Interview: with Matthew R. Davis
Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, with over forty dark short story publications to his name thus far. When not writing, he can be found recording albums, performing spoken word shows, editing videos and exploring deserted buildings. Find out more at matthewrdavisfiction.wordpress.com.
Hi Matthew, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello! I grew up in the country town of Port Pirie, but I’ve spent most of my adult life living in Adelaide. I recently took over the lease on an old house in which Tom, the drummer from my band Blood Red Renaissance, had been living for eleven years – we’ve used the place as a recording space for records by BRR and icecocoon, so it has a strong creative vibe that I hope will carry on through my writing. I actually lived there for a year when I was doing a film course, during which time I started submitting and publishing my fiction, so in a way, it feels like coming full circle. I’m currently trying to find homes for some of my novel-length work as I plan out the next manuscript, as well as chipping away at shorter fiction; I’m pleased to report that I have a collection of dark short stories coming out this year, called If Only Tonight We Could Sleep.
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?
I don’t subscribe to writing rituals as such – for me, it’s just about sitting down at the computer and getting the work done, wherever or whenever that might be. In the past, I used to listen to music or indulge in mind-altering habits, but these days I find it best to just block out the world around me and lose myself in the writing. That said, I’ve finally made space for a writing room, with a desk and everything, so at last I can get away from bashing out short stories and novels on the same stinky old couch.
Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or sub genres which you feel are played out? And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of?
Any trope is, by definition, so widely used that it has worn thin, so… all of them! Not to say that my work is without literary precedent or anything – let’s face it, Pilgrimage doesn’t exactly create any new paradigms – but I do try to bring something fresh to the table, even if it’s just my own perspective on the world, and I expect other artists to do the same. I do feel a little embarrassed that I published a couple of zombie stories early on, but at least those tales took a different approach to the subject and didn’t rely on the usual threadbare plots.
What books are beside your bed right now?
I’m still sorting out my new digs, so there are books all over the place – I’ve set aside an entire room for my library, and already the damn things are spilling out into the rest of the house! My TBR pile is beyond insane, so I couldn’t even say what will pop up next. I did just finish reading Molten Heart, a Doctor Who novel featuring the Thirteenth Doctor, and very soon I must get stuck into my allocated reading for the Shadows Awards – I’m judging the Novel category this year, so I’ll be delving into a lot of new Australian horror fiction. I have a couple of books out from the library – James Brogden’s The Hollow Tree and Keith Donohue’s The Motion of Puppets – so I should probably tear through those pretty soon.
Published or unpublished, what's the hardest scene you've written?
One of my unpublished novel manuscripts, Midnight in the Chapel of Love, features a funeral scene that I dreaded having to write – largely because I’ve been lucky enough to lose so few people close to me, and I didn’t think I’d be able to nail the feel of it. Irony bites hard: the day after putting it aside, my mother called to tell me that dear Auntie Margaret had passed away and the funeral was to be held the following week, so I got to do some unwanted research for that scene. In the manuscript, my character was reluctant to attend, feeling that he’d be ostracised by the people he’d once known so well – and I had the same reticence myself, since I hadn’t seen that side of the family in decades. I’m glad to report that my fear was unwarranted, and the wake was a positive experience in reconnection.
To what degree do you feel everything has already been written, in some form or another? Have you ever started writing a story, only to discover someone has already written it?
It’s true that there are only so many words and so many musical notes, and you do see so many overly familiar patterns being rehashed time and time again – but, that said, true imagination is boundless, and I don’t think we will ever run out of new combinations. The key is breadth of influence; the more an artist takes in from a variety of sources, the less likely they are to deliver work that is stale and derivative. Yes, there have been a number of times that I’ve come up with a cool idea or great riff and sat on it, only to see something very similar emerge years later – a recent example is the film Lights Out, which featured a nifty hook that I’d been trying to incorporate into a story for some time – but I guess that’s the nature of the game. I don’t worry about it, because I have far more ideas than I could ever possibly explore. Onwards and upwards!