Through a fortuitous Internet encounter we bumped into 31-year-old Yorkshire bartender-turned-marketing guru-turned-hit novelist Matt Haig.
He is the author of The Last Family in England, the story of a family in peril as seen through the eyes of their black Labrador Retriever dog. He has also written The Dead Fathers Club, in which 11-year-old Philip Nobel encounters his father’s ghost who introduces him to the Dead Fathers Club, a group of ghost dads who have all been murdered. In a Hamlet-esque nod to Shakespeare, Philip must avenge his father’s death in order for his dad's spirit to rest peacefully.
You were bartending in Ibiza then moved into non-fiction writing with several well regarded books on e-marketing. What made you start writing fiction?
A few years ago I hit a crisis in terms of work, and life in general. Looking back I realize I suffered a minor breakdown, and found myself in something of a black hole. Writing fiction was the rope that helped me climb out.
Do you think your background in marketing helped launch your fiction career?
I think nowadays authors need to realize that the book industry is just that – an industry. However I don’t let this knowledge interfere with how I write. You have to write for yourself, not for the market, but once the novel is done then I see no shame in promoting it anyway you can. After all, if Dickens were still alive he’d be on MySpace.com flogging David Copperfield for all it’s worth. I don’t know if my marketing background gave me an advantage in actually getting a deal though, as I was still an outsider and no one had heard of me.
Since you mentioned social networking sites (Librarything.com, MySpace.com etc.), do you see them as a good outlet for authors?
They’re a good thing. Authors generally tend to be quite shy and stay-at-home creatures, so these networking sites offer them a way to mingle and make connections without having to do anything so humiliating as, say, talking face-to-face!
The Dead Fathers Club and The Last Family in England are going to be adapted into feature films. Do you have any fears of “letting go” and allowing another artist to interpret your work?
No. After all, the very act of having a book published is “letting go”. You have to understand that no reader – and no film director – is going to interpret your book exactly as you do. And that’s a good thing. That’s how books live.
Have you ever wanted a certain actor/actress to play a role in your book?
I’m superstitious. If I start casting the books I’ll worry I’ve jinxed them.
You have another book coming out in May, a children’s book called Shadow Forest. What made you decide to write it?
I had no intention of writing a children’s book, but one morning I woke up with this mad idea of a boy losing his sister in this dangerous and magical forest. I thought it was a good metaphor for how these kids cope with their grief.
Did the inspiration to write Shadow Forest come from the same place as The Dead Fathers Club with both books involving children dealing with the death of parents?
All my novels tend to be about a family crisis of some sort. I think it’s something everyone can relate to, either because it’s happened to them, or because they know it will. Death may be a grim subject, but it’s a universal one.
The cover art on your books is eye catching. Who's behind it?
In the UK the covers are drawn by an illustrator called David Hughes, who is an absolute genius. The illustrations always match the book perfectly.
Is there any more big news on the horizon?
I’ve just finished my third novel, called The Possession of Mr. Cave, so some kind of holiday is on the immediate horizon. Then it’s on with the sequel to Shadow Forest.
What are you reading currently and what are your favourite books-turned-movies?
Currently I just finished The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall, which is going to be published by Canongate next year. It’s an incredible book. And as far as my favourite books turned into films - the S.E Hinton novels: The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. They were about teen gangs in 1960s Oklahoma, and both were made into Brat Pack movies starring a young Matt Dillon and various other future stars.
You can find Matt Haig online on his MySpace site www.myspace.com/mhaig.