Sunday, August 22, 2010

Matthew McBride Interview: 8/22/10

I've been away from here for about a month and now we're back with a vengance! Here we have an interview guaranteed to grab you by the throat. I posted a story on Matt McBride earlier here at S&W's letting you know he's an author to look for to the future. Well, now we have an interview with Matt, red hot on his trail of short stories soon be seen at Crimefactory and Plots with Guns. This is not an interview for the timid and weak at heart. It is an interview done with complete honesty and straight from the heart.You gotta love and respect that. It's a privlege to call Matt my friend and I hope you dig his Q & A. Thanks to Matt for his time & patience. ENJOY THE REAL DEAL !!

1) You recently gave your first public reading of "Gunpowder & Aluminum Foil" at Noir @ Bar in St. Louis,Mo. I'm feeling lucky because I was there to see the lift off of a future star. Were you nervous that night & in hindsight what are your memories of that night in particular?

A – It seems like I was nervous, especially since I'd never read my writing before in public. As far as the memories, I'll never forget Scott's [Phillips] introduction where he spoke of my ability to leave funny voice mails. The greatest thing was seeing everyone laugh while I read. [Still not sure if they were laughing with me, or laughing at me] but Scott and Dennis Tafoya were definitely laughing their asses off. As long as you're making people laugh, you're winning.

2) You've had several short stories published in some impressive places, where are you at in regards to getting that first novel published. Are we getting close to a finished product that can be shopped about?

A - I wrote my novel back in 2003 and it's been rejected at least 100 times. Maybe more. It's currently with two different agents. Still playing the waiting game, but if they aren't interested I'm just going to burn it and move on. No, just kidding. I'll revise it [again] one of these days, then start the process all over. I haven't actually looked at it in years. Every time I try to read it I can't even enjoy it, because I start making new changes within the first paragraph.

On a side note, at one time I did have a contract on it back in 2005, but my deal went down the shit pipe at the last possible minute. And by that, I mean the Publisher went out of business the month it was supposed to be released and they never even bothered to tell me. I was not very happy about this.

3) What kind of writing background do you have? By that I'm really referring to your school days, did you have any interest in writing when you were in HS?

A - Even in HS I always liked to write, but it just seemed like such an uncool thing to enjoy doing. I can remember my first creative writing project in English comp. We had to write a 2-3 page story about whatever we wanted, but it had to be a fictitious story and we had a month to do it. I waited until midnight the night before it was due and pulled an all nighter. The story ended up being about 12 pages, which was about 8 or 9 pages longer than anyone else's. When she read them out loud she had to stop right in the middle when she came to mine because it was too inappropriate. I used words like fuck, and cocksucker. I did get an A+ on the story though and I still have it. Somewhere.

4) You know it's been said that many writers, only live the wild life in their heads & on the pages. Scott Phillips, has called you the "real deal" and a guy who lives what he writes. What are your thoughts when you hear that?

A - First of all, anything Scott Phillips says I take as a total compliment and I hold both his friendship and his praise in high regard. If he were to call me an asshole, I would find some way to view this statement in a positive light. As far as living what I write, I guess that could be true. I've done a lot of wild and crazy shit. Done a lot of, um, illegal shit.

Jail, check. Drugs, check. High speed police chases, check. Spectacular car crashes, bar fights, broken bones... Some people live life on the couch, I sorta live life on the edge. I fly by the seat of my pants. They always say life is the best experience for a writer, so I've packed as much dynamite in my suitcase as I can fit.

5) I read somewhere that you & the Black Hogan or BH are working on a documentary together. Is that a project that's still in the works or is it something you worked on and are going to come back to later?

A - We went to Vegas back in March and shot some video, but it was pretty difficult because he literally got mobbed every couple of feet. We started shooting video at the Minus 5 Ice Lounge at the Mandalay Bay, but then we ended up getting tanked and it all quickly went to shit. We did manage to shoot a video that we stuck on YouTube. Here's a link [I'm the drunk guy that yells at the end]

6) This a tough one, we share a mutual admiration of Steve McQueen and Hunter S. Thompson. Both were individuals who did things their way & gave the finger to the establishment. They both loved adventure, guns, violence. I can see their influence on you. I know you'll shoot straight so, I guess my question to you is, do you personally not worry about the fact that you yourself could die ? I guess I ask that because you had a motorcycle wreck at 100 MPH, and you could've been killed on your trip to Mexico where you were robbed by the military. You seem willing to put your life on the line. Am I wrong?

A - No, I guess I don't really worry about shit like that. In the end, everybody dies. I have no control over such things, so I may as well just enjoy the ride. I am a risk taker, and everyday is an adventure if you want it to be. I have no real regrets that I can think of, only memories.

7) Lets talk about that trip to Matamores in Mexico. Is that a 100% true story? It is something straight out of Hunter S. Thompson. It is absolutely believable, I mean it's nuts down there. Life is pretty cheap and it is often hard to tell who's the good guys & the bad guys between the drug cartels & the military police. Getting killed isn't real hard to do down there. Yet... you set out to buy Valium, and you had grass with you, when you encountered the military who robbed you of $166 dollars at gunpoint... machine gun's at that. Where you not a bit leery before you even left and while it is a hell of a story with a good ending, weren't you ever scared?

A - Yeah, that's all true with the exception of Doug shitting his pants. Those cocksuckers [Mexican soldiers] actually robbed us too. It was about three AM and we were somewhere between Matamores and Laredo when we came up on a military roadblock of some kind. Upon entering Mexico we'd wasted no time procuring as many drugs as possible so our pharmaceutical arsenal was in strong supply. The most important thing to remember in situations such as these is to stay cool under pressure and have a damn good hiding spot(s). A good rule of thumb is: the longer it takes you to hide something, the longer it takes the cops to find it.

The only time I was really worried was when this fat, bald headed soldier pointed that machine gun at me, but I was probably more pissed off than worried. At first I actually thought about attempting to disarm him, because every tough guy movie I'd ever seen flashed through my head. I knew we were in a tight spot and there was no reason to try and be a hero, but I also had no intentions of being a victim either. Everything worked out in the end though, because Doug's girlfriend was Mexican and she was able to negotiate a deal. It was just a money thing. After it was over I can remember being grateful they didn't steal my expensive bottle of cologne that was in the door pocket.

A funnier story [and one I probably shouldn't tell] happened a few days later. Doug announced that he and his girlfriend were going to make a run to some other town. After the previous ordeal, I was less than enthusiastic about the thought of another moonlight excursion across the lawless badlands of Metamores, so I stayed back at the Hotel. Besides, somebody had to watch the drugs.

Well, Doug didn't come back for 2 days. The problem was, all of my money was in Doug's truck. Well, the next day people started beating on the door to the room demanding money. I didn't know what to do and I didn't know when Doug was coming back. Or IF he was coming back. What I did know was there was enough cocaine in that room to kill a small herd of elephants, so I spent the next two days getting tweaked out by myself and staring out of the window. Then I'd think somebody was outside the room, so I'd lay on the floor and try to look under the door. It was horrible. I was afraid to leave the room and the ONLY thing on TV was The Firm with Tom Cruise. But Tom was speaking Spanish, and the only words I knew in Spanish were Senorita, Margarita, and Pharmacia. At one point I heard the door start to open, so I jumped off the bed and dove into the closet. To my horror, the housekeeper walked in and looked around the room for a minute while I was spying on her from the comfort of my hiding spot. It was at that point I remembered the mountain of blow on top of the TV, but I guess she never saw it. Then, and this is the craziest part, she just lied down on the bed with her hands by her side. She just stretched out on her back and took a nap I guess. I began to freak out. It was madness. I just layed down on the floor of the closet myself and fell asleep. When I woke up she was gone.

8) Did Doug really shit his pants, and would you go back?

A - See question seven ^ and I seriously doubt that I would ever go back. Cancun, maybe. But we were in the darkness and the chaos that was the Mexican underworld. Mean streets that had no name. At least not one that I could read. There were guys that operated out of storage sheds and they were selling cocaine out of trash cans. It was fucking crazy. Everybody was super cool to us, but American's do get kidnapped left and right down there so you had to watch your ass. One of the things that helped us was the fact that we were so much bigger than everyone else, and big people are hard to kidnap. I have so many stories about that place, because in a testament to how truly crazy Doug was, he ended up moving down there to be with his girlfriend. For 6 or 7 years he lived among the junkies and the killers. His own neighbor was a police officer named Carlos, and one time that son-of-a-bitch even got kidnapped himself. And he was a Mexican. I do not know how Doug survived, but he did.

