From one Matthew to another – A Q & A with Matthew Munson

I have known Matthew for a few years and seen his writing exploits, his charity work his plan to get Dyspraxia more noticed. So I thought lets find out how he gets on and how he manages to do all those marathons.
Hi Matthew, thank you for taking the time to take part.

It’s a pleasure to be here on your blog, Matt – thanks so much for the invite.
1) Matthew, many will know you for your book releases, but how did your book writing journey come about and who were your favourite authors?
I grew up in a house where words were respected and revered, which was a wonderful experience for a child who adored language anyway. My dad was a journalist for fifty years before he retired, and both of my parents have always loved reading, so I was able to appreciate fiction and its power. Someone once said to me, “Oh, so you were indoctrinated into words very young then?” and I had to fight the urge to clip them round the ear. No, I wasn’t indoctrinated at all; the flames were fanned, certainly, but the flames were already there.
There were three points in my life that then really built on that; my dad used to occasionally work from home, and he left me use his laptop – an early Mac, back in the days when laptops were still clunky and boxy models with the processing speed of a chicken farm – when he didn’t need it. So I learnt how to touch type on that, and learnt how to play around with words, scenes, and little vignettes just for fun.
Secondly, books were an open – aha – book in my house. There was no such thing as a book that was too “old” for me; I suspect my parents knew that, if they’d tried to ban anything, I would have still tried to read it, just at three o’clock in the morning instead. So I was allowed to pick up books that intrigued me, and then encouraged to ask questions, talk about them, and so on. There were a lot of crime thrillers in my house – my mum was worryingly interested in them, especially during my neurotic teenage years – and so I learnt the art of pacing, intelligent plotting, and craft from those sort of tomes.
And thirdly, a Year Six (fifth year in old money) geography was a turning point; Mrs Cooper, my teacher, recognised that I had completely switched off from the lesson (I never liked the subject, and still don’t), and so challenged me to write a story during the class. She gave me carte blanche to write about whatever I wanted – to let my imagination run riot – so I wrote about a cowboy who rode into space on the back of a dinosaur. It really did seem like a completely normal plot at the time, and the fact that I wasn’t challenged to write something more mainstream really kickstarted my interest in science fiction and fantasy – I’d been given permission, almost, to explore the outer limits of my imagination.
As for who my favourite authors are, I’ve got to start with Terry Pratchett; his prose have always lifted me up and been so intelligent. There are so many layers of meaning and intelligent discussion within the frame of a damn good story. The same could be said of China Mieville, who came onto my radar a couple of years ago, and again is a magnificent writer. Joe Abercrombie, Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman … these are gods of writing, and I can’t state it any clearer than that. Looking back at that list, I realise that they’re all men, but please don’t think I’m excluding women, but sadly, they are fewer in the science-fiction / fantasy fields. When they appear – Ursula K Le Guin, J K Rowling, Anne McCaffrey – they’re exquisite, but don’t appear as often as men. I hope that changes.
2) You had two books published, Fall From Grace and Leap of Faith, how did the story idea come about. Will it remain at two or is there a third outing possible?
To be honest, because the two books are a duology, it was really easy to consider them both as one continual story line, in a round about kind of way. I remember reading a bible during my childhood and teen years – I’m not religious in the slightest now, but I was then – and then, when I lost my faith, found myself reflecting on the textual elements of the stories I’d read in the book. I wanted to express them in my own way, and look at an alternative history to the one suggested in the gospel. I’ve always liked a good story, and that seemed like too good an opportunity to turn up when the idea formed in my head.
How do I come up with the full story, though? Well, I’m fairly relaxed about when I start writing; I don’t often know precisely how it’s going to end. I much prefer to be guided by the characters; it feels right to let things develop as they should, rather than be too rigid in my planning. My characters feel more genuine that way, and it’s more fun as well. For the first book, I knew – funnily enough – how I wanted it to end, but I didn’t have a clue how I was going to get there. But the characters led the way, and they also made me change a significant part of the ending when the original plan I had didn’t work. It was easier to go with the flow.
There’s definitely no third part to this particular storyline! I utterly loved writing the characters, as I was – perhaps unconsciously – channelling a lot of my own psyche and personality into them. It was quite cathartic in a way, but I came to a natural end with them after the second book; I didn’t feel that I could take them any further. That’s not to say I’m not curious to know what the characters are doing now, but I prefer to leave that entirely to them; they’re content, I know that, so I prefer to leave them in peace.
3) It’s NaNoWriMo and you are putting pen to paper, how are getting on this year and how many years have you entered?
I’m getting on very well, thank you; I’ve finished, so that’s lovely. I actually finished really early on; really early, as I’d set myself a stupid, practically impossible target, and I achieved it. Never again, though; next year, I intend to go back to my usual pace of 2,000 words per day. That’s a far more manageable amount.
This is the fourth year, I think; I’ll confess that I don’t actually remember precisely, but then I have a terrible memory for most things. I belong to a Facebook group called Nano Kent (as that’s where I live), and it’s a pretty active group all year round – as well as being very friendly. We’re a great community, and it acts as an online writers’ group for all of us. I like it for that alone, and there are many more reasons to like it as well.
4) The idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days to many seems a scary proposition, how do you prepare for it and do you ever find yourself thinking why?
I can understand why NaNo doesn’t work for some people, certainly; some writers I know are very anti, and that’s fine. I think it encourages a lot of writers to write, and gives them a discipline that they might struggle with for the rest of the year – or just enjoy the social side, as writing can be quite lonely at times. I like writing with my peers from time to time, and NaNo gives me that good excuse – so that’s why I like it anyway.
My own prep is very minimal, usually – like I said earlier, I’m not a natural planner for my fiction, and prepare to go with the flow. That works for me, but some writers I’ve spoken to react with the screaming ad-dabs at the merest hint of doing that; they much prepare to plot every single point out. The actual writing of the story then becomes more of a process than a creative exercise – Frederick Forsyth works like that, so who are we to argue? – and if people find that easier, then whatever works.
I never wonder why for myself, because it helps me feel part of a wider community, but I wonder why for other people sometimes, especially if they’re totally unprepared for it and seem surprised by the time factor involved. Of course there’s going to be a commitment; you need to write a minimum of 1,667 words per day (or have the capacity to catch up), and if that’s not possible, then just write what you can. But the important thing, of course, is just to keep on writing.
5)Rounding off the subject of writing, what can we look forward to next from yourself in the terms of a published book and do you think everyone is capable of writing a book?
I’ve got my next book due to be published in September 2017, again by Inspired Quill, and it’s a complete departure from the contemporary fantasy I’ve written up to now. This book – that will have to remain nameless just for the moment – plunges into more classic science-fiction, and it’s lovely to face a new challenge.
I can feel fantasy calling me back, however; I’m currently working on a sequel to the sci-fi book, and then maybe I’ll go back to fantasy again. I hope so; I miss it, as much as I like science-fiction. I’m also working on a non-fiction book around dyspraxia as well; that’ll get published when the time is right.
Interesting point regarding your final question there; does everyone have a book in them? Yes, I would say so, but is every book worth writing? Well, that’s an entirely different conversation. I’m quite controversial; I don’t think every kernel of an idea can be expanded to a story; I know I’ve written enough false starts to realise that there are some stories that just need to stay locked away in the confines of my head. For some people, the concept is a non-starter for them, and that’s sad, but not every story is automatically a good one.
6) You were diagnosed as dyspraxic in your teens, how difficult did you find it in regards of getting information and finding others who were also diagnosed, especially with social media being limited?
Difficult, to be frank. I grew up in the eighties and nineties, when the internet wasn’t still understood as a mass engagement tool – the world wide web wasn’t invented until 1989, for heaven’s sake, and I spent my teen years with nothing more powerful than dial-up. Online information, and meeting people who were like me, was practically impossible.
Printed literature was the same; there weren’t many books for people with dyspraxia, except for a book by Dr Amanda Kirby – who, despite being neuro-typical (or non-dyspraxic) absolutely gets it. She’s still active now, and she works hard at the Dyscovery Centre in Wales to support people with the condition as well as raising the profile of it. I applaud it, but there’s definitely a huge place for dyspraxic people themselves to be at the forefront of public engagement about the condition.
Dyspraxia is, essentially, a disorder to do with the neural connections in your brain; in a dyspraxic brain, some of these connections aren’t properly formed, affecting things like movement, memory, coordination, balance, and so on. But it also gives you added creativity and an ability to think far outside the box, so in every cloud …
But yes, it was frustrating to try and get information; I didn’t find out I was dyspraxic until I was 15, and I didn’t meet another dyspraxic until i was in my late 20s, when social media began to bring people together far more easily. Suddenly, everything fell into place, and I felt a massive sense of relief, that I wasn’t alone any more. I never had been, of course, but this was a liberating experience.
