Matt Hammond came along for a chat and some drinks. We’re just firing up the grill, care for some food too?
Have a glass of wine and a lamb chop. Dig in while I tell the folks a bit about you before we do the interview.
Matt Hammond was born in London in 1963. After spending most of his life living near Southampton UK, he emigrated with his wife and children in 2002, settling near Nelson, at the top of the South Island of New Zealand.
We know you’re a Brit. 🙂 Did you have trouble adjusting to the ‘Kiwi’ way of life?
New Zealand has a large immigrant community from across the world. We moved to a particularly ‘European’ town (Nelson). The old adage about NZ being the first country to see each new day, but still about 30 years behind the rest of the world is true in many aspects. Things like greeting strangers you pass in the street, keeping an eye out for kids, whether or not they are yours, visiting sick neighbours or the elderly in your street – all these and more make this country’s way of life feel like you are living in a time capsule in many respects.
I’d love for that to be all over the world. Isn’t it much more … civilised I guess I would call it. I don’t know it just feels right, doesn’t it?
Has the move to New Zealand brought you the quieter, safer life you and your family were looking for?
We moved here less than a year after 9/11 (which partially prompted the desire to live somewhere remote and safe). We were amongst the first of a large wave of families who probably had the same reasons.
It takes a while to re-establish trust in the human race, but the lack of crime, the lack of people, and the fact you can go into town having left your front door unlocked, then park in town, with your car unlocked never fails to make me realise we made the correct decision.
Again, I wish I could move there too. 🙂 You live in the perfect place.
Was there ever any other destination possible?
We were toying with the idea of moving. Across town, or elsewhere in the UK we wondered? We hadn’t even fully explored those options when we realised the upheaval and practicalities of shifting a house full of stuff were almost identical whether it was 10 miles, or 10,000 miles.
Can you tell me a quirky anecdote from when you just arrived there? (No doubt due to culture differences you must have put your foot in it at some time. 🙂
Despite the fact the language is English, and the accent is largely comprehensible, the Kiwis do tend to ‘flatten’ some sounds. When we were looking for a house the real estate agents kept referring to the size of a properties ‘dick’ – e.g. “This one has a large dick.” We eventually realised they were saying DECK.
Hahahaha, I wish I could have seen your faces hearing the realtor say that.
I can imagine with the stunning beauty of NZ nature you would want to be outside most of the time. Do you have pen and paper with you when you’re out or a laptop?
Of course the ideal would be to spend all the time outside. As I write this, it’s a stunning midwinter afternoon with still enough heat in the sun to only be wearing a t-shirt in the garden.
The reality is work, and life take over, so there is never enough time to be outside. Having said that, Rabbit Island, a five mile long deserted sandy beach, is a ten minute drive away. The kind of stuff I write tends to be sparked, or influenced more by news stories or something on the internet rather than by nature, so I don’t tend to take anything to write with when I go out.
Has being in NZ, a rather remote part of the world, brought you more ideas writing wise?
My first book ‘Milkshake’ essentially started as a first person travelogue, so initially the whole emigration ‘thing initially inspired the desire to finally write something. New Zealand’s relative isolation, whilst still being linked to the 21st century world via satellite tv and of course the internet, also fascinated me. I hope that fascination shows in both my books.
Thanks for answering these very personal questions. Now on to business.
Besides writing is there anything else you particularly like about being an author?
I enjoy the research. With the sequel to ‘Milkshake’, I set myself the task of setting one thread of the story within a relatively short time space; a week in July 2005.
The research revealed a large number of events which took place in that week, which I have worked into the plot.
I also researched 11th century Scotland and also read some of Queen Victoria’s diaries to get a flavour of what occurred on the morning she woke up to find herself Queen of an Empire. This latest book ‘The Destiny Stone’ spans 800 years, and it was very satisfying to tie the whole thing together.
And what don’t you like about the whole process. I mean from idea to when the book is published and it needs to be sold.
I want it to be like an email. Write it, and send it. ‘The Destiny Stone’ was finished over a year ago – or rather it wasn’t. When an editor cast an expert eye, not only did she virtually correct every page, but she also suggested changing the order of a few chapters. I’m not very patient when it comes to the silence between emails updating me on progress!
I can relate to that, but once you’ve sent your work off to the editor there’s nothing you can do to rush them. They better take their time to do the job right than giving in to our need for speed. 🙂 Right?
What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?
I use the usual tools such as Facebook, Twitter etc, and I also started a blog for ‘Milkshake.’ I also send out press releases to local media. Our local paper often features artists of every medium, although it turned out to be Facebook which got me an interview on local radio.
I realise I’m a small fish in a huge pond, and ideally I’d need to be in front of a computer for 18 hours a day in order to get maximum exposure. I’d also need to be writing the current flavour, whether it’s zombies, erotica, or whatever. Speculative thrillers, while they might make good movies, are a hard sell when you’re an unknown, part–time Kiwi author. Having said that, with the current resurgence in Tolkien–inspired movies, often playing on the New Zealand connection can make me look ‘cool’!
What is the title of the book you would like to talk about?
The Destiny Stone
Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?
