11 September 2015 - 5:47 pm

Interview: Horror-master Hellscream

As regular blog-visitors are probably aware, I’m fairly heavily involved in my local writing scene. I wanted to start sharing that with you all, so here’s the first of what I hope will be many interviews with published authors of all types, starting with those local to me.

I would like you all to meet Matthew J Hellscream: a Brisbane-based horror writer on the cusp of releasing his second novel.  I talked to him (picked his brain; it was dark and squishy) about his experiences with Kickstarter, writing, and publishing.


Carnifex, the upcoming novel by Matthew

Carnifex, the upcoming novel by Matthew

Melanie Edmonds: Metro 7 was the first Australian novel to be funded through Kickstarter (congrats!), and your campaign for Carnifex is going well. It has already met its target and all its original stretch goals! Congratulations.

Why do you think Kickstarter works so well for you?

Matthew J Hellscream: Kickstarter works because it allows your readers to get involved from the ground up.  You make them a part of bringing your books to life.  It worked so well for Metro 7 because I felt like it was the only avenue available to me.  I didn’t feel like I had a chance in hell of being picked up by a traditional publisher.  So I gave it a shot, and it worked out for the best.

It’s also a really great way for you to gauge whether there is an audience for what you’re writing.

ME: What would be your top tips for a writer creating a Kickstarter campaign?

Matthew: I have two.  Write your book.  Do your homework.

When I say write your book, I’m not just talking about finishing your first draft.  I’m talking about all the hard stuff that comes after.  Rewriting, editing, sending it out to beta readers.  Get it to a point where you would be happy for it to be published before you even think about launching the campaign.

Your homework is to break down the finances involved.  Kickstarter is all about bringing a project to life, and as the project manager you must know in minute detail the costs involved.

These include, but are not limited to, printing costs, editing costs, cover art costs, any ancilliary merchandise like stickers or t-shirts, as well as the fluctuating dollar value which could change at any moment… You’ve got to be across it, otherwise you risk cutting yourself short and disappointing your backers.

ME: Do you think you’ll ever try a different publishing model? What would it take to make that happen?

Matthew: I would love to.  For my next project I am still deciding whether or not I want to go through Kickstarter.

There seems to be a couple of different ways for writers to be successful these days.

First, the no brainer.  Get picked up by a traditional publisher.  But that involves a perfect storm of talent, hard work, opportunity and just a smidgeon of luck.

Second, if you’re an indie writer, write so much content that you get people hooked.  Set all of your fiction up as series in an interconnected universe, and get involved in as many anthologies as humanly possible.  Write to sell yours books as a box set, and price things incredibly cheaply.  It’s the shotgun approach.  It requires a huge time commitment, a razor focus and a hefty support network of cover artists, editors and promoters.

I’m not sure where I want to fit into those two extremes at the moment.  I don’t have the time to write enough content to fill six books a year like some prolific self-published authors, and unless I’m super lucky and SciFi Horror has a renaissance I doubt I’ll be picked up by a traditional publisher any time soon.

ME: What other goals do you have for your writing? How will you be challenging yourself in the future?

Matthew: My goal for the next few years is to write enough to publish 2 books per year.  My focus is going to be on my Countdown series, which started with Metro 7.  I’m also going to be kicking off another series next year called Impact.  if you’re a fan of fiction that involves giant robots and even more gargantuan monsters, you’re going to love Impact.  It’s horror on an epic scale.

The biggest challenge is that I have a full-time day job.  The amount of writing I need to fit in and around my working day is a little daunting, but sacrifices must be made.

ME: You write primarily horror. Do you ever scare yourself with your writing?

Matthew: The actual writing isn’t what scares me, it’s the fact that these nightmare creatures and situations reside somewhere deep inside my subconscious, waiting to get out.

ME: Has one of your stories ever made you cry?

Matthew: Yes, and it made my wife cry too.  It hasn’t been published yet.  It was a very personal story.  I was in a really bad headspace after losing someone very close to me.  I honestly don’t know if I can ever go back to it.

