This week, Matthew Brockmeyer stopped by to talk about his debut novel Kind Nepenthe, which is due for release in August. He’s also a freelance writer, and his work has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online, including Alephi Arts and Literature Magazine, Timeless Tales Magazine, Not One of Us, Pulp Metal Magazine, Dark Fire Fiction, Body Parts Magazine, Infernal Ink Magazine, The Freedom Fiction Journal, as well as the anthologies After the Happily Ever After by Transmundane Press, and One Hundred Voices by Centum Press.
Hi, Matthew. Welcome to Read A Lot.
Q: Had you always planned on becoming a published author?
Ever since I was a child, yes. Though I was sidetracked for a while. I studied creative writing in college and was very focused on becoming a writer. But after I received my English degree, I ended up becoming involved in organic farming, homesteading and permaculture design.
Fiction writing just sort of sat on the back burner. During that time, I got married, had a couple kids, but a few years ago the writing bug kicked back in. Big time. Since then I’ve had numerous short stories published, written a novel and started another.
Q: What inspired you to write Kind Nepenthe?
It was inspired by the journey my life has taken me on. I live in an off-grid cabin deep in the forest of Humboldt County California, a place known for its wild outlaw ways. My wife and I moved here with the hippie ideals of being closer to nature and living off of the land. I wanted to write a horror story about all the things that can go wrong in that pursuit and also make use of the strange culture of this place.
Q: What made you choose the genre?
I’ve always been a horror lover. There’s just something about it, the rollercoaster fun aspect, but also how it examines the human condition. It’s actually a very existential genre exploring our finite existence. And in many ways, what scares us is also what defines us.
Q: What is the book about?
The book is about a young mother—Rebecca—who, with her five-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, move from San Diego to a desolate ranch to caretake an indoor marijuana growing operation, hoping they can make enough money to buy their own land. She is very idealistic, an environmentalist, a vegetarian, and the growing operation is everything she hates.
It runs on a smog-spewing diesel generator, and uses chemical fertilisers and pesticides, so, she has to compromise her ideals. The land is haunted by ghosts that symbolise the past: a little boy that drowned when the place was once a hippie commune, a biker that was a notorious murderer and methamphetamine dealer.
In many ways, it is like Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, misfits working on an iniquitous farm, hoping to be able to buy their own land, only to have tragedy befall them.
Q: Do you find it easier to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?
I prefer a schedule. A deadline can really get me motivated and working.
Q: Can you choose a favourite character from your book?
That would have to be Diesel Dan, the neighbor. His story is intertwined with Rebecca’s. He is the “sympathetic heavy” in the novel. He spent his life high, drunk and in prison, but is now trying to reconnect with his estranged son, whose girlfriend is pregnant. He sees becoming a grandfather as a means to a new start on life, but his son is on the same path of drugs and violence that once consumed him.
Q: Was there ever a point while you were writing when you wanted to give up?
No, not really. But I did get bogged down at times.
Q: What is the worst part of the writing process for you?
Forcing myself to write when the words just aren’t coming. But you have to do it.
Q: How much of your stories do you plan, or do you make them up as you go along?
I’m a plotter and work from an outline with my ending all planned out. But, sometimes the story does take a turn I didn’t expect.
Q: Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?
Read, read, read. It all starts with a love of books.
Q: Where can people learn more about your books?
Q: What have you learned since you started writing?
Stay focused and keep at it!
Q: What’s next for you?
I have a collection of short stories that will be coming out next year. I’m working on a new novel as well.