Folks, I have a treat for you today. Please welcome Matt Costello and Neil Richards to the blog. They are here as part of the virtual tour for Bastei Entertainment. You can check out other stops on the tour HERE. We chat about movies, dead authors, fictional evil books that could destroy the world, and mystery writing.
If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?
Neil: Impossible to choose one! Movies – Stand by Me, the best coming of age movie ever, North by Northwest – Hitch’s lightest but most unpredictable, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for what it says about love. TV – Band of Brothers for me the best series ever made. Book – What Makes Sammy Run, still one of the funniest books ever (well maybe you have to work in movies to feel like that!)
Matt: King Kong. On a black and white TV, in my Brooklyn home. Seminal, amazing, and quite possibly a film that forever altered my creative life to come.
Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?
Neil: The characters have to be true – and in the case of our Cherringham series the world has to be true. They’re cozy mysteries so the cussing gets the cut – but we have to totally believe in the reality of our world to make it work.
Matt: Writing is selective. Even for dramatic events, the focus of the word, the line, the paragraph should be on creating the moment. If a visit to the bathroom is important, it should read so as well, whether it’s to be suspenseful, funny or horrific. Readers should feel the mundane under the surface without ever having to experience the tedium of reading it.
More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?
Neil: Matt and I both work in ‘multimedia’ writing games, interactive, TV, books, animation, etc. so it’s a world we know pretty well. We’ve written a YA novel which grew out of a location-based app and will work alongside it. And transmedia – where it’s appropriate – can open up a fictional world in intriguing ways. Cherringham feels to us like a TV series above all – we’ll wait and see…
Matt: As Neil says, we have created works with straddle the different platforms, and would love to see Cherringham do the same.
Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?
Matt: I have a pristine copy of Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon locked in a safe, in a crypt, just to the left of the wine cellar in my basement. The book itself, more mummified than bound, would be a daunting, even dangerous read. One of these dark and stormy nights, I fear I will be compelled to open the safe and crack those ancient pages…
Matt: Abbott and Costello. Oh pages…hm, Sherlock and Watson, as my esteemed colleague suggests. The game’s….afoot.
In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?
Neil: We don’t do it deliberately – but sometimes a news story will trigger a conversation between us and turn into the core of a new plot. Any time we’re creating an ‘institution’ (say an old people’s home, or a local fire station etc) or perhaps entering a specialized story world (a character’s love of metal detecting for instance) we’ll spend time learning the jargon and reality of that world. But too much research can slow you down – just pick what’s needed to be able to write truthfully about the specialism.
Matt: What I tend to do when I hit something that indeed must be researched (for example, the technical name of an item or part of a device or machine) is to type ‘xx’ and carry on….knowing that when the draft is done for the day, I can jump onto the net and find out exactly what this part or that particular thing is called.
Neil: Ah, well – the way our stories unfold the bad guy is concealed until the very ending when our heroes uncover the plot or the murderer. So we usually present them in the most generous light we can.
Matt: It can be tricky keeping our real bad guys hidden. But that is also part of the fun of these ‘cozies’…to know whodunit, and then making sure that they remain well hidden – but then…clearly so guilty at the end!
What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?
Matt: I worked on a prequel for Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and I found that film powerful, honoring the tone and power of the original. John Campbell’s classic story Who Goes There? was made into the original film The Thing, and amazingly all the reboots of that tale have worked extremely well.
Neil: I like chatting to readers, bloggers, reviewers, TV and radio people – I guess because there’s no preparation and it never feels like hard work. The constant sharing of info on social media can get time-consuming – I still feel that if I’m at my desk I should be writing not selling but I guess those days are long gone…
Matt: Gone, but not forgotten….
If you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?
Neil: I love train travel – and eating a meal in a proper restaurant car is one of life’s luxuries. So what better for a mystery writer than dinner with Poirot himself on the Orient Express, crossing Europe at night. Classic French cuisine of course!
Matt: Private dinner in Casino Royale, stack of chips, martini, and company for evening awaiting…
Neil: I work in a custom-made garden office – a writing den I’ve waited a very long time for! At the start of every project I like to clear the desk. By the end I’m surrounded by piles of paper. Being digital doesn’t seem to have reduced the mess as it should have done! I don’t need to be there – in fact I wrote fifty pages on a long train journey in a crowded carriage a couple of years ago – just got ‘into the zone’ and didn’t stop. At the end I was exhilarated and the feeling didn’t go away for a couple of days.
Matt: Just an office, with bookshelves, a desk, Mac, printer, and stacks of notebooks and pads related to countless projects. But I can – and do – write anywhere, anytime.
How did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?
Neil: I still haven’t done that. Never want to tempt fate…
Matt: Having been published a lot, for me – now — it is about the work I am in the middle of, and the work to come. Champagne can wait…
If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?
Neil: Dickens for story-telling. Hemingway would be fun for a while but I think we’d kick him out when he got too wild. Chandler to learn about crime writing. Dodie Smith for class. And Douglas Adams who I worked with for a few years and whose humour I miss. They’d eat what I cooked for them and be grateful – plenty of other writers on that deceased list to pick from…
Matt: Well you see, I don’t think having dinner with a dead author would be very entertaining., I mean, there they are, all moldy and decayed, sitting there, sans appetite. Plus imagine explaining to them every time you reach for your iPhone to check the latest IM!
Neil: I’m reading a lot of Alan Furst at the moment. His novels take place across Europe in the late 1930’s and 40’s. His side characters interweave across the series, sometimes becoming protagonists, sometimes just flitting through the lives of other central characters. John le Carre is a master at creating fully blown side characters, often marching through their own tragedies.
What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?
Neil: A bit early to say as we’re only published a few months. But some of the regulars are becoming old friends to us.
Matt: We have gathered quite the collection of locals, bit players in our stories, who all seem quite real. I’m beginning to think I know them better that the real humans who are my neighbors in my hamlet of Katonah!
Neil: As well as crime I write a lot for children’s television and games. I’ll be at the Children’s Media Conference. Also Develop in Brighton – and the Forum on Financing Family movies in Erfurt Germany later this month. The last game I wrote – Broken Sword the Serpent’s Curse – is just out on most platforms. And the game company I’m a part of publish their first game Battleplan Gettysburg this month too. And Matt and I have the last three of the current series of Cherringham to write. After that, we have a much darker crime story to outline…
Matt: I’ve begun the third and final book in my Post-apocalyptic trilogy that began with 2012’s Vacation. I’m working on a major TV meets game project that I can’t talk about, and I am also working on a surreal interactive graphic novel project for Blue Rocket, based in Tasmania.
Places to Find Matt and Neil