Matthew Lang's Awesome Interview
1)Matthew...can you give me an idea of what the holiday means to you personally? And how does that factor into your Christmas story?
I'm not really big on Christmas. I think it's become more about shopping and commercialism than about being thankful for what you have and enjoying your life. Admittedly, my family have never been huge on it, and those were the subjects that came out when I wrote about Christmas in The Secret of Talmor Manor.
But I think there's a lot to be said for Christmas as a time of celebrating life and what makes your life special, and for me that was what Christmas Memories is all about as a book, but also, that Christmas (Hannukah or non-denominational seasonal holiday of choice) memories are really what the season should be about.
2)If there were one gift, aside from your writing that you could give to the world at large, what would it be?
Peace on earth and goodwill towards all? Or maybe a fully functioning integrated global platform for the reduction of our carbon emissions below 1990 levels that would be implemented around the world irrespective of whether governments liked it or not.
3) How/When/Where does inspiration strike you?
Surely a better question for me would be where doesn't inspiration strike? Usually at the most inopportune time when I don't have any way to record it. 2AM in the morning if I'm up that late typically.
4) Describe the experience of writing a winter holiday story during the summer...or wait, it's the opposite for you isn't it? A summer holiday during the winter.
Honestly, I think it was just like writing anything else. I'd spent a week in Hong Kong just before I wrote it though, which is where the Japanese watermelon dessert came from--there's a fantastic little place in Tin Hau on Hong Kong island--so that helped. Really, I think it's easier putting yourself into the holiday mindset than it is to write about walking across the surface of a tidally locked planet. If nothing else, you at least have actual first hand knowledge of what the holiday season is like.
5)Tell me how your stories happen. Do you plot them out, etching the bones of the story first and then later fleshing it out? Do you wake with a story full blown in your head and then fush to get it down before you forget? Do you listen to the voices of your characters, no more knowledgeable of the story's conclusion that any other reader until the tale is fully told?
I'm a plotter rather than a pantser. I tend to say, "What is this story about?", and , "Who is it for?", and, "What do I need in the story to make it work?", Once I've nutted that out I find it much easier to get the story working. I often think that I have a full blown story, but there are always holes--usually the the identity of the antagonist or the identity of the *actual* antagonist, or that little section between the middle and the end of the novel that I haven't quite foreseen. That's when things get hard. I'm also fairly vicious when it comes to making the stories work. I've dumped whole drafts because they haven't been exciting enough. I know you can often get away with slice of life stories, but the risk I find in slice of life is that the story starts reading like a diary...'and then we went to the fair and, and then we has sex, and then we told each other how much we loved each other, and then we went home and threw a party'...I don't know. I like my stories to have some tension, something at stake, something to learn. Maybe it's my theatre training showing, but on stage, if there's no tension or nothing forwarding the narrative at any given point, you end up with 'dead' time where the audience can tune out. I know books can be put down, and often are, but I want my readers to not be able to put the book down. Or at least wish the didn't have to.
6) Why do you write? Give me both the long and short of it.
Because I have no other marketable skills that I'm willing to use in a career? Seriously, I decided early on that if I was going to be famous, I wanted the famous where I could walk down the street without the paparazzi swarming around me. Now, I'm certainly not famous, but that's probably one of the reasons I decided to write--also because breaking into acting as an Asian man would have been very difficult. I still find the television and film industries to be very Anglocentric when it comes to characters and casting. Also, I've always been attracted to fantasy, and that's something where the biggest market is in books and games--let's face it, the amount of special effects needed for a fantasy film means that the good ones are few and far between. They're also very heteronormative, with the majority of heroes being straight and male. The traditional quest is, after all, kill dragon, rescue princess, marry princess and rule the kingdom (or half of it at least). And I found that a lot of writing featured characters I just stopped relating to. The thing I realized, is that I can either whine about stories about people like me not getting told, or I can tell them myself. And that's what I'm trying to do. Of course, I've found a lot of other great writing since I've started, and it's nice to know that there's more to be read now that I know where to find it!
7) Why this story? What did it mean to you? What were the challenges of finishing it?
Because it was a story I needed to tell. I often got asked if I was going to write a sequel to Talmor, and I always said 'not unless the characters have something to say.' The thing is, Nate and Jake did have something else to say, but I didn't know what it was at the time. I knew the story wasn't quite finished, because there were a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the book about exactly how the'd manage. Christmas Memories completes that journey, they go from talking a lot about Christmas and Christmas memories to being able to build some of their own, which finishes things off nicely. It's funny, because it wasn't until Laura Baumbach brought up the idea of Christmas stories that everthing clicked and I realised there was another chapter of the story to be told. It wasn't a big chapter, and certainly not a full novel, but it was ready to be told...so I told it.
See, I told you it'd be better if I just let Matthew do most of the talking. He's got his own unique charm that really just carries itself, yeah?
Here's a hint of what his latest, a lovely Christmas short from MLR Press called Christmas Memories: A Talmor Story is all about.
Jake and Nathaniel found their happily ever after in The Secret of Talmor Manor...the problem is that afters come with their own set of problems. How exactly do you navigate the minefield of a family Christmas and a new relationship without explaining you met in a dream--or that the dream included a crazy sister and her lover hell bent on killing you both? Is it better or worse when the reincarnated person you're with differs oh so slightly from the man you fell in love with? After a year of paranormal, is a little slice of normal too much to ask?
You can find out more about Jake and Nathaniel, as well as the beginning of their story at MLR Press.
Matthew Lang can be found at the following locations: