TIH 445: Matt Wesolowski on Six Stories, Scott King, and Writing in a Podcast Format

TIH 445: Matt Wesolowski on Six Stories, Scott King, and Writing in a Podcast Format

In this podcast Matt Wesolowski talks about Six Stories, Scott King, writing in a podcast format, and much more.

About Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies, such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller. Changeling, the third book in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His fourth book, Beast, won the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Independent Voice Book of the Year award in 2020.

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Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson. And every episode alongside my co host, week out were masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Matt Wesolowski. He is an offer from Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. And he's perhaps best known for his fantastic sales stories series, which was an Amazon best seller in the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia. Now he has a number of great books in terms of the six stories, one's really you can read them in any order. And also, the audio book adaptations which you can get on Audible are fantastic too. So if you're not familiar with any of Wesolowski work, and I really do urge you to, you know, pick something up immediately. And this is a two part conversation. We got Dan Howarth back in co host chair, and as with all of these you can listen in any order, but this episode we're getting into some of the early life lessons. We're talking about screenwriting film adaptations, writing stories in a podcast format, also get into a hell of a lot of deep issues we talk about and some of the heavy themes in Deity hero worship, and you know how that can go wrong. So, plenty to enjoy. But before any of that, a little bit of an advert break,

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Michael David Wilson 3:28

Okay, well with that said, here it is. It is Matt Wesolowski on This Is Horror. Matt, welcome to This Is Horror.

Matt Wesolowski 3:43

Thank you for having me. I feel very honored.

Michael David Wilson 3:45

Oh, we are very honored to have you here. And I wanted to begin by talking about what some of the early life lessons were that you learned growing up.

Matt Wesolowski 3:56

So growing up for me wasn't particularly fun. I was a really sort of nervous kid, I was really introverted. I didn't really socialize very well. And so it was pretty hard growing up, actually. But what I did find that books were a huge source of relief for me. So I used to lose myself in books, rather than with people. And and I think, what did that teach me? It didn't teach me a lot, actually. But I did read loads of really good books. And I think hard work is what I learned growing up. Because I left school at about 17 with very little qualifications. I was quite wild, shall we say at school? I did a lot of regrettable things, made a lot of poor decisions and ended up with no real qualifications and no real job and the mindset was you either go get a job or Do you go back to school. So I went and got a job at the only place that didn't need qualifications, which was being a chef apprentice at the local Hilton. So I started working as a chef at 17. And did that till I was about 21. And it sort of instilled in me a really a work ethic that I've taken throughout my life, and put into my writing, because there's no way to hide when you're a chef you are, it's really intense job. You've got a big guide and apron screaming at you. And you work all hours all weekends, late at night, early mornings. And I gradually rose up the ranks of the chef's Should I say it was like the first big achievement when I became a senior chef de partie, at a restaurant in Newcastle and then eventually running a kitchen, in a restaurant on the key side. And I've done that through graphed. And I feel like maybe subconsciously, I took that into my writing. Because I really have a strong work ethic. In my writing, I'm very motivated. I'm pretty much a workaholic, I put myself under a huge amount of pressure. I do not relent, and apart from the weekends when I give myself time off.

Michael David Wilson 6:17

Well, in terms of that work ethic, and in terms of writing, was that something you were doing prior to even becoming a chef, or was that something you were doing when you were at school?

Matt Wesolowski 6:33

Oh, absolutely. I mean, that's been, it has been my dream to be a writer, specifically a horror writer ever since I could write. I remember being really, really young, maybe eight, maybe younger. And my mom had this sort of big old typewriter. And I used to read a lot of Enid Blyton when I was a kid. And I remember sort of, it was one of those typewriters that you could have red ink or black ink and you could interchange between them. And I remember having this amazing idea of writing a sort of Enid Blyton style mystery novel, but then I'll switch to red ink when the ransom note was working in blood. That was ingenious. my eight year old self was pushing the boundaries. And yeah, and so I've always written always, always, always written. I mean, it's not been good. I would say maybe the last few years, but it's always been a dream. And it's always something I never stopped doing. There was sort of breaks and there was times when I didn't believe I could do it. But it's always been there ever since I was really, really small. And I think when I was old enough to really sort of give my attention to it. And like I say, bring that work ethic into it is when things started to happen for me.

Michael David Wilson 7:49

Yeah. And in terms of the people that you were surrounded by, whether it be your family, your friends, people at school, the teachers, were they instrumental in encouraging this passion or was there a bit of a backlash, particularly when you're pursuing the horror route? You know, you're putting things in red ink. We didn't see that from a nice old Enid Blyton. So I'm wondering how people were around you.

Matt Wesolowski 8:18

Yeah, no, my friend. I mean, the nice thing is, my friends, we all sort of grew up in a sort of, like goth subculture, I suppose. And on me and my friends were all kind of political outcasts, we all hung around this place in Newcastle called the hippie green, which is a sort of, there's a war memorial and a patch of grass in the town centre. And it's been known for like, where the sort of alternative people hang out, since I have to know like, maybe the 60s, that sort of thing. And where everyone who dresses a bit different and listens to sort of music that isn't in the mainstream. That's, that's where everyone hangs out. And so all my friends were from various little subcultures. So we're all sort of creative in our own way. So two of my best friends who I've still see regularly, one of them is the musician Richard Dawson. I don't know if you know of him.

