1. First things first…a quick bio:
Matthew Johnson‘s work has appeared in places such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and Fantasy Magazine and has been translated into Czech, Danish and Russian. A collection of his short fiction, Irregular Verbs, will be published in 2013 by ChiZine Press; his first novel, Fall From Earth, was published in 2009 by Bundoran Press. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with his wife Megan and their sons Leo and Miles.
2. Where are you from and what’s your favorite thing about where you live?
I’m from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. My favourite thing about it (besides the fact that I grew up here and my family lives here) is that it’s an interesting city that’s a manageable size with lots of good restaurants, museums and bookstores.
3. Tell about your latest book/story. What made you want to write it?
Right now the next story I have coming up is called “The Last Islander,” which will be in Asimov’s sometime in the first half of 2012. It’s a near-future story about refugees from a Pacific island nation that’s been made uninhabitable by climate change; the main character, Saufatu, has the job of maintaining an online simulation of the country. I actually got the idea as a “just-suppose” example when I was on a panel on near-future SF at the Ad Astra convention in Toronto, and it stuck in my head.
Also in 2012 I have a story coming up in Fantasy and Science Fiction, “The Afflicted,” which I call my “I’ll never write a zombie story” zombie story — I was reading an issue of Locus and thinking about how tired of zombie stories I was when suddenly I got an idea that I couldn’t shake. Never say never!
4. Where can people find your books/stories (links please)?
On my website (www.zatrikion.blogspot.com) I have a “sampler” section with links to my stories that are available for free online; I also have links to where you can buy stories of mine that are only in print. A collection of my stories, titled Irregular Verbs, is due out in spring of 2013 from ChiZine Press. Finally, my first novel, Fall From Earth, a feminist, Confucianist first-contact space opera, is available in print, (http://store.bundoranpress.com/science-fiction/fall-from-earth.html) e-book (http://www.amazon.com/Fall-From-Earth-ebook/dp/B005G84B2Y) and audio (http://iambik.com/books/fall-earth-by-matthew-johnson/) editions.
5. What are you working on right now?
I’m trying to sell my second novel, Fire In Your Heart, which is about life in a world where God not only is provably real but comes to Earth once a generation to judge his people – until the main character discovers that He is never coming back. I’m also at the beginning stages of a new novel, very tentatively titled The City of Dreaming Spires, which is a sort-of-sequel to my story Holdfast. (http://www.fantasy-magazine.com/fiction/holdfast/)
6. What inspired you to be a writer?
I don’t remember ever not being one! Both my parents were writers, and though they wrote nonfiction (both are academics, which is a big influence on my new book) I grew up with an awareness that books were something that someone had written. I did have the advantage of getting a lot of positive feedback on my writing from early on, especially in high school where I was able to stage plays I had written in our one-act-play festivals. My interest in SF and fantasy definitely come from my mother, who had a collection of Asimov, Wyndham and so on at our cottage and used to sit me down every Sunday morning to watch Star Trek.
7. Who is your favorite character in your stories? Why?
Probably Safrat in my near-future story Lagos, because she never whines or complains, despite being in a very difficult (and largely inescapable) situation – she just gets things done.
8. What is your favorite comfort food?
Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) – it’s gotten me through many a hard winter. Mostly I like the everyday food of anywhere I go; we’ve planned whole vacations using the Roadfood website (www.roadfood.com).
9. What character from your stories was the hardest to write?
I took a long time to figure out how to make Geoffrey, the main character in my time-refugees story Another Country, tied more personally into the action, and that really stalled my writing of that story. It was only when I got the idea of him being a former refugee himself that it came together.
10. What’s the biggest challenge about being a writer?
Writing! There are always a million easier things to do, even when you clear the time to write.
11. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Carry a notebook. Keep your ears open. Read things you don’t know if you’ll like. (That goes for food, and people, too.) When possible, travel. Always be writing, even if it’s just in your head.
12. Who are your favorite authors and why (1-3 authors)?
John M. Ford, for helping me to understand what I want my writing to do. Rob Sawyer – not just for his great books but for his tireless support of young writers, myself included. (Well, I was young when I met him – younger, anyway.) Gene Wolfe, for breaking all the rules and making it look easy.
13. What books have most influenced your writing?
John M. Ford, Growing Up Weightless and To the End of the Twentieth Century. Michael Wood, In Search of the Trojan War. James Burke, Connections and The Day the Universe Changed. John Romer, Testament. Eric Sloane’s books, though none really more than any other.
14. What tools are in your writer’s tool-kit?
I typically only plot 2/3 of the way through a story before I start writing, so that I can let the ending surprise me. I let ideas sit around for awhile and only write the ones that either scare me or fascinate me so much I can’t let them go. (The idea behind “The Last Islander” sat around for a year and a half before I found the story in it; after that I wrote it in about five days.) Other than that I don’t know, the usual tricks and tools every writer uses I suppose.
15. Where can people find out more about you and your books/stories?
My website is probably the best place for that. I’m also on Twitter (@MFJ72).
16. What question(s) did I forget to ask?
You forgot to ask about my two beautiful, clever, funny boys, Leo and Miles. Wait here, I’ve got some photos in my wallet…
If you are a writer interested in participating in Writer Wednesday, please send an email with a short biography to ww (at) ambersistla (dot) com.