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SNEAK PEEK: Matthew McBride Interview in issue 49

A sampling from our latest issue:

Interview By Tim Hennessy

My introduction to Matthew McBride’s work came at a book release party where a number of authors were scheduled to read and none of them wanted to follow Matthew. It turned out their fears were well founded, his darkly comedic story “Big Darlene the Sex Machine” (available in Beat to A Pulp: Round 2) had the crowd riveted and roaring with laughter.

Not a stranger to the pages of Crimespree, Matthew’s short story “Stealing Indigo” appeared in issue #42 and a recipe for another of his passions, chili, appeared in issue #46.

McBride’s first novel, Frank Sinatra in a Blender is due out from New Pulp Press in December. He also has work appearing in Noir at the Bar Vol. 2.




Tim Hennessy: You’re currently living in rural Missouri. Were you born in that area? Where did you grow up and has it had an influence on your work?

Matthew McBride: I was born in Missouri, but we moved around a lot. As a kid I lived in Kentucky for a while. By the time I was in fifth grade, I’d spent every year in a different school. You learn to make friends if you want to survive. Most of my upbringing has always been rural — lots of woods and dirt roads and endless fields that grow wheat and corn and hay. I’m surrounded by creeks and rivers and lakes. There are strong country smells with a bright yellow moon planted in a bed of stars that you can see every night. All of this beauty inspires me, and I’m sure it definitely influences the work.

TH: What made you start writing?

MM: It’s just something I’ve always known I was meant to do — known it in a way that is hard to describe. But it all began with reading. Every writer begins life as a reader, and I devoured books, several novels a week, for years. I was captivated by the worlds they could take me to. Being utterly consumed by a good book is powerful feeling. But after a while, I’d find myself disagreeing with the author. Shaking my head, thinking: No, wait a minute. Don’t have him (the character) do that. This guy should just pick up a shotgun and start shooting people.

It was that kind of thinking that made me want to write, because I wanted to do things different. Tell my own story. I wanted to create a world and be in control of that world. I remember being a kid and my mom telling me once that I was a good writer. That always stuck with me, and I guess a seed was planted. After a while it finally took root.

TH: We both have a fondness for rural fiction; do you feel that your work has a regional identity?

MM: I do, especially with the new book I just wrote. It’s about Gasconade and Franklin Counties, where I grew up and still live. It’s about methamphetamine and gravel roads and tweakers, trying to get by, doing what they do. I wrote about the sheriff’s department, about the river we live on, my friends and enemies and neighbors. The rolling hills I write about are the same ones I see when I look out my window. The sycamore trees and the cottonwoods are the same trees that line these creeks. I literally live in the center of the United States. Wine country. Within a ten-minute drive from our farm there are three wineries. Thirty-minutes away and you’ll find ten more. We live on the Gasconade River; the Missouri River is just down the road. We’re an hour from Lake of the Ozarks, two hours from Truman.

It is a land of uncompromising beauty. But it’s a community of farmers. It’s hard living, and the lifestyle can be unforgiving. As I write this, it is August, and the heat has been brutal. The ground is scorched and dead. The dirt weeps for moisture. Everyone’s crops are dying; there is no food for the cattle. Farmer’s are already feeding hay, because the drought has killed everything it could, and wounded everything it couldn’t. Come winter, the hay will be gone. The cattle will starve without it. But without money from the crops that didn’t come in, because they never grew, there will be no money to replace the hay that’s already been fed. The winter will be long and hard, and it needs to be. The land is so tough and desiccated; it needs the snow to melt back into the ground and replenish the soil.

It is a hard-scramble existence and I’ve been raised up in it, so it has become a part of me.

TH: Do you feel the regional identity is a strength or would you prefer to have your work known for other elements?

MM: I think a writer should use region and background to their advantage if the story calls for it. A writer’s background is their strength — one of their strengths — whether they realize it or not. You just tend to draw from the memories you know and the places you’ve been and the things you’ve done and seen and the people you’ve known. I’m a blue-collar factory worker. And I’m proud of that. Knowing who you are inside helps to keep the writing honest.

TH: What drew you to crime fiction?

MM: I feel like I’m just drawn to write about these degenerate types that don’t walk a straight line. You can have a lot of fun and a lot of creative control with crime fiction. You can put your characters through a lot. I like to take bad guys and try to make the audience like them even though they know they shouldn’t.

The rest of the interview is in Crimespree magazine issue 49 on sale now!