Interview with Matt Langford
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
I’m a 39 year old ICU nurse and sometime author growing older on an almost annual basis. I have two small children who shout at me rather a lot. I find shouting back to be of almost no use whatsoever. But I do it anyway. My wife is about to return to full-time education in order to complete an MA in social work. Money and stress will be fighting like pigs for priority. So what better time to embark on a campaign of authorship?
I like being outside, either on my mountain bike or finding new and interesting places to smoke. I also enjoy playing the guitar, but other will disagree. I wrote my first novel in 1998, and as yet only two people have read it. They haven’t thanked me. I have written several novels and have plans to write many more. Hopefully the world will endorse my efforts anytime soon...
Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Watchman?
The Watchman is a literary fiction novel told through the eyes of Adam, a young man with a learning difficulty. He describes his life from his very enclosed perspective as he comes to terms with the changing dynamics of his family. His younger siblings grow up and move away, his loving but distant father becomes ever more estranged, and his devoted mother moves closer to implosion on a daily basis.
Adam is an endearing, engaging boy who enjoys very simple needs. He loves his family and terrorizes them in equal measure. Especially his brother Jake, a troubled adolescent trying desperately to balance himself after an, at times, criminally led childhood. But the person who receives the full front of Adam’s unique sense of humor is his Gran, who one Christmas is subjected to a barrage of love, affection and practical jokes. Yet Adam’s inability to communicate gradually drives an inner rage to the fore, culminating in an horrific breakdown which destroys his family forever.
Why did you decide to write a “coming-of-age” story?
I think the story chose me, to be honest. I know this sounds corny, but I really feel this is a story that needs to be told. I grew up with a brother who had a learning difficulty, and to say our relationship was stormy barely touches the surface of how we lived together. He fascinated me and left me permanently exasperated. Never have I met a person capable of such class and beauty, yet left me spitting with frustration on a daily basis. I've seen him bring grown men to tears with his effortless charm and unprejudiced affection. I've seen him tame wild, uncontrollable teenagers. I witnessed a succession of people left stunned by his unique ability to make you feel warmed and special. But amongst all this he lived with a very short fuse and immersed in sea of frustration. Most of the time his inability to vocalize went unregarded. But as he grew older and stronger he found this fundamental difference too hard to bare, and he suffered a breakdown that lasted well into his 20s. Thankfully he recovered and enjoyed a very happy, fulfilled life until his tragic death in 2009.
You've also written a collection of short stories, The Burning Man Prophecies with an eclectic mix of genres. Can you tell us about the stories in that book?
I still haven’t settled on a style or genre I can safely say is ‘the one’ for me. Maybe I never will. And The Burning Man Prophecies is testament to my itchy feet. The opening story, Amelia’s Box, is an out and out horror/nightmare scenario with ghosts and cannibalism at the heart of the plot. I've very little interest in the horror genre. I’m not altogether sure where the idea came from, but it remains one of my favourites. The story I enjoy the most is The Mr Benn Paradox (choose your hat), a real twisty turny thriller with deaths and twists all the way. Again, I wouldn't say I normally write this type of thing – but the idea struck me and I just had to write it down.
The genre I love the most is dark humor laced into gentle fantasy ... taking the very recognisable world around us and adding rules or scenarios that are clearly impossible. The story that comes closest to this genre is The Rashness of Mr Young, a Christmas fable with blood and bones.
I’m also fascinated with older people’s stories and how they fit into the modern world. The Carpet Washer and The Star are my favourites, despite not being entirely happy with how they turned out. Elderly people who contributed more to the world than we will ever begin to appreciate adequately, suddenly left lonely and unvalued in a world driven my phones and money. It’s a sad, tragic dichotomy and one I’d like to explore again one day.
Do you feel more comfortable writing genre fiction or the more general fiction?
Genre fiction seems to be my preferred choice. But it all depends on the idea. I find it difficult to add a category to my work. When I released the Watchman I trawled Amazon for similar titles to check on their genres for the purposes of categorisation.
Did anything surprise you during the process of writing your books?
I’m surprised at how patient I am in the writing process and at how meticulous I can be. These are qualities I usually abandon in everyday life. I’m quite happy to retype and rewrite entire manuscripts, then sit down over a many months and read every word with careful diligence. In most other areas of my life, however, I’m generally pretty slap-dash and bull-like in my approach. My wife is confused by my ability to paw over a paragraph for hours on end, yet devote only 3 minutes to the hoovering.
Who has inspired you as an author?
My favorite author is Douglas Adams. His ability to create a unique, hilarious world and then dismantle it with a single phrase was extraordinary. The world is a duller place without him. Graeme Greene is another particular favorite of mine and inspires me create strong characters. Almost every character he ever wrote was flawed and disastrous on some level. Yet he managed to convey their qualities with effortless ease. I’m not quite sure how he did it – the man was a genius.
We are lucky to live in a world filled with talented authors. Kasuo Ishiguro is one such person. Sarah Walters is another. Again, both are able to set off highly explosive character bombs. Marina Lewycka is another effortlessly brilliant writer.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Ride my mountain bike or play my guitar. Generally though I’m either working as an ICU nurse or covering my ears as my children shout at me.
Are you working on another book?
Several. I’d like to write a series of dark humor/fantasy novels set in the mythical twin town of Minus, a place at the very heart of GB that you will not find on any maps. Set either side of mighty river Minus, Major Minus and Minor Minus exist within very different rules of time and physics, allowing the inhabitants all manner of abilities and treats. The first in the series, Finding Zoe Dawes, is undergoing a final rewrite and will hopefully be released this year.
I also have another complete novel entitles The Honeytree Flock. This is much more in the mould of The Watchman. It’s currently being read by a couple of friends to ensure it’s not rubbish. Which it may well be. The subject matter is a huge gamble which, I predict, will either be a masterpiece or toilet paper.
Matt's Website: www.thetribblepages.co.uk
The Watchman on Amazon (US): http://ow.ly/lQbfA