Interviewing The Author – Matt Spencer

An Interview with Matt Spencer

Today I bring you an interview with Matt Spencer, author of the fast paced Urban Fantasy/Horror series the Deschembine Trilogy. The final book of the series, The Blazing Chief, releases on the 12th of October.

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What was the inspiration behind the series? 

Looking back, it’s hard to say just what combination of factors were brewing around in my head, that eventually came out onto the page as the Deschembine series. I’ll tell you straight-up that us authors are notoriously unreliable narrators when it comes to answering questions like this. That said, I think what eventually kicked it off had a lot to do with how I was processing the trauma of the death of a very dear friend. It manifested in the overwhelming desire to write the kind of big story, some kind of impassioned Wagnerian-Opera-worthy epic full of all the action, romance, camaraderie, intrigue, betrayal and magic, as to be worthy of a couple of young dudes like him and me obsessively geeking out and debating the merits and flaws of its characters and situations.

I like to think that were he here, he’d read these books and go, “Dude, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? I mean, stellar job and all, but you’re one sick, twisted bastard.” And then we’d get into a pissing contest about who’d be Zane and who’d be Jesse, because those two are the kinds of larger-than-life heroes who nutty, idealistic young men like Dave and I always dream of being/should honestly aspire to be more like, when in reality, most of us at that age are more like Rob and Sheldon in the first book, so gung-ho and youthfully misguided, except without the super-powers.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It’s all case-to-case. I love to educate myself at every opportunity on world history and mythology. If I’m writing something set in a real-world historical setting, naturally I ought to read up on whatever period details I can get my hands on, to paint as accurate a picture as possible of the setting, and let the characters behave and think as much as possible like people in their time/place/position would believably act.

When I’m spinning up an imaginary world from whole cloth for a fantasy series, I can in theory do whatever I want, except that imaginary worlds don’t exist in a vacuum, and are best when they feel authentic, informed upon by all sorts of mix-and-match real-life inspirations, and the more historical and anthropological research you have in your literary toolbox, the more vivid, immersive, convincing and involving your stories and characters will be. Sometimes a story and its protagonists will spring straight from my imagination onto the page, while sometimes an idea will require a lot of scholarly research before I can hope to inhabit a point-of-view character’s perspective with the right sense of empathy and authenticity.

There’s a lot of Celtic fae-folk mythology behind the Deschembine mythos, stripped of much of the sanitized, Disney-fied cutesiness through which it’s often presented in the modern world, filtered through my warped imagination. Once I developed a strong enough sense of how certain kinds of personalities might behave within the context of that hidden/secondary world, I just dropped the characters into the scenarios I’d dreamed up for them, and let them write themselves. It really did feel that intuitive at that point.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Oh, all over the place! I’m shameless about that kind of thing, and when you write a lot of different stories set within the same world/continuity/etc., it kind of goes hand in hand with fleshing out that world so it feels like a living, breathing, lived-in place.

For example, near the end of The Blazing Chief, a certain character reveals that she’s had a secret agenda this whole time and briefly describes how her personal history led her to this point, and why she’s making certain drastic decisions, that affect the course of history. Sharp-eyed readers familiar with the adjacent standalone novel Changing of the Guards will recognize her as a certain character from that book, whereas if readers go from this book to that one, it won’t be immediately apparent, but by the end, I like to think they’ll do the math, go “Spencer, you sneaky bastard, I see what you did there!” Likewise, if they’ve already read CotG before reading TBC, they’ll hopefully steadily realize who they’re re-meeting and have a deeper, richer reading experience as a result. Plus, if you write a multi-book story this long and involved, of course you like to hope that it will connect strongly enough with at least some readers that they read it multiple times, and on subsequent readings pick up on little details they didn’t see before, about how the whole puzzle fits together, in ways that deepen their connection to the overall work.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Pretty much the same advice I give aspiring writers today: When reading the kind of shit you want to write, take mental notes on what does/doesn’t work when perfecting your craft. Also, get out there and live a life that makes you feel alive. Take risks, make mistakes, get into trouble, get into adventures, whatever that means to you personally (if not on the scale of the kind of “adventure” yarns I write, well, that’s probably for the best 😉 ).

Above all, follow your own inner creative voice. You never know where that’ll take you. You’re not so unique in your experiences and feelings as it often seems, but at the same time, no one can write about it exactly like you can, and you never know for whom your voice is exactly what they need. Shoot for the moon, you may or may not make it, but you’re still likely to hit something along the way that those who didn’t dare never would have dreamed of.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Everyone at my day-job, and a sizable amount of people in the rest of this weird, wonderful, dysfunctional little community I live in, know me as Bird. It all started ten years ago when I moved back here from Kansas with a lot more of a twang in my voice, so a co-worker jokingly called me “Freebird.” It stuck, and over time, has shortened to just Bird…or the Bird…His Birdness, El Birderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. In short, Bird is the Word. 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Trust me, love, you don’t want to know.

What is your favorite childhood book?

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. It’s the earliest book I can remember reading as a kid (yes, before I was even aware that the Broadway musical existed). It sealed my fate as a reading addict, and a lot of my obsessions and fascinations as a storyteller can certainly be traced back to it…primarily in how it’s such an uninhibited genre-mash-up of Gothic horror, tragic love-story, mystery/detective-thriller, and Victorian adventure yarn, all wrapped up in a good deal of timeless mythological allusions and overtones. Plus, the impression left on my young mind by the character of Eric, aka the Phantom, is quite evident in the shadowy antiheroes/dark heroes/sympathetic-villains-who-we-totally-empathize-with-even-if-we-don’t-condone-their-actions of much of my fiction.

The influence is probably most evident in the recurring characters of both Frederick Hawthorne and his arch-nemesis Shiloh Dotson/the Artifactition, if you want to look up whichever of those tales are still in print at the moment. If any character in the Deschembine trilogy could be called a literary descendent of our ol’ pal Erik the Opera Ghost, it would definitely be Sheldon Wildfire.

Praise for the series

The Night and the Land by Matt Spencer is a brilliant urban fantasy read that hooked me right from the beginning and left me wanting for more in the end! 

Matt Spencer does a fantastic job weaving supernatural elements into the mundane setting of the “real” world, and his attention to detail to the setting is only matched by how well he draws out his main characters.

This book surpassed my expectations on so many levels! I was not expecting the conflicts to go so completely out of control on such level (in an obviously good way.) I was expecting to see more of the inter-personal and relationship conflicts, but this book has so much more to offer than just that. The characterisation was a really good development too and the new characters as well as the old ones, especially the old ones, were a treat to read about.

His world building and cast of characters are delicious and vivid, but also dark and frightening. The entire ensemble feels so real to me that the suspense of wanting to know their fates kept me reading long into the night. 

About the Author

Matt Spencer is the author of the novels The Night and the Land, Summer Reaping on the Fields of Nowhere, Cult of the Stars (illustrated by Deirdre Burke) and The Drifting Soul (illustrated by Stephen R. Bissette), as well as numerous novellas and short stories (including award-winners The Red Duke and Petticoat Lane), and the collection, Story Time With Crazy Uncle Matt.

Mister Spencer has been a journalist, New Orleans restaurant cook, factory worker, radio DJ, and a no-good ramblin’ bum. He’s also a song lyricist, playwright, actor, and martial artist. As of this writing, he lives in Brattleboro, Vermont.

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