Matt Hill was born in 1984 and grew up in Tameside, Greater Manchester. After completing a journalism degree at Cardiff University, he trained as a copywriter. He now lives and works in London.
His first novel, The Folded Man, was runner-up in the 2012 Dundee International Book Prize.
This is first in a series of 5 question Q&As that I’ll be posting in the coming months. Matt Hill kindly answered a few of my questions about his new book, Graft.
Kristin Centorcelli: Will you tell us about your new book, GRAFT?
Matt Hill: Graft is a near-future SF crime-thriller set in a post-collapse UK a decade from now. Sol, a mechanic in Manchester, makes ends meet by stealing old vehicles from around the city to scavenge parts for repair jobs. But when Sol’s partner decides to jack a high-value model, things take a bleak(er) turn: Sol discovers a voiceless, three-armed woman in the boot.
This woman, Y, has been augmented and trafficked through a dimensional rift by a shadowy organisation that’s exploiting people (and advanced technology) to corner the labour market. And so when Y and Sol go on the run together, it doesn’t take long for the traffickers to follow. The two of them have to first try and understand each other, and then work out what the hell they can do about it. And they don’t have the luxury of time.
KC: Why do you think readers will root for Sol and Y?
MH: Y and Sol have to become a team in spite of themselves and the world they live in. They’re both strangers and strange to each other, each with their own agenda, and neither of them want to be in the situation they find themselves in. I guess that’s the book’s heart: there’s hopefully something compelling about two strangers forging an unlikely partnership to try and beat grim odds.
Graft also follows several other characters who’ve been transformed in major ways by events or choices in the past, and who are doing their best to get by. I guess there’s a doggedness to all of them – a willingness to fight and thrive and show compassion despite almost impossible hardship. I think that spirit of sticking up two fingers to adversity is innately human, and I want that to resonate.
KC: What kind of research did you do for this book?
MH: Much of Graft’s make-up comes from me reading too much news, an interest in (or mild fear of) accelerating technology, and a fascination with crime stories, both real and fictional. I’m always intrigued by the imagination and motivation behind certain petty crimes, for instance. In terms of place, it probably helped that I was revisiting some parts of the near-future Manchester I’d put down in The Folded Man. And, of course, I grew up in and around the city, so I know it well.
But writing about something as complex as trafficking comes with a different responsibility, especially when you’re no expert, so research was essential. After reading books, articles and reports around the subject, it was obvious that I wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) need to invent or imagine. For this reason, many of the book’s scenes use my non-fiction reading – and reality – as a basis.
KC: For you, what makes a good story? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
MH: I’m definitely a sucker for interesting style, for interesting language. A certain way of describing the world that can make even mundane stuff really special. A good sense of place is obviously a plus, along with characters you believe in whether they’re ‘likeable’ or not. I also like being challenged or made to feel uncomfortable, and so I think I have a soft spot for uncompromising work that doesn’t really care what you think of it.
To be honest, it’s rare that I leave a book unfinished, even if I’m struggling with it. I just can’t will myself to stop. That said, my no-nos are probably lazy clichés and dialogue. The standard stuff. I much prefer it when you can sense a writer having fun, or being absolutely desperate to write what you’re reading.
KC: What’s next for you?
MH: I’m getting fairly close to finishing the first draft of a new novel, which follows a journalist and a steeplejack into the soggy world of urban exploration. Weird lifeforms, derelict installations and gentle body horror – lovely! Beyond that, I don’t have a clue. Loads of writers seem to get about fifty ideas for new stories while they’re working on their current one, but it doesn’t happen that way for me. Maybe I’m from a faulty batch.