Monday, May 17, 2010

7 Questions: Matthew Mayo

Interview by David Cranmer

What is your favorite genre to write in and why?

My favorite genre to write in at present is the Western genre, largely because I've experienced the most success in it (so far, he says with fingers crossed and eyebrows wagging). I've written and published in several others (horror, noiry crime, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, balls-out action), and I have a few long-form projects in genres other than Westerns with my agent, so ... wish me luck!

As to why I dig the Western genre, it's a pretty tame response, I'm afraid: I was weaned on TV Westerns, love 'em still, and reading them is a particular thrill. I'm nearly finished reading one now, as a matter of fact, a Ralph Compton by David Robbins called "For the Brand," that's fantastic. I also like rooting around in history, finding out about societal norms, habits, dress, language, etc., and the Old West was so full of diversity in those respects--and others--that to try and write about them and that time is a fun challenge that I think most folks who write Westerns feel. Plus, in my head I'm a cowboy, riding my buckskin, smoking a quirley, and squinting at the damned rustlers skidding down the slope off to my right, knowing I'm going to have to hang 'em high before the hour's up.

Typically, how long does it take you to research one of your books?

Matthew P. Mayo's latest book
For novels, though there are specific periods of research for each that can last for days or weeks, I'd say that most of my research, other than verifying facts, etc., is done every day in reading and listening. For the non-fiction books, it's difficult to answer because though I usually spend a few months researching before writing a book, more research also happens concurrently with the writing of the book. The non-fiction books take from a couple of months to six, eight, or more to research, then write. That was the case with Cowboys, Mountain Men & Grizzly Bears and also for Bootleggers, Lobstermen & Lumberjacks (out in October, 2010!). I'm just now diving into my fourth and fifth non-fiction books, which will overlap in the research and writing process, then a sixth will follow closely on their heels. And I'll shoe-horn novels and short stories into that mix.

Can you give us a sneak peek of these upcoming books?

Upcoming novels--can't say too much, except that one's a Western, the other two aren't.

Non-fiction: The New England version of Cowboys, Mountain Men & Grizzly Bears comes out in October, 2010. It's called Bootleggers, Lobstermen & Lumberjacks: Fifty of the Grittiest Moments in the History of Hardscrabble New England (1620-1950). It's similar in vibe and construction to the previous book, 265 or so pages, plus index, bibliography, etc., and two dozen historic photos and illustrations. Here's a brief blurb about it:

"The story of New England is built on an endless armature of fascinating tales of Yankee ingenuity and hardy, intrepid characters. Bootleggers, Lobstermen, and Lumberjacks takes the top fifty wildest episodes in the region’s bygone days and presents them to the reader in one convenient, narrative-driven package. Including incredible but true tales of hardy Yankee hill folk and crusty seafarers engaged in all manner of amazing activity—from witch-hunting to log rolling, often with tragic results—this book is a perfect stroll through New England’s past for resident and visitor alike. Yankee history is rife with all manner of shipwreck victims surviving any way they knew how; Indian, pirate, and shark attacks, cougar and bear attacks, and, of course, rum runners and bootleggers doing what they do best."

Plus my wife (photographer Jennifer Smith-Mayo), and I just turned in a coffee table book about Maine. The series of books is called Icons, so this one is Maine Icons: Fifty Timeless Symbols of the Pine Tree State. She photographs and I write--it's been good fun working with her on book-length projects. So much so, in fact, that we're signed up to do two more: Vermont and New Hampshire, and are planning them out now. Then I have another book lined up for the "gritty moments" series. This time I'm headed back out West, but with a different theme: Frontier Prospecting. I'm already researching it and can't wait to dive in fully.

How is your new iPad working out for you?

The iPad is actually my wife's. She's a multimedia and photography instructor and likes to keep up on the latest gadgets and whatnots. I love old paperbacks—the smell, the feel, the size, everything—but the ebook revolution seems to be on us, so I'm trying to get savvy with it. The iPad is pretty darned cool. If I owned a Kindle, I'd be peeved right now. Black and white? What were the powerlords at Amazon thinking? Holding out for more money with a later version, I'm sure. Why would I not want to see the color cover of a book I've bought? I've had the opportunity to monkey with both and the iPad is the hands-down winner. It's more comfortable to read, the screen is lovely, the colors pop and comic books look amazing on it. So do magazines, newspapers, and the Web. Imagine the versions we'll get in a few years! Just don't take away my paperbacks.

Who are your influences?

Lovey Howell
Influential people, animals, and circumstances pop in and out all the time and include my parents, my brother, my wife, our dogs, and on and on. As far as writers whose work I enjoy (and so probably influence me), the list is varied. Edgar Rice Burroughs remains a top fave for so many reasons--sheer inventiveness not the least of them. I'm fond of Raymond Carver, Richard Brautigan, Charles Bukowski, and Harry Crews. As far as Western writers go, I really dig Jack Schaefer's writing, ditto for Ernest Haycox and Louis L'Amour. Contemporary Western authors I admire and so probably influence me are Loren D. Estleman, Johnny D. Boggs, Elmer Kelton, Larry D. Sweazy, Peter Brandvold, Joseph A. West, and David L. Robbins (the Wilderness series is a guaranteed fun read). I also have tried to learn from Stephen King, Jim Thompson, Raymond Chandler, Ed McBain, Donald Hamilton, Mickey Spillane, and Robert B. Parker. I'm missing hundreds more, I'm sure. Stop me while there's still time....

What has Matt Mayo done that he is downright ashamed of?

Oh ... lordy.... Perhaps I feel bad when I pick on Kindle people. Nah. Maybe when I failed to claim that winning lottery ticket as income. Nah. Probably when I shoot squirrels with my Red Ryder. But I swear the little bastids taunt me non-stop.

Ginger or Mary-Ann?

Mrs. Howell. No one can work a pantsuit like that. And after all, they don't call her "Lovey" for nothin'.....

Mayo's website.


  1. Good interview. I've been on a serious western kick lately. gotta check some of Mayo's stuff out.

  2. Terrific piece, guys! Thumbs-up on the list of influential writers.

  3. Charles,You will become an instant fan guaranteed.

    Richard, He reminded me I haven't read any Johnny D. Boggs in awhile.