Interview with Matthew Johnson

19 Jan

A great bundle of science fiction books is currently being offered at, 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 Johnson

When did you first know you wanted to be a science fiction writer and why? How long after than did you have your first fiction sale?

I started writing seriously in my teens, but my early work was mostly plays; my high school had a very active drama program, so that was where the audience was. Though I did a lot of absurdist fantasy and a little bit of horror, SF and theatre were a tough fit, so it wasn’t until I switched to writing mostly prose in my mid-twenties that I really focused on SF and fantasy. I actually sold the first story I ever submitted for publication (and then didn’t sell anything else for five years.)

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

Fall From Earth is the result of a whole host of things that had been percolating in my brain since I was a kid, from my love of both classic space opera and New Wave sociological SF to my later fascination with Chinese history. Looking back it’s a bit of an outlier, both as the only novel (so far) and the work I’ve done that fits best into classic SF traditions, but it also has a lot of the themes and motifs I’ve played with since in stories like “Rules of Engagement” and “Irregular Verbs.”

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

The motif that comes up the most often is the tension between justice and compassion — that’s the heart of Shi Jin’s story in Fall From Earth, as well as for characters like the man who refuses to leave anyone else in Hell in “Talking Blues” or the nurse in “The Afflicted,” who cares for zombies during their transition and then puts them down once they become dangerous. The other major theme, which in this book is mostly represented by Ruchika’s encounters with the Greyen, is the question of how (and whether) we are ever really able to know anything, or to communicate with others.

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 definitely a plotter: each book or story has a long runway before it really gets started, and I’ve been a devoted follower of the Church of the Holy Index Card ever since I read David Gerrold’s The Trouble With Tribbles as a twelve-year-old and learned how to break down a plot. (I bought it at the late, lamented House of Speculative Fiction in Ottawa; I’ve still got a bookmark around somewhere which I really should get laminated.)

Unfortunately my work at MediaSmarts occupies a lot of the same mental bandwidth and energy as writing (partly because it involves a fair bit of writing, even a bit of fiction now and then) so it’s hard for me to switch gears for just a few hours: I usually need at least a half a day free to get any writing down, which hasn’t done much for my productivity over the last few years.

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

Keep at it. (That’s actually advice to myself, but if anyone else wants it they’re welcome to it!)


To learn more about this great bundle of books, visit

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

To learn more about Matthew and his writing, visit:


One Response to “Interview with Matthew Johnson”


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

    […] Keep at it. (That’s actually advice to myself, but if anyone else wants it they’re welcome to it!) (Matthew Johnson) […]

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