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Saturday, 4 June 2016
Hi Matthew, thank you for joining me here at the Lad Lit Blog. Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your books?
Good to be here…virtually. I’m an advertising copywriter in Baltimore, Maryland with a wife and two daughters. At night and on weekends, I write novels. First and foremost, my books are comedies. It’s taken me a while to fully admit that to myself. There are serious things in them, of course—even downright depressing things. But humor is always there. I like comedy because it makes the difficult stuff more palatable.
You have a new book coming out now called We're All Damaged. What can you tell me about it and why should readers pick up a copy?
Again, it’s a comedy, which I think makes it fun to read, and it’s filled with pop culture references and contemporary music. But, at its core, We’re All Damaged is about a guy named Andy Carter and his journey back from heartbreak. Man or woman, young or old, gay or straight, we’ve all been hurt. We’ve all been, well…damaged. Consequently, through all of his bad decisions, questionable behavior, and cries for help, I think readers will see a lot of themselves in Andy.
The main character, Andy Carter, sounds like he is having a bit of a tough time. Why do we find other people's misfortunes so amusing?
In the context of fiction, I think it’s mostly about storytelling, really. Happy people with no problems and easy lives are boring to read about. The flip side of misfortune is redemption, which, ultimately, is something that I think readers are rooting for. If we’re talking about real life, though, I think the answer is more complicated. We’re a tear-down culture, for sure. Maybe other people’s problems help us deal with our own problems. If everyone’s unhappy, maybe it’s OK if I’m unhappy, too.
Your first book, Domestic Violets, was nominated for the Best Humor Category at the 2011 Goodreads. How much do nominations like this help you as an author?
Awards and recognitions can be really valuable, particularly for writers like me who have managed to so skillfully avoid fame. The Goodreads nomination introduced Domestic Violets to tons of readers who never would have seen it otherwise. It amounts to free publicity, essentially. And, you can never get too much of that.
Domestic Violets is about a struggling author trying to make his way in life. Any of your own experiences in there? Not that I'm calling you a struggling author with family problems, it's just, you know... Damn, this is awkward. Maybe just answer the question and help me out here?
It’s far and away the most common question I get: How much of your writing is autobiographical? The answer is complicated, I suppose. If we’re just talking in generalities, than none of my work is autobiographical. That’s because there’s not a single scene or line of dialogue in either of my books that really happened. However, I’d be lying if I said that my real life experiences haven’t informed the books. In my first novel, Tom Violet hates his job and is trying to become a writer. I’ve lived that experience. In my second novel, Andy Carter is recovering from heartbreak and trying desperately to find his way in the world. I’ve lived that experience, too. So, is my writing autobiographical? The short answer: Yes. And no.
You write what I would call lad lit, but how would you describe style of your writing?
We don’t have that term in the U.S. Over here, there’s “chick lit,” obviously, but no one is exactly sure what to call the male version of that. Here’s the simplest description I can come up with: I write very contemporary comedies about relationships and families, and, so far, I’ve done that through a male point of view. I heard someone say “dick lit” once. But…that’s just gross.
Who are your favourite authors writing in the same or similar genre?
My favorite writer is Richard Russo. His novels taught me that serious—sometimes very serious—fiction can also be funny as hell. A close second to him would be Nick Hornby. Anyone who writes the types of books that I do owes Mr. Hornby a huge debt of gratitude. When you read his work, you laugh and then you cry, and all the while you’re nodding your head, because he just gets it. Jonathan Tropper and Tom Perrotta are great, too. I like those guys a lot.
Out of all the characters you have written, who is your favourite and why?
In We’re All Damaged, there’s a group of gay rights activists that call themselves the Glitter Mafia. Their leader is a man named Stephen. Of all the imaginary people I’ve created, he’s my favorite. He was great fun to write because he says whatever the hell he wants, whenever he wants. More importantly, he plays a complicated role in the book. His cause is noble, but his tactics are mean-spirited and often, technically, illegal. I like the idea of forcing the reader, based on his or her political point of view, to cheer for someone who is a criminal.
If you could have dinner with any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
As much as I’d love to have dinner with Richard Russo, I’d probably just spend the whole time telling him how great he is. Consequently, I’ll say Jonathan Franzen. He’s arguably the most famous literary male novelist working at the moment. It’d be fun to get his perspective on writing. I’d ask him about what it’s like to write and to maintain focus amidst so much scrutiny from readers and critics. Whenever he writes something, it’s a full-on literary event. I feel like fame would be very distracting as a writer.
What can we expect from Matthew Norman next?
Another novel. Book #3 is well on its way. So far it’s coming together much faster and more smoothly than my last book. My wife and I had two kids while I was writing We’re All Damaged. Babies, in my experience, have very little respect for the writing process.
I know exactly what you mean! Thanks for joining me Matthew and good luck with the book!
Be sure to check out Matthew at his blog and on Amazon where you can pick up a copy of his brilliant new novel We're All Damaged for £3.99 on the Kindle.