Photo by Rick Jones
You wrote your first novel one summer when your dad was injured, could you tell us a little more about that? What was the novel about?
My dad was laid up with a bad back and was on strong medication for it. When he was awake he would play games with me (chess and backgammon) and, when he needed to rest, I would go to my room and bash away on my mum’s typewriter. The first book I wrote was Red Elf and was a parody of Red Dwarf. It was proper shit but I recall the first line perfectly of it: What in the buggery bollocks is this? I was about 12 years old when I wrote this… I was so proud of it though, I even did crappy illustrations of the characters in red biro (all I had to hand) and sent it off to publishers. They advised me to stay in school. Take from that what you will.
Having written well over 100 novels and short stories, what is it about short stories that appeal to you? Do you ever feel like slowing down and writing a longer book??
My last three books have been novels now and I am branching out more into those as I’m really getting into them. They are Octopus, Full Moon, Suburban Haunting and The Island if you’re bored and fancy buying them. You know… Just saying.
With regards to short stories, people say they’re easy to write but they’re actually more of a challenge and it’s that challenge I enjoy. Taking an idea and making characters and a plot and decent twist and telling it all within just a few thousands words. Also people think it is a question of being lazy too. Oh it’s a short story because he can’t write a full story… Not true. Some stories would not suit a longer format. To stretch them into a novella or novel would be to ruin the core idea of the tale being told.
You are best known for your Splatterpunk and extreme gore books. What is it about the genre that appeals to you as a writer?
It’s not actually my favourite. I fell into the genre by accident; just trying to upset a publisher who said I was sick. I went away and penned the first ten pages of Sick B*stards and enjoyed the story so much, I carried it on. I released it expecting a back lash and next thing I know – I’m number one on Amazon and I’ve sold the film rights. Soon after I quit the day job. What do I like about it? I like shocking the readers – but not just shock for the sake of it. There needs to be a reason and a point behind it all. Gore for the sake of it is just boring. There needs to be a hook and twists and turns to keep it all turning nicely!
Do you research much when writing unfamiliar topics or novels?
The books I write don’t really need researching as they’re just based on imagination although when I’ve gone out of my comfort zone to write about nuclear apocalypse or sledding across the arctic – I did indeed take myself off for some trips. All the information can be found online of course but fuck that. Explore the world and write it off as taxable. For nuclear fall-out knowledge, I went off to Chernobyl and for the sledding, I took a team of dogs through Sweden, Norway and Finland… The latter trip was brutal though. My nickname was Crash. The instructor said, before me, he had never seen someone overtake a sled, horizontal in the air, screaming shit and with his arms by his side.
You have co-written a number of stories as well. How do you find writing a story alongside someone compared to writing alone?
I get asked a lot to do this but most of the time I say no unless I know the author or they’ve taken the time to at least get to know me. So many randoms pop up asking to write a book and – before that – they have never said hello to me! Why would I work with them if we’ve never spoken? Just weird. Anyway – I’ve worked with one author in the past who has a good following and our styles just didn’t gel so I gracefully backed out. They were cool about it. With Bray and I, I find it pretty easy and it’s always fun with Sam West. The biggest issue I have is waiting for the story to come back to me so I can continue with my side of it. That frustrates me because I like to just get it done but that’s not possible when working with someone who has a full time job or family to look after. Patience is not my virtue.
“Write what you know”. Some writers write from experience, some set boundaries and keep the work apart, how do you feel on the subject?
The way I see it – write what you want to write so long as you have the confidence to go about it. If you lack confidence in yourself it will show.
You write a lot from first person perspective, giving the reader an uncomfortable closeness to the main characters. Is this intentional?
No! I would never want to make someone feel uncomfortable. That’s just cruel.
(Yeah, it is).
Your writing has a lot of anger but show a gentler side using grief with your collections of shorts; Tears. What subjects to you find harder and easier to write?
Without trying to sound arrogant, I don’t really find any of it hard as such – at least not in the way you may think. I just enjoy writing so I write. What I write depends on my mood though. If I wake up in a bad mood, I’ll struggle to do the softer writing. If I wake up like that – I’ll just look to torment characters with violent situations and purge myself. The softer stuff tends to come when I’m in a really happy mood so I know it won’t drag me down… Which is probably why I don’t write as much of it.
You are quite the name on the convention circuits, what do you enjoy and dislike about conventions?
I fucking detest certain cosplayers. Not people that dress-up and embrace their characters – I love seeing that… But the people who dress up as a character from a television show and get paid to appear because they happen to look like someone. Looking like someone is not a talent. Now sometimes there is MASSIVE talent involved in the making of the costumes and these guys and girls are remarkable but, if you happen to look like someone because you brush your hair differently and then put a pair of jeans on because the character wears this brand of jeans… That pisses me off.
