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The Metaworker Podcast | 017 A Writer’s Life For Me: Catchup with Matthew Maichen, Part 2

Episode Description:

Elena, Mel, and Cerid talk with former Metaworker Editor in Chief Matthew Maichen about writing rituals, how they create characters, and the benefits and drawbacks of writing with or without a plan. They discuss the importance of respecting readers and doing research when writing about vulnerable topics, then Matthew shares an excerpt (rated NC-17) from one of his published stories and encourages any writers listening to join The Metaworker’s weekly Discord writing group.

Author Bio:

Matthew Maichen typically writes as Johnathon Heart, and is the former editor-in-chief of The Metaworker. He is dedicated to writing stories for anyone who thinks that Halloween is better than Christmas, that love is worth believing in, and that all the best love stories are at least a little bit sad. Clearly enough people think this for him to get published. He has appeared in a variety of anthologies and is slated to appear in more. His hobbies include arguing with imaginary people and wasting the entire day. He does not actually enjoy these things, but he does them anyway.

Referenced in this episode: 

Ants by Johnathon Heart

sensitivity readers, #OwnVoices, and doing your research when writing about sensitive or unfamiliar topics

I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter by Isabel Fall in Clarkesworld and details about the backstory

Feed by M.T. Anderson

The Marigold by Andrew F. Sullivan

Matthew Maichen (aka Johnathon Heart) Publication List:

“To Summon Her” from Pressfuls (as Matthew Maichen)
“Woman Made of Stars” from Factor Four
“The Mourner” in Depths of Love, Love Thy Enemy
“My Darling Girl” in It Calls from Below: Anthology of Horror
“Tacos” in The Best of Bizarro Fiction: Volume 2
“Dorian” in The Devil Who Loves Me
“(im here)” in Bleed Error, Vol. 2
“Lorelai” in the Thirteen Podcast (Patrons only) and in Wicked Shadow Press
“The Door People” in the Nosleep Podcast (as Matthew Maichen)
“Like the Devil” in Collage Macabre: An Exhibition of Art Horror (as Matthew Maichen)
“THREEFOLD.WMV” by Johnathon Heart in From Beyond the Threshold: Cosmic Horror Anthology

Episode Transcript:

Elena L. Perez (00:01):
Intro: Welcome to part two of our catch-up chat with former Metaworker editor-in-Chief Matthew Maichen. We talked to Matthew about his writing and publishing journey in part one of our catch-up. In this part two episode, we’ll be talking with Matthew about writing craft and hear an excerpt from one of his short stories.

Elena L. Perez (00:17):
Hello everyone. My name is Elena Perez. I am the editor-in-chief of The Metaworker.

Melissa Reynolds (00:24):
I’m Melissa Reynolds—go by Mel—and I am also an editor here with The Metaworker.

Cerid Jones (00:29):
I’m Cerid Jones and I’m the international editor [laughs] here at The Metaworker.

Matthew Maichen (00:34):
Hello, I am Matthew Maichen.

Cerid Jones (00:36):
Alright. Now we’ve refreshed everyone’s memory about why we’re here and who we are. Let’s get kickstarted with Mel’s first question.

Melissa Reynolds (00:46):
I wanna shift gears on you a little bit because I have a few questions that I thought up specifically for you.

Matthew Maichen (00:52):

Melissa Reynolds (00:53):
That have to do with writing.

Matthew Maichen (00:54):

Melissa Reynolds (00:55):
I have a ritual that I follow when I write just to put me in the mood. You know, I light a candle and I call it ‘The Candle of Inspiration’ [laughs] and I’ll have a cup of tea or whatever. Do you have any rituals that you use to settle into your writing?

Matthew Maichen (01:13):
You know what? That would be a great idea. No, I don’t. And, uh…

Melissa Reynolds (01:20):
You better get on it then.

Matthew Maichen (01:21):
Wish I did. Yeah, I know. I really should. Because the thing is, it’s so hard for me to actually get it done. I just started a new novel. I need to find some kind of ritual because my goal whenever I’m writing a novel is a thousand words a day. No excuses. I need it. I need the ritual. But I don’t have one. So I could not…

Cerid Jones (01:42):
You could come join us at our writing sprint, Matthew.

Matthew Maichen (01:46):
I should.

Cerid Jones (01:47):
As part of your ritual, at least for once a week, you could probably knock out a thousand words in the hour or so a week, right around. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (01:54):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, you know, maybe other people should do that, too. Maybe other people should come to The Metaworker Discord and join in on the writing sprint. And then, I don’t know, good things will happen to you.

Melissa Reynolds (02:09):
I can tell you that it’s a super supportive environment and we aim to always encourage people who share. So far, it’s been the highlight of my week because I am super stoked to do more writing after I do a Wednesday sprint. So, absolutely, we’d love to have you.

