Sunday, June 9, 2013

Interview with Horror Author Mark Matthews

I have another treat for you this week. After Bracken MacLeod last week, I thought I'd give you a little time to read Mountain Home. Now, there is another new book you just have to read, On the Lips of Children

Here is the review I just posted earlier this week to Amazon, Goodreads, and Shelfari:

Mark Matthews’ On the Lips of Children pulled me in early on. The border-town issues were familiar, reminding me of my childhood in El Paso. While not an avid runner or tattoo aficionado, the symbolism and meaning connected me with Macon and Erin’s lives. Within the first chapters, Mark’s well-paced plot had me experiencing every footstep with him, riveted. By the time their daughter Lyric’s perspective engulfed me, the story was whirling by, her innocence eating at my heart, each stride drawing me from one word to the next. Who knew an innocent run through the park could be so startling and gruesome? Fans of thrilling chases and horrifying tales where family and innocence hang in the balance will certainly enjoy On the Lips of Children

This was a hell of an exciting read. And I don't just say that because I edited the novel. I originally met Mark when a mutual friend and editor, Katy Sozaeva, couldn't fit him into her schedule early enough. We often work together on some projects and refer clients to each other when author schedules have to be adjusted. He contacted me through WAKE Editing about an edit for his newly written novel. I agreed and was pulled in by the book. I finished the edit and got it back to Mark. Then, a little over a week later, he contacted me saying he'd received a book deal. I knew the book was good, but was still a little surprised. As they say, it happens quickly once you find an interested publisher. Here we are a few months later, and the book has just been released in e-book with a great cover.

Here's the short summary:

Meet Macon. Tattoo artist. Athlete. Family man.

He's planning to run a marathon, but the event becomes something terrible.

During a warm-up run, Macon falls prey to a bizarre man and his wife who dwell in an underground drug-smuggling tunnel. They raise their twin children in a way Macon couldn't imagine: skinning unexpecting victims for food and money.

And Macon, and his family, are next.

Here's what a few other authors have said about the book, even one from Bracken MacLeod, last week's interviewee:
“Mark Matthews’ On the Lips of Children is a sprint down a path of high-adrenaline terror that never offers the comfort of monsters you can dismiss by reminding yourself “there’s no such thing as...” The story alternates between harsh reality and an almost dream-like surreality while never losing sight of the real heart of good storytelling. Matthews demonstrates that you don’t have far down to go to reach the underworld, yet the road back up is a lot harder run than anyone is prepared to make.” 
~ Bracken MacLeod, author of Mountain Home

“An ordinary running trail becomes the most terrifying place on the planet for Mark Matthews' troubled, likeable, marathon-running, tattooed, hipster protagonists and their young daughter. But, for the horror-show clan living under that trail — who subsist on flesh and bath salts in a nightmare orgy of blood and crazy — the hipsters are a rare treat indeed. As the family v. family showdown transpires underground and off the beaten path, the vulnerability of running on a trail — alone but for the watchers in the woods — makes the setting unique and well-crafted. Written with verve, surprising compassion, and bite, On the Lips of Children is a seriously demented must read.” 
~ Sacha Z. Scoblic, author of Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety

“On the Lips of Children by Mark Matthews, is a dark, terrifying page-turner. It’s Stephen King’s Misery on bath salts. In a cave. It scared the crap out of me. The story was original. The characters were fascinating, exposing the reader to worlds foreign to most of us. Matthews has a knack for pacing his story then jolting the reader with a frightening plot twist. I was impressed by how he wrapped up the ending. Read this book.” 
~ Michele Miller, author of The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award quarterfinalist

“Mark Matthews’ keen ability to bring his own very real personal experiences to life in the guise of fiction, in this instance delightfully horrific fiction, makes even the macabre relatable.” 
~ Peter Rosche, author of My Dead Friend Sarah

As you can see, there is a lot of hype about Mark's new book floating around, and I truly hope more and more readers get a copy because it is well worth it. However, without further comment, here is the tidbit I believe you were waiting for, Mark Matthews himself. 