7) Together with your friend Barbara Neill, you set up The Two Dyspraxics that started with youtube videos. You also have a facebook page with 1369 likes, how has the response been to the page and how has the group taken off on facebook.
Yes, it’s been a wonderful experience so far, and it just proves what I’ve said in the previous answer; that people with the condition want to understand the practicalities of how to deal with it and realise their potential. We set up the The Two Dyspraxics Youtube channel not long after we met and discovered a mutual frustration with the lack of information out there in the ether, as well as a mutual appreciation for public communication and a shared sense of humour and love of the absurd.
We’ve discussed so much on our channel so far, and are always looking for new ideas. As for our The Two Dyspraxics, it’s really taking off; people feel really supported by it, and it’s sparked up some wonderful friendships as a result. We get new members every week, and it’s really grown since it started with just the two of us – again, doesn’t that show the demand that’s still out there?
We’re very proud of being a part of this engagement work, and it’s really key; we need to make sure the condition is better understood and valued. I’m also getting to work with one of my best friends on something that I absolutely love doing.
8) WIth The Two Dyspraxic work, do you intend to expand more or keep it with just the two of you and recording more youtube information videos?
I think this is something that’s best kept as just the two of us; that’s not to say other people haven’t got a valued part to play, but our part of the spectrum is something that works best with our own dynamic. We have genuinely big plans for T2D, including setting it up as a charity and spreading the message through as much media as possible; books, videos, talks, training sessions, and whatever else we can possible think of – so watch this space. You heard it here first, T2D is branching out! There’s so much more work to be done.
9) The Two Dyspraxic work isn’t the only charity involvement.You are involved in TG Pals, you did a walk earlier this year, could you tell us more about it?
TG Pals is a charity focused on support for transgender people, who have either transitioned, are in the process of transitioning, or are questioning their gender. We’re also going work on raising awareness of transgender as being something that’s entirely normal; so many people are trans, and there’s so much bigotry and misunderstanding about the spectrum, that TG Pals is badly needed. We’re looking to broaden our capacity in the future to offer a full support service, counsellors, and a lot else besides, but that costs money, of course.
As a trustee, my involvement in the day-to-day of the charity is limited – of course, there are experts for that – but I can use my profile to promote it, as well as helping to raise funds. You mentioned the marathon I did earlier this year, but I won’t pretend I did it alone; there were six of us, and it was a lot of fun. We based it on the Monopoly board, walking round every point, as well as the utilities, community chest, chance, etc. It was actually the second year we’ve done it, and were sponsored by so many people; the generosity we saw from people was overwhelming, and every penny goes straight to the charity to help people.
The suicide rate amongst trans people is massively higher than in the population at large, and that’s a horrible statistic; every death under such terrible circumstances is a life lost and a family devastated, so whatever we can do to change that, the better it is for all of us. We become a better, more inclusive society, and a trans individual becomes able to accept themselves far more easily.
10) Finally and continuing the the walks theme, you are known for doing various charity marathons, how do you manage to keep going and keeping up with them all. Do you ever think about just raising funds on a more relaxed method.
Relaxed? Gosh, that sounds rather boring to me. I like to be active. I’ve completed eleven marathons so far, plus a half marathon and various other shorter walks for charities, and they’re all brilliant – night marathons, colour runs, a half-marathon where my friend and I came first and third … yeah, they’re brilliant fun.
How do I keep going? Well, you get into a habit after a while, and I adore doing them. They’re a brilliant way to keep fit, they raise money for causes, and I know I’m contributing to excellent outcomes. I don’t do it alone, though; every marathon I’ve done has been with one of my best friends, Diana, who is an absolute legend. We support each other during the marathons, especially when we hit the wall; we’ve never let the other one give up. We did the annual Shine marathon at the end of September 2016 for the fifth time, and I hit the wall at about mile 20, but Di just pushed me on past the pain and made me remember why I was doing it. I soon got over the wall and carried on like nothing had happened … aside from the aching muscles.
It’s a privilege to be healthy enough to take part in these events, and for as long as I possibly can, I intend to keep going. Me – take it easy? Where’s the fun in that?
Well thank you Matthew for taking the time to let us in to your world, good luck with your continual work on getting Dyspraxia more noticed together with TG Pals.
Matthew’s books, a Leap of Faith and Fall From Grace are available in all good book shops now. You can also follow Matthew on twitter too.