Elena L. Perez (02:31):

Matthew Maichen (02:32):
Back when I didn’t have a full-time job, I didn’t need a ritual. Maybe I need a ritual.

Elena L. Perez (02:36):
Yeah. So, what do you do? You just sit down and, and, like, start writing? [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (02:40):
Uh, yeah. Like a psychopath, I do.

All (02:43):

Matthew Maichen (02:45):
It’s easy when I write the kind of things hat I like to write that other people don’t like to read, which is when it is anything but tightly plotted and I am going on the journey with the characters and it’s almost like an RPG that I’m playing with myself. I don’t recommend writing novels that other people enjoy reading that way. Don’t do it. You won’t get a good plot out of it. You might get interesting characters out of it, but readers—especially in this day and age—will lose patience with you.

Melissa Reynolds (03:22):
That is perfect because my next question for you was do you write with a plan or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Matthew Maichen (03:31):
Depends on the book or story. The project that is right now known as “Vessel”…um, I had a plan and then I completely defied that plan. I was rude to it and nasty to it. I ignored it. The project now known as “Changeling”, which I am retitling, actually, to “Never Return” because “Changeling” is the name of a popular, well-known book. And, yeah, it’s now a show.

Elena L. Perez (04:04):
Oh, I was gonna say it turned into a movie, but—yeah, maybe a show. I don’t know.

Matthew Maichen (04:08):
Okay, I might be wrong. It might be a movie, it might be a show. You can look it up and find out which of us is right. But regardless, it is popular enough that it has been adapted, so I’m changing the name. That one I wrote entirely without a plan and I’m never going to do it again because that was—oh, God, that was a pain to write. Oh, my God. And then, on top of that, dealing with my own…because the story just…I took a plunger into my own personal trauma to write that story and then just went, ‘Errf, errf’. I just yanked it up. The combination of those two things, writing without a plan and doing that, I would never do that again. So, my answer is, I’ve written without a plan before. I wouldn’t do it again.

Melissa Reynolds (04:52):
I imagine rewrites are painful when you write without a plan, too, because then you have to cut a lot of stuff that you might grow to love in the process of—I guess some people call it gardening type of writing ’cause you are tending to all these different plots that you slowly raise to bloom, I guess. I don’t know. But the point is, editing process can really suck for something like that.

Elena L. Perez (05:18):

Matthew Maichen (05:19):
Uh, yeah. Case in point, when you don’t do your plan well, you can also do that. Like, for example, “Vessel”. The first draft was a 100,000 words. The final draft was 150,000 words. And out of those 150,000 words, 50,000 of them were the same as the first draft. So, when you say ‘all new draft’, in that case, you literally mean ‘I wasted my time’. There was time wasting involved because the amount of stuff that got cut goes beyond ed. It goes into, like, ‘okay, time to tell a totally different story’.

Melissa Reynolds (05:59):
Yeah. That can be…I’m in the process of rewriting and it’s very painful. But the way I look at it is, even though you may have those 50,000 words that you feel are a waste of time or leading you down the wrong path, they are still helpful to you as the author because now you know your world even better so that you can set the scene with a paragraph rather than three pages because you know it so well. So, I would tell you that sucks, but please don’t feel like you wasted your time completely.

Matthew Maichen (06:39):
And you also learn what’s a good or a bad idea. For example, “Vessel”—and if the book ever does get published, this will be hilarious when people hear this. There was a lengthy scene in the first draft where the characters fell in a hole. They were crawling around in a cave filled with people who had gems for eyes and space-age technology. In that book. If you know what that book is, then yes, that book had that scene and it went on for 10,000 words. Like, no. Just no. Not in that story. What was I doing? You know, I don’t know what I was thinking.

Elena L. Perez (07:23):
But then you could take that and spin it off into its own little story. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (07:28):
Yeah. True, true, true. You have to learn the hard way sometimes, especially when you write weird shit, what is a good or a bad idea. And that allows you to get away with writing weirder shit in the future. Preview—I have a story upcoming in a body horror anthology, and this is the first time I’m talking about this with anyone outside of the anthology and I’m breaking the rules, so listen up.