Michael David Wilson 9:06

The name sounds familiar. But I'm gonna I'm gonna Google Now. Because the sound the name is very familiar, indeed,

Matt Wesolowski 9:17

is always on six music and is Stewart Lee's like favorite musician, but he and I grew up together. And he was always pursuing his music and my other friend, Ben, being as a filmmaker, and we're all quite turbulent. I think, as young people. We're all had our own issues. And but creativity was a huge relief for us. It was a way of expressing ourselves, I think, in that sort of subculture. And I always wrote I always wrote these sort of horror stories, and then I would very seriously print them out on the mom's computer and give them to my friends as these sorts of gifts of these terrible vampire stories about you know, these wayward Would boys who like the girl who didn't like him, and then he would kill someone?

Dan Howarth 10:08

That's like handing them to your friends at a young age as a writer? She did not think I mean, I can't, you know, can't speak for Michael. But certainly when I was writing stuff as a, as a kid, and even a younger man, like, so much of it was just kept to myself, like just the fear of sharing anything creative with, with friends like that.

Matt Wesolowski 10:27

I think validation. Yeah, it was looking back, I suppose it was brave with the, with the poor quality of them. But I don't know, like, my friends were, we were all really accepting of each other's art, you know, we Richard would would write his songs, and he would play and we would go and see each other's bands, we're all in bands at various different points. I had no musical nor singing ability. However, I was lead singer of a band room for a very short time. And we basically did Nine Inch Nails covers and thought we were great. But no, so my friends were really supportive. And I remember, you know, I'd be very earnest about, we'd be all very earnest about our art. And we'd all say we'd make it one day and, and our music and our films and our writing, we'd all make it. And I think that was a big part of it, you know, that sort of that was what we had to cling on to, we might have hated ourselves, but our art we believed in and I always remember, that was something I always believed in. I never thought I was great. But I believed in it because it came from my heart and whether it was good, or whether it was terrible. I believe there was something in there that it was almost like a heart to get the stories out. So I just did, because that was what I did. And I've always done that, you know?

Michael David Wilson 11:51

Yeah. Yeah. And I'm wondering when you said there were many regrettable things that you did at school. Are there any of the most regrettable things that you'd be willing to share with her? So I'm wondering what level went to?

Matt Wesolowski 12:07

Well, okay, so the time in my English class when for I mean, I don't know why to this day, I did this, because that English was the only lesson I enjoyed. And my English teacher was wonderful. And I can tell you a really wonderful anecdote about her because she got in touch recently, she was this wonderful Irish woman called Mrs. McCormack John. And I remember going into my year 10 English class, and I had long hair, and I wore black and I had band names written on my bag, and tip x, which made me stand out a little bit. And I remember going into my English class, my first lesson, sitting down, and this large looks up at us and goes Shah vez, because everyone called us bears at school, ha, Fez, a you bent, and everyone laughing. And I just remember that sort of horrible that that idea of this is how it's going to be, this is how it's going to be no, everyone's laughing at me. This English teacher walks into the room, right? And she's like, why is everyone laughing? And this lad had laughing the way she went, what did you see? He says, are? She goes, No, what did you say? And suddenly, the class is quiet. And this lad suddenly on the spot, and he goes off. I said, Are you bent? And she goes, No. The way you ask that question properly, you say, Matthew, are you homosexual? And this kid suddenly is two foot tall, and he's gone red. And she goes, No, come on, ask properly, an eco material, you're homosexual. And I said, No. And then that was it. And that stopped it. And from then on, she was my hero. Right? So I got on the she was brilliant. She recommended me books. You know, when I was kind of skiving off school, she wouldn't be horrible to me about it. And so my biggest regret in her lesson was coming into the room for no good reason picking up a dictionary and hurling it out of a window. And proceeding to throw more textbooks and stuff out of the window. No idea why, you know, as teenagers, we just do stuff. And then just

Michael David Wilson 14:12

clarify was the window open?

Matt Wesolowski 14:16

A window. Well, the English class was on the second floor. And I think it was quite a warm day. So no, I opened the window to hurl the ball

Michael David Wilson 14:28

didn't smash through the window. Yeah, isn't that rebellious?

Matt Wesolowski 14:35

I utilized my chance, not going to break things. And then the deputy head walked in to our English class and he said, I've had parents visiting on their site in my office and a dictionary comes flying out the window. points at me and goes I suspect you I mean, it was me. But that's not the point. And yeah, that was a big regret because my English teachers really disappointed in me. And I accidentally broke her when I did accidentally break a window when I was smoking out of the window of the Sixth Form storeroom because you could climb up the chairs and smoke out the window. And I was trying to, I needed to open the window a bit further and I pushed it and all the glass fell out, and it fell on some dinner ladies, and I didn't mean to do it. And like I was, I looked down, I was like, oh my god, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. And they looked up at me and went, What is your name? And I went McPherson law ski and went Stop lying.

Okay, I don't know what you want from me. And we're gonna we're gonna get you in trouble. What's your real name? And let's go ahead and Wales to do

Michael David Wilson 15:54

this, like, say the name of the kid you like the least I suppose. It's like, well, I did. I did give my real name but they weren't buying it.