WK: Welcome, Mark. It's good to have you. I'm glad you could make the run over. A lot has happened since you and I first met, but all of it seems to be so positive.

MM: It is. It's really been exciting, like my baby's being born. Hey, cigars all around!

WK: Haha! Thanks, Mark. Glad to hear it. Now, I know this is something you've probably been asked time and again. Heck, I asked it before we ever started the edit. Where did the title of your book come from?

MM: “On the Lips of Children” is derived from the quote: “Mother is the name for God on lips of all Children.” This phrase is tattooed on the arm of the main character in the novel and was made famous by the movie The Crow

WK: And a great quote it is. There were a lot of wonderfule quotes and connections, both symbolic and literal, in your book that really made it outstanding. Frost was one of those I could really relate to. Considering I'm not one for tattoos or a competitive runner, I'm sure it helped. If you could sum up your book in one sentence, what would it be?

MM: A tattoo artist, his human canvass, and their child get kidnapped by a blood-thirsty tweaker family raising their twin children in a San Diego to Tijuana drug tunnel.

WK: So where did the idea come from for this book?

MM: The idea came from a predawn, dark run in San Diego, nearly exactly as described in the novel including the hotel clerk. It was so dark I could barely see the trail, and ran by faith, not by sight.  As I ran, bodies of sleeping homeless men were strewn about the trail, some of them shuffling as I passed, some rising, and my imagination grew.

What if these men were part of some insidious network, what if they were after me? I felt the specter of Tijuana not far from me, and eventually did more research into drug cartels and Tijuana kidnappings.

I came up with the idea of a mother who was trapped with her babies in a drug tunnel and would do anything for their survival, even if it meant feeding off the bodies of others. The twins are raised this way, and it changes them forever.

WK: No doubt. A shiver just ran down my spine at the reminder. That really is a heck of a good story. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

MM: Javier Bardem would make the perfect Dante. To play Erin, I see Clare Danes from Homeland, but only after Rooney Mara and Noomi Rapace (the two actresses who played  Lisbeth Salander) both beat each other to a pulp up vying for the role.  To play Macon I’d like to see Heath Ledger came back to life.

Angelina Jolie will be Lupita and Nick Nolte will play the role of Hank.  Iggy pop will be playing the role of Padre, another homeless man. As for the director, David Fincher is already signed up (he just doesn’t know it yet.)

WK: LOL. Great cast. I hope to see it in theaters some day soon. Now, it seems to span a few genres though. Which camp are you in: dark fiction, horror, or speculative fiction? 

MM: Dark fiction, suspense, adventure, horror, I can’t find a name for it. When my brain goes to story lines, it often goes to some extreme conflicts.  I see fiction as life with the volume turned up, and nothing turns up the volume of life like a little darkness to outline the glow of the human spirit.  You need the dark to see the stars, as the character Dante says after snorting some bath-salts.

WK: Too true. Can't know good without evil. The contrast brings everything into a new light, and a creepy child or two makes everything more interesting.

MM: Of course.  When I saw the trailer for the movie Mama, I thought, “Oh no! they already made my book into a movie.”  But there’s no supernatural monsters in my book, not in the literal sense, but as one reviewer wrote, this novel will make you rethink Vampires. Plus, there’s a strange connection between the family who gets taken hostage, and the family who has trapped them within the drug tunnel. Both women are dealing with primal wounds and trying to protect what they love, while the men are trying to prove their worth through strength and ferocity. 

WK: That's true. I haven't had the chance to see that movie, but I can certainly understand the statements your reviewers have made. It gives a whole new definition to vampires, because these aren't vampires or supernatural in any way. It's just a creepy, horrifying run. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

MM: Well, I wrote the novel listening to Nine Inch Nails and The White Stripes, so it carries the same tone. As I wrote it, I had the novel Cujo in the back of my mind.  Novels only work when you care about the conflicts and goals of the characters, and that is what I have here: a story of family relationships where the characters are vivid and dripping with ink.  The external fight of each character on the horrific day matches the rage and yearnings of their internal world.