Elena L. Perez (07:58):

Matthew Maichen (07:58):
It’s a story about a guy who goes into people’s souls and he finds out that human souls are literally made out of flesh. So, we are, as humans, just flesh, and there is nothing sacred about us. Then he finds one woman who—he goes into her world, her soul world, and it is heavenly and it is angelic and he finds out that she actually has a beautiful soul. Then he starts stalking her, basically treating her like she is an inhuman being and killing all of the men that she falls in love with because he believes that they are poisoning her soul. That’s something I wrote and I think about… Okay, just take this with a grain of salt. Everyone who’s read it says that they like it, but I think about: how did I get to the point where I could actually write something like that that is just so bizarre and so potentially ethically dubious if you framed it wrong. If you aren’t very careful on how you frame that story, it’s really fucked up…

Elena L. Perez (09:16):

Matthew Maichen (09:17):
…in the not right way. I honestly think it was just experimenting with writing when I was younger and writing whatever I wanted to write and fucking around and finding out and getting to this point where I’m comfortable with wherever my weird intuitions lead me. I’m not intimidated by writing something that’s uncomfortable to me. I don’t wanna sound like I’m bragging, I just think do that If you’re a novice writer. Really practice and get yourself to a point where you’re comfortable. The story that I have upcoming, and this is a published one, so this could have been rejected, but it was accepted, so other people do like it. I have a story upcoming on Halloween called “Ants” that is about a closeted lesbian who…her husband basically shamed her out of admitting her same-sex attraction because he wanted to stay with her. She ends up forming a romantic relationship with an ant hive mind. And again, I don’t know, why do I…why is that something that I feel comfortable writing? I feel like it’s because, again, you experiment and you find out: what are you capable of doing? What are you not capable of doing? Maybe I’m blabbering at this point.

Melissa Reynolds (10:44):
That’s okay. I actually really like that approach because it gives beginning writers a little bit of hope that, even if what they’re writing isn’t successful, that’s okay because it’s just another piece to the puzzle and [is] helping them figure out who they are as a writer and what their voice should be like. So…

Matthew Maichen (11:06):

Melissa Reynolds (11:06):
I’m stoked to hear that. Linked to that, is your process for creating characters similar? Do you just play around until you figure it out or do you have a process that you do?

Matthew Maichen (11:24):
Ah, characters. Characters are the most important thing and don’t let anyone tell you any different. As I’ve gotten better at writing, I’ve realized what the ultimate challenge of characters is. The ultimate challenge is that characterization is really bad for word count and it’s very bad for being shrewd with your word count. Because as people, we are not succinct, and our thoughts are not succinct, and we’re messy. A lot of people clean up their word count, and in cleaning up their word count, they clean up their characters. They make their characters less messy. They make their characters less natural. For example, one of the best writers I’ve ever read [inaudible] characterization, and some people [inaudible] this, some people don’t realize because they haven’t read him or they haven’t taken [him] seriously. One of the best writers I’ve ever read with characterization is Stephen King. And, you know, if you’re a Stephen King fan, you agree. Because every Stephen King fan says it’s all about the characters. But the thing about Stephen King’s characters is that it comes at the cost of extreme messiness, sometimes, with how long he is willing to spend on thoughts. What I found is that the best way to build a character is, rather than planning them out, let them become a person on the page. Maybe you have a trait that they need to have for the sake of the plot, but if you decide, ‘okay, this person needs to have all these traits’ beforehand, you’re going to turn them into a plot robot. You’re going to turn them into the machine that executes your story. And people aren’t that. They never will be. That’s my honest advice on characters. The best characters I have ever created are people who I’ve given space to be themselves. I almost feel like I’m role-playing as them when I’m writing, rather than executing them in the plot machine factory.

Elena L. Perez (13:37):
I like that. That’s so true. That’s how I think of characters, too. I think a lot of writers think that way, of their characters as people, and that’s why you always hear, ‘oh, the character has their own mind and does things that the author doesn’t expect sometimes’. So, yeah, that’s very true and I love that. I love that about characters. Since we have been talking about your writing, Matthew, I was wondering if you have any—I know we didn’t prepare you for this—story or short excerpt that you’d like to share with us. To read?

Matthew Maichen (14:11):
Oh, my gosh. Okay. So, I can do it if you are willing to edit out the lengthy part that I spend looking for it. Yeah.

Elena L. Perez (14:21):
Oh, of course.

Matthew Maichen (14:21):
Okay. We can do this.

Cerid Jones (14:25):
Well, we could just fill in, if we get an editor…I mean, we might come up with something brilliant in this time plan and go, ‘oh my goodness, I’m so glad we kept recording and we don’t wanna edit it’. But, I mean, who knows? Let’s leave it to the fates and the muses to find out for us, shall we?

All (14:40):

Cerid Jones (14:40):
We all know we can yarn for days, so, you know.

Elena L. Perez (14:44):
Breaking the fourth wall for a minute here. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (14:47):
That’s just the reality. That’s just like what it has to be if you want this to happen.

Elena L. Perez (14:50):

Melissa Reynolds (14:51):
While he’s looking, we can talk about characters. I do interviews with my characters.

Elena L. Perez (14:58):
Oh, yeah.

Melissa Reynolds (14:59):
Yeah. I fully ask them questions and write out the responses.