9) I know you're a big film buff and a fan of the Coen brothers & Steve McQueen. What is your favorite McQueen film, ( I loved the Cincinnati Kid personally), and give us a list of some of your all time favorites. The films you couldn't live without.

A - I hate to sound cliche' but probably Bullitt, because I have fond memories of watching that on TV when I was a kid. It just seems like it was always on. As far as other movies, that's so hard. PULP FICTION was a film that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of chaos. The dialogue was so natural and one of the most subtle, yet interesting scenes in cinema history, [at least for me] occurred in that movie.

In the scene where Vincent Vega and Jules were driving down the road and there was that black dude in the back seat, and then the gun went off. That was just so BAM IN YOUR FACE unpredictable. Yet so completely believable, because that shit happens. It was so random, but it was such a strong, unexpected scene. The whole movie was just powerful.

I also love gangster films, or any movie about organized crime on any level. Millers Crossing was awesome to me. Goodfella's, Casino, The Departed, Heat, Snatch, The Road to Perdition, Smoking Aces. I love anything violent. Gladiator, 300, Apocalypto, Braveheart. For me to really love a movie it has to have strong characters and well written, well executed dialogue. I have a strong suspicion Tarantino could write dialogue in his sleep.

I appreciate strong, powerful scenes. The kind where everything is perfect. The words, camera angle, believable acting. I want to become a part of what ever I'm watching. I absolutely love Sin City and The Watchmen because I love spoken narrative and the words in those films are like poetry.

10) If the Devils Rejects isn't on the list I'm shocked. It just seems like a Matthew McBride kinda film. What did you think of it?

A - I love THE DEVILS REJECTS. Love it. Captain Spalding is a true gentlemen and a genuine role model that I feel others should strive to emulate.

11)Since your a fan of Hunter S. Thompson I gotta ask if you're familiar with Charles Bukowski's work? Here's another legendary icon who thumbed his nose at society and the man.

A - I don't know much about Bukowski but I have had other people tell me that I'd like him. His work is definitely on my list.

12) Speaking of "THE MAN" what's the outcome on the incident down at Vienna, Mo. where you were cowardly attacked and had 5 bones broken in your face when you & you're friends were jumped by a gang of thugs. The last I heard the DA & police department weren't doing much other than looking the other way. Did the St. Louis news ever pick up on the story?

A - Nothing has happened as far as justice goes and nothing ever will. I hope all of those assholes who attacked me die a very slow and painful death. Seriously.

13) Can we expect to see Vienna, Mo. show up in one of your novels someday?

A - The town is such a tremendous shit hole, the only way I'd ever write about Vienna is if I created a character who murdered everybody in the town starting with the Prosecuting Attorney and then set fire to the donut shop. [and by donut shop I mean Police station]

14)Steve McQueen kicks James Dean's butt any day wouldn't you agree? However, they are both Midwesterners as was Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp and Hugh Hefner. Whats with all the rebels in our neck of the woods?

A – McQueen always. - I'm not sure, but it seems like someone who feels truly devoted to their passion will stop at nothing to make their dreams come true. Sometimes your passion just pulls you in a new direction and you become a slave to it. Plus, maybe there's a certain feeling of suffocation that comes from living in the midwest. There really isn't a lot of shit going on around here. Movies are in California and the literary world is in New York. Some people are just true searchers and explorers.

15) Lets talk writing influences for a moment. I think Daniel Woodrell & William Gay are two of the best living writers writing real stuff alive today. These guys are real people who have experienced much and write about the lives of real people trying to make the best of a bad situation. I could see you and Frankie Bill being the next Woodrell's & Gay's. I think Keith Rawson said it best when he said the future of writing is not going to come out of the MFA's of N.Y., but in the backwoods in the heart of America? Do you think a college degree or a writers workshop is necessary for great writing?

