Next in our series of Crush author Q&As is Marian Matta. Read on to hear a bit about her writing process and for a sneak peak of her story ‘Close to the People’.
Can you give us a bit of background about yourself? How did you come to writing?
Praise be to Annie Proulx! I’ve shaped the world with words for as long as I can recall. Ask me to come up with a medical article, an historical account, even a couple of film scripts, and I’ve happily done it. However, any fiction I wrote was strictly for my eyes only. After I saw the life-changing film Brokeback Mountain in 2006, I began writing fan fiction under a nom de plume. Readers liked it, and seven years ago I entered my first short story competition without the shield of anonymity. As well as writing, I’m a grandmother, an amateur local historian, and the oldest student in a circus school.
How do you get your ideas? Is there anywhere particular you look for inspiration?
Ideas are everywhere – a passing thought, a person walking along a street, an opening line which begs to be expanded. I wrote one story based on a news item, and another couple have had their inspiration in the Humans Of New York webpage. Friends and family have unwittingly provided me with starting points. A curiosity about people is all that’s needed to find ideas. Oh, and gardening – ideas have a habit of drifting up as the weeding is done.
What does your writing process look like? Does it change from story to story?
Usually I start with a first line or paragraph, and I stalk it to its finish. Occasionally I begin with a structural concept – say, a series of linked tales, or a story within a story – and I wrap the words around those restraints. Notes are scribbled on backs of envelopes and eventually transferred to an ideas file on my computer. I treat it like a salvage yard where materials are available whenever I need them. As time goes by, I’m finding it easier to write from scratch on a computer but I love the process of printing out drafts and scribbling ideas and strange symbols all over them.
How do you approach building the structure of a story? Do you like to play with form?
I love playing with form! It’s thrilling to find that a story is calling out for something beyond the linear approach. My first drafts are frequently rather shapeless lumps, overstuffed in places and thin in others, but at some stage I discover the central narrative. This often comes about when I settle on a title; a good title contributes information, guides a reader, and crystalises the theme. Then comes the process of building up that narrative and ruthlessly slicing away anything which doesn’t fit. (If I really can’t bear to lose something it ends up in that salvage yard of ideas.)
Crush explores a variety of interpretations and experiences of romantic love. What aspects of love did you want to explore in your writing?
I wanted to show the adventurous side of growing older, and the fun and freedom and rebelliousness of the not-so-young. I also relished writing an entire story about sex without one ‘naughty’ word. Mostly I was just having fun.
How have you tried to either embrace or push the boundaries of the romance genre in your writing?
I never write to a specific genre and I have no ideas of where boundaries lie. I simply write stories which appeal to me and then, if need be, I consider what genre they might fit into. When I was writing fan fiction I enjoyed creating something which wasn’t the standard over-heated fare.
Excerpt from ‘Close to the People’ by Marian Matta
The tiny breeze, with its scents of salt and bilge water, gradually revived them. Fingers stretched and touched, an arm tangled with another arm, a leg found pleasure in a nearby leg, and soon enough their thoughts were turning to other matters. Hal paused long enough to pin a sheet to the wrought-iron railing with bulldog clips. The sheet rippled, its corners lazily lifted and flapped with an erratic rhythm; a steadier rhythm was coming into play behind its modest cover. Then an errant gust of wind flung modesty skywards.
Oh! mouthed a long-haul driver, high in the cab of his prime mover.
Oh!! gasped Goldie, her eyes making a surprised, skewed connection with the driver’s.
O-o-o-h!!! Hal groaned as it all came together in one perfect moment.
And for the rest of that hot summer the balcony became their favoured spot, until an autumn chill drove them back inside.
To read the rest of ‘Close to the People’ by Marian Matta, pick up a copy of Crush from our online shop or from all good bookstores.