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.

US elections and Brexit

It’s been a crazy year for all manner of reasons and mostly because of the US presidential election campaign and the EU referendum and Brexit. Whilst 2016 will come to an end when the bells chime on midnight 1 January, the fallout from both situations will still be carrying on. The US Presidential Election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has to go down as one of the worst US elections that I can remember and probably of all time.

Where previous elections have been heated maybe and on policy the US election of 2016 has been nothing more than who is the lesser of two evils. Whilst Barack Obama no doubt had his faults, his election broke up the Clinton/Bush line that had previously dominated the White House. Now though we have Hillary Clinton who has been embroiled in controversy and Trump just the same but different trouble and allegations to boot.

Gathering from friends stateside it seems that people may well be voting for Hillary with whilst holding their noses as it were than to vote for Trump, who well has much to be desired. It would seem better the devil you know than the devil you dont.

As we all look in to the US Election it would seem that the US election has been nothing more than who is the least detestable. Few policies seem to be known, apart from maybe Trump’s wall and no Muslims allowed in America to that effect.

We shall find out the result on Wednesday and we will see the fallout over the coming days weeks and even months when in January either Clinton or Trump are formally made President of the United States of America.

So Brexit, ah dont you just love it or maybe you don’t.  Since the vote there has been a lot of unacceptable attitudes and opinions on both sides. Leave voters have either been accused of being racist, bigoted, morons, thick, stupid or idiots and people who voted remain thinking they were better than leavers. There are of course people who voted remain that have resisted the insults and patronising attitudes.Whilst sadly there have been elements of scum who have taken the opportunity  to make racist comments or attacks, these dont reflect the many decent genuine and law abiding citizens who based their vote to leave on EU related issues. Behaviour in other ways has also been unacceptable and not tolerated.

There have been many discussions and debates with opinions, claims and counter claims. Business has seen commitment to the UK despite the looming exit. Apple, Boeing (Announced pre Brexit), GlaxoSmithKline, Nissan, Adobe to name a few. Things maybe a little bumpy but the economy will recover, people might not believe it but the growth predictions put things in a positive light. No economy can ever be free from blips, but being in full control and being able to make decisions to aid that economy boost.

I personally voted leave, but respect people who voted to remain although disappointed when the personal and petty insults get thrown.

Goodbye common sense, hello stupidity

So this past week we saw the launch of Pokemon Go and the instagram photo of Victoria Beckham kissing her daughter Harper on the lips. The two differing stories but in a way connected.

Im no fan of Pokemon, I wasn’t when it  was first released and not now with the appearance of Pokemon Go. However I do find myself defending the game. For those who dont know what Pokemon Go is, let me explain. It is ann augmented reality game that allows you to take the virtual into the real world. You can capture pokemon in your own home, in your garden as well as  out and about. You may have seen people out and about stopping in various places and swiping their smartphones. A couple of weeks ago it might have been someone fed up with their smartphone, but now its more likely to be Pokemon Go.

People though are naturally getting concerned. Pokemon and the Pokemon stops appear in various places. Whilst there will be many within your own property and various public places, they have popped up in some inappropriate places. Reports of Holocaust memorials, 9/11 memorials etc. Now I dont mean to sound horrible,but if you play Pokemon Go and still find the need to play it around such sensitive areas, then you really need to think about yourself and your morals.  There may also be ones you can see but cant reach. Dont be stupid and risk your life by trying to reach the unreachable. Use your common sense and dont do the stupid things. Whilst there will be ones you cant reach,there will be those in unfamiliar places. The younger player that maybe on their own,  just don’t do it. In fact if you too young to be out alone then you are probably too young to be playing the game.

Victoria Beckham celebrated her daughter Harper’s fifth birthday by posting a photo of her giving a kiss on Instagram. Nothing wrong with that you might think. Well when it shows mum kissing daughter on the lips and boy did all hell break loose. People across the internet claimed  that it was sexualising,wrong,weird etc. For me it is something out of nothing. Whilst Ive never been a fan of the woman, I see no harm in what she has done. Im sure she wouldn’t want to put her daughter in any difficult  position. To be honest I imagine she is no different to many other loving parents up and down the country and indeed around the world.

The odd one wont hurt – A political observation post

This blog post is one that will rarely be seen on my blog and that is one talks about politics. It’s been a busy period for politics as 5th May sees various elections take place. Whilst some will have council elections to vote in, others will have a chance to elect a mayor and many of the country will be voting for a Police and Crime Commisioner. Not only that there has also been the standoff between Jeremy Hunt and the BMA and something to do with some referendum coming up in June and the presidential candidate contests.

It seems for all the world that for all the government is seemingly doing wrong, apparently in the local elections, Labour could lose several councillors and even control of a few councils. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was quoted as saying that Labour wouldnt lose any council seats….That is something that no party can state. Whilst many councillors of all colours could have done a great job, nothing will stop the local electorate from kicking the councillor out, merely from just being associated with the party in question. Of course there will be councillors who totally deserve the kicking they receive at the ballot box. It will certainly be interesting to see the fall out from the counts over the next few days.

