Dave Matthes was born and raised in Swedesboro, New Jersey at the tail end of the summer of 1986. He has attended various colleges for computer engineering, automotive science and criminal justice-like degrees. During the day, he works as a service technician and system installer for the restaurant industry.
Matthes has been writing for more than twenty-five years. He is a writer of poetry and prose and is the author of more than twenty books of varying genres and styles but is most known for his inaugural literary and autobiographical tome "The Slut Always Rides Shotgun", multiple collections of poetry, and "The Mire Man Trilogy".
Dave presently lives in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania with his wife Sarah, and their cat Hank.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
During the day, and sometimes at night, I work as a service technician for the restaurant industry, which requires me to drive from state to state. The extensive drive times allow almost unlimited time to think about whatever book I'm writing. Oftentimes I'll record notes with my phone or if I have to I'll jot down ideas in a little notebook that I keep on me at all times. Most of the time I get my real writing done on my days off. Years ago, I was heavy into writing poetry, or at least what I thought at the time was poetry. When I used to think I was the next Bukowski, like countless others in the current writing world, I would drink bottle after bottle of various whiskeys, wines, and beer, until I was good and drunk and feeling excessively honest with myself. Depending on what I was writing about at the time, I would more than just occasionally require the use of a woman's company, and whatever form that female company came in, I took. These days, I drink less but not because I'm some self-righteous former alcoholic. I love booze, and drink regularly. I just find that the subject matter I'm working on doesn't need as much liquid inspiration. That said, I'll never turn down a glass of red wine while open-faced with the blank page.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Anyone who says writer's block doesn't exist is either a liar, or they aren't a writer. Every writer experiences writer's block in some form or another. In my case it's not exactly coupled with frustration, I just work a lot, so whenever I get a moment to breathe, I'm usually too mentally exhausted to put words to paper. That isn't to say that I'm not always thinking about writing. I'll spend hours just plotting in my head, a habit I blame on my daydreaming days back in elementary and high school. And on days that I try to sit down and write, but for one reason or another can't, I just close the computer down and do something else, most likely reading or watching a movie.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Don't take advice from other authors. What works for one writer will not always work for another. It's best to just learn your own stride, and when the time comes, so will the words. But in all seriousness... if you don't already have one, grow a back bone, and fast. If you easily take to heart the idea that not everyone is going to enjoy your work, or if you are writing with the intention to please EVERYONE, you shouldn't even try to be a writer. I've written over two dozen books, and even I hate some of my own work! It's a great feeling to know that someone loved something you wrote, but if that's your only motivation, do something else with your life. Write what you want to read, and eventually, like-minded people will emerge from the nooks and crannies of the reader world. You might even earn a few bucks in the process.
What are your current/future projects?
Currently I'm neck-deep in my post-apocalyptic western series "The Two Revolvers Saga". I started it a little strangely, not intending it to be a series of books but one thing led to another and I fell in love with the massive world I unintentionally gave birth to. Right now, books one and three, "Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain" and "Mercy" are available, but they don't need to be read in any order. I wrote "Mercy" first, when I didn't think the story would turn into what it currently is. I'm nearly halfway through writing Book 2 Legend of the Horizon Vengeance, and I'm planning on the series being six books in total.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
Personally, I can't stand the thought of limiting myself to one single genre, so ever since the beginning, I've tried to write in various genres. I've written several volumes of poetry and short stories, novels of contemporary fiction, science fiction, and most recently I've dabbled somewhat successfully in the genre of westerns. Each genre must have its own voice, and since I'm kind of a crazy person with multiple moods, it sort of makes sense that I mess around with multiple genres. In a way, doing that helps to balance ME out, and not necessarily the writing itself.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
Anyone can be an author, whether the book makes Oprah's book club, or if it's astoundingly awful. And the invention of this thing called the internet has only made releasing books that much easier, and I imagine it will only continue to grow. Yes, there are many, if not most, who set out to be a recognized author of something good and decent. But there are just as many imitators out there just following a trend because it's trendy. They may write one book and not get a whole lot of recognition for it, and then quit outright. And that's fine, there's all sorts of people out there in the world. Writing isn't for everyone. But it would be very dishonest to say that the literary world has not become entirely too oversaturated with words immaturely thrown together in a blender and poured out onto the blank page posing as works of literature. So much that you can easily get lost in it, and by extension very discouraged.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
I've changed the covers from time to time mostly out of boredom. Sometimes it feels good to update the published books with new covers, sort of like stretching a different set of muscles.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
I'm not exactly one who's been blessed with the finances that would allow me proper advertising, so I do most of my own ad-work myself, posting on various social media sites. It's been pretty successful, I've sold about as many books as one might assume that would allot. But I'd be a liar if I said any of my own strategies have made me rich. In my experience, you have to already know someone in the field, or literally luck your way into meeting someone with their foot in the right door.
