Hi and welcome to my Q&A with Orenda superstar Matt Wesolowski! Matt is the author of the Six Stories series, going from Six Stories, to Hydra, to Changeling and very soon Beast. Matt has always struck me as quite enigmatic and I adore his books, so when the time came to invite Orenda authors over for a Q&A, he was a logical choice. Without further ado, here’s Matt:
Hi Matt! Welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove! I’m delighted you could find the time to visit! How are you today?
Hi there. It’s my pleasure. I’m not so great today – I have some sort of stomach bug, or else some parasitic entity has taken up residence in my stomach. Either way, I’m in a lot of pain and eating plain toast and ginger tea. If it starts talking to me, I’ll start worrying.
I’m sorry to hear it! If it does start talking, you might get a new Six Stories novel out of it, every cloud… So, if you were healthy and this were an actual meeting in real life, where would we be now? Would we be out for coffee, would we go for a bite to eat? Where would you take me, and why?
My sister owns a vegan cafe not far from my house; we’d be there, stuffing our faces with vanilla chai cake because it’s the best cake in town!
Oooo! I’m in! Please describe yourself in 5 key words. Who is Matt Wesolowski?
Tall, tattooed father who writes.
Your name does not sound very English, do you have foreign roots?
My grandfather on my dad’s side was Polish; he actually escaped from a POW camp in Belgium and made it to England during WW2. You see the L in my name, that should actually be a Ł which is a ‘w’ sound in Polish. My grandfather was ashamed of his ethnicity so anglicised the name which is a real shame as I am so proud of my heritage.
I’d be thrilled that you have a connection to my little country, but I’m sad it’s that one. What quality are you most proud of?
That’s tough; I’m a bit of a cleaning freak. That’s probably a good thing.
It totally is! And what would you say is your biggest vice?
Crisps. And doughnuts. And those mini-doughnuts. And churros.
Yum! All you Orenda people seem to have a thing for food… If you were to find a bottle with a genie willing to grant you three wishes, what would you wish for?
Life sentences for hurting/killing animals, even for food. Abolition of all plastic. Abolition of organised religion, which, in turn would end all war.
You don’t take half measures, do you! How and when did you get the idea of writing a novel in the form of a podcast?
It was around 2014 when the first season of Serial came out. It was a bit of an experiment really. I never thought it would actually get anywhere!
Did you always have the intention for it to be a series, or did that idea come later?
It was supposed to be a one-off but Karen at Orenda was convinced it would make a good series. I had a bit of inspiration for the second one (Hydra) whilst listening to a true crime podcast and mopping my kitchen floor and that momentum has never abated…!
And this is how being a cleaning freak pays off! How much of yourself and the people around you do you put in your characters?
I think we all do. Many of my characters share traits from myself and the people I’ve met in my life. I find that this is inevitable when I write; it’s also to fun to kill people you hate!
It seems to me that your novels are carefully plotted. Each of the six stories add a little something to the general plot until the last one reveals what was hidden all the while. Are you in fact a planner or have you been fooling me all this time and are you actually a pantser?
They’re really not plotted at all. All that comes in the editing process. My initial drafts are all written on the fly; I start with an idea or a character, never a plot. In fact, when I was writing Six Stories, I never knew who had killed Tom Jeffries or why until I has half way through episode five!
If I plan too much it gets boring and I can’t be bothered to write. Luckily I have Karen and West Camel at Orenda who are just magnificent at helping me pull everything tighter together so the final thing appears really well planned!
It does! You’re the only author I’ve asked this question who had me fooled, well done 😄 What is your writing process like? Do you have a regime you try to adhere to, certain habits to get the words flowing, a writing cave, a favourite drink, some music? And what is your favourite aspect of the writing process?
I’m usually best at writing first thing in the morning. Ideally, I wake up early, go the gym and then hammer out two thousand words before lunchtime. Sometimes that actually happens! But not very often. Most of the time though, it varies as I have a son, dinner to cook and cleaning compulsions to satisfy so I try and do my writing out of the house. My best stuff gets done at the Lit and Phil, this amazing old library in Newcastle. I have to listen to music; usually calm, ambient stuff – or else atmospheric black metal.
As an author do you have a role model? An author you look up to and think: that’s who I want to be when I grow up?
Stephen King has always been my idol. He writes every day and believe me, I try to do the same! Nothing comes without hard work and his success is deserved because of his work ethic. I admire that so much.
What do you love most about being a published author? Are there downsides too?
It still blows me away when I see my books on shelves in bookshops. I always have to remind myself what 16 year old me would have thought if he knew that would happen one day. I adore book festivals too – being on panels with other authors and reading new books.The downsides for me are all about self-doubt. If I get good reviews for a book, I put enormous pressure on myself to make the next one even better. I’m never satisfied with my own standard; I want everything I do to be new and fresh and sometimes that degree of pressure is hard.
Do you have a favourite genre as a reader? Do you have a favourite author, or a favourite novel?
I’ve always been a fan of horror and brutal, grimy reality. I like books that either frighten me or leave me with a grim feeling, like a scar. I’d say, in no particular order; Patrick McCabe, Stephen King, Lauren Beukes, Niall Griffiths and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir are my immediate go-to’s.
Well I am a Stephen King fan, so I’ll be sure to check out the others! If I’m not mistaken Six Stories has been picked up by a movie studio. Can you tell me a little bit about that, like what’s the current status? Do you want to be involved in the screen adaptation? And who do you want to play your characters? Did you have anyone (famous or not) in mind when you created your characters? If you got to choose, what would be the title song?
I’m quite limited in what I can say but what I can tell you is that two high-profile writers are currently writing the script. That’s where it is right now and I’m very excited about it! I don’t think I’d like to be involved as I’m no screenwriter; I’m more interested to see what someone else comes up with! I’d love to have a cameo, maybe a line but that’s it! It doesn’t matter to me who plays the characters so long as they’re authentic. Like I said before, most of my characters are based in reality so I never had anyone famous in mind when writing it.
What does the future bring?
More books, both to read and to write!
There can never be enough books! Besides books, what makes you happy? What are your favourite things?
I’m pretty simple. Decent coffee, good food and a walk in the woods makes me happy. Even happier if my son and my girlfriend are with me and we get to see some animals.
Please share an anecdote with me, what is the funniest / weirdest / most shocking / most emotional / … thing you’ve ever experienced as a published author?
I wish I could give you some anecdote about debauchery at a book festival, but I’m not really that exciting. Someone came to the launch of one of my books, it seemed, to argue with me about some nuances in the plot, which seemed an odd reason to attend, but there you go!
Well uhm, to each his own, I guess 😉 Is there anything else you want to share? Something you think I should have asked and didn’t?
I think these have been wonderful questions and they’ve helped me forget my stomach pain for a bit so thank you!
My pleasure! Hope you feel better soon!
Can’t get enough of Matt? Then by all means, click on his little smiling face below 😄 Here he is reading an excerpt from Six Stories: