Indie Author Interview With Christopher Matson

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Next up to be interviewed is indie author Christopher Matson. Join us as he talks about his love for writing.

Hi, David… as a quick introduction, I’m Christopher Matson writing as C.B. Matson. That’s not really a pen name, more of an author’s name that I use to identify my products and my online presence as a writer. I am also a waterfront engineer and international port consultant, and have been for about thirty years. It’s a good career that allows me to experience a whole bunch of interesting people, unusual food and weird toilets.

At the same time, I have always been a writer. Much like the shower baritone, I’ve done it for my own entertainment. I think you’ll find that most authors will say much the same thing. I write for the same reason that a dog barks, because I can. And also, like most writers, I have always harbored the notion that I could compose a story worth reading. So now I write part time about one and a half to two hours every evening. I try to get in six hundred words per session. I’ll discuss my transition from shower-stall-baritone to author-in-earnest a little farther down.

Okay David, you’ve asked for a little more about me, and I’ll spill, but what I really want to do is talk about writing. A few other things then: a) I’ve had many careers including mining geologist, commercial fisherman, marine construction, and port planner; b) I’ve lived in six of the U.S. States and visited most of the rest, plus a dozen other countries if you count Canada (well, I do, anyway… love ya-guys, awesome lobster bisque but keep that poutine stuff up there, okay?); and c) of course, I enjoy travel. 

My favorite character from history is Benjamin Franklin, and yes, I would like to have met him… bonus, he spoke English. You ask if I would like to change the world. No, not even on a bet. There’s this little issue of unforeseen consequences that can make the best intentions go horribly wrong (a good plot theme, though. Think Jurassic Park).

So let’s talk about writing, yeah! [fist pump, victory dance, muscle cramp] Every writer eventually becomes this Nosferatu vampire-person for story ideas. Neighbor dies… hmmm? Virulent disease… hmmm? You get the picture. It’s the teasing out of stories worth telling that’s the art and perhaps is the toughest part of writing. Twyla Tharp, in her book The Creative Habit recommends collecting and maintaining idea boxes of possible projects. That’s one way to sort out the phials of blood and vital humors that you’ve collected. 

Turning an idea into a project and then a story means writing, and herein lies the rub: whether to pants and endure the slings and antics of outrageous protagonists, or plot and endure, well, whatever it is that plotters endure. That is, write by the seat of your pants and let the story just take whatever path it takes, or plot it all out with outlines and character descriptions, so things converge where you want them to converge, when you want them to converge. In my very limited experience writing both ways, pantsing is much more fun for the author, but plotting makes a much better product for the reader. JMHO, FWIW, YMMV, and caveat scriptor. Whichever way you choose to write, you’ll find a combination that works best for you. 

I started Broken Sky [holds up cover art, grins, panders to the audience] pantsing all the way. It was going to be about ninety thousand words featuring one, maybe two principal characters, and taking about six months to write. A year later I’d hit one hundred thousand words, enough characters to fill two Ken Follett epic doorstoppers, and only about sixty percent finished. So much for pantsing. I outlined the remainder, started at the end, and finished it by writing backwards from the conclusion. My current project, Cloven Earth [holds up another cover], is a combination of the two approaches; plotting to keep it on course and pantsing to keep it interesting. 

I have a third novel, Moonlight and Darkness, which is still just in outline form. Each novel is complete in itself, and together the three will comprise a series that spans the events leading up to the Mongol invasion of Europe. Yup, historical fiction… my favorite genre. Seriously, historical is like fantasy with artifacts (and cool places you can actually visit). Ya need magic? They had it. Ya need swords an’ epic battles? Yessir, plenty of ‘em. Brave lads and lusty heroines? Check. That’s historical… basically, anything you want it to be. Don’t care for Ken Follett? Try Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. Or try my favorite author in that genre, Umberto Eco with his Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of The Rose. However, possibly my favorite book, and definitely my favorite lead character, is 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas with Captain Nemo (Prince Dakkar). It was speculative fiction when written, cutting edge steam punk now, go figure… 

So, David, you ask, “What advice would I give to aspiring authors?” In asking that, please remember that I’m an aspiring author and probably not the reliable source of sage advice. However, as you likely expected, here it comes anyway – Before you write for publication, have a Plan. No, not a story outline (but that’s good too), a long term plan; that is, decide what you will write now, in five years, in ten years; figure out who your readers will be and what they enjoy. Find a way to deliver your stuff to these readers, and make sure that more and more of them can find you. Without readers, your stuff, no matter how wicked awesome, is nothin’. May as well do a ctl-del on the whole thing and your backup too, ‘cause if no one reads that wonderful stuff, it doesn’t exist (of course, if you’re not writing for publication, then flail away and enjoy the crap out of it… that’s also good and we’ve all done it). 

Broken Sky started with a hazy notion of a Plan. People were going to read the Mongoliad series (Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Tinker Pierce, and a bunch of others) and then find Broken and dig it. Okay, bit of info, Broken Sky is written for Kindle Worlds [Klaxon horn from LOST, you cringe and make “The Scream” face, vomit on keyboard]. Yup, Kindle Worlds, glorified fan-fic. That’s my plan and I’m stick’n to it. It gets me some readers right from the beginning. It also gives me a chance to develop the character of Cnán from that series. I felt she just didn’t get her propers, overtaken as she was by the sword-swing’n hero types. So I picked her up and wrote her back-story. Lots of fun. Definitely not the warrior princess trope; Cnán is nonetheless resourceful, brave and possessing of a few unexpected talents. She crosses paths with Simon Polevoi, itinerant conjurer with his own agenda. She also encounters the Sky Blue Wolf, totem god of the Mongols, plus a bunch of other interesting and dangerous prots. My current project, Cloven Earth is a sequel, and Moonlight and Darkness concludes the series. All part of the plan. 

So, I don’t really have to market my books, People look for the Mongoliad series authors and find my stuff. I keep my web-site up, do a few tweets when the mood strikes, and write blog posts like this one when I have time. That’s it. I get great reviews on Amazon, mixed bag on Goodreads. If anything, the reviews show that Amazon KW is currently where my readers live. 

So when I grow up, I’m gonna be a published author with someone, someone out there checking my website to see when the next C.B. Matson comes out. I’ll be making that transition in about a year or so when Moonlight hits the e-streets and I move on to my own platform and my own series. Stay tuned… 

I’m always open to comment letters from readers, and correspondence with other authors; you can get in touch here:

Twitter: @CBMatson 

Oh, oh, and by the way, if anyone wants to contribute more stories to the KW Mongoliad body of work, feel free to contact me for a few additional insights. We need more authors, more new stories. Safe writing all.

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