Last month at Scares That Care! Weekend, I met a lot of cool people in person that I previously only knew via the Internet or Facebook. One of those cool people was the multi-talented Matt Hayward. Matt’s writing caught my attention a few months back when Sinister Grin dropped his horror fiction collection Brain Dead Blues. It was one of the best genre collections I’d read in some time. Matt has a unique voice and impeccable storytelling abilities. I strongly urge anyone who’s looking for that “next new voice in horror” to give his work a try. His follow-up and debut novel What Do Monsters Fear? is equally impressive.
TIM MEYER: Hey, Matt! Thanks for stopping by the blog. Why don’t we start off by telling us a little about your new book, What Do Monsters Fear?
MATT HAYWARD: Thanks for having me, Tim. The novel follows Peter Laughlin, a mid-thirties musician in need of rehabilitation with a child on the way. He gets more than he bargained for at the centre — including a run in with Phobos, the great god of fear. Think ‘The Thing’ meets ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’.
TM: The novel has a great cast of characters. You did a great job fleshing them out, making the reader connect with them on a personal level. Were any of them based off you or people you know? If so, how?
MH: Thanks for saying that. The characters were a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster, little pieces of folks I’d met over the years sewn together. Peter had the most of myself in the mix, but with some traits amplified — By doing that I could distance myself from him, and write him more objectively. Donald, funnily enough, came mainly from comedian Joey Diaz.
TM: What inspired you to write this novel?
MH: I think there are two types of horror story… In one, the author points outward and says, “look there — not at me, look out there — looks what’s happening in the darkness… scary stuff, huh?” and that can be very entertaining, and sometimes that’s exactly what I want, but the other type is what really hooks me as a reader. That’s the story in which the author says, “Here’s what’s inside. Take your time and look around… recognise anything?” That type of story can be hard to put to paper because it requires getting vulnerable and showing your cards. But that’s what I wanted to do.
TM: What Do Monsters Fear? deals with many themes, including addiction and isolation. Was there a particular theme in the novel that spoke to you more than the others?
MH: I won’t get into it, but some of it (I think) is on the surface. I was halfway through answering this when I got the call that one of my best friends had committed suicide, mirroring Peter far too close for comfort… I’d written the tale as a way of working through my own problems, and it’s sad to know we’ve lost so many to a similar situation. That screams at me more than speaks to me.
MH: I like shorts for situation-based ideas rather than full-on character development. It’s fun just exploring a twist or a ‘got-ya’, always a palette cleanser from larger works. That said, nothing beats really sinking your teeth into proper character development, and a novel really provides that. They both have their magic, for sure.
TM: Which authors influence your writing the most?
MH: JF Gonzalez was my ‘Nirvana’, in a way. I saw a ‘punk rock’ ethos in his work, and after reading Clickers I instantly started my own book. For that I have to say he’s my biggest influence. Alan M Clark took note of me early on — and slapped me sideways for amateur mistakes. For that I’m ever grateful. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am. Alan’s mostly known for his horror artwork, but he’s just as good a wordsmith as he is an artist. Reading Joe R Lansdale taught me a lot about ‘voice’, how to bring characters to life, and how to grow a story organically. The three of them are top tier influences.
TM: Name a few of your favorite novels. What makes them your favorites?
MH: Addie Pray by Joe David Brown opened my imagination as a young teen, got the ball rolling for more ‘adult’ novels. King’s The Dark Tower gave me escapism when I needed it most, and remains my favourite series of all time. I always loved Bentley Little’s The Store (most anything by Little, really), and I also have to include Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.
TM: Let’s talk about the craft. What’s your writing process like? How many drafts/revisions do you usually pump out? When do you know a manuscript is “ready?”
MH: I do 1,000 words a day, Monday to Friday, and usually end up with three drafts. My first is just getting the material out to hold. Second draft, I’ll “actually” write the story, and third is just for polish. I try not agonise over little mistakes or exact phrasings too much, because that only leads to the rabbit hole of never-ending change. I did re-write a novel from scratch recently, so that went about six drafts, but that’s an exception. I try stick to three.
TM: Do you listen to music while you write? Or do you need to work in complete silence?
MH: Complete silence. I can’t concentrate even when someone’s talking. If I could take the doors and windows out of the room, I would.
TM: What’s your favorite story that you’ve written?
MH: I like What Do Monsters Fear? because it worried me that folks would read it… after the reaction I breathed a sigh of relief. People seemed to connect with what I was going for, and that led to a big personal payoff. All you can hope for as a writer is that your story will resonate, and hearing that it gave me the confidence to keep going. I’ll say that one.
TM: What’s your favorite thing about being a writer?
MH: Meeting folks who share the same perception as myself. It’s nice to know I’ve found my ‘pack’.
TM: Any advice for a new writer, maybe one who has yet to publish their first story?
MH: Your first novel is most likely going to be awful, and that’s okay. Just be sure to finish it. Finishing it burns routine into your brain, and that’s essential. Mechanics can be learned, mostly by reading, a little by advice, but as long as you’ve got a story to tell, you’re golden. Tell the story you’d like to read. And always tell your story.
Matt Hayward is an Irish, Wicklow based author and musician. His band Lace Weeper have become a staple on the Irish rock scene and have toured with many notable bands and musicians. For more info on Matt, please visit:
When not writing, touring or recording, Matt can be found far up the Wicklow mountains, wondering the woods, drinking beer and playing guitar. Not all at the same time of course.
Hayward’s personal website can be found at www.sundancecrow.com