Cerid Jones (15:04):
It’s cool you say that, Mel. I’m actually working with an author at the moment and one of her processes is she has an interview chair. She summons her characters into her writing office, you know, and invites them to bring their own chair if they would like to.

Elena L. Perez (15:19):
Oh, I love that.

Cerid Jones (15:19):
And sit down and have an interview with her. They often ask her questions, as well. And she said to me, one of the key characters in her story, she spent ages trying to get him to show up, and he’s the Arch Prince of this particular world and story. And he didn’t. Then one day he arrived when she was in the kitchen and caught her completely off guard and asked her…made a bunch of inappropriate comments and then just disappeared again. [laughs]

Elena L. Perez (15:48):

Cerid Jones (15:49):
And I just thought,…

Elena L. Perez (15:49):
Oh, I love that.

Cerid Jones (15:51):
That’s the coolest description. I’ve never thought of interviewing characters before, Mel, so I’m really, really stoked to hear someone else say that they have hot seat interviews with them. That’s cool. So, quick little shout-out to J Victoria Michael. [laughs]

Melissa Reynolds (16:07):
Yeah. That’s how my wacky idea of having The Seeker started is it’s me interviewing characters, and then I actually put that in with my novel as part of the process. And it’s really trippy.

Matthew Maichen (16:22):
I found something.

Elena L. Perez (16:23):
Okay, great.

Matthew Maichen (16:24):
I decided that, since I talked about “Ants” before and “Ants” is coming up on October 31st, and that might be when this goes out—or around then, or maybe shortly after then. I’m gonna promote “Ants”. It’s coming up in the anthology Fable. Fable is an anthology of sci-fi, horror ,and the supernatural. I will be published there as Jonathan Heart. So, this is the beginning of “Ants”.

Elena L. Perez (16:51):
Before Matthew reads his story, we want to give you, our listeners, a content warning. There will be some sexually charged language and situations, as well as body horror. So, if these topics make you feel uncomfortable, you can skip ahead about nine minutes to hear the rest of our conversation.

Matthew Maichen (17:08):
[Matthew reads an excerpt from his story]

Elena L. Perez (25:03):

Cerid Jones (25:04):
That is intense.

Melissa Reynolds (25:06):

Elena L. Perez (25:08):
Yeah. Wow. That was… [laughs]…that was definitely intense but, yeah—Oh, so good.

Matthew Maichen (25:14):
Uh, thank you. I appreciate it. Um, I forgot…I’m sorry, you called me out to read a random story and only when I was reading it did I remember. Um…

Cerid Jones (25:27):
[laughs] No apologies.

All (25:30):

Matthew Maichen (25:31):
Can you say it is not gratuitous. It is very relevant to the content of the story and it’s important for the story that is being told. And I apologize to everyone.

Elena L. Perez (25:47):
No, no. It’s good. It reminded me of what you were saying earlier about being able to be vulnerable and be in that place, you know, of being able to write something like this. It was just very visceral and I loved all the descriptions, so thank you for sharing that.

Matthew Maichen (26:05):
I do also want to say that I am pitching this story and it’s only fair to give those warnings. The ending is perhaps the most fucked up thing I’ve ever written, even by my standards. It is…it’s a lot. You should know that. If you are uncomfortable with any kind of like sexual body horror, probably not this one for you. Just putting that out there.

Elena L. Perez (26:39):
But it’s a good sampling of the stuff you write. So, thank you for sharing it.

Matthew Maichen (26:44):
Yeah, I appreciate it. I appreciate you reaching out to me. Yeah. And I understand if you need to edit it.

Cerid Jones (26:50):
There’s one thing I really wanna pick up on that, which I find a really interesting detail. As someone who does get a lot of ants in their property, I often don’t think too much…my father ,when he squishes an ant, ‘says, oh, better luck in your next reincarnation’. I kind of like that mentality, but I don’t tend to have a strong reaction to anyone squishing ants. And that’s one of the things that really stood out to me in this particular story, as my instant gut reaction would be like, ‘oh, I really don’t like this guy’. As soon as he squishes those ants, there is just something that bubbled up in me straight away. I think it’s partly because, you know, we are really getting this story from her perspective. You know, there’s all the lovely little subtle indications of he’s not a bad guy, but he’s uncomfortable, right? Then, you know…I mean, I guess it’s a moral quandary. He could be bad, but…[laughs]. But it’s that humanistic quality. But to have such a strong reaction as a reader to someone doing something so mundane as squishing ants, I think is a real testament to that—what we were talking about before—about that character, that world building, those elements that you tie in and add in and layer and get to that sort of maturity of something. It’s such a small, simple example, but beautiful. I really love that.

