Meghan: Hi, Matthew. Welcome to my annual Halloween Extravaganza. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Matthew C. Woodruff: I’m pretty average, I think. I work, I write, I play with my cats. I’m always dieting, LOL.
Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?
Matthew C. Woodruff: Five things? I don’t know if I’m all that mysterious. I worked for several years as the Conductor on the Polar Express. About 25 years ago I travelled by train through Northern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia for six weeks. I owned an ice cream shop for a few years (thus the need to diet). I have a large collection of stuffed animal friends. Well, that’s four. I can’t think of another one.
Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?
Matthew C. Woodruff: Finally, an easy question! When I was seven my older brother gave me a Brains Benton mystery and I was forever hooked on reading.
Meghan: What are you reading now?
Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?
Meghan: What made you decide you want to write?
Matthew C. Woodruff: I had stories I needed to expel from my brain, LOL.
Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?
Matthew C. Woodruff: If you promise not to tell – I do most of my writing at work… it’s the only place I can be undisturbed.
Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
Matthew C. Woodruff: Like most writers I think, I have to be careful not to think about my writing unless I am sitting in front of a keyboard, otherwise the whole story pours into my mind and then I forget it all. I wrote one of the stories in my 26 Absurdities on my phone while walking across campus one evening, because I was compelled to.
Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Matthew C. Woodruff: Mainly just putting the words together so they make sense. I tend to build my sentences backwards for some reason.
Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?
Matthew C. Woodruff: My debut collection of short stories 26 Absurdities of Tragic Proportions was inspired by the illustrations of Edward Gorey, I have always been fascinated with his macabre drawings and am thrilled to have completed this work of dark humor based on his alphabetized poem in The Gashlycrumb Tinies. The fact that it was selected as a finalist in the American Fiction Awards was also very satisfying.
Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?
Matthew C. Woodruff: Certainly Robert Jordan’s style of character development has inspired me.
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
Matthew C. Woodruff: I think realism is vitally important to a story. I don’t mean to say it can’t be made up Sci-Fi or Fantasy, but the plot and characters need to react and develop in a realistic way. For a negative example, I remember seeing a movie a few years ago where the main character’s girlfriend found out a villain was after him and then went home and took a nap or something. The writer wanted to reveal something to us, but the girlfriend character’s reaction was totally unrealistic. It ruined the whole movie for me. Along with the realism theme of this over-winded answer, research is important. Get the facts right. The internet is a great resource for basic facts.
Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?
Matthew C. Woodruff: I believe no one is one thing or the other. People are a mix of good and bad, good decisions and bad decisions, honesty and dishonesty. Characters also should be enigmas to some extent.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
Matthew C. Woodruff: Several of the events that my characters experience in 26 Absurdities are taken directly from my childhood. The stories of Hector, James, Titus, Victor, Winnie, Xerxes and Yorick all have elements of my childhood in them. I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out which.
Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?
Matthew C. Woodruff: I consider myself something of a graphic designer as well, so I do create my own covers and I am particularly proud of the cover on my upcoming book Tales from the Aether. This book also has a secret – I have included an illustration for each of the stories.
Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?
Matthew C. Woodruff: Muse is a harsh mistress.
Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?
Matthew C. Woodruff: There is a slightly romantic theme between a man and a woman in one of my new stories that I found hard to write from the woman’s point of view.
Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
Matthew C. Woodruff: Obviously, they are the best thing ever written! Dark humor and dark fiction/horror can be difficult to combine, but I think I do a pretty good job.
Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?
Matthew C. Woodruff: The title is vitally important, as is the cover. A writer has 10 seconds to hook a reader and the cover and title are the bait. The title 26 Absurdities of Tragic Proportions is a play on words – the book is about the unusual deaths of 26 children, thus the word ‘proportions’ is meant to highlight the fact that it was all little kids involved in the tragedies.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
Matthew C. Woodruff: I can only write short stories. I do not have the discipline or the will to become involved in writing something that takes years. I need instant gratification that only writing a short story can give me.
Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.
Matthew C. Woodruff: I hate to say it, but some of the dark humor in my stories require some intelligence to understand. People either love them or hate them. In fact, there has been research that shows that people who enjoy dark humor are more intelligent. I’m just lucky I understand any of it, LOL.
Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?
Matthew C. Woodruff: That is an interesting question, my stories are complete from the start to finish with very little editing involved. As the stories flood into my mind and I transcribe them, they are complete. “Take away one word, and the sentence fails, take away one sentence and the paragraph fails, take away one paragraph and the whole work fails.” – misquoted Salieri in Amadeus. In other words, I can’t abide removing any part of my story, LOL.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Matthew C. Woodruff: My newest collection of short stories, Tales from the Aether, will be out later this year (December 1, 2019). After that, who knows? Depends on my inspiration.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?
Matthew C. Woodruff: I am an Indie writer by choice. I turned down a publishing offer for 26 Absurdities. I don’t agree with the whole publishing culture of querying (begging) for representation then giving over the bulk of the profits from our work to a bunch of middle-men. Give Indie writers, musicians, artists, etc. a chance. We are better than you may think. And to my newbie writer friends: write for yourself not for the marketing people. If you are moved and inspired by a story you’ve created, so will others be.
Matthew grew up in upstate New York surrounded by books (and snow). After founding what became the most widely distributed alternative arts and entertainment magazine in upstate NY (based in Albany), Matthew moved to Greenville, FL where he accepted a position on staff at the University of Florida.
His first book, 26 Absurdities of Tragic Proportions, was inspired by his love of the macabre illustrations by artists like Edward Gorey. Selected as a finalist in the American Fiction Awards, 26 Absurdities may be the most unique collection of short stories ever written.
Matthew’s second book, Tales from the Aether, continues in the Dark Humor/Dark Fiction genre and is scheduled to be released November 1, 2019.
Awarded Finalist Prize in the 2019 American Fiction Awards ‘Short Stories’ Category by American Book Fest.
An utterly fascinating collection of short tales inspired by Edward Gorey’s alphabetical illustrations in “The Gashlycrumb Tinies.” These tales capture the essence of dark humor and satire with one tale for each child depicted in Gorey’s most famous illustrations. These tales are all about human behavior, characteristics, chance and choice, and life and death. From mystery to sci-fi from drama to fairy tale and from adventure to gothic, this book has something for everyone.
In this extraordinary collection of ‘dark’ short stories, Matthew C. Woodruff explores the timeless questions of Joy, Fear, Love, Loss, Foreboding and Incomprehension. All set around particular holidays, the characters in these twelve stories experience things we can only imagine. These stories will make the reader stop to wonder if anyone ever really knows those closest to them or even the world around them.