Awful Interview: Matt Bell

12 Jan

Matt Bell wrote his first novel when he was, like 9 or something, which makes sense if you know Matt Bell. Matt Bell is reading this weekend for Vouched Presents, so I got to have a virtual beer with Matt Bell, and then things got weird, and we decided to delete half our conversation, which also makes sense if you know Matt Bell.

Let’s start this off with a good one. What made you want to be a writer?

When I was younger, I read almost nothing but fantasy and science fiction. By the seventh grade or so, I’d read every book that looked good to me to me in the local small-town library, and there weren’t really a lot of bookstores around, so I figured I’d pretty much seen what there was to see. Since there weren’t any other good books left to read, I decided I’d try writing one myself. That summer I wrote a 200-page fantasy novel called Dragonson, about a poor village orphan who gets sent on a great adventure by a wizard-posing-as-a-beggar, upon which he becomes a great warrior and has a middle-school-sexy relationship with a priestess. Oh, and later he finds out he’s the son of a dragon. It even had a map at the front, as all the best books do.

Fantasy and science fiction, eh? Were you a dragon-kid in high school? You know, the kids who wore those silk shirts with embroidered dragons on them?

I was never one of those kids. Although I did own a silk shirt that, somehow, came in a set with a matching silk tie and matching silk boxers. From JCPenney’s. I think I bought it for homecoming my freshman year, for which I did not, somehow, have a date.

I think you’ll fit in pretty well in Indy. You have that Midwestern flair about you: especially when you do that Midwestern thing where you make possessive the name of a store, like JC Penney’s instead of the correct: JC Penney. I hate when people do that.

I hate when reading series interviewers are too cheap to hire a copy editor tasked with making the talent look good. Saved you a couple bucks to just make an insult of it, I suppose.

Oh, we have a copy editor. She’ll make sure you don’t have any typos or anything so you’ll still look pretty okay. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. You just had a new book come out, yeah?

I feel like this return to actual serious content is going to make me look even more ridiculous. Like if we’re just screwing around, then no one’s going to take all my sweatpants and silk confessions seriously. But if I stop here to tell you how excited I am about How They Were Found, my first collection of short stories, which came out in October, then it’s going to seem like I mean the other stuff too. I mean, if I start describing the contents–the retold fairy tales, the apocalyptic military outposts, the dead bodies and the homunculi boyfriends–that’s going to just legitimize this whole endeavor from the top down. So I won’t do it. Ask something else.

What does “homunculi” mean?

Homunculi are constructed from clay, ashes, mandrake root, spring water, and one pint of the creator’s own blood. A mage can either construct them himself, or have someone do it for them. The resulting minion is used to do such things as spying, messaging, scouting, guarding the mage’s study, providing company, and such. Though they can only do most of these tasks to a mediocre level, and the creature itself has little instinct and personality, there seems to be a bond between them and whoever gave the blood to create them. The creature prefers not to go more than a few miles from the blood donor, knows anything that they know, both see and hear anything which the other does, and so on. If a homunculus is slain, the blood donor will take damage. If the master is slain, the homunculus dies. Homunculi do whatever their master says without questioning and always try to return for more orders.

But that’s just in real life. They’re totally different in my book.

There are mages in your book? Like, wizards?

Yes, but only in the subtext.

So like, a Raymond Carver story?

Sort of, but I think Gordon Lish edited all the wizardry out of Raymond Carver. I think that’s what Carver was so upset about. I don’t know. I didn’t read his whole biography.

If you put Raymond Carver’s name into the official Dungeons and Dragons character name generator, it comes back as “Riceak Chorster.” That’s probably all the proof we need.

I think you’re probably right. I’d love to see the original manuscripts. What are you most looking forward to at the Vouched Presents reading this Saturday?

When I was young, my dad got offered two jobs, one in Midland, MI, and one in Indianapolis. He took the one in Midland, and has lived there ever since. But Indy, man, that could have been my home. So I assume that this is a good opportunity to test out the different person I would have been had I been given the chance. I’ve actually never been there before, so I figure the city is completely unprepared for me. I’m looking forward to wreaking havoc.

We’re pretty good at Havoc here. We play that game at all the bars in the city pretty much. It’s like Indy’s version of darts.

Awesome. I am terrible at throwing things, but awesome at drinking. So this will probably work out great.

It’ll be awesome having you in town this weekend. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me, Matt.

2 Responses to “Awful Interview: Matt Bell”


  1. SSR #14 of 15: How They Were Found « - July 21, 2011

    […] The Receiving Tower over at Willow Springs, reminded you of How They Were Found Day, we even awfully interviewed Matt to help promote the Vouched Presents reading back in January. It could easily be concluded that we […]

  2. Happy Release Day: In The House Upon The Dirt Between The Lake And The Woods by Matt Bell (Soho Press) | Vouched Books - June 18, 2013

    […] This Awful Interview that Christopher did with Matt […]

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