Matthew Maichen (28:17):

Cerid Jones (28:18):
Lovely. Lovely touch, Matthew.

Matthew Maichen (28:20):
Yeah, I do put a lot of work into things that I write that are dark. Despite what I have said, not everything I write is dark, but I put a lot of work into the things that I write that are dark. I think that people should, because if you are writing dark content, you are writing something that has hurt someone at some point.

Elena L. Perez (28:42):

Matthew Maichen (28:42):
It is so essential to do your research.

Elena L. Perez (28:46):

Matthew Maichen (28:47):
And to know what you’re doing. You know, people complain about this whole ‘trigger warning’, ‘content warning’, I guess even ‘cancel culture’ in the right context, whatever you call it. The reason why people aren’t willing to read stories with darker content at this point is because they have been betrayed by authors who did not handle it sensitively. Now they don’t trust anyone, anymore. It’s so important when you handle darker content to handle it with an extremely sensitive, deft touch, and to be willing to use subtlety. I will tell you this story is not subtle by the end. I’m not going to claim that it’s a subtle story. You need to be willing to have subtlety and deftness and be extremely sensitive and understanding as you write it.

Elena L. Perez (29:35):
Well, storytelling, no matter what genre, is a form of truth-telling, in a way. Because in this kind of a story, you’re getting to the root of these things that may have hurt somebody. So, when you look at it that way, you wanna handle it carefully—not carefully, but respectfully—because you wanna respect your fellow humans who have gone through this situation. Yeah, I agree. Important to do research and handle it with respect.

Cerid Jones (30:07):
Yeah. I think there’s something really powerful to be said about revealing and examining vulnerability, especially when it makes you uncomfortable. Because when there’s an element of uncomfortability that comes with vulnerability, that’s when you are really getting something out of it, you know? Whether that’s because you’re able to process something that you weren’t aware you needed to process, or whether it’s because you’re getting a greater understanding of what someone else’s perspective might be. And by being really sensitive to those things when you are writing something, you actually end up examining both sides, I think. Both the person this thing has happened to and understanding what that might have been like, as well as revealing some of your own that makes a parallel to that, if that makes sense.

Matthew Maichen (31:03):
I do want to make it clear, ’cause you mentioned firsthand experiences and vulnerability, I did say I believe that saying, ‘why am I the person to write this story’ is a thing in an ethically dubious system. I don’t wanna say outright terrible. It’s not, like, ‘oh, we have a system that prioritizes OwnVoices and that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened. And you’re a bad person for wanting OwnVoices stories’. But I think that the fallout that has happened as a result of the pressure [that] everyone has to write a story that is about them and about their identity and about who they are. The people who have been hurt by that greatly outweighs the sense of security that the audience feels as far as the pain that has happened. I don’t know if you’ve heard of…if you don’t know about it—look up the “I [sexaully] identify as an attack helicopter” story. That’s a particularly infamous example, but a lot of writers who are LGBT in general have complained about how they are being forced to out themselves for agents and editors and all of these people so that they will be allowed to write stories that are about their experiences. It’s such a difficult quandary because going back to what I said earlier, people have been betrayed, so they feel like, as a result, they can only trust someone who is similar enough to them that when they’re writing about their trauma, they’re writing about it from a firsthand experience, and at least they can trust that person to be sensitive to it. But the end result is people being forced to out themselves to agents and editors. The end result is I have to say that I have autism to everyone. I just have to because of the things that I’m trying to publish, and I don’t have that option to not say it, you know? I don’t try to hide it from people. I’m not intentionally trying to hide it, but with the book that I’m querying, if I didn’t say it, I would never have a chance. I’m lucky that I’m okay with saying it and I’m confident in saying it, but other people are not and they’re forced to. It’s a really hard quandary right now that we’re dealing with. For a while there was a thing going around where they were trying to end OwnVoices and people were saying ‘don’t say it OwnVoices anymore. Don’t do that anymore.’ And a lot of people agreed, ‘yeah, it’s bad’. And then it never actually stopped because it’s driven by readers, and readers want it. So, that’s what it is at the end of the day and maybe it’ll change, but it hasn’t changed yet.

Cerid Jones (33:49):
I think that’s a really good vote for, in terms of the editing process, having sensitivity readership. A role as an editor is to be sensitive for those contexts and how they might affect people regardless of whether the writer is an identifier or not. I think that’s one of the key things or key responsibilities that I often feel is my role in doing editing work, is being able to pull out those different sort of perceptions and kind of go, ‘well, it doesn’t matter so much whether the author has that lived experience or not, it’s having a mentality or understanding of what the readership’s response to that might be and opening up those conversations’. I think that’s really important. I think that’s more important than it is with the ethical quandary you are talking about, Matthew, of being the voice of the writer and the writer’s own experience. As having that coupled with what is a readership experience and having sensitivity conversations with your editor.

