Interview with Matthew Hughes

14 Jan

A great bundle of science fiction books is currently being offered at https://storybundle.com/scifi, consisting of six titles from Bundoran Press and six by some great writers who have befriended the press over the years. As an added bonus, we will be running a series of interviews with the authors about their contribution to the Bundle.

Next up: Matthew Hughes

What inspired you to write Template? How does this book fit into the rest of your writing career?

I had sold a novel, Black Brillion, to David Hartwell at Tor and wanted to follow up with something new. By then, Booklist had named me as “heir apparent to Jack Vance,” and although I knew I was influenced by Vance I had never really consciously tried to write a Vancean novel. I decided to give it a try, riffing on one of his “young naif travels the stars, encountering odd cultures and even odder people.” For good measure, I would explore a conceit I’d had rattling around in my head for some time: that all societies are fundamentally based on one of the seven deadly sins.

The result was Template. Unfortunately, Black Brillion didn’t do well enough for Tor to exercise its option to take my next book. So, I sold it to Pete Crowther at PS Publishing in the UK, who brought it out in a limited edition. Later, I resold it to Erik Mona at Paizo publishing, another big Vance fan. And when it was done there, I self-published as an ebook and POD paperback.

It remains the book I most often recommend to people who want to try me for the first time.

What themes appear most strongly in your writing? What makes you particularly care about those ideas?

My characters tend to be outliers, not comfortable in the middle of the social bell curve. Often they’re criminals of some sort (I come from a family that had quite a few minor criminals in it), or they’re oddballs who don’t fit their social environment. The stories tend to be about how they find a way to be happy (depending on your definition of happy) in a world not made for the likes of them. Template is a prime example of this theme.

I write about characters like that because I am a character like that. I’m an outlier and grew up largely alienated from the social and cultural environments I found myself in. Partly, that was because I was a bookish boy with an IQ of 145, but more important was that I came from a rootless, dysfunctional, working-poor family in which my father was always moving us around, sometimes with no warning. I learned I was emigrating to Canada from Liverpool when I was on the bus taking us to the ocean liner we were to be third-class passengers on. I once went to school at 9 o’clock on an Ontario morning and by 10:30 was in a car heading 2500 miles west to Vancouver, because my dad was in trouble with some loan sharks and we were bugging out.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or some combination of the two? Do prefer to writing or re-writing? Do you write every day or when the muse strikes you?

I’m a pantser. I start a book with a character in characteristic motion, then have something happens that begins a conflict. A third to halfway through, I begin to see what the story is about, in thematic terms, which tells me roughly how it has to end. Then I write toward that ending. I don’t do much rewriting. It’s as if the story is already known to the guy in the back of my head who feeds it to me, a thousand words at a time. My first drafts therefore come out at about 90 per cent of the finished product.

When I’m working on something, which is most of the time, I try to do a thousand words a day. I’ll sometimes do more or less if I’m finishing a scene. I don’t have a regular place to work because for the past eleven years I’ve been a homeless drifter, i.e., an itinerant housesitter, living in other people’s houses and looking after their property and pets. It’s a natural extension of how I lived when I was young, when my family’s peripatetic way of life led me to think of myself as “a guy who’s just passing through.” As I said above, I’m an outlier.

If you could give one piece of advice to a budding writer, what would it be?

I’ll give two.

Finish your first draft. Don’t keep rewriting the first three chapters trying to make them perfect. Writing a first draft is like hitting the beach on D-Day. You don’t stop to mourn the dead or help the wounded. You get off the beach, because if you don’t get off the beach, you’ll die there.

Also, story comes out of character. If you rewrite Rumpelstiltskin from the point of view of the eponymous character, it becomes a much different story, even though the plot remains the same. When I write, I become the characters I’m writing about. Which leads me to say to emerging writers: you think it’s your story because you’re writing it, but it’s really the characters’ story and you’re just writing it for them. So don’t try to make your characters do things they wouldn’t do. Give them some agency, as the creative writing profs say.

 

To learn more about this great bundle of books, visit https://storybundle.com/scifi.

To connect with Bundoran Press, visit our web-site, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @BundoranPress

To learn more about Matt and his writing, visit: https://www.matthewhughes.org/

 

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Interview with Matthew Hughes”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Archonate | Interview about TEMPLATE in Bundoran StoryBundle - January 14, 2019

    […] the Bundoran Press StoryBundle — a dozen Canadian SF ebooks for $US15 — I’ve done an interview about how I came to write my most deliberately Vancean space opera.  And why so many of my […]

  2. Advice to Writers (from the Bundle) | bundoransf - January 21, 2019

    […] Also, story comes out of character. If you rewrite Rumpelstiltskin from the point of view of the eponymous character, it becomes a much different story, even though the plot remains the same. When I write, I become the characters I’m writing about. Which leads me to say to emerging writers: you think it’s your story because you’re writing it, but it’s really the characters’ story and you’re just writing it for them. So don’t try to make your characters do things they wouldn’t do. Give them some agency, as the creative writing profs say. (Matthew Hughes) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: