Brian W. Matthews grew up in a small town in southeastern Michigan, the son of a policeman father and a factory worker mother. After graduating from high school, he worked his way through college, earned degrees in microbiology and psychology, and subsequently worked for over a decade as a child therapist. That changed in 2000, when he switched careers. He currently works as a financial planner and writes novels in his free time. The Conveyance is his third novel.
Book description: The Conveyance is about the secrets we hide from others and the troubles that arise when they are exposed. In the book, child therapist Dr. Brad Jordan is thrown into a series of tragedies when one of his patients begins exhibiting bizarre behavior, which then spreads to his wife and his best friends. Together with Frank Swinicki, a police detective, he doggedly pursues a trail of madness and murder until he uncovers a sinister conspiracy long kept secret from the world, one that could threaten the existence of the human race.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?
I took a creative writing class in college. I had been a voracious reader for years and was interested in how this whole writing process worked. I did quite well in the class and received many compliments, but I never pursued it as a career. In the years that followed, I wrote off and on, mostly short stories and only for my own pleasure. I was exploring the craft, and as such, they were not good. I fervently hope they never see the light of day.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
In 2010, a friend asked me to contribute a story for a cyberpunk anthology. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to write a book. Forever Man was published in 2012. I now have two more books out and am working on the fourth.
Few people can make a living solely on writing, and if you’re lucky enough to be one of them, it likely took years before you hit it big. I’ve only been writing professionally for a handful of years and haven’t yet reached the level of success needed to be financially secure. So yes, I do have a job besides writing. I own a financial planning firm and work in the personal financial planning field.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I wasn’t until I reached about sixteen. Then my reading took off. My first love back then was epic fantasy. I read J.R.R. Tolkien, Raymond Feist, and Stephen R. Donaldson. Then I sort of branched off into science fiction, and eventually horror. It is with horror that I feel most comfortable, with authors like Stephen King, Robert McCammon, and James Herbert. But I really relate to Clive Barker’s work. His way with words is so beautiful. I aspire to that level of craftsmanship.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
I spent years as a child therapist, during which time I saw how dangerous love can be if it is misplaced or toxic. Children suffer so much at the hands of abusive or disturbed parents who profess to love them yet inflict extreme pain in the name of that love. I wanted to bring some of that experience into a book, yet stay with the horror/science fiction genre. The Conveyance explores the moral hazards of love and how the secrets we keep can destroy our lives or the lives of those about whom we care the most.
What was your goal when writing this book?
I had several goals in mind, some related to story and others to craft. After two books involving multiple flashbacks and convoluted plots, I wanted to hunker down and write a simple “begin here and end there” story with few, if any, complicated time shifts. I wanted to show others how love can harm those we profess to care about if it is misplaced or selfish. I also wanted to write a story in the first person. This ended up being the most difficult aspect of the book. First person often leads to more telling and less showing; a writer can easily fall into the trap of using visuals to describe scene and setting. I worked hard at limiting this, cutting thousands and thousands of words from the rough draft to keep the writing tight and the story moving. I think I succeeded.
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
Like Spielberg, I get my best ideas while driving. My mind has a lot of free time to ponder several “what if” scenarios. What if a town of bigots were confronted with a black supernatural hero? (Forever Man) What if an atheist were confronted with proof that God exists? (Revelation) Why do I get my best ideas while driving? I have no idea. I’m simply grateful I get them at all.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
This one took roughly two years from conception to publication. I’m not a terribly fast writer, though I’m getting better. Two years is pretty quick, actually, in the world of publishing. I publish through a specialty press, and the turnaround time is quicker with them. Publishing through one of the Big Five takes longer. It’s common to see two years pass from the moment the book is accepted to when it’s released.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
I’m not sure I agree with this statement. Sure, I know a few authors who feel hurt by negative reviews, but most of us understand it’s part of the trade. You cannot please everyone. Negative reviews will happen. I read them along with the positive ones, but I try to learn something from the negative reviews. Occasionally a reviewer will make a valid point about the story or the writing, and I reflect on it and try to fix the problem. As for the negative reviews that are just mean, I let them go. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. There’s no rule that says it has to affect me.
What is(are) your favorite book/author(s)? Why?
In the horror genre, I absolutely love Clive Barker’s Imajica. For me, it’s his best work to date. He brings you so far into the story you lose track of where you are or what’s going on around you. Stephen King’s The Stand is also a favorite. In other genres, Stephen Donaldson’s GAP series is great science fiction. For fantasy, I would suggest Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. GAP and Fionavar aren’t commonly mentioned, but for those genres, they represent some of the best writing I’ve seen.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Embrace the suck! That’s the best advice I’ve ever received. Don’t dwell on the first draft. Write the damn thing and get it on the page. You don’t even know what you’re working with until the story is complete. Sure, your book or story will be a hot mess at the end, with flat dialogue and trite conventions, but editing and revising will fix that. I’ve gotten better at embracing the suck during my first drafts. As such, I can see more of the passion coming through in my work.
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I’m currently working on the third book in the Forever Man series, and this will be the last Forever Man book for some time. I have other stories I want to tell, other genres I want to try my hand at writing. That doesn’t mean you won’t see Bart Owens again. It’ll just be a few years before he shows up.