Sunday, January 8, 2023

Interview with Author Matt Cost

Happy New Year, Everyone! Hope you're doing well.

A week in to the New Year... already so much to do.

To kick off this year, we have an interview with Maine author Matt Cost. He publishes with Encircle Publications

Matt Cost was a history major at Trinity College. He owned a mystery bookstore, a video store, and a gym, before serving a ten-year sentence as a junior high school teacher. In 2014 he was released and began writing. And that’s what he does. He writes histories and mysteries.

Cost has published four books in the Mainely Mystery series, with the fifth, Mainely Wicked, due out in August of 2023. He has just published the fourth book in his Clay Wolfe Trap series, Cosmic Trap.

For historical novels, Cost has published At Every Hazard and its sequel, Love in a Time of Hate, as well as I am Cuba. In April of 2023, Cost will combine his love of histories and mysteries into a historical PI mystery set in 1923 Brooklyn, Velma Gone Awry.

Cost now lives in Brunswick, Maine, with his wife, Harper. There are four grown children: Brittany, Pearson, Miranda, and Ryan. A chocolate Lab and a basset hound round out the mix. He now spends his days at the computer, writing.

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. Cosmic Trap, the fourth book in the Clay Wolfe Trap series just published on December 21st of 2022. The fact that there have already been three books in the series means that the setting and half of the characters had already been established. What was left to spring to life was two main things: a plot, and some baddies. The plot of Cosmic Trap came from the news, which is not uncommon for me. In August of 2020, there was an article about a task force created by Congress to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs. The sightings were so common and numerous with no set answer as to what they were that it was determined necessary to form this body of mostly former military personnel. Their mission was to try to get to the bottom of what is flying around in the sky above. The idea percolated with me for almost a year until it emerged on the pages. More recently, this task force has reported back that there is definitely something up there, but they don’t know what. 

Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. I sometimes see the end of a book when I begin writing, and sometimes that end even stays the same as the original idea. This ending is often the creation of my characters, plots, and setting, as is the middle of the book, or the journey. In the case of Cosmic Trap, it was really only the germ of the idea that set my fingers to dancing on the keyboard and the rest followed. The premise is that two members of the Congress appointed UAP task force come to Port Essex to investigate unidentified sightings in the sky, and they hire Clay Wolfe and Baylee Baker to be their local liaisons. I had no idea of what they were going to discover and was forced to follow their investigation to find out.  On another book, Mainely Wicked, coming in August of 2023, I didn’t know who the baddie was until almost the end and then they introduced themself to me. 

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. Clay Wolfe and Baylee Baker are hired to investigate UAPs in the skies of Port Essex as well as a missing wife. These two things will intersect. There is also an ongoing theme in the book of sexual tension between Clay and Baylee as they dig their way further into the case. 

Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book? AND What makes a good book or engaging story?

A.  A mystery/thriller to me is an entertaining story that moves quickly, with entanglements and complications along the way, and causes the reader to weave their way through the novel, along with a colorful cast of characters as they attempt to solve what is going on, in this case, UAPs in the skies of Port Essex. Russians? Chinese? Aliens? Americans? Or something else? I engage in something that I find fascinating and share facts along the way about that topic and hope that the reader feels likewise. The idea that our government has appointed a task force to research UAPs is mind boggling to me and something I wanted, and still want, to learn more about. 

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. I grew up reading The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Great Brain, and Encyclopedia Brown. There was a short detour into every western written by Louis L’Amour, which is quite a few, and then onto such legends as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Robert Parker, Walter Mosely, Elmore Leonard, and Carl Hiaasen. 

(Editor note: Yup, every one of these- same!)

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. There is always an ulterior goal in my writing. Whether it be my historical fiction, my mystery/thrillers, or my combination of the two, I hope to learn something. If I’m going to spend a block of time with these people and this plot, I’m hoping to expand my own horizons in the effort. Thus, I’ve learned about nuclear power, powerful lobbyists, private mercenary groups, the dangers of fentanyl and heroin, cults, genome editing, UAPs, Fidel Castro, Joshua Chamberlain, and Reconstruction in New Orleans. Upcoming books will feature the Eugenics movement, modern day witches,  lost treasure, and sex dolls. 

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. I’d like to sell more books and stay out of prison.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it? AND: Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. I write fast and furious. But I do painstakingly revise. I’ve fallen into a pattern where I’m writing one book, editing a second book, and promoting a third book. They all take approximately four months to accomplish, even if promotion continues on at a lower scale for life. My editing process involves sticking each finished chapter into the daily newspaper and throwing it up on the deck of my father who lives above my garage. He makes general comments as we progress through the first draft that allows me to tweak things as I move forward. Upon completion of the first draft, I will then do three separate edits by myself. Then I have a paid for editor that I’ve worked with on all of my books who will do three passes. A global development edit, a line edit, and a spit shine. Then it goes to the publisher for two more rounds of edits.  

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. Suggest therapy? No, seriously, the most important thing is you have to write because you love to write. The second thing would be that if you are going to do it, the only way to write is to sit down and write. Not talk about it. Not get bogged down in research. Write. And then to understand that whatever small sales success that you have is a job. A grind. You have to work for it. Promote. Find reviewers. Advertise. Grind each and every day to market your book. Not everybody can be as gifted and successful as Dale T. Phillips. Most of us have to work for it. 

(Editors note:   :-)  )

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. Cosmic Trap is under contract to become an audio book in March. The narrator will be the same one as who has completed the first book in the series, Wolfe Trap, and is working on Mind Trap, with Mouse Trap, and Cosmic Trap to follow. He is a straightforward narrator who has an excellent voice for Clay Wolfe but doesn’t stretch his dialect and accent too far, which is perfect for this series. I have a separate narrator for my upcoming Velma Gone Awry, set in 1920’s Brooklyn, and he is outstanding in creating all the different voices in that diverse setting. 

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. My Brooklyn 8 Ballo series will debut in April with Velma Gone Awry, about a PI in 1923 Brooklyn who is hired to find a missing lady and things get very complicated, very fast. The fifth book in my Mainely Mystery series, Mainely Wicked, about witches, Wiccans, and wendigos is due out in August. And the fifth book in the Clay Wolfe Trap series, Pirate Trap, is slated for a December release. I am just about done the first draft of the second Brooklyn 8 Ballo historical PI mystery, City Gone Askew, due out in April of 2024. I also have audible contracts for my second Mainely Mystery, Mainely Fear, all of my Clay Wolfe Trap books, and At Every Hazard. Hopefully, I will also get the rest of my books into audible this upcoming year. 

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I used to own a mystery bookshop in the town of Brunswick, Maine. It was called The Coffee Dog Bookstore. Although the shop was only open a few years in the 1990’s, it lives on in the pages. The protagonist for my Mainely Mystery series is a PI, as well as the owner of The Coffee Dog Bookstore. 

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. Write on.

Where to buy:

Amazon author page:

Encircle Publications author page:

And of course, if possible, buy local.