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Take it in Stride with Patience, or Die

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Dave Matthes Author Interview

The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down explores the lives of three “downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living” people as they battle with their demons while leaning on one another. What were some of the stand out moments for you when writing this story?

Stand out moments… I would have to say some of the quieter, more introspective scenes in which the three main characters collide with from time to time. These moments of theirs are aimed to define them or break them entirely, or both. Particularly, some scenarios in which a resolution is expected to eventually come to fruition, but never does, because many times in life that is what happens. Or a resolution won’t be surmised for an unfathomably long time, and during those long stretches we can either take it in stride with patience, or die.

Once again you are able to amaze me with some realistically gritty characters. Where does the seed for a character start and what is your process for developing them through the story?

In most cases, any character I write, whether he or she is a major character or just an ornament on a mantle in the background, I begin with myself… as I’m sure most writers do. But where the emotion comes from, generally when I’m alone at night after a really, truly bad day at work. The birth of a character’s emotions can also come from the moments immediately following a delicious meal I’ve just enjoyed. So I can’t really say there’s one single place it all comes from. Almost every character I write, they start out as one type, and by the end of the book they become something entirely unintended, and not just because of the story. But because somewhere during the months of which the writing takes place, I think that a part of me sometimes changes depending on what’s going on in my own life, and sometimes… not always- but sometimes that bleeds out onto the page.

The title for this book is interesting. What was the inspiration for the title, and why did you choose a blank cover?

The cover was once full of color and pretty chaotic. But once I finished the first draft and really took a step back to look at everything, I felt a certain pull towards The Beatles’ White Album. And the theme of purity. In the book, the purity of the human soul is constantly at stake, whether it was lost long ago and there might be a chance to regain a sliver of it, or it’s literally on the brink of total collapse. How that theme is encompassed by all of the characters and where it steers them through their adventures, which can take them in very random directions, or keep them on a steady “forward” path, was a big part of why I chose the cover to be what it was. In a way, it serves as a figurative blank slate, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. The title, on the other hand, went through probably the most changes I’ve ever shifted through while writing a book. The title began as something very simple, I can’t remember exactly but it was very one or two-worded. Boring. And didn’t at all convey anything. The title that I landed on at the very end, I feel, paints a picture of emotion. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with any physical scene of the book, and for everyone I think it will be different. But for me, when I read the title, I picture a very, incredible quiet night. Like taking a deep breath, and being engulfed by absolute relief that the day is over with.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next book I’m currently working on is another story involving Arlo Smith, of The Mire Man Trilogy. The book takes place between the events of Book II and Book III, during his mid-twenties, where he meets a person who introduces him to really good jazz, and a very particular kind of nightlife away from home, when “home” starts to sometimes feel like a prison. It’s a sort of a love-letter to Kerouac’s “On the Road”. It’s tentatively titled “Electric Gypsies Beneath the Whiskey Tree”, and I hope to have it finished by next year some time.

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Boots and Bonnets Inn, an isolated motel of questionable quality positioned just outside Moab, Utah, is home and haven to a handful of self-proclaimed societal outcasts who for better, worse, or much worse, have found their way here just in time to live out the rest of their lives. Among these longstayers is Wendel Trope, a slightly overweight almost-nihilist who survives within this little realm of “contentedness” by exercising his right to medicinal and alcoholic experimentation, while battling ruthless anxiety attacks and the “you owe me for last week’s stay” death stares of Jerry, the hotel owner. Holding his proverbial hand in an off-kilter, symbiotic friendship through this chapter of his life is Fag Bush Betty, the motel’s infamous “anything goes” prostitute, who may have more to her history than simply a catalytic reason to defile her own spirituality. And anchoring Betty, is Lotus, a young girl who harbors a shattered past and an as-of-yet untainted future that will inevitably bring her to the doorstep of Moab’s most unforgiving roadside motel. “THE SOUNDS FROM THE HILLS GO AWAY WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN” is a story without direction, without hope, and most importantly without a beginning or an end. It is simply an examination of the present moment during a fragment of time in the lives of several of what society considers downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living, and expendable, taking place in a corner of the world most only have fleeting nightmares about.

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Man with the Sand Dollar Face

Man with the Sand Dollar Face, by Sharon CassanoLochman, is a detective-crime thriller novel. The story is centered on Harriet Crumford, who at times also goes by Hattie or Henrietta. She is a 62-year-old woman working as a secretary for a private detective in Crescent City — New Orleans. Shortly into the book an incident takes place, and the action picks up quickly. The book seems to be a mix of feminist and hardboiled noir, and though it struggles in a few places, it reaches a sound level of quality for both.

Harriet Crumford does not seem like a heroic character, at least not in the classical sense of the hero’s story. She is 62-years-old in the story, but little is given about her other than her being a widow. In classic heroic tales, the central character often pushes away from the table — unwilling to take up the heroic cause — due to more pressing, mundane tasks. Eventually, the hero comes to his (frequently it is a ‘his’) senses and begins the hero’s journey. In some ways, this novel is a subversion of the traditional heroic arc — Harriet was the dutiful, longsuffering, strong, silent wife. This provides a strong contrast against her boss, Wallace Woodard, who is philandering to the point that Harriet cannot keep straight who the girlfriend is and who the wife is. Harriet is so given over to subservience, and to old values, that she does not even have a valid driver’s license. Up to the point of this story, she had forsaken the hero’s call for all her life, and once she takes it up, she looks back on her past with pain and sorrow. She then finds within herself, with some assistance, the necessary energy to pursue a mystery to its conclusion. In this way, the text provides those feminist elements through Harriet’s newfound internal strengths.

CassanoLochman attempts to make the novel feel like an old, hardboiled detective novel so much that it strains credulity. The writing, at expertly evokes hard rain, melancholy, brooding, existential pain and anguish typical of hardboiled noir, but then makes a sharp right turn into the “iced coffee with whipped cream and pink sprinkles.” In terms of other characteristics of hardboiled stories, this one fits many of them, but they do sometimes feel forced. In either case, fans of crime fiction will be hard pressed to put the book down.

Overall, the book is certainly a strong read, and contains plenty of action and is recommended. Harriet is an excellent character, not obviously heroic, but willing to take risks. Man with the Sand Dollar Face seems intended for adult audiences, but it is not beyond the reach of younger adults who have an interest in this sort of literature. The book does contain some sexual content (nothing too graphic), definite alcohol and drug use, and more than a little violence.

Pages: 212 | ASIN: B077Y4T192

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