Last year I was at a convention where they had an interview on the main stage with two such people. They were characters from The Walking Dead. I shit you not, it went like this: So when did you realise you looked like such and such? The person answered. What’s next? I’m going to dress up as him again at this convention…. Meanwhile authors and comic book artists are pushed to the side because they’re deemed not important or skilled in their trade or the convention people just don’t think they’re good enough to be taken note of.
It might sound like I am jealous and I’m not. Fair play to them. You can make money because you look like someone? Great. But don’t call it work or talent. You can do make-up amazingly well or build breath-taking costumes? That is a talent worth showcasing at these places and being interviewed over.
With an extreme genre there comes a lot of controversy. How do you deal with hate or negative feedback you might get?
I got a lot of shit for Octopus because I locked into a new audience (Lovecraft readers) and they weren’t expecting the depths I can sink to (no pun intended). Holy Hell did the USA seem to hate that book but I took all the one star reviews and used them to my advantage. People say my work is sick? Well that just means people who enjoy extreme horror will want to read it more… Originally though it used to bother me but nowadays I shrug it off. They can say my work is shit, call me a cunt but – whatever – I have people who enjoy it so it’s all good.
After Horror, what is the next genre you wish to tackle?
I’ve already done thriller, comedy, romance, drama… I’m not really sure where else to go after that. I do have more film work to get on with though and I want to make a documentary but that’s all hush hush at the moment.
Is there any method to your madness? In other words, do you have any specific rituals you do when you write or when you finish writing?
I wake up, do a little work out (a recent thing) and then just work through the day. I don’t have rituals or anything like that. If my brain isn’t really feeling it, I won’t work and I’ll spend the day doing admin stuff or just larking around on Facebook with readers but – that’s about it. Not very exciting really huh.
You’ve recently released your first feature length film Monster, how do you feel about the finished product?
It’s okay. I’d give it a 6 out of 10. The ambition was there but mistakes were made and no I won’t say what they were because I don’t want you seeing them if you don’t just naturally catch them. It was a good learning curve but hopefully the second and third film will be better!
What scenes did you feel were most important or hardest to put onto screen from your book?
Definitely the birthday cake scene was important. That’s such a major part of the book, we would have been lynched if we left it out. Whilst the core of the story is the same though, the film is pretty different to the book but that was mainly due to budget restrictions which were to be expected given it was a crowdfunding thing and not some guy just giving all the money over.
Having sold the rights to some of your other books, is there a particular one you would like to see made into a film?
I want to make Sick B*stards but I’m actually making Love Life after Next Door. SB would cost just too much money for me to do alone, or at least give it justice. I do think it would be great on screen though. Failing that – A House In The Country and The Cabin would both be creepy.
You’ve raised money for your upcoming film Next Door, could you tell us anything about it? Could you share anything about Love Life ( or is it too early?)
NEXT DOOR is an anthology film akin to Tales From The Crypt and Tales From The Darkside. There’s some horror, some comedy, some drama, some romance… Hell, there might even be animation in it too but that’s up in the air at the moment due to money (again). I’m filming with Jan Anderson (Casualty) and Nathan Sussex (Hollyoaks) at the end of the month and real excited about that as they’re both lovely.
With regards to Love Life, it’s too early to say but that sticks really close to the book and will be shot in black and white… The way I see it: MONSTER is my horror, NEXT DOOR is my experiment and LOVE LIFE is my drama (think Leaving Las Vegas meets Psycho).
What books would you recommend people who are newly entering the Matt Shaw world?
Extreme: The Sick B*stards Trilogy
Science Fiction: The Missing Years of Thomas Pritchard
Psychological: Full Moon
What is your favourite swear word and death/gore scene from your books?
My swear words are generic and it’s on Facebook I invent words (like “Cuntwaggle” – when a woman runs and her meat curtains hang down a little more than other ladies ones… She gets a cuntwaggle). I invented that when I was 13 years old and my friend at the time, Dean Rutland, set fire to a caterpillar. I wanted to call him the worst thing that popped to mind and that came out. Cuntwaggle.
My favourite gore scene from a book? Probably Chaturbates Castrations when a cam-girl gives a guy a hand job whilst using a cheese-grater. That was fun to write.
Do you have any specific goals, dreams or aims for the future? Personal or professional?
Just to keep doing what I am doing, get a bigger audience. I mean, I’m pretty content. I don’t need to be rich although more money would be nice. I’m doing this as a full time living and not many can say that so… Let’s not get too greedy.
Figure of 8
Quick fire questions
Interview by Alice Bizarre