An Interview With Matt Micheli
Popping My Horror Cherry with Matt Micheli
By Sarah Elliott
I have a secret; a confession to share. I had horrorphobia! I love sci – fi and fantasy but my poor nervous system can’t really cope with horror movies, and I’d never dared read a horror story – until now.
I recently called upon the lioness within (wakey wakey li’l cat) and read my first horror novella: The White by Matt Micheli. It certainly gave me the chills, but I enjoyed it so much I’m counting down to Matt’s next book, or next two books!
If you’re not familiar with Matt, put briefly, he’s an all-round cool guy (says so in his IG bio and after meeting him I must agree). He has a real talent for bringing forth the darkest fiction to put your bones in cryo. According to East Bay Times’ list, Matt writes both non – fiction and short stories proving expert in drawing you into the story through deft use of dialogue for character development. But watch out! This is interspersed with real shocks that get you right in the gut, leaving you breathless but wanting more. He is a staunch supporter of indie writers, authors and publishers and enjoys being part of the horror indie community.
You can purchase The White here: Amazon.com: The White eBook : Micheli, Matt: Kindle Store
“A multi-layered thriller that’ll chill your blood faster than a freak blizzard, Matt Micheli’s The White proves there are scarier things than being trapped at home with family.” – Jessica McHugh, Bram Stoker & Elgin Award nominated author of A Complex Accident of Life and Strange Nests
And away we go!
Sarah: Why do you write? Who do you write for?
Matt: I write strictly for enjoyment. I promised myself that no matter if this (writing) does bring about financial success in some capacity, it will always be for enjoyment; never a job, never a burden. I hate seeing new writers who are so focused on how much they’re going to be paid and hearing comments like “that pay rate isn’t worth my time.” The writing itself is what should be worth your time, paid or not. The payoff is the joy of creation. If it isn’t, then you should stop writing.
As far as who I write for… I write for me. I write what I enjoy reading. Being that writing and art are relative, my style may not be for everyone. Different strokes for different folks. And that’s okay.
Sarah: Tell us about your greatest inspiration for writing.
Matt: Chuck Palahniuk’s earlier works inspired me to start writing. I really think he changed the game and opened up a whole other world of literature. With that said, I tried so hard to sound like Chuck in the beginning, I had no voice of my own. My writing was awful with a capitol A. My first book was a trainwreck that should’ve never seen the light of day. It still haunts me.
So Chuck inspired me to start writing… Bret Easton Ellis inspired me to keep writing. I love his minimalist yet emotionally-exhausting style. Although they aren’t horror writers per say, there are strong horror elements in their books. Monsters come in many shapes and sizes.
Sarah: Where have you learnt most about writing?
Matt: Real life situations along with reading and watching movies/television. I’m also big into psychology (recreationally), which helps with character development and motivation. I’ve got to give cred to the critics and editors, too.
Sarah: What is your most and least favourite part about the writing process?
Matt: My favourite part is the creation of the characters and story; watching the story and characters unfold out of thin air. My least favourite part is the waiting for rejections/acceptances, and as writers, we do more waiting than anything. But oh well:)
Sarah: What does your drafting and editing process look like?
Matt: Writing is done in my office with some form of dark instrumental soundtrack; soundtracks really set the mood and I think have some sway in where the story goes. My station of choice as we speak is “This Will Destroy You.” I’m also a big “Timecop 1983” station fan when I need something a little more upbeat, a little 80’s. The door is locked so I can go uninterrupted. I rarely outline (although outlining has value when a story just isn’t flowing or coming to me). I prefer being a vessel for the words, not quite knowing where the characters or story are going until they get there, so not only am I the writer, but I am the reader as well!
After I get some words down, I send those to my Kindle, where I typically edit and add notes, which can be done anywhere. I like the idea of killing 2 birds with 1 stone (although I’m an animal lover and wouldn’t kill anything, so I probably need a better saying) so I do a lot of note-taking/editing at the gym, combining health and editing. Then I type my edits into the copy at home, write more, then send back to the kindle. Back and forth. Write on the computer; edit on the kindle. That process has done me well and works at saving time, which I never have enough of.
Sarah: How do you choose titles for books and character names?
Matt: Character names are typically the first name that comes to mind for whatever character I have in mind. They sometimes will be based on people I’ve met in the past, sometimes not. I will say I typically go with standard, typical names. I can’t stand unbelievable names like “Anastasia Steele” unless the character is a 30-something simpleton virgin… then I guess it works.
Book and story titles have always been a challenge for me. Some come easier than others. Others I try to come up with a few and go with my instinct on which to choose. The fewer the words, the better in my opinion. Give the potential reader something easy and catchy.
Sarah: What is the mistake that has taught you the most?