A - Holy shit, that's one hell of a compliment. As far as myself, I'll work as hard as I can to make it happen. I'll do whatever it takes. If an agent told me jumping off the roof of our farmhouse would secure me a book deal, I'd call home and tell my wife to set the ladder out. Now, Frank Bill on the other hand is going to be a rock star one day in the literary world. Hell, he already is. DONNYBROOK is going to karate chop the whole world in the throat.

As far as a college degree, no way. Not in my opinion. I recently returned to college for the second time in my life and I hated it. It was just like the first time I attended college. Only this time I drove a better car and I wasn't smoking weed out of a Mountain Dew can.

I believe writing is something that comes natural and all the education in the world will not teach you to create an idea with your mind. Then transfer it to your fingertips, have the self-discipline to spend thousands of hours building it, tearing it apart, then rebuilding it, knowing where to send it when it's done, having the patience to wait for eight months or a year before hearing if an agent likes it, and then not give up when you get rejected. Because you will. Over and over again. I don't think they teach a class that can prepare you for that experience. I think it's just an inner drive that pushes you to succeed.

As far as a writer's workshop goes, I can see that being completely beneficial for any writer, regardless of your level of publication or success. One can never learn too much about the publishing business and the networking opportunities alone would be worth the price of admission. Now, this is just my opinion, but it seems to me that writing is a business and I think a writer with any real ambition to succeed should treat themselves as a component of that business, and treat their writing like a product. Networking and building both personal and professional relationships are crucial to a writer. I just try to be myself. People won't always like you, but if you're not offending someone than you're just boring. Fuck boring. Nobody cares about boring.

16)Give us some background into Matthew McBride, the jobs you've had and how those experiences have shaped your writing.

A - I worked as a dishwasher, a floor buffer at a nursing home, I worked at a pool table factory, two hat factories, a t-shirt factory, a company that washed the dirty blankets for a Hospital, a factory that made parts for refrigerators, I worked at a day care, a rent to own center, I almost worked at a grocery store, a box factory, and I worked at a tent factory once for fifteen minutes. That was all before I was 18. What that taught me early in life is that I'm not really cut out for shitty jobs.

And then I went to work for Chrysler. We built mini vans, and that was really the place that may be responsible for helping to shape my writing background. I actually wrote my novel on the assembly line in between jobs. It took me two months, and I was on fire. I was consumed by the need to tell this story. But the auto industry was a horrible place to work and I had a 90 minute drive each way. Those bastards had stolen the best years of my life and I'd finally had enough and said fuck this place. I jumped ship before it sank in December of 2007 and I never looked back. The industry was in the final stages of a downward spiral and I could see the writing on the wall. I don't think a lot of other people could.

17) Are you looking forward to the time when you can put the chainsaw down and write full time or is that even something you want to do?

A – That's why I left Chrysler, to create a new destiny for myself, and that would be my version of the American dream. But I think every body's version is different. The bottom line is, if you're making a living doing what you love, or even enjoy, than you've already won. Cutting down cedar trees [what I do now] in full safety gear in 103 degree heat is a lot like cutting wood in Hell. Having said that, I feel lucky to have the job. I now make 1/3 of the money, but I work 11 miles from home. Money isn't everything, but I work with good people and I'm not trapped inside of a building. Chrysler was a prison for my mind, but it did teach me to think and to occupy my time. Most importantly, I have a lot more time to write. Even more if I can stay off my motorcycle.

18) Who do you read and what writers have had an influence on you so far?

A - I feel like a real asshole saying this, but I've read very little crime fiction in my life. I know it sounds odd coming from a guy who writes it, but it's true. I just never really knew any of it existed. I was just never exposed to it until recently. Previously I'd read a lot of Stephen King, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, a lot of mainstream authors whose work is always in the front of Barnes & Noble. Those bastards. I pretty much blame them for this you know. I've since learned these little independent bookstores owned by people who love books, not money, are the best place to go for choice material. Avid readers should seek these places out and support them before they're all gone, because the death of a good bookstore is a very sad thing indeed.

For a while I read a lot of Dean Koontz books, but I had to give them up because I felt like he just kept retelling the same damn story every time. I'm not trying to disrespect him or any of his literary accomplishments, it's just that I grew tired of what seemed like the same cookie cutter formula in every book. A male character, usually he was independently wealthy for whatever reason, and always single. Then he'd meet a women. Somebody would have a dog, and in the end it seems like at least half the time everybody lived happily ever after.