Matt Wesolowski 16:04

Exactly. And yeah, a lot of it was just, you know, just thinking I knew everything. So because I was good at English. I thought I knew everything about metaphor, and all that sort of thing. So I was probably pretty gobby. And lazy and didn't work hard. So then my biggest regret my biggest regrets, were not getting my exams, having like, having to go back. I never got maths, GCSE till I was 21. And I just wish I'd just stopping and nabad basically.

Michael David Wilson 16:37

Yeah, but it's, it's difficult to do at the time, you know, you regret it later, but sometimes be in an op ed seems fun. And if it gets kind of the approval of other people, then I mean, that's kind of what it's about at that age with the insecurities and anxieties that we ultimately have.

Matt Wesolowski 16:58

Oh, absolutely. And I think it was, you know, I wasn't having a nice time I was mentally in a very bad place, I was getting bullied quite a lot. I've hated everyone and everything and etc, etc. And I think that comes out when you're a teenager. So, like, in my when I'm not writing I work with teenagers quite a lot. And I kind of get it you know, when they are being nabad so I get it. You know, we're all at once.

Michael David Wilson 17:23

Yeah, yeah. I understand to something you did relatively early doors was attempt to adapt Dracula into a nu metal novel.

Matt Wesolowski 17:39

you know, I've got it somewhere. I've got it somewhere. I've got that manuscript. I think it's in the garage. I've got this box in the garbage, which is full of regrets. Mainly notebooks full of bad poetry. And I keep thinking one day, I'll come on a podcast or a show and I'll get these out and read some of them but absolutely not. I mean, it's horrible. Yeah, I thought, I think I must have been yeah 17 That sort of age. I was really into corn. Well, no one's really adapted Dracula in a modern sense. So let's do it and make all the characters Yeah, sort of into new metal and yeah, it's horrible. Horrible.

Michael David Wilson 18:21

Yeah. Do you still have any sort of affection for new metal or is that something you've kind of left behind with your teenage years because I didn't come in all of us to go kind of into the Gulf scene and metal obviously growing up in that kind of 90s naughtiest time we like new metal then but what about now you know when we get into more black and death from Ireland more technically sound shall we say? Metal D still have any fondness for new metal?

Matt Wesolowski 18:56

I think new metal has to be filed and the world regrets No, I was never that much into actually saw Khan before. On the on their like second album tour before they became like a stadium band. And yeah, it was pretty intense experience. It was great. But no, I was. I was sort of more into like goth stuff, really sort of more electronic II goth stuff. And and now I'm sort of I'm very, still very into black metal and I kind of always have been, but now my taste is very much sort of black metal, ambient and electronica, really. But he has evolved but new metal Nigel. I mean, you listen to it now and it does sound like the inside of a teenager's head. Right? Right.

Michael David Wilson 19:45

Which is why at the time, you know, stuff like spine shank and cone slip knot American head charge. It was like, Oh, this is cutting edge. It's like, oh fuck, maybe not.

Matt Wesolowski 20:00

Yeah, that's it and it's kind of it's you listened to it now and it's just so earnest that it's like a teenager, you know, and I don't mind that I don't mind the earnestness of it because it does appeal and when you're that age, that's what you want. You want to lose and get it wonderful and I kind of love that sort of earnestness makes me happy, but I like it. Just yeah, it's it's of its time. Yeah, we

Dan Howarth 20:32

supposed to move on from slipknot. I recently got in trouble at a child's birthday party for asking the guy playing songs on guitar. If he knew any slip, I thought they were still cool. My times.

Matt Wesolowski 20:45

Did he play it?

Dan Howarth 20:47

He he wanted to, I think it's fair to say but he remembered where he was so decided against it. So he gave me he gave a little kind of kind of growl to let me know that he knew he could you know, we all knew we could do it. But on those steps that a child

Matt Wesolowski 21:07

is old and people equal shit.

Dan Howarth 21:11

You know what, maybe sometimes you need to learn the big lessons, early doors.

Matt Wesolowski 21:16

That's what we can all take from, from that era, people equal share.

Michael David Wilson 21:23

A timeless lesson I'm encoding throughout the ages. As you mentioned your fondness for black metal. I know, a good few years back now you spoke about right in this black metal novel called ashes. Did anything become at that?

Matt Wesolowski 21:44

Oh, yeah. Well, I wrote the novel. And I don't think it was very good. So me and my urging kind of went back and forth quite a lot with it. And tried to make it better. And it kind of event it sort of then became a fantasy esque novel sort of set in a almost Nordic world, I think, you know, I was listening to a lot of dark through time. And it just never really worked. It never really landed. Right? I think it was kind of a bit of an ideal that I wanted that never. And it happens as a writer. Sometimes you write stuff and you spend ages doing it. It just it's one for the hard drive. You know, it's one to stay on the hard drive forever. I tried to adapt it into a screenplay. And again, it had no it just didn't work. It was one of those that never worked, sadly. So Ash is redesigned to the ashes. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 22:43

yeah. As is aptly titled. Yeah. I wondered. And as you said, you looked at adapting it into a screenplay or screenwriting something, you've done a lot of know, a

Matt Wesolowski 22:57

great amount, but I have. My friend Ben and I have actually worked on a pilot for something a sort of horror crime esque thing, which agents are currently banding around with various producers, we've had a few meetings. It's not something I'm doing at the minute, but it's something I've kind of dipped in and out of, and quite enjoy. But I'm just so busy with prose at the minute.