Oh Danny Bhoy – We laughed a lot bar one miserable couple and Dreamland is back

Saturday night saw myself and my good friend Debz, headed off to catch the very funny comedian Danny Bhoy at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury. Having seen some of his stuff on the various stand up shows, Netflix was host to his gig in Canada. It had been a while since I had laughed so much. A chance look at the Gulbenkian listings for something else enabled us to discover that Danny Bhoy was on tour and at the Gulbenkian. Thing is though with just a few weeks till the gig, we never thought we would have a chance of tickets. How wrong we were, two seats acquired and a little over 2 hours of hilarious comedy in part not just to Danny Bhoy but to the audience members who added their witty comments added to the whole evening. Canterbury could not have brought to the gig, a wide range of audience members.

When it came to asking questions, someone asked if he would visit Sandwich, he thought we were having him on, then we added that next door to Sandwich was a place called Ham, safe to say but he really thought we were having a laugh… I say we because there was once couple that sat through it, barely breaking a smile. Very odd, because the rest of the audience were happily laughing. Surely you don’t just go to a gig without checking who you are going to see, surely you go on the basis that you are going because you like the act in question. Of course it is possible to find it not funny as we all have different humour levels, but when there appears only to be two people not laughing at anything in two hours, something really can’t be right.

Dreamland amusement park opened its doors again after what was a long hard battle by local people to get it back up and running. Years of hard work campaigning CPO and a legal battle finally paid off as the doors opened on 19th June. Not many people might have expected it or believed it would happen, but here we were seeing it open once again. Sadly not everything was open and some of it out of the organisation’s hands. Teething troubles are to be had, of course you are going to get people who are unhappy, It’s normal and human nature. Hopefully though as the issues get ironed out, all will be good and Dreamland will help to bring some positivity to Margate, a town that has in the last few years been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Nights out, dentists and Loop bus journeys – Just like an England tailender more out than in

Another long weekend came and went and another busy one at that. With the final day of the season shenanigans the weekend before, the weekend just gone took a musical turn. Saturday night was the one-off reunion gig of the magnificent band Film Club. Playing down at the Belgian Cafe, it was very much a packed out house for the evening. Food and drink were very much in the flow along with the music and the conversation. After a two hour gig (possibly a bit less or a bit more I don’t know  I was enjoying myself), the music didn’t stop there. Young Mister Wimhurst continued supplying the entertainment till well into the early hours with some fine piano playing and singing. Given the fact I had to gee myself up to go, my lovely friend Debz ensured that I would have no option, I didn’t actually leave till 2.50 am. Home by 3.30 am…not a time that I’ve come home to for quite a while.

Quite glad I did go to be honest. The amount of friends that were there who I hadn”t seen for ages, made it very much worth while. It was something to akin to being the host of a party where you are trying your best to make sure you get to chat with everyone that you know. Then of course just when you think you have managed to see everyone you know, up steps another old friend who I havent seen for some five to ten years. It was a shame that circumstances meant a departure otherwise we could have chatted for ages.

A chilled Sunday loomed, well to be honest with a little bit of a sore head, it was always going to be a quiet one. Doing as little as possible was very much the order of the day. So much so, three days later and I still cant remember what I did, bar watching dvds and playing on the PS3.