Thursday also sees the election of Police & Crime Commisionners. It is an idea that seems good, giving local accountability but it doesnt always seem to go to plan. Take Kent for example. Ann Barnes stood as an ‘independent’, but it seemed much afterwards that she was surrounded by Lib Dems together with a Lib Dem twitter account announcing her victory as one of theirs. Barnes was elected as something different from the main parties, but in turn her time appeared to be something more akin to an Armando Iannuci comedy. Several PR gaffes and ‘teen crime commisionner’ nightmares just showed the rest of the country how not to run as a P&CC.

So to the EU referendum that many thought would never happen, but here we are. The question has been decided, the IN and OUT campaigns truly running and the debates hitting the mainstream with the odd controversy thrown in. It has been an interesting debate so far which has seen many differing opinions but one of the things that really annoys me is some of the IN campaign. It seems 90% scaremongering and very little in the way of positive campaigning. We have seen things like threats of being out of pocket to the tune of £4300 the OUTGOING US President stating that the UK would be at the back of the queue in trade deals…It’s not for him to say. Then of course the ‘Little Englander’ line being thrown about at those who dare to wish to see the UK leave the EU and the accusations of those wanting to vote leave being tarnished as racist. It is quite pathetic to be honest and it wouldnt be any wonder to see that more people would consider voting out. We are also told that many of the things that have happened, wouldnt have happened if it were not for the EU, that may or may not be the case but is it not possible for a government to introduce such things?

As I write this, the DoH and the BMA look like attempting more talks to resolve the Junior Doctor contract. Change and updating is something that even the BMA stated themselves. The problem is that it hasn’t quite gone to plan. Both sides seem to not want to budge from the discussion. Hopefully both sides will come to an agreement although it seems that elements of the BMA are seeing this as a battle on the NHS in general.

Finally in this little political blog, we have the US Presidential candidate race. If ever the Republican party wanted to avoid having a US president anytime soon, then allowing Donald Trump to have a chance of becoming the Republican candidate. The guy is either deluded and shot away or in fact a secret Democrat plant. Saying that though Hilary is no better. I guess having George W Bush as the US President doesnt seem that bad given all that there is to look forward to.

Well that’s been my more than likely solitary political post on my blog, but do feel free to comment. Till the next post, have fun and be happy.

WWE – It’s not fake, it’s just entertainment

The subject of WWE and wrestling being fake is something that always appears to rear its ugly head. As far back as the 80’s through the 90’s to current day, some people will always throw the lines that its pretend, not real, its fixed etc etc. There will always be people who continue to spout the tedious lines as though they actually have a point.

Im sorry to say that you are tediously boring and wrong. WWE is entertainment, it’s no more real than the misery of soaps such as Eastenders, Corrie and Hollyoaks. You will also find the majority of those who watch WWE know that the output is not real, Im sure that many a wrestling fan will be seen to roll their eyes upon hearing the fact that WWE or other professional wrestling organisations are fake. Wrestling fans will be the first to tell you that the events that unfold are merely storylines created by writers.

Some of the storylines maybe absolute crazy and unbelieveable, but correct me if Im wrong, was it not a storyline in Corrie that saw a campaign to free Deidre Barlow from prison. Yes a national campaign that saw it even result in the subject being brought up in the House of Commons. Yes that’s right, a matter that was so trivial that no one in their right mind would have contemplated getting worked up over, ended up as a question to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The wrestlers that perform week in week out are entertainers, albeit athletic and sometimes bloody crazy. Whilst the outside stories maybe a little, the risks as the men and women do battle are all very real. Many stars have suffered injuries both life changing and non life changing. In 1997, Stone Cold broke his neck, 2001 Triple H tore a quad muscle, Droz who at the time was wrestling under a different name was involved in a move that went wrong and saw him paralysed, Joey Mercury ended up with a busted nose, Shawn Michaels with a back injury. Then of course in an indirect wrestling incident, the tragic loss of Owen Hart. These injuries and tragedies are the very reason why the WWE always state not to try this at home.

Movies Movies Movies

The Carlton in Westgate is slowly becoming a second home, not that Im complaining of course. The second half of 2015 saw as many visits to the cinema as the previous year what with Star Wars, Mission Impossible and others. It’s so easy when a trip to the cinema  can cost around a tenner for two tickets pop corn and a drink (The combo). It’s even better when you can book tickets ahead so there is little disappointment.

In 2016 though, we’ve already managed to chalk up four visits and it’s still early February. The Hateful Eight, which wasnt too bad once it actually got going, it was just so slow to start with. The Revenant was next and this one was a great film to watch. Leonardo Di Caprio was truly on form in this movie and was great from start to finish. If this doesnt get him an Oscar, I really do not know what will because it certainly deserves one.

The Fifth Wave featuring Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) is a sci fi film based on the books by Rick Yancey. It’s based on human survival after several waves of wiping out the human race. Moretz plays her role well and with the run of films lined up, it will be a busy year for the youngster who has built up a vast array of movies in her career.

There are several visits to the cinema still to come and 2016 is certain to be a bumper year especially with the spin off Star Wars movie due out just before Christmas.

Whichever film you choose to see this year, do go along to the Carlton where the seats are cheap and you can pick yourself up a loyalty points card.