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
I've utilized Lulu once before, about ten years ago, but back then the quality was so bad and the prices so high, I cut my ties with them and moved to Createspace, which only lasted until Amazon bought them out. Amazon is... okay, but their customer service is terrible, and there are really no clear guides on how to self-publish. Most of it is nail-biting trial and error, and some of their limitations can be a bit frustrating. Someday I do plan of finding another outlet, but it's on the back burner as it's not terribly important.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
I keep a notebook on me at all times just in case. But also, I text myself notes via talk to text if I'm driving around for work or out doing something else. I'm also constantly victimized by the all-too-common curse of waking up in the middle of the night with a handful of ideas that I absolutely have to write down at that exact moment.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
The story is only as long as it has to be. Sometimes in the beginning, I have a vague idea of how long I picture the story, but usually by the end of the first draft that's changed drastically, with the second and the final draft being changed almost more. But if I am working on a novel, I try not to have it less than 250 pages.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
It all depends on the reader. I know people who've said they get bored with a book if it's over 200 pages, but also on the opposite end, I've talked to many readers who love getting soaked in a novel 1000 pages or more. For me personally, the page count doesn't matter. The cover, however, is another story. Yea, yea, "don't judge a book by its cover" yadda, yadda, yadda. I don't know what the reason is for it, but there has in recent years been a hugely noticeable decline in book cover design quality. Most look the same as every other book in their respective genres, and their titles usually mirror that. I get that it's almost impossible to be completely original in today's art world, but it seems to me like people of an undiscernible quantity have just stopped trying.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
I know that the more reviews a book has, whether they're good or bad reviews, the more likely I am to buy it. That said, for a self-published author, it's very difficult to get people to write reviews for your books, sometimes I find myself emailing them or messaging them see if they'll just write even a few sentences, having seen that they've purchased a copy of this or that. Most of the time they just message me on one or more of my various social media accounts telling me how they liked the book, which is always, always, always nice and appreciated. But it's a great feeling too to wake up and see that someone has written a review for one of your books.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
I don't know much about readers who purposely set out to put down other writers' work, but I have been victim to the occasional person who's written some not very nice things about me because they may or may not have had a personal problem with me, and by extension, my writing. One people, who will forever remain nameless, even took to setting one of my books on fire and posting a live video of it on his Instagram feed, which I found quite amusing. I'm still not sure what he was trying to accomplish by doing that, but I hope he's since found some semblance of peace in his turmoil.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
If no one at all reads the book, it can be disheartening, or if very few people do, and the majority of them decide it's not something they enjoyed. I start every book writing it for myself, of course, but also with the hope that someone somewhere might read it and like it.
What is the intended audience for you book?
Anyone who's ever picked a book from the shelf and thought to themselves "this sounds good".
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Don't stop reading. I've gone through reading lulls in life lasting sometimes years, and it's left me feeling empty inside in way I can't really describe too well, which is interesting because I'm a writer, I'm supposed to know how to describe feelings of all kinds. But reading has always been very therapeutic for me, and even when I'm too tired too read, just being around a book is sometimes enough to feel better than if I wasn't.
What makes a good story, why?
What makes a good story? Gee, that's quite a question. I suppose if I thought about it long enough I could narrow it down to a few basic bullets of generality. But really I think, if a story has living characters, people or creatures that could actually exist in reality, as long as a story has that, even if they're just sitting in a room meandering mentally about their own thoughts, the story could be compelling.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I love reading reviews. I'm not sure there's a writer out there who loves to read a good five-star paragraph written about their work. But it's true you learn more from the bad reviews, even if you disagree with them, which admittedly I tend to do. Your words aren't always going to reach readers, and that can lead to getting those bad reviews, or maybe you just wrote something very poorly for one reason or another, and yes miscalculations can and will happen. But take the bad reviews with just as much respect as the good ones. Don't quit just because someone felt dissatisfied. There are billions of people in the world; in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty unrealistic to try to please every single one of them.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
I've felt that I've gotten pretty good at writing dialogue, whether they're quick conversations of quips, or lengthy speeches or monologues given by characters of hopeful depth, but that's not to say that I've perfected anything. Everything in writing is a constant work of improvement, at least I hope so. The first book I ever wrote sold a pretty good amount of copies during its run, and still does, but compared to how I write now, it's a god-awful piece of literary swill. I should probably unpublish it, all things considered. But therein comes my ever-improving ability of writing the controversial; I have a somewhat sadistic enjoyment in offending people.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
After I've finished with my six book series The Two Revolvers Saga, I'd like to get into something a little more supernatural, involving a haunted house or something spooky, but I've attempted that before and with writers like Stephen KIng out there, there's very little hope of writing about something in that genre that he hasn't already released a hundred times over. But who knows, maybe the right time has yet to arrive.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Have a sense of curiosity, and trying things that others may not have, or have frowned upon because they're different. Always ask "what if this" and "what if that"? Even if it doesn't pan out and you end up removing it. An idea that you have for one book that ends up not working out could work for another book. Save it all, experiment with the strange and unusual.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
Reading is reading, and I get that eBooks offer a great deal of convenience. But for me, nothing will ever be better than holding a real live, breathing book that has a smell and doesn't need batteries for me to dive into.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
The only two challenges that come with writing a book are starting to write it, and finishing it. The research that comes with writing is the fun part, learning as much about whatever subject I'm getting into is a thrill. Whether it's relearning history I was taught in high school, which oftentimes tends to turn into learning "what really happened", since most everything we're taught during our formative years is complete hogwash, or if it's getting into something new like psychology or new sciences, or dabbling in various religions.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
I've found that most editors are too rich for my blood, so I end up editing my own work, multiple times over. I sometimes have one or two people read the drafts just so I don't miss anything, but it's nearly impossible to grab and nab every detail that needs editing. But I would never, ever, ever, ever, EVER release a book I didn't read through at least five times to edit. I've read, or in this case tried to read, too many self-published books that the author irresponsibly didn't take the time to at least try to edit.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
I'm a control freak with my writing. I like to design the covers, retain all rights to the story without changing what I don't want to change, etc. I can only do that via self-publishing. I've tried getting some of my work published by traditional publishing houses but was unsuccessful, but that was probably for the best. One day I may put more effort into that realm but for now I'm satisfied with self-publishing and the freedom it gives me.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
I design all my book covers. It's the control freak in me. If the day ever comes that I decide to pursue the traditional publishing route, and if by some luck I become a signed author, I suppose that will be something I will need to grapple with.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
Finishing. That first exhaled breath at the end of the first draft is pure ecstasy. There's nothing quite like it, really.