Matthew Hughes writes fantasy and suspense fiction. he’s won the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, and has been shortlisted for the Aurora, Nebula, Philip K. Dick, A.E. Van Vogt, and Derringer Awards. He’s worked as a writer all his adult life, as a journalist, a staff speechwriter to the Canadian Ministers of Justice and Environment, and as a freelance corporate and political speechwriter in British Columbia. He’s also a former director of the Federation of British Columbia Writers. He is the author of several dozen short stories, some of which have been collected in The Gist Hunter and Other Stories (2005) and Nine Tales of Henghis Hapthorn (2013). His novels include Fools Errant, Black Brillion, several novels about a far-futuristic Sherlock Holmesian detective Henghis Hapthorn (Majestrum, The Spiral Labyrinth, and Hespira), The Commons, Template, the To Hell and Back superhero sequence (The Damned Busters, Costume Not Included and Hell to Pay), and Paroxysm. His latest is anotehr collection of short fiction,The Compleat Guth Bandar.
We had the chance to talk to Matthew about his writing, his influences and why his fiction is so damned funny.
Q: Hi Matt. Thanks for the interview! You often infuse your writing with wit. Your sequence of stories and novels involving Henghis Hapthorn, the far-future world’s foremost discriminator, are particularly hilarious. Why infuse that humor and how do you manage to do so without detracting from the weight of the story?
Matthew Hughes: Humor comes naturally to me, I suppose. And Hapthorn is such a puffed-up egotist — though not without cause; he is brilliant — that I just have to take him down a peg. Though I do it gently, because I’m actually fond of my characters. The technique, in a nutshell, is to write about serious matters in a way that draws a laugh, or at least a chuckle, even as the threats and dangers pile up.
Q: Your ARCHONATE stories show a heavy influence by Jack Vance. Are there any other writers who have shaped your writing?
Matthew Hughes: Yes. P.G. Wodehouse (of Jeeves and Bertie fame), who was also a major influence on Vance. If I’m wearing my crime writer’s hat (wide-brimmed fedora, circa 1937), I’m influenced by Elmore Leonard when it come to dialog, and Lawrence Block when it comes to character.
Q: Can you name 1 underrated writer, 1 underrated book and 1 book you’re dying to read?
Matthew Hughes: Besides me, you mean? I think it’s sad that Thorne Smith has been almost completely forgotten. Everyone should read hyis erotic and alcohol-fueled romps when they’re teenagers, and especially his The Night Life of the Gods, cause it’s an absolute hoot.
The book I’m dying to read: whatever Cecelia Holland or Graham Joyce writes next.
Q: You’ve recently taken to self-publishing your back catalog. What have you learned about the do-it-yourself approach?
Matthew Hughes: That I benefit hugely from the volunteer assistance of Bradley W. Schenck (www.webomator.com), who brilliantly set up my web store and makes my books works of art. And that promoting my books is way harder, and more time consuming, than writing them.
Q: Your latest release is the collection THE COMPLEAT GUTH BANDAR. What are these stories about? What should readers expect?
Matthew Hughes: Readers should expect thrills and chills, chuckles, and a gentle introduction to Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious. The stories are set in my entirely improbable far-future Old Earth, where scholars of the Institute of Historical Inquiry have been using mental discipline to explore and map The Commons, as they call the collective memory of humankind. A young aspiring academic, Guth Bandar, finds his career plans upset and diverted by a series of strange occurences, which lead him to understand that the dreamworld is waking up — the collective unconscious has become, in other words, conscious — and that it has a plan for him. A really dangerous plan, involving a genuinely horrific alien invasion.
Q: You’ve done far-future stories (the ARCHONATE Sequence) and superhero stories (the TO HELL AND BACK sequence) and gaming (TEMPLATE). What’s next up for you?
Matthew Hughes: I’ll be dipping into the past. I’ve just received word that the Canada Council for the Arts has awarded me a substantial grant that will allow me to write a historical novel that I’ve been thinking about for forty years. It will be my shot at the Man Booker Prize. I’m simultaneously delighted and acutely conscious of having to deliver on a project I’ve been talking up since 1972.