Sunday 15 May 2016

GUEST POST: Confessions of my Past, Present and Future #32 - Matt Hickman

Confessions of my Past, Present and Future


Matt Hickman

The Past

I think the reason that most people take to writing is that they all have that creative streak inside of them, frustrated - desperate to be unleashed. It could be one single idea; it could be an entire series of novels, which they have meticulously planned over many years before finally residing to task. Sentencing themselves to endless, torturous hours at a computer screen with endless re-writes and edits. I wish that I could say that writing has always been in my blood. Something that I have nurtured and developed into a fine art over many years but that’s simply not the case. For me, writing is a new process. Despite my English teacher telling me in my final years of school that I had some capability, I chose to ignore his advice, and many years later, here I am, still learning the technical aspects of the craft. Writing is a creative outlet. Constructing the various elements of a story can be an intimidating assignment; however, it can also be very rewarding.

Reading on the other hand, is something that is very much in my blood. From an age as early as I can remember, I have always enjoyed reading books. Whilst many children pursued other pastimes such as football or rugby, I was the geek that sat in the corner of the playground with my nose planted firmly in a book. In primary school, classes often had reading projects involving books. Stig of the Dump by Clive King or The Iron Man by Ted Hughes are two that immediately spring to mind.  Most of the other kids in the class would roll their eyes at the prospect of reading a book and having to pull apart its innards, I would crack my knuckles and prepare to get started. This was the point where my parents noticed that I had a partiality for literature. Not coming from a wealthy enough background to support my love of books, they did the next best thing; they took me to join the local library. I was about eight years old; one of my earliest and fondest memories. Thirty years on and I can still recall the experience with clarity. Talk about a kid in a sweet shop.

By the time I was ten years old, I had read a whole host of classic books such as the Just So Stories, The Jungle Books and Captain Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair and Prince Caspian by C.S Lewis. Charlotte’s Web by E.B White. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien and A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne; books that crossed over any boundaries of age or sex. They allowed the reader to immerse themselves inside a completely new world within their pages. It was within this period of my childhood that I also discovered Roald Dahl. I was immediately intrigued. For Christmas one year, my parents gave me his complete works. Even to this day, one of the best presents that I’ve ever received. I just loved them all - Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tales of the Unexpected, The Witches, The BFG and The Twits amongst others. At eleven years old, I read my first horror book - Dracula by Bram Stoker. Fascinated by this dark, gothic world, this book was to become the foundation for my love of horror literature.

By the age of fourteen or so, I picked up a book written by Thomas Harris – Red Dragon. I can’t remember exactly where the book came from; I think an older cousin gave it to me. The book was terrifying; it was a defining moment for me in my world of fiction. The characters and plot were remarkable; the book introduced me to a realm where the terror aspect of the story became believable due to its realism; the sort of book that made you dubious about turning the lights off. It also introduced me to one character who I was to invest a lifelong interest in, Hannibal Lecter.  A few years later, I picked up a book by another horror writer - Endless Night by Richard Laymon. His style of writing really interested me. It was a dark and ultimately brutal story. The intense scenes were adrenaline and terror filled. One thing that really stood out for me in the story was the mixture of his third and first person perspectives, whilst writing as the antagonist under the slogan of Simon Says. From here on in, I went on to read every single book that he wrote - The Stake, The Cellar, and Island being amongst my favourites. I spent the next couple of years reading work from other leading horror authors.

Stephen King became my author of choice for quite a while. Although I found one or two of his titles were not to my taste, overall, he delivered with the same consistent quality. My favourites included Salem’s Lot, The Body, Misery, and IT. Whilst my cousin was having a clear out she offered me some more hand-me-downs of her old books, of course, I gladly accepted. In amongst them was an old, battered copy of The Fog by James Herbert, another book that totally blew my mind. I quickly went on to read most of his collection, my favourites being the aforementioned, The Rats, and the atmospheric -The Dark. This love of seeking and inhaling horror books went on for years.