ME: Have you ever written something outside of your comfort zone? If so, what was it and how did it go?

Matthew: I’m still so new to this that everything is still outside my comfort zone!  If I wanted to be comfortable, I’d still be playing World of Warcraft for 5 hours a night instead of writing.

Occasionally I go back to a fantasy series I began some time ago called Children of the Void.  It’s quite different from any of my horror fiction, and I would love to devote some time to it in the future.

Metro 7 by Matthew J Hellscream

Metro 7 by Matthew J Hellscream

ME: What drives you to write?

Matthew: A couple of years ago I would have said it was self-preservation.  If I didn’t write to scratch that creative itch, I’d be a damn sight crazier than I actually am.

But now the thing that drives me most is that people out there are actually enjoying my work.  I feel like I’m finally doing something that can bring a bit of excitement to people’s lives.  Something with meaning, that I can be proud of.

ME: What type of story or story element speaks to you most, in your or others’ writing?

Matthew: Compelling characters and consistent pace.  I need to care about characters to keep reading about them, and the story needs to follow a rhythm to keep me interested.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be a fast pace, just a consistent one that keeps moving.  Once a story stops dead in its tracks, so does my interest in it.

ME: What’s your favourite word?

Matthew: Fuck.  It’s so versatile.  And satisfying!

ME: What’s the single worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever seen or received?

Matthew: I think I’ve been lucky.  I haven’t received any bad writing advice yet that I’m aware of.  But writing advice is funny.  It pretty much all boils down to this:  “You should do it this way, except in situations where you shouldn’t.”  It’s all subjective.

As the architect of your own literary universe, you will know what’s best for your story.  If something is totally out of place or needs to be reworked, your beta readers will tell you.

The thing I will say is this – if you’re self-publishing and relying on beta readers to provide you with feedback, not all of it will be helpful.  Picking and choosing which pieces of feedback to act on is difficult, but important.

ME: What was the single most important thing you learned about writing or publishing in the last year?

Matthew: It’s possible to finish a first draft quite quickly.  It took me five years to finish the first draft of Metro 7. Carnifex took four months, while working a full-time job, without neglecting my wife, and without my other hobbies & interests suffering.

I also did not go insane.  So that’s a plus.

It just proves that it’s possible with all of the trappings of modern life.  In fact it’s easier now to write on the go – I use the Microsoft Word app on my phone & tablet to quickly note down scene or dialogue ideas while I’m on the bus, which I can then expand on when I get home.

ME: And now for some shameless promotion: when will Carnifex be released and how will we be able to get our hands on it?

Matthew: The actual release date will be pending the outcome of the Kickstarter campaign.  My cover artist will be putting together something very exciting, and if our third stretch goal is met, the book will need to go through copy editing by Blade Editing.  Pending those two things, I’d love to have it out by November.

The best way to get involved right now is by heading over to Kickstarter and backing the project.  This will give you some exclusive goodies like a t-shirt, copies of my first book Metro 7, and your name in the dedication page.  Your name will appear on every copy of the book I produce.

ME: What’s the next exciting project on your horizon?

Matthew: My next book will be Deep Six, the sequel to Metro 7.  It will be the second in the Countdown series, which will include eight planned novels, ending in a final entry where the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance.


Thanks for taking part in the interview, Matthew!

If you’re curious about this shiny new book of his, here’s a teaser video and the lowdown:

Carnifex: Butcher. Torturer. Executioner.

A holiday in the Australian outback turns deadly as five tourists find themselves locked in a desperate struggle for survival after stumbling into the hunting grounds of a predator long thought extinct.

Metro 7 is available in most major ebook stores, and one lucky paper-book store in Brisbane.

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  1. Daniel says:

    Nicely done interview! You know, maybe I could do with an interview or two, to get more noticed and to sell more than just copies to friends and family.

    September 12th, 2015 at 7:10 pm

  2. Mel says:

    Thanks, Daniel! Glad you liked it. Contact me if you want to discuss being added to my interview list!

    September 12th, 2015 at 10:07 pm