It was a formula that worked for him and brought him great success, but it showed me the kind of writer that I didn't want to be. Instead of writing 100 books that are all the same, I'd rather write 10 books that are all completely different.

19) What's your favorite thing you've written and why?

A - With all of the recent praise for Gunpowder and Aluminum Foil, that's probably the first thing that comes to my mind, but I'd have to honestly say at this point it's the story I just wrote for PLOTS WITH GUNS called HAVE CHAINSAW, WILL TRAVEL. I put many hours of time and research into the story, which is [loosely] based on something that happened to me when I worked security at an MMA fight.

It's a violent tutorial of sorts about dismemberment, and I've gotta thank Anthony Neil Smith for making a few suggestions and forcing me to see a different perspective on what the story could actually become. It was a challenging exercise which taught me a few things about the craft of story telling that I'd otherwise never have learned.

I also need to take this opportunity to thank a few of the people that have taken pity on me and allowed me to con my way into their lives. Scott Phillips, for one. He was one of the first people to actually believe in me and he suggested I write a story and submit it online. That story was called Mr. Parker and the Gun, and it was published at A Twist of Noir by Christopher Grant. He's been very supportive of my writing, and he's helped a lot of new writers by giving them a place to submit their work.

Also Hollywood movie producer Brad Wyman, for liking my book so much that he put me in touch with DHS Literary Agency. That was something very cool that he didn't have to do. He may even turn me into a baseball fan before this is all over.

Keith Rawson is another one. That fucking guy is everywhere. Writing, reviewing, coediting CRIMEFACTORY. He's given me good advice along the way and all of it's greatly appreciated. Plus there's Cameron Ashley, who helped me with great editorial direction on the story RED DONKEY that will soon be coming out in their Kung Fu Factory edition.

Aldo Calcagno, for publishing a few of my stories and for all he does in general for writers, not to mention Steve Weddle, who is currently working with me on a story for the upcoming issue of NEEDLE. That's turning out to be a pretty sick publication by the way and it has the potential to be the future of crime fiction as we know it. I can't forget about Jedidiah Ayres or YOU either Rod, for being so nice to me and giving me exposure. Between Noir@Bar and your blog posts/interview, you've both helped to draw attention to my writing and that's greatly appreciated.

20) You have a very entertaining blog called "GOT PULP" that you started I believe this past Feb. How is it coming & has it helped you move things along in regards to promoting your writing?

A - Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I'm new to the blog world and the first thing that comes to mind is that they're a lot of work. My goal when I began this blog was to create something interesting where I can do some unique things that I didn't really see on other peoples blogs. I know a lot of people do an everyday blog, but I don't know how they can find the constant daily motivation. I try to do a new post once or twice a month.

For my posts, I usually tend to focus on pop culture people or events. Coming up at the end of the year, I'll drive to Graceland and do a story about Elvis. I've been to Graceland before, but I just read ELVIS Still taking care of business, by Marshall Terrill, and I learned a helluva lot more about his life. He was one of the first real mega stars who had an entourage wherever he went. Plus, he was radically unpredictable and he pulled guns on people and shit. Now I feel like I need to go back and take another tour, and after knowing so much more about him than I did before, I think it would mean more to me this time.

21) When you started writing, did you ever think you would be a part of an interview series with the likes of Ken Bruen, Craig McDonald, Megan Abbott, Ace Atkins, Charlaine Harriss to name a few. Those are pretty big shoulders you're rubbing up against now.

A – No, I sure didn't, but I'm happy to be a part of this. Those are some great writers and I'm honored to be rubbing shoulders with them. Thanks for taking the time to get to know me.

22) You taught me one thing already on "Got Pulp" if you're going to Mexico or going to run from the cops...make sure you got a full tank of gas first. Am I right?

