Today’s interview is with author Matthew Acheson who earned his Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Ancient History from the University of Southern Maine, and he is a Director of Engineering for a publicly traded telecommunications company. He has also worked as a dig-hand on archaeological excavations in Egypt, Israel and throughout New England. He tried to learn Hebrew once, so he could cast medieval spells on people, but that guttural Chaf sound they make is just hell on the larynx. Matthew is also a member of the Horror Writers Association.
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Matthew Acheson: When I was just a boy I went away to Camp Chewonki and discovered a gnarled Oak tree with a cave-like hollow spot in it and a terrible secret. There was a war on, you see, between two ant colonies and a nest of caterpillars. I was enthralled, and a series of illustrated short stories called Insect Wars was born. There were wasps, flies, a chieftain’s son named Herby riding in a tin foil boat, and of course a fire breathing praying mantis. The stories were quite dreadful, so naturally my mother pinned them up on the fridge. Did I mention there were pictures?
Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Matthew Acheson: My siblings were all much older, and my mother worked two jobs so I spent most of my childhood alone in the woods with a dog, a stick, and a notebook. It was a creepy forest, and a lot of my nightmares and bizarre experiences made perfect fodder for Fantasy Horror fiction. Blackwood, Machen, Lovecraft, and King all conspired to derange my fiction tastes further. Then there was that incident with a ghoulish creating living at the bottom of the mossy brook behind my house, but since a blood pact was involved, I can’t go into details. I’m sure you understand.
Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?
Matthew Acheson: I’m constantly creating new worlds, characters, and tales in my mind. The act of writing – for me at least – is just the art and alchemy of raising up flesh, and blood, and bone where there was nothing before. When I’m fully engrossed in the creative process, it’s the only time that I feel really and truly alive. Chocolate is pretty good too.
Books & Writing: I understand you have written several published short stories. What attracts you in writing short stories?
Matthew Acheson: I grew up listening to my father and uncles telling scary stories around the fireplace at night, and I have continued that tradition with my 14 nieces and nephews. Fear can be such a wonderful, primal experience when served up in deliciously small portions. Some of my oral stories have found their way to parchment, while others will remain spooky twilit tales told only around the fire-pit.
Books & Writing: Which one of your short stories is your favorite and why?
Matthew Acheson: My favorite is “Whispers From the North”, a 10,000 word novelette that is set in my Fantasy realm the Nordurlandes. It represents so much of who I am and the life experiences that have shaped me as a person. There is a lot of pain, hope, fear, loneliness, and regret in that story. I threw a sword in there too, and a screeching door, for effect.
Books & Writing: What attracts you in horror, science fiction and fantasy?
Matthew Acheson: I love to read and write stories that make my heart race, with strange plots, hairpin turns and protagonists whose trials leave them broken, damned, deranged. I want stories that leave me sleeping with one eye open and a pistol loaded with silver tipped bullets on the nightstand.
Books & Writing: I understand you studied history. Do you use your historical knowledge in your stories?
Matthew Acheson: Absolutely. Many elements of my Fantasy realm, the Nordurlandes, have some basis in the geography and cultural history of our world. The fallen Vallis Imperium (Empire of the Valley) shares aspects with the Roman Empire. The folk of Kaldyrnord (Cold North) are similar to the Geats and the Norse. The Countdom of Vlakmorea (Strangers of the Moor) is somewhat like the Eastern Carpathian region.
Books & Writing: Are you working on something new?
Matthew Acheson: I have 5 new Nordurlandes Fantasy stories in the works – Shiver, The Reaver Stirs, A Hard Night, The Nine, and Glass City, Black Heart. Between June and December of 2012, I’m releasing 10 of my previously published short stories as free audiobooks available on my website. I’m also chipping away at the 2nd draft of my first novel, The Hotel, which is a mystery/thriller.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Matthew Acheson: Don’t pick up the pen to become the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Write because you have something to say; write for the love of storytelling; write because your eyes will roll up in your head and you’ll froth at the mouth if you don’t. Once that’s been sorted out, the formula gets much simpler. Read, write, repeat.
Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?
Matthew Acheson: Algernon Blackwood’s fiction has influenced me the most. The man was a master at weaving beautiful, terrible, haunting atmospheres into his short stories. I can also personally identify with many of the experiences his protagonists relate. That and I’ve been communing with him through a gate in my basement for several years. Not a regular gate, mind you, but something else.
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
Matthew Acheson: My short stories have appeared in various fiction markets, including Pseudopod, Raygun Revival, Spinetingler, Allegory, Morpheus Tales, the Willows, and others.
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Matthew Acheson: All of my published stories and audiobooks are available on my website www.cryptichouse.com
Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Matthew Acheson: Beware of the Three that walk calmly out of the Void. Leonard Barnes has shown them the way, and they are coming. We’re in the process of interviewing meet-and-greeters. Preference will be given to candidates who are psychic, deranged, and have poor judgment.