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July CSR Discussion Day: Him in the Dust by James Matthews


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Welcome to the last Monday of the month. I hope it's gone well for you, and if not, you're here not to enjoy this interview 😉 with @James Matthews and share your thoughts on his story, Him in the Dust. Don't be shy now!! 

Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?

I really had to think about this question before giving an honest answer. I'd say my bed is unmade most of the time. I do like to get into a made bed as I'm sure we all do so on a weekend I usually make it as Saturday is housework day. But I'm going to have to come up with a classic answer, and that is I just don't have time in the mornings.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to do as little as possible if I'm honest. When I'm not working I like to chill out and eat through a Netflix series. Right now I am playing Death Stranding on the PS4 (I like to play games as well). I try to keep fit by exercising at home with an app I use from the internet. So fitness is quite enjoyable if you have good music to do it with. And of course reading. I do surprisingly very little of it, but if you ever can't sleep, read.

What’s one location you’d love to go to research for a story?

There are two places I'd love to go research for a book. One place I've been to three times and that's Egypt. The other is the Utah. With the latter I find the landscape amazing and I fell in love with the place after seeing a documentary presented there.

What brought you to GA?

I can't even remember. I would like to give you an exciting answer but I'm sure it was just a case of stumbling across it, hmmm. I was hosting a couple of my books over on IOMFATS and I think someone from there told me about GA It was tip off or a stumble, I can't remember ha!. I will big up the site and say it's the only place where you get consistent quality. I think authors put a lot of effort in on this site and it shows. I like the fact that as an author GA gives you almost complete control over your work and how it is presented. Nowhere else does that.

What’s the best part of being an author?

There is one thing, and that is expression. To be able to express yourself through a novel or a poem is the most rewarding thing about writing. I used to write for readers, and I used to write stuff that I thought people would like. Now I write for me, and hope that the reader can enjoy my work too. I'm so grateful and humbled that I have a loyal readership. Those people I know by name who read my stuff - It's great when they get really onboard and excited with a story. Each novel I write I try to tear a little bit of my life out of my mind and add it to the book somehow. Writing is also a way for me to heal from the bad time I had as a gay kid growing up. Anyone who has, or is reading my stuff knows I throw in a lot of mental health topics and give my characters the problems and issues I had. That is healing!

You stated there have been a lot of wars in your author note on the story. How did you pick the time period and war to write about?

Everyone will have their own views on the war in Iraq and you could debate forever on whether it was a good thing or bad, right or wrong. But I found that time fascinating. I also think it was the first time where the media really got involved in a war to this scale. It was on the TV 24 hours a day, live, and nothing like that had ever been shown to the public before. There was also the relationship dynamic between Bush and Blair, the USA and the UK - we had never been so close... so together! It was a controversial time, and I think in a nutshell I chose this time, and this war because I followed it from day one. I remember those first explosions when the UK and US bombed the palaces.

I did my best to get accurate information and put it in the book, and I would be really proud if anyone who served in the armed forces read it and said yeah, that's just what it was like. Because I spent hours researching before I wrote a single word at some points in the book. But it was a rewarding book to write.

Which character from Him in the Dust do you most identify with and why?

That's a good question. and a hard one. I am nothing like Sebastian, we're totally different personalities. I'd say Jack. He was the funny one and I was always the class clown trying to make people laugh. Jack is a softie and loves everyone. I think that's more me than any other character.

What is your favorite part of Him in the Dust?

I liked the slow, almost accidental coupling of Seb and Lukas. I also love the fact that the more war they saw, the closer they got. They needed eachother in a few different ways.

Can you sum up this story in one sentence?

RAW

Do you have anything to share about your current or upcoming work with readers?

Luke Hanson's Mind and Punishment (a play on Crime and Punishment) is my current project. That will be complete probably by the end of July. D'you know, I keep thinking about doing something set in ancient Egypt with the protagonist being a Pharaoh.... alive around the middle kingdom period perhaps. It's been whirling around in my mind for ages. I've never attempted something like that before, I mean, I just write romance and drama!! So it might turn out crap! haha. So yeah, apart from that nothing on the books the moment. I find many readers asking writers for sequels. I guess they are easier to write because you've already built the world, now you just have to carry those characters to another place or time. But sequels don't do much for me anymore. I want to try new stuff and push myself harder to get out of my comfort zone.  

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I find many readers asking writers for sequels. I guess they are easier to write because you've already built the world, now you just have to carry those characters to another place or time. But sequels don't do much for me anymore. I want to try new stuff and push myself harder to get out of my comfort zone.  

I read this paragraph repeatedly before the pull to comment was irresistible. Writing the same MC for the past 8 or so years, I'm not sure sequels are actually easier. Having to maintain consistency, with previous events and character personalities, can be taxing. That MC, and the large cast I've surrounded him with allow me to explore plenty of story lines, though.

While the MC's, introduced at 15, is a political beast, his friends have allowed me to write about a music competition, American football players, fine art, an Air Force Cadet, and a few other disparate subjects. My guy's now 25 and the way I write his actions and dialogue are not the same as in the first installment. Partially due to me learning some things about writing but also because a government official does not look at life the way a teenager does.

It's definitely comfortable to write the same characters repeatedly, but it could get boring if the sequels are simply more of the same. My last multi-chapter story included a travelogue of Mexico, a Russian spy, and the MC killing someone with a gun. Based on reader reactions, I'll keep the train running for a while. :P

Nice interview, James.

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5 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

I'm not sure sequels are actually easier. Having to maintain consistency, with previous events and character personalities, can be taxing.

I'm with you on this part yes definitely - especially when there is a couple of years... or more, between each book. When I did Puppy for Sale 2 and 3 I had to read through almost all of the first book again, so you make a great point. (And I hate reading my own stuff back. Once it's written, I'm done)

MC is a massive series and I congratulate your stamina on it. I normally run out of ideas after 250k words. But some people have an art of moving things to new interesting places. I am not one of those unfortunately. 

Thanks for the nice sign off at the end of your comments. Appreciate it Carlos :) 

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