. And Now you question. Hmm, sort of mildly confused by it. Yes, I am gay in real life, and I am sorry I am not waving a limp hand at you. It's a bit of a silly question, but I did say I would answer all of them. But just to tag on to your question. Someone also said I don't look like a guy who writes gay love stories. What is it with you guys? Hahaha.
HairyBeary asked, DO you write for yourself or your readers and do you think you have enough content to knock Comicality off the top spot for words written?
Wow, that is a great question. Well, 2, actually. Okay, so What I have written in the past, like 2013-2016, was TOTALLY for me, exclusively. Those books were my window to resting some dark days of being a young gay guy as I mentioned in MarkB's answer. But these days, I write for both relaxation (for myself obviously) and for you guys, my readers. So it's a balance now, which is better, I think. When I was writing for me, I wrote so fast because I was trying to expose something… some feeling or experience, and I used to get frustrated because I could not get my fingers to write quick enough as my brain literally spewed out these memories I had from those times. But now I am much more leisurely when I write. I'm not really someone who likes to write so many words at a particular time. Some days I will write 16k-18k words, and others (more frequently) will be more like 3k-4k. Sometimes I even write while watching TV, and I'll just doodle down a rough chapter for a story. Then when I have some quiet time, I ask myself what the fuck was that shit I wrote and go back and do it again, or at least give it an almighty adjustment.
This last one left no name, and So will go by the first part of your e-mail to protect your privacy. So Timebox asked. You are from the UK, yes? So why do you use UK and American words when writing. Would it not be better to stick to one or the other?
It's a good question. I think that kind of all started because I got sensitive to a couple of e-mails I got when I started writing, saying that people didn't understand my strange wordings they said in their own ways. But you have a point. I do use both, and I try to use the Americanisms more so when I know my native audience will understand them as well, rather than using a UK work and an American to be like, Whaaaaaat? All people in the UK will know what a Sidewalk is, a Mall, or an Elevator. But if I started using words like Loo, nappy, kip, lorry, Then I find you start to have problems. But UK people know what a bathroom is, a Diaper, a small nap, and a truck. So there you go, that's my reasoning. But this presents its own problems when dealing with dialogue from a 17-year-old British male. To make them sound authentically 17 and, more importantly, British, you need to be careful how much "adultspeak" words and Americanisms you throw in. It's a balance in a nutshell.
Well, that's all of the folks. Thanks so much for your e-mails and Pvt messages. That was pretty fun. I hope I answered every one with enough information to satisfy.
So Schedule? Well, I will be taking a short break for around 2 weeks while I go off with my partner on a well needed post-Covid Holiday (vacation). So there will be a few chapters pre-added to auto-publish but not enough for the whole two weeks, so I will go a bit quiet on the publishing side for a while from Monday onwards (that's the 13th of September)
Whats's Coming up?
Right Now: The Lad from Castle Bay Down
Coming Soon: For Everything, For Everything 2,
Coming along at some point:
- Puppy for Sale 3 in early stages a few chapters written in the first draft
- The Saturday Boy - Roman (A prequel to TSB written in 2018 all about Roman's life before the events of Joey and Co's adventures. never published - It's an unedited mess.) Sorting that mess to get ready.
- Him In the Dust 2, I had abandoned this, but over 20 people have contacted me by various means to ask me to finish it. So I feel like I should. I know. Only dickheads abandon stories readers have invested in. Qu….. Oh, sorry, never mind.
- Purity 2 - exists in my head only right now.
Edited by James Matthews