‘Milkshake’ was done and dusted long before I decided what to call it. The Sequel kind of suggested itself. It’s about the Stone of Scone – often referred to as ‘The Stone of Destiny.’ After a bit of internet and Amazon searching I switched the name around. There is also more than one ‘stone’ in the story. I like the idea it sounds ‘epic’, hints at historical, mythical and even religious themes, and is also memorable.
That sounds more than intriguing. Let’s give the readers a little teaser shall we?
The safest place to hide a secret is in the past…but the past can be uncovered.
July 7, 2005 – a series of deadly explosions rip through London. So continues a chain of events set in motion over 700 years before. Events which, if allowed to run their course, will lead to Armageddon; the end of days and the annihilation of four billion people. Unless the riddle can be solved of a mysterious, green stone kept hidden in Buckingham Palace for the last 150 years.
THE HIGHLANDS 1296
The King’s Messenger stood in the doorway.
Late spring air cooled as the sun slid towards a dark serrated horizon. Curls of blue smoke served as a beacon, guiding the Messenger towards the warmth of the peat fire burning gently, before dissolving into the Highland mist gathering over the settlement.
The heat rejuvenated his limbs, weary after carrying him for three days to this remote outpost of humanity. Fire-glow cast a gently flickering light into the room, illuminating the faces of the family who sat quietly, contemplating the patterns dancing in the flames, and the cattle standing at the far end, downwind, away from the hearth.
“Is this the house of Taine Rory Mhor?”
Startled by the figure silhouetted against the setting sun, they eyed the stranger with suspicion. “Who is asking, friend or no?”
“I have a message from John De Balliol himself, for the ears of his cousin only. If that is you sir, then I ask you to step out into the air.”
Taine moved through his brothers and their offspring. This house was the focal point of their small settlement. Everyone gathered here for the evening meal, to eat, talk, and discuss important matters.
News of the invaders from the south had reached even this remote settlement, and contact from the King himself could mean only one thing.
Do you ever speak with your characters when in the middle of writing a dialogue? Do they listen and do as you wish?
I find characterisation the most difficult aspect or writing – ‘Milkshake was criticised for lacking in that department. I’ve tried harder with ‘The Destiny Stone’ This sequel has a number of recognisable characters, both living and dead, from history, so they were easier to imagine. I do find the tip of speaking dialogue out loud to check its authenticity invaluable, but I don’t find myself actually conversing with characters.
If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?
I’ve learnt not to be precious about writing. Although I may have come up with the story, if the publisher thinks ‘The Destiny Stone’ is more suited to Historical Fiction than Thriller, then I’m OK with their decision.
What do you do to market the book?
See above; Facebook, Twitter, press releases etc. The buzz for me is that people all over the world get to read what I’ve written. Some even take the time to write a review on Amazon or elsewhere, which I think is the greatest compliment. Often highlighting, or promoting those unsolicited reviews can generate more sales.
Is there any dish or beverage a constant in either your life of books?
Short answer – no! However, living in an area within walking distance of some world class vineyards, I find I do my best writing when I’m about 2 glasses into a good bottle of New Zealand Pinot!
And then for some creative Q&A.
Can you give me a credible excuse why you couldn’t write for a whole day? Remember the readers and I have to believe it! 🙂
I’m terribly slow when it comes to writing. I’ll spend a whole evening researching what might eventually become no more than a paragraph’s worth of prose. I get distracted easily; so no music while I write, there has to be absolute silence. Even the refrigerator clicking on or off will stop me in my tracks.
Hahaha, a clicking refrigerator, that’s a new one. 🙂
We’ve already come to the end of this interview but I have one more question. Or rather an assignment. Tell us something none has ever heard before. Make us laugh, or cry, or even envious. A dirty little secret, real or make believe, or a combination of both. But if you’ve lied … No milkshakes for you, Mister!
A couple of ‘dirty secrets’. Firstly, I write to prove a point. The point being you don’t have to be a reader to be able to write stuff people will understand, enjoy and even purchase (I know this is hotly debated). During my adult life I’ve probably read less than half a dozen books. I simply don’t have the patience and find I soon lose the ability to enjoy a book when I start picking holes in the plot etc. I always knew one day I would eventually start writing. I never wanted that writing to be influenced by something I may have read before. So I simply never read. Therefore, at least in my own mind, my writing, my characters and my stories are unique. They cannot have been copied from, or influenced by any one else. Because I’ve barely ever read anyone else!
Second, Matt Hammond isn’t ‘me’. Hammond is my middle name. If you googled the real ‘me’ there is nothing. In that way I know everything about ‘Matt Hammond – author’ on the internet hs either been generated by me, or I can easily trace the source. In that way I’m able to keep my private life separate from my writing and internet life.
That, Mat Hammond (middlename, last name to remain unknown 🙂 ), sounds like a very sensible thing to do.
Thanks for allowing me to grill you Matt. I do hope you had fun during this interview and will want to come back another time.
I’ll just let the readers know where they can find you and your books online.
Click here to hear a recent interview with a local radio station about Milkshake.
The website for ‘The Destiny Stone’ (due for publication mid August 2013) – http://www.thedestinystone.com/
Milkshake Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/Milkshakenovel
The Destiny Stone Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Destiny-Stone/
And for those who want to keep posted on Matt’s writing life follow him on his Twitter account – https://twitter.com/MilkshakeNZ