Michael David Wilson 23:23

Right? And in terms of adaptations of your own work of specifically six stories. I mean, is that something that in terms of the writing you'd like to get involved in if it were to be adapted? Or are you perfectly happy for your agent to kind of sell the rights and let them get on with it?

Matt Wesolowski 23:46

I think with with your own work, there's something really interesting on cleaves always says about her stuff. And she says when she's written a book, and it goes out into the ether, it's not hers anymore. And I really liked that, because that's kind of like as writers, I think we're all massive control freaks, at least I and you kind of have to relinquish that control. Because no one's ever gonna see your work the way you see it. What I would like is to be sort of a consultancy role, you know, to get the nuanced because there's some characters when I'm writing, we all we all know this as writers that there's some things you really want to get across, or some characters you really want to be a certain way and I'd like to be asked the questions, you know, but I think you know, screenwriters are screenwriters, and that's their job and they adapt books and that and they do it professionally, and they're gonna do it better than I can do it.

Michael David Wilson 24:47

Yeah, so you have no kind of, I guess, strong passion to kind of branch into screenwriting as opposed to novel writing like the novel right in that zero First Love and say you wouldn't really want screenwriting to take over is that about? Well, I

Matt Wesolowski 25:06

also think I haven't had enough practice. You know, like, I've been writing books all my life, but I've not been writing like, I've just feel it feels like, that's almost a little bit disrespectful to people who've been screenwriting for longer than need for me to just go well, I can just do it, because I don't think I can just do it. I can have a good shot at it. But it does. Being a novelist doesn't make me a good screenwriter, you know, I think it's they're wildly different skills. So no, I think I wouldn't like to adapt it because it would just be like the linear book in script form, and it just wouldn't work. And someone else might have a brilliant idea. Yeah, I respect that. You know?

Michael David Wilson 25:45

Yeah, I

Dan Howarth 25:46

think I think it was interesting hearing. Hugh Howey, you know, wrote the book wall. And that was made into a TV show. And he said he was, this was this was on a podcast that I heard him interviewed on. And he said, you know, the thing that worried me said, I was offered the chance to write the first episode. And he said, Well, the thing is, I'm not a screenwriter. He said, What? What if a fucked up and the show was bad? Because they gave me the option in the contract to write an episode. And I took it when it wasn't in my skill set. So I think it's, you know, it's interesting how some people will plow ahead, you know, you've got your your George RR Martin's, who will, you know, insist on writing an episode as often as possible. And then there are perhaps other writers who, you know, perhaps see a clear line between what's on the page and what's on the screen?

Matt Wesolowski 26:30

Yeah, there's nothing, it's with every writer, it's going to be different, isn't it? If someone has the confidence to go ahead and think, no, I've got a clear vision? I can do it fair play to them?

Dan Howarth 26:41

Absolutely. I mean, there's, I think it's important that as writers we we do branch out as far as we can. And you know, I think if you write in perhaps a script on spec, it might be slightly different to something that's been commissioned and taken on already by network, because at least if you're writing on spec, although you lose the time, you don't really lose anything. If it isn't a great script, you can teach yourself and you can learn almost away from public criticism in some respects, currently, sir. Because yeah, there's something to be said for taking on as a project and a learning exercise rather than something that you've been conditioned to actually write.

Matt Wesolowski 27:17

Yeah, I agree completely. Yeah. And also, when you're writing a novel, you're approaching it in a different way, when you're writing something for screen and you're looking here just for screen, you don't know about you, but I'm thinking about it visually, as opposed to whatever I think when writing a book.

Dan Howarth 27:35

Yeah, I think that's probably the case. I mean, it kind of there's a question that I've been kind of meaning to ask you around six stories actually in around different mediums. One of the things that I was going to ask you about this was, so obviously, you've taken a kind of a podcast format, and written into novels, and so into a novel format, what was kind of the inspiration for taking it in that direction? Whereas I think a lot of people perhaps, you know, with podcasts being easier than ever to access and to make, what kind of made you go in that direction with it rather than perhaps developing it as an actual podcast? or be it kind of a faux documentary style or kind of a full cast? Audio Drama?

Matt Wesolowski 28:19

That's a good question. And because I think at the time when I wrote it, the only really sort of big podcast or the ones that were getting big, the ones I was sort of a were in my orbit was the Ricky Gervais Show, and cereal. And someone had recommended me cereal, the first series of cereal and that was sort of the big, first big True Crime podcast. And I listened to it and I was completely obsessed with it. And I thought, what an interesting way to tell a story. And, and I've written this sort of big horror novel, this is big chunks of a novel that wasn't very good. And I was taking a break while before I had to go at editing it. And I thought, well, let's just attempt to write a crime novel in the style of a podcast and like, and that was the idea. Let's just see what happens. And I wrote it really, really fast. And what I would do is I would listen to cereal. And I would take notes of when there was narration, when there was music when there was an interview. And so I was sort of aped the rhythm of cereal, and just started, it was just brand new. And I just thought, let's have a crack. I didn't know what would happen with that. I wasn't thinking this is going to be the next big thing. I've once I've written it, and I was like, Oh, well, back on the hard drive. Let's keep working on the horror novel. So it was just a bit further between books. It was just a sort of experiment. And I don't really have any sort of recording technical skill. So that's probably where I didn't think about doing audio either, but it was more like going from audio to book just to see if it would work. And I didn't know if even I would read something like that I just wanted to have a player and yeah, that's, that's

Dan Howarth 30:05

so interesting to hear you like kind of making those like, almost sounds kind of quite meticulous notes on like how the, the format is I mean, like, so I've been writing a few audio scripts recently just because sometimes it's nice to, you know, learn a new skill and maybe write in an audio scribble improve some of the dialogue and prose and things like that. But, but quite a lot of scripts and things like that it's so openly available these days, you know, you can you can download scripts for certain podcasts and at least transcripts of the episodes, it's, you know, it's quite insightful to see that while she would kind of take it on as a passion project that still, you know, kind of undertook such a level of detail in terms of actually planning it. And I think some of that authenticity does does definitely come across in the books as well.