Matthew Maichen (34:57):
I agree.

Melissa Reynolds (34:58):

Matthew Maichen (34:58):
I agree with you and I think that we are approaching a world where we are going to have more nuance in the future. I think that’s where we’re going from here. And I think that people are going to get tired of policing each other. I think. Eventually. I know that there’s a lot of policing of communities on the internet right now, and I think people are gonna run out of energy for all of it. When that happens, I really hope the conversation just changes to, ‘is this empathetic or is it not’? Does this understand what people are going through or doesn’t it? And if it doesn’t understand what people are going through, if it isn’t accurate, then I mean, it’s bad writing, and we don’t need to read it.

Cerid Jones (35:47):

Elena L. Perez (35:49):
Yeah. Okay. We have a few more questions we wanna ask you, but I know that we’ve gone very long, so if we can ask you a couple more, because I don’t know…

Matthew Maichen (35:59):
If you wanna divide this into multiple parts, I’m fine, I can keep going. I can keep going.

All (36:03):

Elena L. Perez (36:05):

Cerid Jones (36:06):
The next part three wave coming soon. We knew this…

Elena L. Perez (36:10):

Cerid Jones (36:11):
We all knew this would happen. We were well aware. We wrote a list of questions and were like, ‘you know what, we’re probably gonna go off and talk about all these things’. No, we’ll just use this as a rough guideline, right? [laughs]

Elena L. Perez (36:25):
We just get to talking and then…[laughs] So, since we were talking about being sensitive to…well sensitivity to readers and all that kind of thing and writing these kind of stories, I did wanna ask you about editors. We had a conversation in our discord, one of our channels the other day, about finding an editor after you’ve written this piece of writing that you’re passionate about. How do you find someone to edit your work while being, you know, sensitive to these kind of issues that you are writing about? Kind of describe that process.

Matthew Maichen (37:13):
Well, once again, I consider this a thing that I’m lucky about on my end because I am very secure about what I know does not need to be changed. A lot of people, as beginning writers, they’re not there yet. They don’t have that security, yet. So, when an editor says something, they’re, like, ‘oh man, if I don’t listen, am I a bad writer’? The thing you have to remember is whatever anyone says about your work, it is a suggestion and you should accept or reject that suggestion. Unless you have already been accepted by a publishing house, in which case—good luck. I’m glad that you did [and] tell me how you did it. They are editing your work, you know, from a position of authority: ‘We will only put this out with these edits’. But for most people, they get their friend to look at it. They have a beta reader and the beta reader makes suggestions, and you have to make that decision—is this good or is this bad? I’m gonna call out, shout-out, to Cerid because Cerid read one of my books and did practically line edits for it. She went through piece by piece and sentence by sentence was like, ‘this should be worded this way, this should be worded this way’. And like, the level of criticism that she supplied, I was…I did not even know that she was gonna do that and I appreciate that. But even then—Cerid’s aware because she might’ve seen when I finally went through and looked at the edits and said yes or no to them—I said no to some things because I knew, like, ‘this is a thing that needs to be the same’. This is a thing that needs…that can be changed…she’s right here. You have to find someone you trust. You can trust someone when you know that they are ultimately helping you. If someone is not helping you, if you find out that you can’t trust ’em? Well, you don’t have to listen to their feedback. It’s okay to give your story to someone and have them read it, because at the end of the day, it will always be a suggestion.

Cerid Jones (39:23):
Thanks, Matthew. I totally appreciate that and I will just say, you know, that book is awesome. I loved reading that so much and I seriously believe you are going to get this into print because it is a great story and I absolutely loved it. That’s the only reason why my editor brain kicked in and I went, ‘yes, I’m gonna dissect everything that I can possibly think of because I love this and I’m in it and I’m invested already’. I think it only took me like ten pages to be entirely invested. I value that kind of relationship, Matthew, when I’m doing edits and even for my indie publishing job, when I work with authors who come back and say, ‘actually, you know what? I get what you’re trying to say, but this isn’t right for me’. I think that’s one of the beautiful processes of having beta readers or having editors because that also gives you an extra confirmation as the author, as well. When someone else says to you, ‘you should change this’ and your gut reaction is ‘no,’ you know that you are really solid on that.

Matthew Maichen (40:34):

Cerid Jones (40:34):
You know, you stop doubting it at all. There’s no question of doubt anymore. You’ve solidified, ‘this is what I’m doing, this is how this story needs to work’. And when you’re prepared to accept the other bits as well, you know, it creates this really nice balance. It is a collaborative process. Even as a beta reader, you know, whatever form of assessment you’re doing, it should always be collaborative.

