QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH MATT NEAL

Matt Neal, co-author of Bay of Martyrs answers a few questions.


Bay of Martyrs featured yesterday on the blog - here.





I believe you are well-known across a number of fields in Australia – as a journalist, a film reviewer, a musician and as a songwriter. Which field receives most of your attention time-wise? 
"Well-known" would be a bit of a stretch, but sure, feel free to tell everyone I'm super-famous in Australia. Ha. 
The bulk of my time is dedicated to journalism because that's my day job, but in my spare time it's an even split between film reviewing and music. I have a movie blog (movies8mylife.blogspot.com.au) and I review for a couple of radio stations, so that keeps me busy a couple of times a week, and I usually play a gig every week or two. 
Can you give us a bit of a bio as far as the music goes?
I play guitar and sing, and have done so for about 20 years in various rock bands (The 80 Aces, 21st Century Ox, The Extreme Sprinklers if you feel like Googling). It's taken me to some cool places. The 80 Aces got played on national radio and TV but we were still a long way off the big time. I've supported some awesome Aussie bands over the years though, and played some great gigs. My current line-up is called Doctor & The Apologies, and we're alt-country-ish. I'm not much of a singer or a guitarist, but I love writing songs.
Was it a natural progression from journalism into the world of fiction? Have you always written?
Writing is the only thing I've ever wanted to do since I was five years old. I became a journalist because I figured it was the easiest way to get paid to write. I just love writing. I've had a crack at writing anything and everything - radio plays, TV pilots, songs, poems, film reviews, feature film scripts etc.... About the only thing left was a novel, so I decided to have a crack at that too.
How did the collaboration with Tony Black on Bay of Martyrs come about?
We worked together at a newspaper about 10 years ago and stayed in touch, occasionally talking about co-writing a book. When my wife got pregnant and was hitting the hay early every night I found myself with some spare time on my hands, so I contacted Tony and said 'let's write that book we've always talked about'. And away we went.
How did the collaboration work? Any major disagreements along the way?
We worked in Google Docs, so we could both edit and write in the same document at the same time in real time. After the initial email chain about characters and setting and general story, Tony did the plotting, I wrote the first draft (tweaking a few things accidentally along the way!), Tony did the second draft, I did the third draft, and so on until we ran out of time.
Were you both happy with the end result?
I was really happy with it. And as far as I know, so was Tony.
Any further Clay Moloney books planned? Will they be a joint venture again?
Book two is in the works. I'm keen to write a dozen of these things. I'm a big fan of Clay Moloney and I want to see what he does next.
Do you have a typical writing schedule? 
For Bay of Martyrs, I was writing at night after my wife went to bed. Now that I have a kid, I don't have as much energy, so I prefer to do it in two or three day bursts where I shut myself away from everything and just write flat out until I have to return to civilisation/work/family.
Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?
A couple of friends popped up in Bay of Martyrs as very minor characters and I couldn't get them out again. Thankfully they were stoked with the result. But the majority of the characters are either inventions or composites.
Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
I wrote a script for a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which came to me in a dream and I reckon it's the best thing I've ever written. I'm mentioning it in almost every interview I do in the hopes that Steven Spielberg or Robert Zemeckis gets wind of it and comes knocking on my door.
What’s the current project in progress, assuming there is one? How’s it going?
It's the sequel to Bay of Martyrs, which at this stage is called The Cutting. It's named after another location in the region where I live. It's coming along really well. At least, I think it is. Not sure what Tony thinks about it yet....
What’s the best thing about writing?
In terms of fiction, it's finding out what happens next and how it happens. I'm as excited about finding out as I hope the reader is. And I love the way words work. They're a puzzle you can keep pulling apart and putting back together again, making a different picture every time.
The worst?
 
The money could be better, haha.
What are the last five books you’ve read?
I try not to read books while I'm writing one, lest I inadvertently borrow/steal, so instead I read comics. I've been reading a truckload of Marvel comics - Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon, Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers, Avengers Vs X-Men, and Ultimate Spider-man are the most recent. As for books, my last five (this took some remembering) were Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen, and The Spy & The Maven, which is the first book by my good mate Jono Pech and I can't recommend it enough.
Who do you read and enjoy?
My two favourite authors of all time are Hunter S Thompson and Terry Pratchett. I look forward to writing something some day that captures the spirit and humour of both.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas. It's my favourite book and the one I regularly re-read every couple of years. It's drug-addled and furious and insane but poignant and incisive and beautiful all at the same time. It's a hot mess of a book and I love it for that reason.
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Many thanks to Matt for his time.
Catch him at his movie blog here and on Twitter - @DrMattNeal

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