Matthew David Evans is the author of dark fantasy/horror novel Massacre at Sundown and has some really cool projects on the way. Huge thanks to Matthew for this interview! To see more of what he's about check out his site!
According to your Facebook you've got quite a few projects in progress in the works. How's it all been going?
They are going well, for the most part. I’m finishing up a book now, and when that’s done, I’ll just slide my secondary project into the primary writing timeslot. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.
You've been working with a friend on Christmas-themed horror novel Grim Tidings, set to be released in Halloween 2019. What has this experience been like? What do you look for in a collaborative partner?
It’s been a strange experience. I would never have written a novel like this on my own. What happened was my friend created a makeshift Halloween costume one year where he looked like a demented Christmas clown. He sent me a picture and suggested a short story about it. I shrugged it off at first, because I had my own projects to work on, but when we got to talking about the character and how my friend saw him in his mind, I started to think that it could be something. We met at our local Applebee’s to hammer out some story details. He wrote some stuff down on a paper, then we ended up getting together to create an outline. When it was all said and done, we had the bones for a full novel. Like I said, I probably wouldn’t write something like this on my own. I tend to go more for the supernatural stories. There isn’t really any of that in Grim Tidings. It’s all about an aging killer recollecting his past. We see it from his perspective. It’s a strange combination. It’s my friend’s character, but it’s our story. I have truly enjoyed the experience. There isn’t any one thing that I look for in a collaborative partner. Grim Tidings worked out because the idea was enough to grab me. My project list has grown since then, and I have a lot of other stories planned out, so I’m not sure when or if I’ll collaborate with someone again.
Massacre at Sundown does something really cool with POV I haven't really seen before--you alternate between third person present and first person past. What led you to this style choice?
A whim. I wish I could say there was some sort of “aha!” moment, but there wasn’t. I just remember wondering what it would be like as I was writing the first draft. I gave it a try and liked it. I try to find ways to be creative in the telling of a story. I’m working on the sequel now, and it’s structured differently because it takes place after the present of the first novel. I think I’ve found some cool ways to tell the story that are different but will make it feel like a logical continuation of Massacre at Sundown.
I've once heard that good horror/dark fantasy means a good setting. Is this valid advice to you? What elements (and in what doses) make up good horror/dark fantasy to you?
I would say that’s valid. Setting can make or break a story. Sometimes you can take a familiar story or monster and place them in a different setting, and then you have a great book. I think Salem’s Lot is a great example of this. Dracula is world famous. Everyone knows the story. Everyone knows what vampires are and how to fight them. Stephen King didn’t really change any of that. What he did was drop a vampire right in the middle of a New England town. It worked because it was a great setting for the story. The same can be said for dark fantasy and even normal fantasy. I think people are tired of chosen ones and dark lords. If those tropes can be turned on their heads, it can become a fascinating read. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn is a good example of that. It’s a fantasy book set a thousand years after the Dark Lord won. I read that on the cover, and immediately, I bought the book.
I believe that setting is key because it entices someone to read something a bit different but still in the comfort zone of the genre they like. When I wrote Massacre at Sundown, I knew I wanted the protagonist to live through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I could’ve done this in a conventional way and placed him in Victorian England like so many gothic horror novels. He might have fit in well there. I decided to go for a more western angle because I thought it would be not only interesting to write but also interesting to read.
In regards to what makes a good horror or dark fantasy to me? I’d say characters. Characters and story. I don’t like clichés if they’re overdone. I don’t want to read about the priest exorcising a demon. I want to read about the guardian angel duking it out with the demon while the family has no idea what’s happening. I don’t want to read about the old abandoned mansion that’s haunted. I want to read about the factory haunted my the guy who died on the forklift. I don’t want to feel that the characters have plot armor. I want to be afraid to turn the page. I want the book to stay with me after I’ve read it.
What do you think draws people to the horror genre? Why do we, as readers, like to be scared?
I think it’s the thrill of being scared more than anything. We read something chilling in a book or watch it on a movie screen, yet we realize it can’t hurt us. We live vicariously through the characters in the books we read, but we’re not really running from Pennywise. We’re not really being ripped apart by Pinhead. We’re not really eating human flesh at Hannibal Lecter’s dinner table.
Are there any horror/dark fantasy tropes you love to hate? Hate that you love?
I hate it when the main character turns out to be insane, and the whole story has happened in his head. I’ve read a couple books where I was okay with this, but then it got annoying. I also hate the bad guy who’s bad just because he’s bad. Mustache twirling villains are the opposite of interesting to me.
In your opinion, immortality: blessing or curse?
If I were immortal, I could keep writing books until the sun burned out of the sky. Also, I’d get to see every single Marvel movie and not miss any on account of being dead. Sounds great.
But in all seriousness, I think it would be a curse. Watching everyone you love die while you stay the same would be hell. I tried to convey that in Massacre at Sundown. The irony of a suicidal immortal. He wants to die. He tries to die. Alas, he can’t die.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I appreciate all who have read my work, and to those who haven’t, I invite you to consider it. I promise, if nothing else, to do my best to entertain you. I thank all of you for reading this interview. Massacre at Sundown is available now. Keep an eye out for Grim Tidings later this year.
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