Matt Wesolowski 30:52

Oh, thank you. I really hoped it would. And I think that's that work ethic, again, like, if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it 100%. So if I'm going to research something for a book, I'm going to immerse myself in it as much as I can, and try and understand it as much as I can. And I think that's important. And I think you can, that's important for authenticity. And I wanted the book to read like a podcast, I wanted to read it. So it sounded like a podcast. And I thought the only way to do that is to work work out what a podcast sounds like.

Michael David Wilson 31:24

I was gonna say that, you know, Dan was talking before about you had almost this dilemma where we could do it as a full cast audio, or to do it in a book format. But I think you've really lucked out, because we've the audiobook versions, it pretty much is a full cast audio drama. So now you've literally got both.

Matt Wesolowski 31:46

Yeah, that was amazing. So I think that was the biggest cast Audubon had ever had for a book when they did the first six stories. And Holland did the same, actually, they when the Dutch adaptation of the audio book has a full cast as well. And that's pretty cool. And they were sending the photos from their recording session with like all the cast, smiling and having a laugh. And I was like, well, it's often like this daft little experiment book. And it's really nice, but the podcasts are really great. Sorry, the audio version is really great. And the voice actors are fantastic. You know, and they, like, a lot of the time I don't really sort of get consulted too much on voices. And but sometimes I get sent like, is this right for so and so. And they always get them like pretty much spot on. And I actually went and recorded some of the narration for deity, which was good fun.

Michael David Wilson 32:40

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, what a book day it is, what a character is that crystal is and I love how you, you tap into such heavy themes within all your books. And obviously, we're here with deity looking at hero worship, and how this can manifest in some of the most dangerous ways. But I mean, there's always heavy questions beyond the text. And with that one, in particular, it's like, you know, when does our absence to act or our inaction then make us complicit in evil? And I think that's something that a lot of us kind of have to tackle with, to grapple with, even to various extents, particularly, you know, when when you're listening to some of your favorite music or watching your favorite films, and then something horrendous comes out about the artist, and we talk about separating the art from the artist, but you know, what, where's the line drawn?

Matt Wesolowski 33:50

Yeah, absolutely. And that was when I was writing it. In sort of in the middle of writing it that was when all the allegations about Marilyn Manson came out. And going back to my sort of teenage hood, Marilyn Manson, like his music meant a great deal to me and got me through a lot of hard times. And I remember as I was writing this story, I've what I've done is I was kind of Zack crystals an amalgam of like your Michael Jackson's your Jimmy saddles, is not sort of based on any one person. It's that idea of someone who's untouchable. Because they are. They are we've we've put them on a pedestal, and we excuse them, and what I've what I was doing in preparation for poker I was listening to while I was in the gym, I've got sort of weird memories of being in the gym listening to like, reams and reams of like pro Michael Jackson podcasts. Yeah, like fun podcasts and all the ways they were excusing his alleged behavior and all that sort of thing. And because I wanted to get both sides of it, and understand where like why people differ and their idols. And then there's stuff about Marilyn Manson, who was a hero of mine came out. And I immediately My immediate reaction was to defend him. I didn't actually defend him. But that was my immediate emotional reaction. And then was like, No, absolutely not. And I've not listened to his music since and I can't. And then I realized what the heart of day it is, is not about these people. And these musicians and these celebrities who we make into Gods. It's not about them. It's about us. And it's about us as fans. And where do we go? You know, when someone's someone who's grown up being a Michael Jackson fan, as I imagine, you're about the same age as me, you guys did, I was a huge Michael Jackson fan. And even when I was in my early 20s, and his first allegations came out about him, I to my shame, I was very much definitely didn't do it definitely didn't do it. And the only reason I felt that was because I liked him. And I'd grown up with him. And I didn't want to put that aside. And now of course, I believe the victims. And I believe the people who make the allegations, that's my personal belief. And these musicians who I grew up with and who have done things to me have left have betrayed me, I feel betrayed by those musicians. And that was the energy that went in today. It were what do we do? You know, that's huge years of my childhood, my teenage had gone. You know, things that meant his music that meant a lot to me has gone now. And it's not my fault. Yeah,

Dan Howarth 36:34

I think what one of the interesting aspects here and you talking about, you know, those kinds of issues was such passion. That is one of the, I think one of the real strengths of six stories is Scott King is kind of your, your central Narrator almost, I think we'll probably talk a little bit more about him in depth a bit further on, but in terms of his position is always very central and non judgmental. So how do you get into that mindset, really, when you're writing the books, because you know, be it, you know, the the hero worship and the horrendous stuff that crystals involved in or, you know, the, the kind of child abduction, theme within demon? How do you, you know, you listen to both sides, and clearly hold the view. But how do you write that almost neutral, analytical point of view that you can hold the book centrally? Woodstock with Scott King?

