Interview & Contest: Matthew J. Metzger

Jen: Today we welcome Matthew J. Metzger to Romancing the Book.  Matthew, will you share a short bio with us?
Matthew: I’m a British author working under a pseudonym partly because I work in an industry where it’s both unwise to connect my writing with my day job, and – given that doing so would almost certainly ‘out’ me to my colleagues – not something I want to do anyway. And partly because frankly, my real name is boring!

So for all intents and purposes: I’m Matthew. I am currently twenty-three, working on writing my seventh novel, and write primarily young adult and romance novels in the LGBT subgenre. I’ve lived all over, seen all sorts of things, dabbled in all sorts of jobs, and have spent a lifetime scribbling. My debut novel was published in January 2013, and – at the time of writing – I am preparing for the releases of my fourth and fifth!

I keep a blog here with more formal updates, but for chatty nonsense I also have a Facebook profile and a Twitter account in which I bore everyone daft with nattering on about my novels and ideas. Join me and poke fun, it’s what my nearest and dearest do anyway!

Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Matthew: Enough is the story of Jesse Dawkins, who is imperfect, and his boyfriend Ezra Pryce, who is completely perfect. According to Jesse. Therein lies the problem, because Jesse is never going to be good enough for Ezra, particularly when he’s faced with the disapproval of Ezra’s Catholic family, and the stunning good looks of Ezra’s equally perfect ex-boyfriend.

Jesse knows there’s a time clock on this relationship, and that it’s running down – until Ezra’s accident makes Jesse re-evaluate himself and his place in Ezra’s not-so-perfect-after-all life.

Enough is simultaneously a simple and complex story, and was a quick and sweet write. I really enjoyed putting this one together – but do you know, months down the line I can’t remember for the life of me where the idea came from!

A chapter sample can be read here for absolutely nothing at all – just hit the link, download the PDF, and read away!

Jen: What age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Matthew: I’ve been reading since I was about two. My father used to spread out The Daily Telegraph on the floor to read aloud to my mother when she was mending my brother’s clothes, and I would plonk my chubby little backside down on the carpet and follow along. (God knows why, it’s an incredibly boring newspaper.) By the time I was three, I was apparently scowling at my mother if she missed a word out in my storybooks at bedtime. I wouldn’t admit it until I was five, though, and backslid when I went to school, faltering in reading aloud because ‘the other kids read like that.’

I wasn’t particularly interested in physically writing until I went to school – mostly because my parents had difficulty telling if I was left- or right-handed and failed to teach me how to hold a pen very well – but I was making up stories more or less from the minute I could read. The less kind way of putting it was I’d lie about what happened at nursery. My mother admitted when I was older to not calling me on it ‘because you thought it through so well!’ At least I was a good liar, I guess!

I remember writing stories by the time I was six on family holidays, and I haven’t stopped since. I don’t have a particular call story, I suppose – it just sort of happened, and it’s been just-sort-of-happening ever since.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Matthew: Not a chance! I’m definitely the odd one out in this. My family are all scientific – my brother’s an engineer, my sister’s an analyst, and my parents were a chemist and a microbiologist.

And then there’s me. My father spent years systematically repeating that I would never get a job if I went off to do a degree in English, insisting I stopped ‘messing about’ on the computer, and rolling his eyes whenever I packed notebooks and pens for holidays. He started to soften a bit when I hit my late teens and he started to figure out it wasn’t just a silly passing hobby (we’re great at silly passing hobbies in my family) but it’s still just something that ‘the youngest’ does.

Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
Matthew: I don’t think I have a ‘who’ so much as a ‘what.’ I grew up in a very conservative household: men do this, women do that, footballers who dive are fairies and basketball is a limp-wristed sport. When I was about eighteen, I took a Facebook quiz and it said I was 80% gay. A friend commented something like ‘and the rest!’ and I was caught out by my older brother. Oops. Get ready for the fall-out, right?

Well, no. My immediate family weren’t especially bothered. (Extended family is a whole other story.) My father – in his sixties, brought up in an inner-city slum and by extremely Catholic parentage – simply snorted and said it explained a few things. (To this day, I don’t know what!) Nobody reacted how everyone in my social circle at the time thought they would. One friend in particular said, “And they were okay with it?!” in the same way you might ask if someone was okay with volunteering to be eaten alive.

That’s the biggest influence on the way I write LGBT novels, because my own experience says that all the typical ingredients still don’t always add up to the typical cake. My father is ex-Catholic and still holds some very socially conservative views. He still shouts gay slurs at the TV when his football team are losing. But he doesn’t care that if by some miracle I ever settled down, he might well end up with a son-in-law and not grandkids.

So I like to shake things up sometimes. I either don’t write about exclusively ‘gay’ issues, and go instead for wider issues like mental illness and domestic abuse that sadly occur irrespective of sexuality, or – on the odd occasion I do settle on an issue close to the heart of the gay community – I like to shake it up a little anyway. In Enough, Ezra’s younger sister hates him the most out of his entire religious family, rather than his far older mother and grandmother; his nutty nana veers between being disgusted and thinking everything is fine. His partner has no issues with being gay at all.

Jen: What’s been the highlight of your career to this point?
Matthew: I think the first is easily the day JMS Books said they’d like to publish my first novel, Our Last Summer. It was August 2012, and I had had a seriously rough couple of weeks. I’d had to jump ship and go to stay with a friend; I was low enough I was worried – as was she, at the time – that my depression was going to kick it up a notch and I would end up doing something daft. And then the very next day, I received that email, and it completely shook me out of it. It was like getting slapped – in a good way! – and it’s a feeling I still summon up in my memory when the depression starts niggling away again.

The second – and almost as good as the first – was the day Breathless Press offered a contract for Enough. I suppose some part of me had bumbled along thinking maybe I had just gotten lucky with JMS Books and found an editor who liked my work. Breathless Press taking on Enough almost felt like a shard of proof I wasn’t a fluke at this writing lark. I didn’t stop grinning for about three days. I was scaring people at work!

Jen: What’s next for you?
Matthew: Some Mistakes will be my next novel, an erotic romance to be published with Breathless Press later this year. Some Mistakes is – on the surface – the story of a casual string of one-night stands between two men slowly dissolving into something more blurry, but underneath it is the story of how mistakes can destroy a man’s life, but also of how they can rebuild it again.

It’s also a story of obliviousness, as Craig really is not with the program when it comes to Damian, whereas Damian is perpetually five steps ahead and not above using it to his advantage! Frankly, this was one of the most fun books to write, and I absolutely love the sharp, tricky characters of Craig and Damian, and their little coffee-code ‘arrangement.’

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