Melissa Reynolds (40:57):
I was just gonna say, something that you said, Cerid, really struck a chord with me. A lot of times. I know when I do reviews for friends, if they want the in-depth version, sometimes it can feel like I’m attacking the story and don’t like it, but it’s actually the exact opposite. The more comments I make and the more suggestions, that means that I am really engaged and really care about the story. So, I think it might be important to think of editorial feedback in that light, as ‘Hey, this person put in hours of their time because they actually really like my story’ and it’s not so much that we are trying to rip it apart.

Matthew Maichen (41:42):
Yeah. And I think that my number one piece of advice for people looking for someone to beta read their book is one: have a book.

Elena L. Perez (41:54):
The all important…[laughs]

Matthew Maichen (41:57):
Two: trade. Do critique trades with people. Be willing to read someone else’s entire book and give them critique on it. One of the beta readers I got for “To Never Return”, actually, ’cause I’m gonna call it that, was a person who was making a choice-based video game. I was like, ‘okay’. I read through this person’s…every option that this person prepared for this branching story. I gave feedback on the character’s dialogue and feedback on the plot and the different ways it could go. In return, that person read my entire book. So, be ready to read other people’s stuff and then you can do trades. The other thing I was gonna say, Cerid, would you be interested in maybe learning how to telepathically mindmeld with people?

Elena L. Perez (42:53):

Matthew Maichen (42:53):
Hear me out, hear me out. And then what you can do is you can do it with an agent and then you can transfer your opinion of my book into the agent’s brain. Would you be interested in that?

Cerid Jones (43:10):
Yes, Matthew, absolutely. I am. I will seriously put some meditational time and commitment into doing this because I think you’re onto something. I’m 100% into this.

Matthew Maichen (43:22):
Okay, good. We’re gonna work this out. It’s never worked before in the entire history of humankind, but it could be here.

Cerid Jones (43:31):
It could be here today.

Matthew Maichen (43:32):
Yeah, we can do it now.

Elena L. Perez (43:34):
I love that.

Cerid Jones (43:34):
With our powers combined.

Melissa Reynolds (43:37):
They’re saying that McDonald’s is going to start advertising in people’s brains somehow. Some rabbit hole I went down on TikTok or somewhere was saying that there’s a patent out there for subliminal dream advertisements or something. I don’t know.

Matthew Maichen (43:56):
Have you ever read a book called “Feed”?

Elena L. Perez (43:59):

Melissa Reynolds (43:59):

Matthew Maichen (44:01):
“Feed” by M.T. Anderson.

Elena L. Perez (44:04):
It’s exactly that. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (44:06):
It is. Perhaps there is aging like fine wine and there is aging like terrifying wine because “Feed” was a book written in 2002 before smartphones. And—oh my God, look at what that book is saying now.

Elena L. Perez (44:23):
Matthew Maichen (44:23):
It is literally about that. Yeah. I’m glad that you’ve read it, too, Elena, because, like—holy crap, holy…

Elena L. Perez (44:30):
I have. [laughs] I think about that all the time and I’m like—wow. Especially the ending. Oh, it’s so wrenching. Just…

Matthew Maichen (44:40):
Yeah, yeah. Good book. Book recommendation.

Elena L. Perez (44:43):
Yes, which was actually the question [laughs] that I was gonna ask you. So, that’s a good kickoff. Any others that you would like to recommend?

Matthew Maichen (44:52):
Oh, oh, oh, oh, I do have an indie one. I feel bad because I’ve been terrible at reading indie books or lesser-known books, but I’ve done it. I’ve read a lesser-known book. It’s called “The Marigold” by Andrew F. Sullivan. It is a Canadian sci-fi lit-fic horror novel about a city that is systematically falling apart as the rich monopolize too much power and ignore public health build these horrible towers that lead to people being in contact with horrific monsters. It is a book where every sentence—just beautiful writing. It is also one of those books that flips between twenty different perspective characters and you just have to tolerate it. But there is this part, and I know this is a book with monsters, this is a book that is sci-fi, but there is a part that just talks about this man’s experience being a rideshare driver and the trauma that he goes through working in the gig economy. That was probably one of the most harrowing parts of the entire book. Just hearing the trauma of being forced to work as a rideshare driver and trying to get a job interview and have it go well as you’re doing that in this hyper-capitalistic dystopian society that is not that far off from our own. So, “The Marigold” by Andrew Sullivan is a fantastic novel.

Elena L. Perez (46:34):
Yeah. That sounds really interesting. Cool.

Matthew Maichen (46:39):

Elena L. Perez (46:40):
Any others?

Melissa Reynolds (46:43):
Yes, I have the final extremely, extremely important question for you, so prepare yourself. Are you ready?

Matthew Maichen (46:52):
I’m ready.