Matt Wesolowski 37:33

Yeah, it's, you know, weirdly at Scott King's almost like a little sort of extension of my voice. Because with any sort of podcast and any sort of documentary, I think it's really important for the linchpin of that documentary, the host, almost, is to be neutral to show both sides. Because there's no point me writing Scott King of having one side, because what I want the reader to be left with is a dilemma. Because I think that's the the best sort of tension, that you can go away from any of my books, wondering why certain things happen. There's some things that aren't fully explained. And it's about looking at yourself and looking at society and that sort of thing. And I think Scott King's role is really important for him to be neutral, for those for those exact reasons. And it, it's not too hard, because he he's just kind of the host, let's say for the various voices. So it's not too bad. He saw he's always my I know, relief, I go back to once I've written a lot of a certain character talking about certain things, we can go back to Scott now who's just going to probe and ask the questions and get the views out there. And, and that's what all good podcasts do. And I was actually recently listening to a podcast about the Madeleine McCann case. And the podcaster, who was hosting it was so biased, and was coming out with such nonsense. And I'm not going to kind of get into it, because I'm not going to sort of have a go at anyone or anything. So I'm not going to name who it was or anything, but they clearly not done their research and they clearly had an agenda. And it just and I hate em really angered me because I was like, you've not even read into this, you've got a view and you're kind of using cognitive dissonance to go against all this sort of evidence. I thought that is not a way to do this.

Dan Howarth 39:28

So these are these six stories box almost like escapism for you because, you know, there's almost like you turn on social media and it is, you know, a Bri amongst other things. It is a breeding ground for not only hatred, but also people's hot takes, you know, there is a rush to judgment on not only every single issue but every single individual six stories and Scott King almost your kind of counterbalance to that in some ways. I thought for

Matt Wesolowski 39:57

you. Definitely. I'm really Hate social media. I wish I didn't have to be on it. Like I just can't stand I just cannot stand everyone's hot take on everything. Like I couldn't give a fuck about, like, everyone's opinion about things just fucking Shut up. Just ill informed like, this is what I think I don't care. Do you know what I mean? Like post a picture of a cat and shut the fuck up. You know what I mean? Like I just hated

Dan Howarth 40:29

every every aspect of it doesn't it mean, you know, and I know you're a football fan, but it's like, you know, you see players linked with a club. And then you you see, like, you know, from the guardian or whatever, there's a story and then there's in the comments, and there's people going, you know, this, this guy is terrible at football. It's like you watched him for 30 seconds on YouTube. That's not an opinion. You don't have any evidence, you know, and that extends from trivial things like football, all the way up to very serious. Yeah, issues. And it's, you know, it's something that is yeah, that has pervaded our society, and I think is Domingos all down very quickly.

Matt Wesolowski 41:04

Absolutely. And of going back to football, Twitter, it's really interesting, because I don't barely ever post about football, because, like I'd like to, but the responses you get just from having a slight opinion about a team from someone who doesn't know yet and is, and why does it matter? If someone I know isn't having fun, right? And years ago, this was before I was even published, actually, this was really close to the first six stories being published. So I was having a bit back and forth with this person, I knew about something. And suddenly, I've got all these notifications and all these people jumping in and being absolutely vile, about like something a conversation in two people that didn't concern them. And about football who gives a shit, what anyone support, like, you know, I'm just people being followed. So I locked my Twitter, because I was like, I just can't be doing with this. And I was actually going to delete everything. Until my publisher was like, Can you unlock Twitter? Because you've just been published and everyone like, wants to talk to you. So like my big fear, like I once had a tweet go viral, right? And it was a really again, it was, it was about the Icelandic word for computer, right, which my girlfriend had heard that on a pod on some other podcast, that the Icelandic word for computer literally translates approximately, as I think it's numbers, which like that sort of little compound word, right? I just thought what a cool little fact. So I tweeted that, because I liked it. And like it was one of them that just got picked up and got retweeted like a million billion times. Which is fine. I wasn't thanks. I hated it. Because then my phone kept going. Every time I picked it up, I had 65 notifications. But it was the replies it was people going fake news.

Bob Pastorella 42:58


Matt Wesolowski 42:59

What do you mean? Like, why did you sit and type that out? You fucking prick? Do you know what I mean? Like, why do that? And it was just people going, well, actually not yet. And it's just like, oh my god, he can't even just say something without some twats sorry, I'm getting really swearing. But it really

Dan Howarth 43:21

is great. And it's represented in the books, isn't it with some of the stuff that happens to Scott with you know, death threats and, you know, sinister messages that he receives? You know, I feel that stories are pretty, like vital and current in that they tap into a lot of those issues that I think we all face and hear and you talk about that now it's it's almost reassuring in a way to hear you talk with that passion. And see and see that personality come out in your books like it's, you know, it does translate across really well.