The Present

Whilst working with a guy about five years ago who was an avid reader, one quiet lunchtime we got chatting about books. Now, anyone who knows me may have been through this experience and will understand how animated I can get. He asked me if I had ever read anything by an author named Irvine Welsh. I hadn’t, I knew of his name through the film Trainspotting, however I had never picked up any of his books because I didn’t think that they would be my sort of thing. He lent me a copy of a book called The Acid House, which was a collection of short stories and insisted that I read it. A little sceptical at first, I gave it a go and absolutely loved it. I found the collection to be completely bizarre and disturbing, yet hysterically funny. His characters were deeply flawed and vicious, yet fantastic and entertaining in the same breath. I had to go and seek out more of his books. I read each of them back to back.

My taste in reading isn’t exclusive to one type of genre. I was speaking to my sister one evening over a glass of wine when she waved a book in front of me by an author named Lee Child. I’ll admit that at that time, I’d never heard of him. The book was Killing Floor; it was the first instalment of a series of books based around a character named Jack Reacher. Reacher, portrayed as the no nonsense, ex-military police officer became the ultimate anti-hero. No place of abode, no family or friends, he did what he liked - whenever he liked. Upon reading the book, in addition to how much fun the character was, I was astounded how well the book was written. I went back through and started to read the whole series, with the fifth instalment; Echo Burning being amongst my favourites.

As technology evolved, there was to be an invention that would revolutionise the way that people read books – The Amazon Kindle. The first Kindle that I bought opened up a completely new platform of writers to me because of the way that the management of preferences worked on the Kindle bookstore. I began to find new writers. One in particular that caught my interest was Alex Kava, an American author of fast paced, psychological thrillers. After reading A Necessary Evil, she was a writer that became a firm favourite. Another was J.A Konrath. He had a series of crime thrillers available featuring a female police Lieutenant named Jack Daniels. Each book named after a cocktail - Whiskey Sour, Rusty Nail and so on. I found them to be an easy, enjoyable read, where sometimes the content would be horrific and violent and could border into the realms of realistic horror.

With my interest well and truly piqued, I discovered that Konrath had also written a fantastic series of more extreme horror books under a pen name - Jack Kilborn. These were Afraid, Trapped, and Endurance. Followed by the brilliant Haunted House, where the writer ingeniously regrouped many of the surviving characters for one last bout of carnage. These books were hard-hitting, terror-fuelled pieces of fiction. At the time, I couldn’t get enough, and they reignited my love for all things horror. I also hunted down some of his other extreme titles such as Serial Killers Uncut, who he collaborated on with Blake Crouch. Another writer whose work that I went on to devour. In particular, placing the Andrew Thomas and Luther Kite series amongst my favourites.

Following on from reading Konrath’s book - Origin, I was soon to discover another writer who collaborated on the follow up title. His name was Iain Rob Wright. The book - Holes in the Ground was something else. I immediately went in pursuit of his back catalogue and snapped them up. I loved that mixture of a more traditional horror story placed in a contemporary setting.  Favourites included Sam, and Seasick. In the back of one of Iain’s books, he had some bonus material; I found a short story by an extreme horror author named Matt Shaw. After enjoying the story, I went on to discover his unique brand of extreme horror with his black cover series. I subsequently went on to read nearly his entire, extensive back catalogue. I always find it refreshing how he can rebrand himself and continue to keep himself significant in a constantly evolving market. Favourites included Porn and S*ck B*stards. Since then, I went on to discover a whole host of fantastic writers. Each of these authors are still out there, all producing phenomenal work. Writer’s like Michael Bray, Graeme Reynolds, Ian Woodhead to name but a few. The list could go on.