Melissa Reynolds (46:52):
Okay. Ankle or tube socks.

All (46:54):

Matthew Maichen (46:59):
Um, I’m gonna say tube socks because ankle socks lead to my feet getting blistered as they rub against things. Wait, tube socks are the ones that cover your ankles, right?

Melissa Reynolds (47:16):
They go up higher.

Elena L. Perez (47:18):

Matthew Maichen (47:18):
Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely tube socks. I bought ankle socks a while ago and I didn’t know what I was…this is actually something I do have an opinion on. I have a strong opinion on ankle socks being bad. Love yourself and let yourself have that extra fabric [because it] is protection.

Elena L. Perez (47:36):
See, I’m the opposite. That’s so funny. [laughs] I hate the fabric because it just bunches up and it just feels weird. So, ankle socks for me all the way.

Cerid Jones (47:48):
Yeah. Elena, I think you are rebelling against the old Victorian you cannot show your ankles. Elena is ankle proud, people. You know, she’s a progressive woman.

Elena L. Perez (47:58):
[laughs] I guess.

Matthew Maichen (47:59):

Cerid Jones (48:01):
Ankles can be seen.

Elena L. Perez (48:02):
Which may be to my detriment because I’ve been getting bitten by mosquitoes a lot lately. So, [laughs] maybe sometimes…

Cerid Jones (48:08):
Ah, well, Matthew…

Matthew Maichen (48:09):
Protection. I said protection and I meant it.

All (48:12):

Melissa Reynolds (48:16):
A very important question. I’m glad we addressed this.

Elena L. Perez (48:19):
Yes. Well, thank you so much, Matthew for coming today to talk with us. This is so much fun.

Matthew Maichen (48:26):

Elena L. Perez (48:26):
Um… [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (48:27):
And, seriously, if you do need to edit that story in some way, it’s fine. It’s honestly fine. I understand. I went from it being a PG 13 rated podcast to an NC 17 rated podcast in a matter of minutes.

Elena L. Perez (48:48):
[laughs] Yeah…

Matthew Maichen (48:48):
I get it. I understand. More for the imagination for when they hopefully buy the book. And thank you. Thank you so much.

Elena L. Perez (48:59):
Yeah, thank you. Thank you for being here.

Melissa Reynolds (49:01):
Thank you.

Cerid Jones (49:03):
It’s been an absolute joy, Matthew. And one thing, just before we go, you did mention that people should always be receptive about trade and exchanges. So, Matthew, whenever I finish a novella, I expect a little review from you, eh? [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (49:19):
Absolutely. Give it me. I wanna see what you’ve written. I wanna see it. Give it to me.

Elena L. Perez (49:25):

Cerid Jones (49:25):
Yeah. Beautiful. I’m glad. You heard it on the air, folks. It’s set in stone.

Matthew Maichen (49:30):
Well, yeah. No, no, no. This is…actually, I like that I’ve made this verbal contract because now I can’t weasel out of it. I’m going to be held accountable. I’ve gotten to that age where I’m aware of how bad I am at following up on things and now I’m forced to, so good.

Elena L. Perez (49:48):
It’s tough. There’s so much going on. But…

Melissa Reynolds (49:50):
Cerid has been sharing some of her work at the Writing Sprint. I’m not sure if that’s the same novella, but so far I can tell you it will be an absolute joy to read because she’s a fantastic author.

Cerid Jones (50:04):
Everyone in our write group is. [inaudible] Everyone is. We’re just exceptionally talented left, right, and center, which is why Matthew should come and join us. ‘Cause, you know, we’ve already got that vibe.

Melissa Reynolds (50:15):

Matthew Maichen (50:16):
If there’s one thing that I can end with, I want to end with that. At the end of the day, even if you’re just gonna be sharing your writing with a few people, even if, hypothetically, something happened with this podcast and it got deleted and it never got published, I did share my writing with three other people and that means something.

Elena L. Perez (50:40):
And we loved it.

Matthew Maichen (50:41):
Yeah. So, don’t get discouraged by career prospects. If you love making art and you love sharing it with people, just do that. Just do that. Please. For the sake of the world.

Elena L. Perez (50:57):
Yes, yes.

Cerid Jones (50:59):
It’s a gift that’s always well received. We are gonna remember that regardless of anything else. We’ve exchanged something beautiful and I appreciate that. I appreciate all of you and all of your time. It’s such an amazing crew. I love these podcasts. I love discussions.

Elena L. Perez (51:16):

Cerid Jones (51:17):
It’s awesome to, yes, [be] back again with you, Matthew.

Elena L. Perez (51:20):

Matthew Maichen (51:21):
Thank you. Have a great night.

Melissa Reynolds (51:23):
You, too.

Elena L. Perez (51:23):
You too. Thank you for being here.

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