NiFtY Author: Matt Coonfield

I have a very special NiFtY Author Interview for you today, featuring one of my favorite people in the world: my little brother. He hasn’t always been my favorite person. There was this time once when we were playing Legos and he was obviously wrong about something, and we weren’t very good friends right then…but I digress.

Here’s his interview. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll throw tomatoes and have to clean off your computer screen. Good luck with that.

BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for your work-in-progress?

MC: I don’t want to give away too much. I am actually quite paranoid. The short version is a young man named Ray starts a civil war in the ghost world in an odd and adventurous way.

BH: What was the biggest challenge in finishing your first draft?

MC: Honestly my biggest challenge has always been me. I am a big lazy hurdle that I just can’t jump. I don’t like to write when it is hard, when I have to grind it out. Generally I only like to write when it is flowing. Anyone who writes knows what I am talking about. When you can churn out twenty pages a day and the only reason you stop is fear of carpal tunnel. When your thoughts are practically jumping on to the paper for you. That is when I like to write. When this doesn’t happen I start a new book. Oddly I have never finished one until now.

BH: Can you compare Ray, the main character in your work-in-progress, to anyone you know in real life?

MC: I guess parts of him are me of course or parts of me if that makes sense. I’m not schizo or anything but I like to pretend I am Jared from The Pretender. I have hidden Matt compartments that I draw from and one of them happens to be a teenage ghost-hunting ghost, conveniently enough.

BH: I understand you’re working closely with somebody else on this project. What is his role in your project?

MC: As I mentioned earlier I am notoriously lazy when it comes to writing. My partner’s name is Don and he is basically my dentist. That is to say he pulls teeth. We have only been working together a short time and I am considering buying another cell phone and not giving him the number. Other than that he does all the things I hate: paperwork, typing, forms, queries. Once he offered to paint my garage if I promised to write more.

BH: What is your experience like, working with another person? What are the pros and cons of this arrangement?

MC: Well Don can be quite persistent sometimes calling me four or five times a day. I had to get used to it at first but we’ve come to an understanding now. He has given me 100 percent artistic say so, which was a condition when we first started, but even then sometimes he feels adamant about something and I hate to put my foot down too much. There is one scene in particular in the book that he wrote and it makes me leery but I have let it go so far.

BH: One of the things about your writing that impresses me is all the crazy ideas you come up with—ideas that you can make work. Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?

MC: Well… My faith is definitely an inspiration to me. Really I don’t think I could write without the Bible. Not that my stories are Christian but the right and wrongs for me come straight from the source. After that I steal them. I guess it sounds weird to say that right after my Jesus plug but it is honestly what happens. I always read things, good and bad, and I can see the improvements that need to happen. I see a tweak that if the author had seen could have changed his whole piece for the better. When I find those tweaks early enough in a book or combine them with other tweaks I get really excited about what I can do with it and when I get excited….

BH: What is your writing schedule like?

MC:  I try to fit it in between reading and Pokemon but too often I am forced to combine two of the three to make up for time.

BH: How has your writing changed—either the scheduling or the experience itself—after becoming a father?

MC: My scheduling has definitely become more intense. The very reason I had agreed to work with my coauthor in the first place is money. I need it. I can’t sell a book if I don’t finish one so I brought on Don to help me finish my books. The experience hasn’t changed in the least, I just have a deeper well to draw from.

BH: What does your writing workspace look like?

MC: My writing workspace looks suspiciously like the cab of a Nissan Frontier. Much to the chagrin of my typist most of my good ideas come when I should be paying attention to the road. This makes for some very peculiar handwriting and possibly the next unfinished series. We all know how well it worked out for the Canterbury Tales. Don’t judge me.

BH: Just remind me to avoid the road when inspiration hits. What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

MC: A notebook.

Beth and Matt Read Catching Fire

BH: You told me recently that Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games is not your favorite book, but it made it into your “top ten.” What is your Top Ten?

MC: The Bible, X-Men, Dracula, Death in the Long Grass, The Night the Bear Ate Goomba, Yvain, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, The Great Divorce, God’s Grandeur.

BH: Twilight didn’t make it into your Top Ten, but we both admit we enjoyed it. What, exactly, is so compelling about that Twilight series? Why are these books so popular, in your opinion?

MC: Stephenie did something real special and it took her like a whole month. She tapped into something that was important to young women and made it interesting to young men. She took elements of comic books (which is why it translated so well to graphic novel), Fabio, and Mythology and made it her own. She didn’t follow rules, and she didn’t heed the pressure to omit her beliefs, i.e. her morals. I don’t think it was the best writing in the world but I loved it and I respect what she did… except for the huge let down in the end. That pissed me off but since the plot was ripped off another story what can you say?

BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

MC: Write down what you are feeling now matter how silly it sounds. It will make sense to everyone.

BH: Why do you want to be published?

MC: I would like to be superficial and say it is to finance my laziness but the truth is I want to be able to talk about it with someone, someone who liked what I wrote and who wants to talk with me about it.

BH: Who is your real-life writing role model? [Hint: the answer should be someone you grew up with. Who maybe lived down the hall from you. She had a pink room for a few years. And a cat named Apricot.]

MC: C.S. Lewis, Stan Lee, and Patrick F. McManus. I hate to admit but my sister’s love for all things academic never made sense to me as a child. I get it now and all those years may have rubbed off on me a bit.

BH: Eh, that’s practically saying that your sister taught you everything you know. Any words or advice to other writers for keeping the hope alive?

MC: Give up. The market is closed. You can’t do it.

BH: Hmm. Yep, that’s my brother.

Thanks, Matt, for the fun interview!


  1. Randi · August 20, 2010

    Yep, that’s my son and my daughter! You are right, I laughed and cried. No tomatoes, though…I’ll do that in person! Love you both!

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