Matt Ingwalson is an author of genre fiction including mysteries, thrillers and horror stories. He has published multiple books including SHELF UNBOUND’S BEST INDIE NOVEL OF 2015 and the award-winning Western noir Sin Walks Into the Desert.
Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?
The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors is about how everyday life drives you insane. The bills that won’t stop coming. The alarm clock you forget to turn off on the weekends. The flat tires. The broken washers. Sometimes it almost seems like there’s some evil force tormenting you.
In The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors, you meet Richard and Lissa, two young parents who can’t sleep. Every night their infant son wakes them up screaming, crying, gripped by a terror he’s too young to name. But does he simply have nightmares? Is his nursery haunted? Or there is something even darker eating away at the sanity of this new family? It’s a book about secrets, sleeplessness and stress.
What is your personal publishing story? Self or traditional?
All eight of my published works were too short for traditional publishers. So I never considered going the old-fashioned route. I’m very lucky in this regard. I have a career I love, so I can write what I want and not worry about fitting into the traditional mold. That being said, I just finished a full-length novel. And I’m trying to find a traditional publisher for it.
Why the shift?
Mary Monster is a mashup of urban surrealism and gothic horror. Dance Dance Dance meets Penny Dreadful. My first-person protagonist narrates the story in an awkward faux-1976 Manchester slang. And he drops dozens of indie music references, some explained and some that’ll only make sense to the sort of person who obsesses over The Smiths.
This book would be a disaster if I published it myself. Because the type of people who download self-published fiction do it expecting error-free genre fun. That means the first wave of reviews would be terrible. Some jerk would claim my book was riddled with typos. And Amazon’s algorithm would bury Mary Monster before it got a chance to find an audience.
How many hours a day/days a week do you write?
Totally varies. I spend 10 hours a week on unpaid personal projects. That includes my songs, podcasts, poetry and fiction.
How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written?
I’m prolific. Maybe too prolific. I’m actually trying to slow down and spend more time polishing projects before I move on. In my personal Dead Book Files, I have two finished books. (I shared the reason I canned one of them in a blog post named No Damn Character Arcs.) And I have three or four novels that stalled out after 20,000 words or so. I also have a dozen or so short stories just sitting around. Sometimes I share one with my email list as a freebie.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?
Of course I do. The good ones encourage me, make me feel like I’m not shouting into a dry well. Usually bad reviews don’t bum me out too much, as long as they are fair. I guess there’ve been a couple that upset me. For instance, one reviewer accepted a free copy of one of the Owl & Raccoon mysteries, and then gave it one star because she “doesn’t like mysteries.”
A review like that can really hurt, because it tanks your average and your algorithm. But there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to move on.
Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?
Print. I’m glad people are out there reading my books on Kindle. But I spend too much time staring at screens already.
What do you think is going to change next in the self-publishing landscape?
World-building around fictional properties. I published The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors as a podcast, a YouTube series, Kindle book, print book and Twitter feed.
There are more than 2,000 books published every day. If you don’t want yours to sink into the abyss, you have to take advantage of your time and passion to make a splash on day one.
On a less optimistic note, it’s insane how many frauds make money through clickfarms and plagiarism. I hope Amazon finds a way to crack down.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Have a goal. If you want to make a living at this, you need to define a genre, follow the conventions, and write compelling, fast-moving stories. If, on the other hand, you want to publish books for your own personal satisfaction, that’s cool too. Follow your vision.
(Of course, if you happen to be the next Thomas Pynchon, another set of rules apply, you know?)
Also, have the second book in a series finished before you publish the first one. Your best chance to get noticed is to give away thousands of free copies of your first release. You need to have your second book published as soon as possible, so all those new readers can go buy it right away. If you wait a year or two between releases, it’s too late. You’ve been forgotten and Amazon has buried your book. And since very few sites and lists will let you advertise the second book in your series, you basically have to start over again, re-advertising your first book.
Who is your favorite author, book?
God, so many. I think the world of Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy and Mark Helprin. People who can really make you love the language. But I also like hard-boiled stuff by Jim Thompson, Dennis Lehane, Don Winslow and Joe Lansdale. James Ellroy lives somewhere is between – a visionary stylist who writes gritty crime novels. If you want, you can follow my reads and reviews on Goodreads.
How do I find you on the Internet?
This is literally the easiest thing to do in the history of the world. You can start with these links.