Monday was dentist check up day. Everyone’s least favourite thing to do. I booked the day off. My dentist surgery do seem keen on giving me the most awkward appointment times which combined with unhelpful timing of public transport from Canterbury to Margate, made me decide to take the day off. Pretty awesome. WWE Network was order of the morning and the Elimination Chamber PPV, was actually quite reasonable. I wont share any results incase WWE viewers who read this blog, have yet to watch it. Safe to say that the Dean Ambrose character has elements of Stone Cold Steve Austin, but I can see Dean Ambrose going one step further. I very much look forward to see where they take him. Now I’ve said this, the WWE creative writing teams will probably manage to screw it up as they are prone to do.

Anyway back to the dentist, a trip to Margate on the good old Loop bus service. I swear that this bus service will provide the weird and questionably wonderful from the population of Thanet. I had to four bus journeys. First off I end up with this late teens early twenty year old girl sitting next to me. She could have sat anywhere, but no she chose the seat next to me. Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, and yes you would be right. Just for extra special measure, she happens to be wearing the same perfume/spray, that an ex girlfriend of mine used to wear and a lot. From Westwood Cross all the way to Cecil Square, I had this unwanted reminder of times rather forgotten.

The dentist itself was fantastic…..yes that’s right the words fantastic and dentist in the same line. It only cost me 80p. The standard charge is £18.80, but for reasons unknown there was £18.00 on my account, An overpayment from what I can gather. Dont know how but hey its nothing to be sniffed at and I came away without any issues.

Post dentist, I thought I would pay a visit to my sister to catch up with my delightful niece and nephew. I opted to go the Cliftonville route. I certainly made the wrong choice there. All because I decided at the last minute to grab food. I thought I’d take time and eat in on the longer journey. To be honest it never really mattered because I was going to Broadstairs and could have easily gone via the Ramsgate route. Too late now as Im sitting on the bus. An old guy gets on and promptly decides to announce to the driver that he has a weak bladder and that he had wet himself in Wilkinsons the day before. He had to tell them what had happened in case they thought it might be a leak… I dont know about you, but I can certainly tell the difference between a leak and someone having wet themselves. For good measure he sat in front of me. thank goodness….or so I thought. He then starts reading the paper and telling the bus that Arsenal won. The overwhelming response was that either no one cared or they were waiting for the awkward moment when the bloke says that he’s wetting himself. Thankfully I managed to escape before he did, so avoided any possible carnage.

Of course though the fun factor was back on, It was niece and nephew time, They are such great fun and full of energy. The creativity they have in making things up on the spot and as they go along is great to watch. They are great fun to be around and so glad that I get to capture some of these awesome moments on my iphone*. I look forward to taking them on days out although at the moment I think one at a time is best.

So that’s that for another day and hopefully not too long before the next blog post is written. Before I forget. whilst you may not get to see Film Club perform a gig for another few years, you may often see Mr Wimhurst at the Belgian Cafe piano on a night out playing the piano and enjoying a sing song. Till the next time

*Other phones are available 🙂

Do it for Nadine – Charity Head Shave – 22 April Snips Barbers

A friend of mine and no doubt a friend of yours, Nadine Lamberton has found herself battling a rare form of cancer called Myeloa. Young Nadine spent has spent the last few weeks in the Royal Free Hospital in London. This tough battle has seen her take another step in the fight in the form of Stem Cell treatment. The stay in hospital has meant not only spending her 30th birthday in hospital, but she has been away from her six month old boy and her husband. Nadine has gone through her treatment which has been far from pleasant, but she has battled through even though it hasnt been easy and has managed to maintain her smile amongst the low times.

With Nadine unable to work and the cost of travelling to and from London, her hubby Brian set up a gofundme campaign and within one single month a massive total of £3,670 has been raised by various friends and family. It goes to show how great people are and coming together to support a friend and family member.

Now though with Nadine having had her hair shaved following the loss through treatment, the fundraising goes on. There is now a Going Bald for Nadine Lamberton campaign. In the few days since starting, the balance is already upto £210 and will no doubt continue to increase. This leads to an event taking place on 22nd April at Snips Barbers. For a donation of £5, you can have your hair shaved off. If you are unable to have all your hair shaved, you can have a grade 1 or 2. You can freely donate any amount if you dont wish to have your hair shaved.

