I don't pick books by genre. What I look for in a book is more than just an exciting plot. I need a book to say something interesting, to make me think. I find all too often that books which fall into a specific genre are written to that genre's expectations, and as such can be quite formulaic. That's not to say, however, that I don't enjoy the odd thriller.
Did you write as a child?
Not really, but I did read voraciously, much to the detriment of my social skills!
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Growing up I remember reading a lot of fantasy-type books, like the Redwall series by Brian Jaques. Also Arthur Ransome, Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys. I once faked a week off school sick to read the Hobbit, but got bored when I started into the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In my early teens I started reading a lot of Jack Higgins thrillers, then Alastair Maclean, Frederick Forsyth, Dick Francis, Tom Clancy. I made my way through most of my parents library, which was quite varied, but which had a lot of thrillers. Another book I loved was the Commitments by Roddy Doyle, and a book called Divorcing Jack by a fellow Northern Irishman, Colin Bateman.
I suppose before all that, it was bedtime stories and frequent trips to the library with my mum which instilled in me a great love of books. There used to be a bookshop in Belfast, run by a wonderful old lady named Mrs Crane, which was my favorite place for many years.
What do you think are your most recent influences on your writing?
In the last year I've been reading a lot of Hemingway, as well as some fantastic books by Jeffrey Eugenides. I've also been reading books by John Green, Jonathan Saffran-Foer, David Mitchell, Hunter S. Thompson. At the minute I'm reading Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon, who is another author I'm a big fan of. I think that I've been influenced a lot by the 'classics' and 'modern classics' which I read at university and at school, writers like George Elliott, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh, Albert Camus, Sartre, Muriel Spark, Ginsberg, Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Joseph Conrad, Ken Kesey.
Tell me about your recent writing? Do you prefer short stories, novels, novellas?
Do you find the writing community online to be helpful?
I've found some great writer's groups on Goodreads, and I browse some of the writing and publishing threads on Reddit. I find myself reading blogs and posts, often to do with marketing, and then suddenly realizing that I would be better off just writing! I think you have to take everything you read with a pinch of salt - I've been given what appears to be great advice by very helpful and well-meaning people online, but when you read their work you realize that sometimes it is better to go with your own instincts.
What would you most like to do, which you haven't already, that would help with your writing?
Take a year off work, create a dedicated workspace and just go for it! At the minute my writing has to fit around work and family, so I don't write as much as I would like, but family comes first, which is how it should be!
Any great lines you would love to have written?
"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms.
Do you have any blogs or websites that you think are great and want to share?
I blog on my goodreads page sometimes, but generally if I have the time to blog I feel I'm better off doing some 'proper' writing. I like using goodreads to discuss books I've read, however, and reading in general. Readers can also find out about me on my amazon author page.
Matthew W. McFarland at amazon.com
Matthew W. McFarland at goodreads.com
my twitter is @mcfarlandwriter
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