FAQ with MPM

Matthew P. Mayo

The following interview was conducted by the fine folks at LitPick:

How did you get started writing?

I remember clacking out stories on my mother’s portable Atlas typewriter (mint green with a burgundy zippered carry case!) when I was in second grade. And I spent many hours alone as a kid, fishing for trout on the Missisquoi River in northern Vermont and narrating amazing adventures and danger-filled deeds of derring. My first audiences were kingfishers and snapping turtles and muskrats. They never told me to stop … so I kept on making up stories. And I’m still at it.

Who influenced you?

My earliest influences are undoubtedly my parents, both of whom love to read. Our house was stocked with shelves of books and piles of magazines sliding all over the place. Later, as I put effort into writing, I discovered poetry, from limericks and haiku to book-length epics. Poetry’s tight use of language, of working to select the best and fewest words to convey a thought, continues to be a big influence on me.

A few other influences: Roald Dahl and his playful, irreverent writing; Edgar Rice Burroughs, who brought the jungle and Mars alive; adventure stories in Outdoor Life and Boys’ Life magazines; James Herriott’s Yorkshire veterinary tales; Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea novels; Jim Kjelgaard’s outdoor adventure stories; TV Westerns such as BonanzaGunsmoke, and Grizzly Adams. I better stop, or we’ll never get to the next question….

Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?

As a reader and as a writer I lean toward reading about and writing characters who find themselves in tough spots in which they must rely on themselves to survive. That’s why Janette, the heroine of my novel, STRANDED, was so fun to spend time with—she realized she had to rely on herself to survive, or she’d die. She chose to fight!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?

The cliché holds true: Read, read, read, write, write, write. Repeat forever. To those basic ingredients, I add: Get outside each day, whether it’s on a sidewalk or a mountain trail, and exercise your mind and body, feel hot sun and cool breeze, and breathe deeply of the great outdoors. Lean against a rough-bark shade tree or a sun-soaked brick wall, anything as long as you’re not sitting holed-up indoors and sedentary. That will result in a dreary day for you and dreary pages for your readers (who, if they are bored, will soon become someone else’s readers).

Where is your favorite place to write?

My wife and I run Gritty Press (www.GrittyPress.com), and tow our wee camper all over North America, mostly into the backcountry, camping and hiking and seeking adventures and inspiration for stories. We call these forays our “collecting trips” and they take us to some pretty wild places, all of which are my new favorite places to write! I can sit on a log or in a beat-up camp chair and whap away on the laptop at whatever adventure I’m working on at the moment. Sometimes it’s in view of the Rocky Mountains or at the Mogollon Rim or along a creek in northern Idaho or deep in the heart of Death Valley or the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota or watching the sun set over Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or along a rocky beach way downeast in Maine. They’re all my favorite places to write. And I can’t wait to find more!

What else would you like to tell us?

If you really want to write, just plain do it. Don’t make excuses or wait for the perfect time or place, because perfection doesn’t exist, except as a word. Write every single day, even when you think you don’t want to, and the words will stack up and become stories, poems, and books. Just like walking from Maine to California can only be done one step at a time, so writing a book can only be accomplished one word at a time, but you’ll get there if you keep walking, keep writing.

Also, I invite everyone to my mountainside cave on the Web: www.MatthewMayo.com … be sure to bring a story, a song, or a joke for the campfire. I’ll supply the marshmallows!