Matthew Keith Interview – Inspiration, Research, and a Deadly Rain

What was the author’s inspiration for this series? Which of the characters would he like to sit down with and have dinner? What is the biggest misconception that he had about being an author before he became one?

The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, flickr

What was the inspiration for this series? A news report? Random thought? A dream?
My wife and are both big fans of The Walking Dead, and I know it must be evident in these books. We have a date night every Sunday when the show is in season. I can’t tell you how many times we’d watch a new episode and I’d groan because something they did in the show was too similar to something I’d already written in one of the books. So I’d have to pause the show, write whatever it was down so I could go back, make changes; it drives my wife crazy that I don’t just sit still and enjoy the show anymore. Besides The Walking Dead, I’ve always been a horror/apocalypse/dystopian movie fan. I love to watch those really bad b-rated movies—to the “horror” of my wife, who can’t stand anything with a bad plot.

torrential rain, geograph

What if your book were to come to life and such a rain come your way? How would you react? Do you think others would listen to you if you tried to warn them?
I don’t think anyone would believe it, not at first. I think it’s human nature to be skeptical. My guess is if I knew clouds filled with Ebola were going to cover the world and drop deadly rain down and I announced it in some widespread, public way, I’d be labeled a nut. Until they all started getting sick… then I suppose I would probably be blamed.

How many books are going to be in this series?
Three. No more than three. The second book is in the final stages of editing right now, the third is already planned out with a very explosive conclusion.

Were any of the characters based on people that you know?
Yes. Gracie was based on my niece and Justin on my nephew. Anders was based loosely on a guy I know in my hometown who looks like him and has all the same mannerisms. Arnold was based directly on a guy I used to work with, a real weasel. As for the rest, they were all constructs.

Are there any of the characters that you would like to sit down with and have dinner? If so, what would you talk about?
That’s a tough question. They’re all in the process of growing right now. Like I said, I’m done with the second book and ready to dig into the third. Through book two, most of them changed in some very fundamental ways. Richard, for instance, is someone I would just like to punch in the face because he’s abrasive. But he’s growing up a little, so maybe him. I think he’ll end up doing good things. It really depends on where the story takes him.

Were there any incidents from your own life that you worked into the manuscript? If so, what?
In book two I used a scene from my childhood in Michigan when I used to wait in the cold for the bus. But in this book, book one—no. Everything other than the location and buildings for Outpost was completely fabricated.

Did you listen to music while you wrote this? If so, what did you listen to? Did the songs running through your mind match what was happening in the book?
I can never listen to anything when I write. My desk is in the basement, and if anyone comes down, even to ask what I want for dinner, I’m completely derailed. I need silence to get into my own head. Once I’m there, I can usually write for hours without a break. Honestly, “in my own head” is one of my favorite places to be.

Do you think this would make a great movie? If so, do you have actors and actresses in mind to play your characters?
That’s an answer that’s bound to be a bit biased, don’t you think? Lol. I see all my books as movies, but that’s because they play out that way in my head when I write them. For this one, who would I choose? Hmm. That’s a really tough question because I already have images of these people in my head and they’re not based on anyone in Hollywood. For Richard, probably someone like Craig Robinson. It’d have to be someone that could be obnoxious but still pull off the loveable angle. For Anders, maybe Ed Harris. He’s a little small, but he has the right demeanor. Maybe Bruce Willis. Honestly never thought about specifics like this for any of my books; it’s a little fun…

Hardin County Courthouse in Elizabethtown, wikimedia commons

How much research was involved in writing this book?
Honestly, quite a bit more than in my past books. I had to do a lot of research on the buildings in Elizabethtown’s courthouse square. I got inside the courthouse and poked around. Some of what I wrote was fabricated to mesh with the story but most was spot-on. I keep a Google Earth aerial print-out of the part of Elizabethtown that is Outpost on my wall for reference, all the buildings labeled with a thick marker line drawn where the wall is supposed to be. Ebola—I didn’t know much about it before this book. Now I feel like I know too much. It’s a terrible disease, and I chose it for that specific reason. Rudimentary ways to hunt other people—that was an odd thing to delve into. The nets were, thankfully, the most viable. Easy to write about.

What is the biggest misconception that you had about being an author before you became one?
That people would actually read my books. I remember the day I hit the button to publish Watchers of the Night (my first novel) on Amazon, thinking, no one will ever even see the cover, let alone read the first page. I told my wife if I sold just one book and someone liked it that would be enough. Writing is something I always wanted to do my whole life, but I always believed to do it that I would have to listen to someone telling me how it should be done or badgering me to write faster or slower or in a different voice. I wanted my stories to be mine. After reading about the traditional publishing process, I always believed that wasn’t possible. The process of putting together a 100,000+ page novel is grueling work, long work, but the process (for indies like me) that puts that work out on the internet on huge outlets like Amazon or BN—that’s the easy part. I was shocked how easy it was and even more shocked when I started receiving positive reviews.

reading books, flickr

How long before book two is available? Any hints about what is in store for the people living in Outpost?
Book two should be available by the end of March. Much sooner, if things go well. I’ve already had to do some rewrites in a couple of chapters and I’m close now. The only hint I will give is that nothing is what you might believe it to be. I’m sure most readers are thinking, “Okay, something’s not right here,” and they’re right. But probably not in the way they assume.

Recommended Articles:
Outpost: Survivor Chronicles of the Great Rains: Book One – a Review
The Pros and Cons of Having a Cliffhanger Ending – Guest Post by Matthew Keith

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