Matt Wesolowski 43:52

That's it and you can't escape social media and AR can't escape it and is a distraction. And I do write a lot of it is reaction to like people on social media and stuff people are saying and that sort of hatred and bile that's out there will sometimes permit start writing, you know, like Hydra, I think a lot about sort of kids, where they're sort of playing or they're trying to play with a parent and the parents just looking at their phone, you think well, what is it? What is so important? You're looking at old Facebook, probably probably talking about what a great parent you are, for some reason, because everyone needs to know exactly what your kids are doing at this moment in time. Or they're running into the road while you're looking at your phone pocket. And it's all that and I hate it and I just hate it. And I sort of said right. I'm not getting into religion. I'm not getting into politics. I'm not getting into any sort of argument. I mean, for example. I can't remember who it was. It wasn't that long ago, so and so said something homophobic. It was some politics should've said something on the phobic and it really wound me up. And I think I made some sort of comment about it. And the immediate response is like, you don't know it, you don't know what she's been through. I was like, oh, fuck this. You know what I mean? Just fuck off. I don't even know who you are someone tweeting me about it. I was just like, Nah, I'm not doing this anymore. I'm just all I want to talk about is weird stuff. Ghosts, horror, on stuff. I'm just not interested in debate where, you know, you see people sitting and debating for hours over Twitter and Facebook. And you're like, What? What is this doing? No one's changing the mind. Stupid that.

Dan Howarth 45:36

I was just going to ask Matt did this feed into a lot of what was what you wrote in beast around? You know, the YouTuber, and the story around around what happened with her?

Matt Wesolowski 45:46

Yeah, I mean, it was I was fascinated by this. I mean, this was about the time sort of YouTube influencers and that sort of thing was, was becoming like a phenomenon. And like, I'm a middle aged bloke, you know, I'm not interested in all of that. So it was a totally new world for me. So I want but I wanted to understand X, I thought it was an interesting sort of subject, and quite a current one. And so I watched what was it was someone doing who'd done a shopping spree, it was a huge, really famous youtuber. And I watched this video with sort of fascination as they went. I've just been to Primark and I bought this, I bought this, I bought this. And like, this has got like, million views. As I, I like, it's not for me, it's not my thing. But I was fascinated that anyone would be watching it. And I'm not going to disparage them. Because it's like, whatever. That's your, that's your thing. But I just found it amazing. I just found it. And I love little new things like that, because I don't really understand them. And I wanted to look at it, my son isn't or at least he's 10. And he tells me about all these YouTubers and stuff like that. And I don't really get why they're good, because they sit and play computer games and say things, but find that that's, that's fine. That's a new thing. And it's just interested.

Dan Howarth 47:04

Yeah, it's, I mean, like, I've got cousins who were, who were teenagers, and you kind of go and speak to them. So I'll go on YouTube and look up like, either bands or like to see, you know, some live clips or just stuff around, right and, and things like that, or photography. So like, when you load up your homescreen, it kind of comes up with your recommendations around it. But there's looks at like, you know, my 17 year old cousin was showing me something on YouTube and his recommendations. It's like, how, like, all this stuff exists. So it's absolutely crazy. So I call a fall, just bloke shouting about, you know, video games or whatever it's like, it's interesting to see like two different worlds, isn't it all most of your stuff that you're into and stuff that you're not, I mean, one thing I was going to ask in terms of getting a gym for six stories novel, you know, some of them are quite clearly inspired either by past experiences, perhaps, you know, thought you've written really kind of evocatively about you know, goth kids in earlier you know, six stories books, YouTube current issues, what is it that sparks a Scott King story really in your mind? Is there a particular trigger that you always looking for that kind of thing?

Matt Wesolowski 48:14

Yeah, I think the the crop up I'm interested in like little odd things that happen. So yeah, the the original six stories was obviously it was mainly the podcast thing I thought, but how, how can I write a crime because I didn't really read crime. And I'd like I didn't want to write about a detective and have a detective series even though that's sort of what I've done. I kind of wanted to do something different. I thought, well, I work with teenagers and teenagers stories are fascinating because there's so much nuance to them. And it's so all teenager stuff is about really little details. You know, they didn't look at me she and then you remember it yourself from being a teenager, how little things made a huge difference. So the first six stories is, is very much drawn on a lot of my teenage experiences. And I think, especially some of the unrequited love stuff between Brian and anew. Like we've all been there, we've always been the little loser kid who, who has no idea how to approach someone that they fancy. And also the Tom Jeffrey's character is, is based heavily on someone who we've all experienced. We've all experienced the Tom Jefferies in our lives. And if we haven't, you're probably you know, like that sort of nasty, insidious little bully prick that will pick on the weakest person, you know, and, and the more current things are drawn from Yes, I'll read something on the news. I'll read something on social media and I don't know I just get the feeling so for hydro I was mopping my kitchen floor and I was listening to a podcast about a girl who had hired some other people to kill her own parents because they were putting too much pressure on it at school. And then I was also listened to another one about black I'd kids and the two just sort of met in the middle. Yeah. So it's usually like something it'll be like a news case or something like that that like demon was based on a lot of it was like the edlington, those two brothers in edlington, who killed that young who were assaulted a younger boy. But also the sort of media reaction to these stories. A lot of my stuff feels like it's media reaction that that draws the interest because I think like, how, how can you say some of the stuff you said media says, you know?

Dan Howarth 50:34

Yes, almost consciousness, isn't it? And you know, they'll say anybody about anything just to get clicks? Really?