The exotic nature of the Tijuana to San Diego drug tunnel needed as much care in developing as any character. I have been deep into the bowels of Tijuana to places I wouldn’t go back.

WK: Wow, you actually went there and sought them out. Now, that is dedication. How is this novel like your other novels?

MM: I am intrigued with any physical activity like running that turns up the intensity of your body, mind, and spirit, and how all of our yearnings start to grow with your training. The Jade Rabbit may be the feminine version of this visceral theme, while On the Lips of Children is the masculine version. Themes of pain and pleasure, and the lengths and hardship we will endure for what we love are all in there.  Tattoos themselves are amazing in that the pain makes us feel more real.

WK: Perhaps that's why so many runners also have tattoos. 

MM: That certainly fits with Erin. Erin is a character who was a cutter as a teen, who later in life has the same desire to cut after she loses her first child but instead gets a piercing and a tattoo. She falls in love with both the hum of the tattoo needle, and the tattoo artist himself. He eventually fathers her second child, and she teaches him the endorphin rush of marathon running. 

WK: That's one heck of a back story for these characters too. The troubled nature of it all pulls you in, wishing you could help the characters. What type of readers will like this novel?

MM: I hope my mom and dad and the kid next door who lives in his basement with the blacked-out windows. In other words, I think anyone can enjoy and relate to this novel. The graphic gore in the prologue and the extreme situations to come only highlight the power and endurance of the human spirit, as well as the things we’ll all do to survive. Mother is indeed the name for God on the lips of all children, and love for family is at the core of this story. So far, advance reviews have been just as positive from mainstream fiction fans as from dark fiction fans. Mom’s review is forthcoming. Stay tuned.

WK: LOL, the dreaded mother's review. Will she approve? Who knows. I can certainly understand and am reminded of times when my own mother asked the question, "You wrote this?" After a nod, I've been confronted with both positive and negative from my own mother. She's a pretty good critic. So, one last question before I let you go. And I do plan on it, unlike Dante. What's one of your favorite paragraphs from the story?

MM: It's from the prologue:    
“Their tongues were dry, her milk was gone, and the last bit of water in the plastic jug had evaporated. She wondered if her monthly bleeding would arrive to help her measure the time. She urinated often at first, but this had stopped, and there was little bowel to pass. Her fingers clamored over the flesh of her children, always feeling their skin, comforting every piece, holding them against her flesh, cradling them together. They may have been better off had their eyes never opened.”

WK: That was certainly a haunting way to start out. It sent shivers down my spine, but even it doesn't fully prepare you for what is to come. Thanks for coming, Mark. It was great having you. Careful on your run home. We don't need a reenactment. 

For everyone's benefit, I've included Mark Matthew's bio below.

Author Bio:

Mark Matthews has worked in the behavioral health field for nearly 20 years, including psychiatric hospitals, runaway shelters, and substance abuse treatment centers. His first novel, Stray, is based on experiences working in a treatment center with an animal shelter right next door within barking distance. He is an avid runner, and his second novel, The Jade Rabbit, is the story of a woman, adopted from China, who is raised in Detroit and runs marathons to deal with lingering trauma. Both novels have received excellent reviews.

He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, a licensed professional counselor, and lives near Detroit with his wife and 2 daughters.  “On the Lips of Children” is his first novel with Books of the Dead Press, and he is thrilled to be working alongside such excellent authors. He blogs at; Running, Writing, and Chasing the Dragon.  Or follow him on twitter at @matthews_mark  

This is another book I'd advise people pick up. On the Lips of Children can be found on, Smashwords, and should soon be out in print. I hope you enjoyed our little visit today and have found another great book to add to your library. Stop back by again next week for another special announcement.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the Altered Realities series, A Life of Death collection of novels, and Strange Circumstances