For the third week in a row, Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester gets to shine our Friday Spotlight on an author who’s been a friend of our store and the New England horror community for years—Matt Bechtel! Matt was at our Small Business Saturday with Haverhill House Publishing last Saturday. We still have several signed books from Matt and the Haverhill House family if you have a spooky reader on your gift list.
Since we know all of the Haverhill House authors, AND they are all local authors, AND we love their work, we’re happy to kick off our December Gift Blogs by interviewing Matt and highlighting his work—as well as all the HH authors! We recommend ALL of these signed books as gifts for the horror and thriller readers you know.
Thank you so much for joining us, Matt! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I was born just south of Detroit, Michigan (cursing me a Lions fan), into a mostly-Irish family of dreamers and writers; as such, I’ve spent most of my years making questionable life decisions and enjoying the results. I was mentored by Bob Booth and now serve on both the Executive Committee of the Northeastern Writers’ Convention (a.k.a. Camp Necon) and as a partner in the Necon E-Books digital publishing company. My own writing tends towards dark humor / satire and has been compared to Ray Bradbury and Cormac McCarthy.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Monochromes?
The stories in MONOCHROMES really run the gamut, but if there’s a common theme to them I’d say it’s introspection. My publisher, John M. McIlveen of Haverhill House, once gave me the very high compliment that my stories make him think. Some of them lean towards humor, others towards tragedy, but most of them are usually born from a question I’m trying to make sense of myself.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out Monochromes? How did you overcome that challenge?
This is the toughest question for me to answer, but I’m going to be brutally honest and answer it anyhow—my biggest challenge / obstacle in putting out MONOCHROMES was self-doubt. I’d had some short stories published, and I’m blessed to work with a publisher who has absolute confidence and faith in my writing, but there was something very different about having my name on the cover. And I know that makes no sense, but that’s how irrational fears work. I spent months on my “final” edits, sometimes just staring at the screen, petrified that my work would get panned (or, even worse, elicit total apathy).
So, how’d I get over it? I remembered some very wise words from an unlikely source — my all time favorite boxer, “Sugar” Shane Mosley. On the night of his first big Pay Per View fight, when asked if he was nervous, Mosley scoffed. “Why should I fear what I want?” he answered.
I’ve always, always wanted to be a writer, and here I was, so close to accomplishing a life-long dream, yet paralyzing myself with “what ifs?” And once I realized that, it was obvious that the only solution was to smack myself in the head (metaphorically) and get out of my own damn way.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
I take back part of what I just wrote—THIS is the toughest question for me to answer (well, the “why” part).
The character I loved the most while writing was Cozzy, the title character of the final story in MONOCHROMES, “Cozzy’s Question” (which was previously published as a chapbook by White Noise Press). Cozzy is a homeless housecat who is faced with the ultimate question—does she want the world to end (because it turns out the fate of this world is always put into the hands…or paws…of a cat)?
The original concept for “Cozzy’s Question”—the story of a cat that can stop the apocalypse—came from Bob Booth. As I mentioned earlier, Bob was my mentor, but he was so, so much more than that; he was my business partner, he was my second father, and above all else he was my friend. Bob came up with the concept while in Hospice care for terminal cancer, and as he and I always did, we spit-balled it back and forth and brainstormed together. As his condition worsened, our conversations consumed me until, one afternoon, I asked his permission to take a crack at writing the story we’d been discussing.
He smiled and told me, “Have at it.”
I wrote “Cozzy’s Question” while Bob slept, medicated above the pain, on his deathbed. The story went a very different direction than we’d discussed, and as I wrote it I knew I was projecting and attempting to deal with my own pain and loss. But when it was finished, and after a few friends and family read it, I knew that cat had told a story that my friend would want me to share.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Find a publisher / editor who’s smarter than you, knows more than you do, and believes in you more than you believe in yourself. And then listen to them.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I just had a story, “The Walking Man,” published in the New England Horror Writers anthology of ghost stories, WICKED HAUNTED. I’ve also just had a story, “Six Plus Four,” accepted into a yet-untitled charity anthology, the theme of which is dystopian tales of what will happen if we don’t resist the current Presidential administration (all of the proceeds from which will be donated to the ACLU). As for works-in-progress, I’m really trying to push myself by going “two fisted!” I’m working on both another short story collection (this one themed, and musically inspired), and my first novel, a post-apocalyptic love story that has been stylistically compared to THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
It’s probably how chicken-s*** and nervous I get about putting my own writing out there! I have a well-earned reputation as a ham and a comedic performer who has no shame and will do literally anything for a laugh. For me, doing a stand up routine in my underwear at a writers’ convention is easy; clicking “send” on submission, however, feels like I’m opening a vein and exposing myself to the world (pun fully intended).
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
As I mentioned, I’m currently working on a project that’s entirely inspired by music and literally would not exist without it. That said, I have zero clue how so many authors can write to music, because I need absolute silence. If there’s music on, I’m gonna sing along to the lyrics, which makes it impossible to come up with new words of my own!
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
It’s not a cliché — believe in yourself.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
Forget about being a writer—I would not be who I am today as a person had Bob Booth not brought me to Necon (the Northeastern Writers’ Convention, a.k.a. “Camp Necon”) twenty years ago. Necon isn’t just a con; it’s a family, and I don’t have the words to express what the support, encouragement, and friendship I have received from fellow Campers means to me. I may be biased, but I’m not wrong — there’s no other con remotely like Necon, and everyone reading this should check out the web site at www.campnecon.com and register today.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
My first collection, MONOCHROMES AND OTHER STORIES, can be purchased in print and e-book editions via Haverhill House Publishing (www.haverhillhouse.com) and on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/0977925617/.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
My web site, which features a couple of great videos from live readings, is http://matt-bechtel.com/. As far as social media, I can be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MattJBechtel), Twitter (https://twitter.com/MattJBechtel), and InstaGram (https://www.instagram.com/mattjbechtel/).
Thank you so much for being in our spotlight, Matt, and thank you for being part of our Small Business Saturday with Haverhill House Publishing!