A - Fuel is important and a guy like me always tries to roll with a full tank. Just because you never know. Once when I was 21, I lead the cops on a high speed chase in the middle of a snow storm. There was ice all over the road, but I was in an all wheel drive Eagle Talon and the cop was in an old shitter Crown Vic. My first move was to hit the back roads because I knew he'd be fucked in that rear wheel drive cruiser. Unfortunately, that's when I realized my gas light had been dinging. I had just enough time to rid myself of any illegal substances [it's always best to do this at a visual landmark for future retrieval] and I just went ahead and pulled over thinking my best chance would be to try and bullshit my way out of it.

The cop was so pissed off he pulled a gun on me, cuffed me, then threw me in the back of his bacon wagon. But after he calmed down I started laying the charm on pretty thick. He'd clocked me at 137 in a 35, but by the end of the whole ordeal he only wrote me for doing 65 in a 35. Then, in an act of pure coolness which blows my mind to this day, he followed me to the nearest gas station and even went so far as to offer me gas money. I can say with complete honesty this was the best experiences that I've ever had with police. Hans, you rock brother.

23) I always wanted to go to the Big Lebowski Festival in Louisville, Ky and you are the first person I've met that has been there. What can you tell others about it & would you recommend going?

A – For me, Lebowski Fest was a combination of White Russians and Vicodin. Oddly enough, I'd just had my second motorcycle “mishap” in less than a month the night before we left. I was riding with my buddy Big Johnson and the headlight went out on his custom bike, so he was following me, riding my back tire so he could use my headlight. Suddenly, two huge dogs ran out in front of me. The first one made it by, but the second one slammed into me on the right side.

To make a long story short, I wasn't about to let this unfortunate situation do anything to fuck up Lebowski Fest. My ankle and wrist were trashed so I spent the whole weekend on crutches, but it was worth it. For three days everyone in Louisville was dressed as a character from the movie, quoting lines and posing for pictures. [For those interested the full story is on GOT PULP?] Would I recommend it? Absolutely. If you're a fan of the movie, or a fan of people watching, then hell yes. I had a blast on crutches, so an uninjured “Achiever” would be amazed.

24) What's your favorite line from the "Big Lebowski" ?

A - "Shut the fuck up, Donnie" - Walter Sobchak

25) What's on your bucket list of things you want to do but haven't yet?

A – Get a book deal, act in a movie, and survive a plane crash.

26) What's your Mom & your wife think of all your mishaps and accidents?

A – They probably hate me by now, but I'd say they're used to Hospitals. In the last two years I've broken 9, maybe 10 bones, spent the last two summers in casts, and been to at least three different Emergency Rooms. My wife Melissa takes super good care of me though. After the motorcycle wreck, besides broken bones, I had severe road rash all over most of my upper body [because when I piled up, I was wearing a sleeveless shirt, like an asshole] my left knee was pretty much ground down to the bone, and my right ass cheek was completely smoked off. She'd wrap me up in this medicated gauze and it would take like an hour. By the time she was done, where she'd started bandaging would already be bleeding through. This took place two or three times a day for a couple of months.

27) The one person dead or alive you would want to meet & why?

A – Jim Morrison or Elvis. Jim was an explorer and he's my favorite poet. I was obsessed with my parents old vinyl when I was younger. I remember playing The Doors and Jefferson Airplane in my room all the time and writing stuff. Elvis has always been an endless source of fascination for me ever since the first boss I ever had turned me on to the king. My very first job, and one that I forgot to mention earlier, was at a welding shop, and my boss was a guy named Clyde Zelch. Clyde is probably the most amazing welder I have ever seen, and he will probably tell you that I am the shittiest. Clyde would always play Elvis in the shop while I attempted to weld and I've had a soft spot for the king ever since. If it came down to it, I'd probably have to flip a coin.

Oh fuck, wait a minute. I just remembered about Hunter S. Thompson. I'd probably resurrect that crazy bastard instead. Why? Because one of the first books I ever read was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and I don't think I've ever been the same. It branded an indelible impression on my guts and it drove a screwdriver through my brain. It was amazing and chaotic. Like a butterfly inside a tornado.

Final Question: Can I please be your sidekick on a future adventure, preferably one we live through? Ha

A – I'd be happy to have you Rod, but I can make no guarantees on our survival. Or even our safety, for that matter. What I can offer you, assuming we pull through, is a shovel full of memories to store on that computer chip inside your brain. I'm ready when you are brother, just say the word.