Brian W. Matthews grew up a painfully shy child in a small town in southeast Michigan. Most of his life has centered around combating his shyness, including starting work at an early age, achieving a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, earning three college degrees, and eventually offering himself up as a child psychologist. While he excelled as a therapist, an opportunity for better financial security arose in 2000, and he switched careers. Now a full-time financial planner, Brian started writing professionally around 2010, when he was invited to submit a story for a cyberpunk anthology. He has never looked back. The Conveyance is his third novel.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Conveyance. When did you start writing and what got you into the horror/science fiction genre?
In 2010, a good friend asked me to contribute a story for the cyberpunk anthology, Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero. I had never written professionally, but my friend had read some of my musing and thought I would enjoy the experience. He was right, and I next tried my hand at a novel. Having read King and Barker and McCammon, I felt most comfortable with the horror genre. But I’d also read and enjoyed other genres and wanted to add a hint of them. My first two books, Forever Man and Revelation, are mash-ups of horror, urban thriller, and alternate history. For The Conveyance, I wanted to go in a different direction, so I wrote a straight-up horror/sci-fi thriller with a dash of whodunit mixed in. It was great fun to write.
What is your book about?
The Conveyance is about a psychologist, Dr. Brad Jordan, a man who is used to keeping secrets. But when he notices increasingly bizarre behavior from one of his patients, and then his wife, and eventually his friends, he heads down a path to deeper and darker secrets, ones he needs to expose if he is going to save those he loves—and possibly the human race. While the story is on the surface a whodunit, at its heart, Conveyance is about love, and how far people will go to earn it, to keep possession of it, and in the extreme cases, to destroy it. The real horror in horror stories is not the monsters outside—vampires and zombies and such—but the monsters within, and how we as individuals handle them.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
The Conveyance is about hope and love, what we are doing to ourselves, and what we are doing to our planet. Like all good science fiction, it presents a vision of our future: a warning of the terrible consequences we face should we continue to walk blindly down a path of greed and destruction. Most of all, I hope readers will take away how important it is to treat one another with kindness and respect, and how children can be devastated by horrible, misguided parenting.
How do you keep your narrative exciting?
Dialogue plays a large part in keeping the narrative involved and interesting. In Conveyance, there is a character, Frank Swinicki, an old-school cop with a distinctive vocabulary and pattern of speech. I used his dialogue to introduce comic relief, as well as ratcheting up the tension during the dramatic sequences. In addition to dialogue, sentence structure aids in keeping the writing fresh. Fragments and short, choppy sentences interspersed with longer, more complete sentences helps keep the reader from becoming fatigued.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?
Every time I sit down and look at a blank computer screen, worms of anxiety slither up my spine. What if I can’t come up with something? What if I write a thousand words and they’re awful? What if I’ve lost my touch? I expect thoughts like these plague a majority of writers from time to time. It’s only natural. Writing exposes your strengths and weaknesses to the world. Who wouldn’t be anxious about that? I try to see it as normal, which helps keep it in perspective.
What is your advice for aspiring authors?
I won’t rehash the usual advice (write, write, write/read, read, read). Instead, I’ll offer up this: write as if everyone else on the planet is dead. No one but you will read your masterpiece, so make it as big and bold and beautiful as possible. Don’t worry what others will think or say. Get rid of that niggling sense of doubt or shame. I have a sequence in Conveyance that is pretty risqué, and my mother is going to read it! When it came time for that scene, I pretended she was dead and would never see it, which helped me write as honestly as possible. You have to be honest if you’re going to sound authentic.
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?
Mr. Orwell’s words pretty much sum up the process. When I’m done writing for the day, I feel physically drained. The combination of intense concentration and ramped-up emotions takes a toll on you. Throw in self-doubt and you have a trifecta of pain and suffering. And all the while, you are alone. No one is at the keyboard with you, helping you write your story. It’s solitary confinement with a dose of hard labor. No one in their right mind would undertake writing, but many do because of that unnamed demon. You write because you’re driven to it. But at the same time, you love it—you love the creative process. It’s a weird balance.
What has writing taught you?
Three words: embrace the suck. Being at heart shy and self-conscious, I often got hung up during my first drafts, going back and reworking scenes rather than pushing forward and getting the story on paper. My obsessiveness caused me to feel drained, to lose my passion of the story I was telling. I’m now writing my fourth book, and I’ve started to embrace the suck of the first draft. It is liberating, and I’m writing faster. Whether this is right for me or not will come out when I start the revisions, but I remain hopeful.
Author photo and cover art published with permission from the author and his publicist.