Should you wish to donate to the Go Bald For Nadine Lamberton, you can donate here http://www.gofundme.com/qtd7f

Should you wish to donate to the Help Nadine Lamberton beat Cancer, you can donate here http://www.gofundme.com/helpnads

It doesnt have to be a great amount, it all helps to go a long way. Lets help Nadine bounce back and some time to enjoy herself again.

The event takes place at Snips Barbers, 58 Station Road Westgate on Sea. Tel 07905 798431

2014 – The longest year

As we approach towards the end of 2014, I can honestly say that it will be one that I wont be looking back with too much enthusiasm. From what started off in late last December and progressed all the way through, my battle with depression has been a long arduous one which has been dotted with many ups and downs. Whilst I have made many new friends, I have lost some for one reason or another, but also more importantly the support of long time friends whose friendship has never wavered during the year. Many friends who took time to message privately and offer great support. Friends I don’t often get to speak to much, being there with support.

Suffering with the Big Black Dog was not something I ever thought about. Even when I was feeling tired and lacking of energy, I just put it down to being busy and rushing around. It was only when I read a blog post from a good friend, that I realised that maybe it was more than just being tired from being busy and rushing around as he described a lot of things that I had been going through. I had lost interest in my blog and my story. I had lost interest in watching football. Then came the split which I think compounded things even more.

I felt alone and worthless. Getting up seemed like a chore. I pushed myself to go to work and didn’t anyone at all to start with. I felt ashamed to be honest, like no one would believe me. I wasnt attention seeking either. I’m never one for trying to attract attention at the best of times, let alone use mental health like that.

February came and I got the diagnosis from the doctor. I had hoped that it wouldn’t be depression, but instead just tiredness or something. It was and I wasnt getting away from it. I would often find myself thinking – but why?  I surely don’t have anything to be depressed about. It doesn’t work like that as many people who have been through it will tell you.

I got back with my ex in March. Having resolved issues with people interfering, we tried again. It seemed to be going ok. I also started opening up about my situation and I found that I was not alone. I had a lot of support from friends and family. I did go downhill a bit and saw my anti depressant increased. The relationship was short lived but after initial despondency, I picked up a little. Friends continued to be supportive and then out of nowhere I seemed to take a backwards step. Couldn’t quite grasp why, but it was difficult. I kept things to myself again and hoped that things would pick up. Then I was unwell with another medical issue which made things worse.

I had returned to my doctor and he opted to refer me. That happened and it was decided CBT would be the way forward. Anything to help would have been welcome and so it was just a matter of waiting. I received a phone call and a place was available for six sessions of lectures as it were covering different things.

Something that has also made a difference, is living in a house with great people and a fab little westie. I have the pleasure of being able to take her out for a walk. It is always fun and never the same walk as she likes to change direction.

I know look towards 2015 and all that it brings and I thank everyone who has been there in one way or another however big or small the contribution.

This is the last post before Christmas, but as I will return afterwards. Thank you for reading and thank you for the support.

A little goes a long way

Recently I had a blog that I had written regarding my depression along with my thoughts an observations regarding the mental health issues. Well the other day I was chatting to an old friend and the blog was brought up. She said that she has read it and it helped her to get an understanding of what was going through her partners mind.

What had initially started as something to help get my focus back and help others.had been read by various people, who had also been supportive. Some people had thought it was a bit personal to share on the Internet, but it wasn’t just about me it would be about various aspects and mindsets.

Anyway my old friend, who will remain anonymous out of respect, had said it helped her to understand. Whilst it would normally be something to celebrate, in this case it was not. Knowing someone else is suffering with depression or mental health issues, is never nice and never something you would wish upon someone. How I did feel though was a sense of positivity in that A few words and thoughts about my situation has enabled someone to be able to understand what their partner is going through.

If by helping one other person, that person can be there for their partner/family member and get a better understanding, then that is one person dealing with mental health, who has a greater ability to help someone else. It only takes one person to start a journey but many can finish it.