The Future

About twelve months ago, I came across an interview on social media with an emerging writer named Stuart Keane. I’m not entirely sure what it was that caught my attention about him; I think it was due to people comparing his writing to Richard Laymon. This I had to see. The first book that I read of his was his novella - Charlotte. After completing it, I collected my jaw from the floor and went to grab his first full-length novel - All or Nothing. Again, immediately captivated by the writer’s fluid prose, colourful descriptions and horrific story lines, I read the whole thing in one sitting. Still a great fan of his style, I enjoy watching him go from strength to strength, he is one to watch out for. He simply knows horror.

The best thing is that he is continually improving. In addition to Stuart, there is a writer named Kyle M Scott. I read his contribution to the collection - Carnage and knew straight off that this guy was a gifted writer. Looking up some of his other titles, I read them all, starting with Devils Day. A book that was a throwback to the 1980’s style of horror. Kyle has a knack of creating characters and situations that are so believable that you actually feel part of the action. He has the ability to make you picture yourself alongside a funeral in the pouring rain, sharing the anguish of a broken father in one breath and bursting out laughing at some of the most ludicrously disgusting, stomach churning depravity in the next.

Jack Rollins is another writer that has making a name for himself recently. Jack peddles his unique brand of gothic and Victorian style horror. His series - The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing is something that I still believe that only someone who had once lived a past life could write. The attention to detail and points of reference were phenomenal. His publishing house - Dark Chapter Press is also going from strength to strength with every subsequent release. Talking of which, I would like to mention a writer named Brian Minekime. He writes under the pen name Feind Gottes. He is one of the few writers currently, that can effectively tap into my fears and absolutely terrify the living daylights out me. He is definitely a name that you will be hearing in the coming months and years - be warned.

One last mention is a book that I read recently off the back of its review on this very website. The book - Upon Waking by an author named JR Park. I had heard a few good things about his book so picked it up and gave it a go. Despite the warnings that I heard and despite thinking, I was ready, I don’t think that I was. Reading it was still like an unexpected right hook to the throat, it was unbelievable. Scary, disgusting, gritty and unpredictable. He is becoming more prolific than ever and is definitely a name that I will be keeping a close eye on.

So what does the future hold for me? As far as writing goes, lots and lots. I have just finished my first full-length solo novel - Amnesia. A story that started as one thing, completely grew, and distended until it became something much bigger. I have planned to work on a novella next which I will be hoping to pitch to Matt Shaw Publications. I have two collaborations lined up for the summer along with the sequel to my original novella - Jeremy. All this at the same time as enjoying reading the work of the aforementioned authors and seeking out the ever-growing list of new and emerging authors that are working their way through from their humble beginnings.

You can buy any of Matt’s books here:

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Matt is an avid fan of horror fiction. He spends a majority of his free time reading books from both established and independent authors. With a diverse knowledge of the genre, he has now tried his hand at writing horror. With the support of his peers, some of which are established writers themselves, he now approaches a new career, one that will see him take horror by storm. His influences lead right back to traditional horror writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker and William Hope Hodgson through to the more traditional horror writers such as Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Dean Koontz, James Herbert and Clive Barker to newer names such as Alex Kava, JA Konrath, Bryan Smith, Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Iain Rob Wright, Graeme Reynolds, Tim Miller and Ian Woodhead right the way through to emerging writers who are currently starting out such as Stuart Keane, Jack Rollins, Kyle M Scott, Andrew Lennon and Shaun Hupp.

He currently resides in Tipton, a small town in the West Midlands with his partner and two children. He travels the width breadth of the UK on a regular basis as a Sales Manager for a construction company.

His writing debut, a collaboration with Andrew Lennon; Hexad, is available now as a digital download or paperback from Amazon.

He has since been featured in an anthology by Matt Shaw - Behind Closed Doors, which is available for digital download now from Amazon, to be followed by inclusion into an anthology from Dark Chapter Press - Kids, and The Dichotomy of Christmas, featuring such established names as Graham Masterson and Kealan Patrick Burke.

And for more about Matt, visit his site or find him on social media:

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