Matt: Not listening to critics, editors, letting pride and ego stand in the way of becoming a better writer. When you get that first publication and are on your way to becoming the next Stephen King, but even better because he’s got nothing on you, ego rules. Then over time, you realize, that first publication sucked and still sucks, and your story was awful, and you should’ve listened to your critics, and maybe they weren’t all full of shit or ignorant of your brilliance, and you just weren’t that good… As writers, we go between arrogance and self-doubt like a bi-polar rollercoaster for a while until we find our voice and ourselves and are able to view criticism as opportunities to improve. Sorry to ramble, but this is a big one that I think a lot of aspiring, new writers face.
Sarah: Where have you learnt most about writing? A person? A book? A course?
Matt: There’s a lot to this question, but I’ll give you a couple books that really helped me out, and still help me. Stephen King’s “On Writing” has a lot of technical advice but also shows that writers’ successes (whatever that means to you) don’t always happen overnight. Chuck Palahniuk’s “Consider This” is great, offering small tidbits of priceless knowledge, especially pertaining to believable dialogue, in a format that is entertaining. I highly recommend both.
Sarah: Who are some of your favourite authors and books and why?
Matt: Some bigger names: Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Jay McInerney, Charles Bukowski, Stephen King, Tim Wagoner.
Indie folks: Ronald Kelly, Mark Towse, Daniel Volpe, Laurel Hightower. I won’t name books, because most (if not all) that I’ve read are good and they all have multiple. There are some other indie folks I’m sure I’m missing (please don’t hate me), and I have a lot on my TRL. Indie horror is really starting to come alive!
Sarah: What advice can you offer to aspiring authors?
Matt: First and foremost, Write as a hobby, not as a job or career. If you happen to make monetary gains or pay the bills with writing, great! But never view it as a job or something you have to do. Because who the hell wants a job? 🙂 Write for the enjoyment of writing. Everything outside of that is just bonus.
Don’t force it. If you are struggling keeping the story moving forward, step away. Take as long as you need. The characters will be there when you return. If you aren’t excited and champing at the bit to sit down and get ideas onto paper, then don’t sit down. The inspiration and excitement will come back. Just be patient.
Listen to your editors. They are there to help you make the best product possible, and hell, they don’t even get credit, working in the shadows while you get all the praise. Also, for what it’s worth, listen to your critics. They aren’t all assholes (actually the overwhelming majority aren’t). If you see a negative trend/pattern from readers/reviewers, then you should at least consider that there may be an opportunity to improve. On the other side, if there’s a positive trend/pattern from readers/reviewers, then you may have found your strengths. Do more of that!
Get involved in the indie horror community. Horror writers are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and the overwhelming majority want to help and support their community.
Kill your ego. Until you do that, you will never become the writer you are capable of becoming, and you are capable of great things!
These are some things I’ve learned along the way. Hope they help!
They certainly do, even if they do add to my to-do and not-to-do list!
If you would like to hear more from Matt and more specifically about his latest book The White (you know the one that popped my horror cherry), check out the video interview on the webpage. Until next time when I get to be super nosey again; keep sleeping with the light off. You never know what might emerge in the dark…
Bio: Matt Micheli is a horror and dark-fiction writer out of New Braunfels, TX, author of The White (D&T Publishing). He has several fiction and non-fiction pieces featured in various magazines and anthologies. A loving husband and father to a daughter and Husky dogs, he spends his days dabbling in domestication and his nights in Tequila, always searching for the next great story. The White will be followed by his second novella Scratched to be released in March of 2023 and his third titled Two Minutes with the Devil which is scheduled for release in June of 2023 by D&T Publishing.
Look for his interview series NEW BLOOD: The Rebirth of Indie Horror at The Horror Tree where he has candid conversations with folks making a splash in the indie horror writing world. Nothing is off limits.
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Sarah Elliott is a published poet, writer and self-published author (Warrior Wisdom Sun, 2022). She is a regular contributor to the Nottingham spoken word scene and can also be found hosting on London Writers’ Salon. When Sarah isn’t writing, she is either coaching and mentoring educationalists or chucking needles into people for acupuncture treatments! Sarah is currently writing a tarot-inspired collection of flash fiction in addition to a poetry anthology. The Substack newsletter titled A Writer’s Life chronicles Sarah’s writing journey, and you can also find her work on The Horror Tree website.
More from Sarah here: https://linktr.ee/Writingforlight
Sarah is a regular contributor to the Nottingham spoken word scene and her poems have been featured in an online magazine and a poetry anthology. Sarah writes a newsletter titled A Writer’s Life and has a second poetry book ready for publication in 2023.
Sarah enjoys fantasy and sci-fi and is fascinated by Tarot and astrology. Recently discovering a love for flash fiction, Sarah is currently writing a collection of flash fiction for fun and maybe more.