Michael David Wilson 50:41

Yeah, absolutely. The media are completely conscious of what they're doing. You know, they're doing these things to incite rage and to incite fury into incite division.

Matt Wesolowski 50:53

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, stuff now is just for cliques. Look at like a figure like Piers Morgan fascinates me, because it's so easy for him. Like, if you don't like him, like I don't like the guy, and I don't know him. But it's obvious. He doesn't believe all the shit. He says. He just puts it out there to annoy people even says it or look how many people have annoyed. And it's like, if you don't like him, just stop interacting with them. Why are you getting all bent out of shape about it, just ignore him. You know what I mean? If you want to, if his Twitter comes up on your screen, just block and ignore, he doesn't give a shit. You know what I mean? Instead of like, Oh, my God, I can't believe he said that. They are just, you just giving him what he wants. It's like the same as people like Katie Hopkins, all these people are just nasty school, but like, they're all school bullies. They're the school bullies, who, as soon as everyone just stops reacting to them. They just go away. They melt away back into their little caves or as they live.

Michael David Wilson 51:51

Yeah, yeah. Well, if you can't believe what Piers Morgan is saying, and you haven't been paying attention, because it's such a contrary and that it will literally switch his opinion on an issue. You know, based on what he thinks she'll divide people more.

Matt Wesolowski 52:06

Yeah. And that's his job fair. Yeah, he's made a shit ton of money doing it fair play to him now. So yeah, I just don't care about. See, I'll say that. Now. I've mentioned him loads on his podcast, you see what he's done. He's got in my head.

Michael David Wilson 52:20

That's gonna be you know, one of the most searched for cams in terms of the SEO now if we keep saying his name, so I'll refrain from it. Yes. Oh, but I mean, in terms of composing a six stories book, you've said before, you know, you don't really plan them, you have an idea. And you run with that you said previously, in this conversation, it would be boring if you planned it all out. But of course, in spite of that, it does seem very meticulous, and all the details kind of come together at the end. So I'm wondering, you know, how many drafts do you typically go through? And then once you've written the first draft, are you then having to really go back into into weave these details and help with that kind of connective tissue?

Matt Wesolowski 53:17

Yeah, absolutely. The first draft is always pretty terrible. And it's, it's, it's like just getting it all out. I always call it the vomit draft, just kind of a vomited out the story. And then we need to pick through and find the trunks of carrot and arrange them into something readable? Yeah, I mean, that is where, where everything comes in. And that is very much I work with my agent and my publisher and editor and stuff, and we kind of, but I'm very much I'm not very precious about things. So I'm very much open to feedback. So if someone says it's not working, I won't immediately go well, it is it's genius. How dare you. I'll take that on board and we'll look at it and and yeah, I think it's a good way of working. And if I always want to make it better, I always want to make the story better. I always want to make the end better. I always want to have the most impact. So again, it's like work ethic. I will vomit out the vomit draft and then I'll work really fucking hard to redraft and redraft and redraft until it's good enough.

Michael David Wilson 54:23

Yeah. And in terms of the agent, publisher and editor getting to read your work, what kind of draft are they initially seeing?

Matt Wesolowski 54:31

See? They're gonna kill me for this but quite an early one. Because I almost like get the story out then I'll probably redraft it once more or twice more usually. And and I know that it has flaws and I know that it needs work, but I really like I like the collaborative aspect. I like someone going through and telling me this doesn't work. This doesn't work. Why is this? Yeah, I'll do like that because I think I can't you You can't as a writer, you can't just think you're a genius the whole time because you're not, you know, like, people who think that and think their draft is brilliant. It's usually not. And every sort of writer worth their salt will tell you that, that books go through tons of redrafts until it's right. Yeah, they get they get quite an early one. And then they'll give me some pointers now work doubly hard. Like I say,

Michael David Wilson 55:23

Yeah, and I think, you know, I mean, that that's the way to do it. And, you know, rather than try and second guess, you know what the problems are yourself, because it's impossible, because there's no objectivity.

Matt Wesolowski 55:37

Plus, you've been sitting staring at it for maybe up to a year. And sometimes you just don't see what's wrong, and you need someone to point it out. And sometimes it's pretty obvious, and then you feel a bit foolish, but it's because you've been going through it. You know, you don't see the wood for the trees as it

Michael David Wilson 55:54

were. Yeah, yeah. Thank you so much for joining us. For part one had a conversation with Matt Wesolowski. Join us again next time for the second and final part. But if you would like to get that ahead of the crowd, if you'd like to get every episode ahead of the crowd, then become our patron patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can listen to the patrons only q&a. Got another one drop in imminently. And you can listen to story unboxed. And we have the first part of our unboxing of first love, again, dropping imminently. And of course, you can be part of the writers forum. And we have the amazing writing challenge at the moment. So plenty of people have been participating on that in discord, as information on the website about how to get involved and why you might want to get involved but if you're looking to up your writing game, if you're looking to challenge yourself, Then may I suggest that becoming a patron and joining the writers forum, that could be the game changer for you. So do consider it, head over to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror and see if it's a good fit for you. Okay, before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 57:30

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Michael David Wilson 58:36

Well, that about does it for another episode. We have got plenty of great conversations coming up soon. We're going to be chatting with Connor Habib. We're getting Paul Tremblay back on the show. Kevin Lucia, Clay McLeod Chapman to name a few. So until next time, take care yourselves. Be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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