TIH 446: Matt Wesolowski on Beast, Folklore, and Found Footage Movies

In this podcast Matt Wesolowski talks about Beast, folklore, found footage movies, 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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Michael David Wilson 0:07

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson. And every episode alongside my co host, we count we're masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Matt Wesolowski. This is the second part of a two part conversation. So if you want to listen to the first part, just go back one episode to 445. Now we had a great time chatting with Matt. He is such a down to earth guy and a very accomplished writer. And it was an awful lot of fun for me and my returning co host, Dan Howarth to count on Matt. He's also done something pretty unique and special with the six Story series, in which the books are presented in a kind of podcast format. So think of cereal as a novel, but with a little bit more horror thrown in and that's what you're gonna get with Wesolowski. Now in this episode, we talk about a good starting point in terms of the six stories books. We talk about Matt's previous aspirations to be a Paris psychologist, we talk about found footage movies, his identity of someone from the northeast of England, and a lot lot more. But before any of that, a little bit of an advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 3:19

Okay, well without sad here it is it is Matt Wesolowski on This Is Horror. So, I mean for people who haven't read any of the six stories books, where is perhaps a good one for them to start with? And, I mean, which would you recommend for those who are primarily horror fans? And then which one would you recommend for those who are primarily crime fans?

Matt Wesolowski 3:53

That's a really good question and where to start? Well, with the six Story series, each one of them reads as a standalone so they're all they all are written in the style of a podcast series where there's a cold case at the heart with six chapters with an interviewer talking to six different people involved with that cold case. There is a sort of linear link between all of them if you read them in order so if you really want to do that and you want to start with the audience start obviously with six stories. My favorite one to write the one that I think I enjoyed right in the most was Hydra the second one and that is a really nice place to start. Because it sort of pulls on legends of black eyed children which is quite a new phenomena and and it's a good fun I say I say fun romp it involves someone killing their entire family but yeah. Nice place to start.

Michael David Wilson 4:56

Yeah, I was speaking to someone the other day A and sometimes I'll be talking about my fiction and be like, Oh, this is quite a comedic one. And they're like there's like a horrible scene in the middle when someone's being forced fed shit. And it's like, well, I don't know, it was quite a funny book. Kind of like just forget these things like particularly, you know, because we all have a pretty dark sense of humor.

Matt Wesolowski 5:27

It's like jackass, but a darker version.

Michael David Wilson 5:30

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly that. Right, in terms of when you were like write in about black eyed children? Was that something that you had to do a lot of research into? Was that something you were already pretty familiar with?

Matt Wesolowski 5:48

No, I haven't ever heard about them. And then I listen to there's a podcast I really love called astonishing legends, which sort of goes really deep into various phenomena. And I listened to their two parter, I think on black eyed children. And I was just like, Oh, my God, give me more. So I went over to read it and found I've just read as much as I could. And it was a phenomena that genuinely frightened me. And I thought I want so I was thinking, Is there any books? Is there any fiction around about like overtly about black age children? There probably is, and there's probably someone who's written it screaming at me now calling me names, which is fine. I'll take that. By didn't find too much out there. So I thought why not? Let's give it a shot.

Michael David Wilson 6:36

Yeah. And in terms of when you were right in there as well, I mean, I understand with with the original six stories, you know, it was conceived as just a one off. So I suppose there might have been quite a bit of pressure to, you know, when returning to this, because, obviously, your net, you've now got to do a second one. And you've got to make it count and make it as successful as the first one.

Matt Wesolowski 7:05

Oh, yeah. And that's sort of, because six storeys was the first book I ever had, like, properly published, I suppose. And so yeah, there was a bit of pressure. And I always thought, Well, I'm not just gonna write another one for the sake of it. And my publisher had said, you know, do you want to write another one? And my initial reaction was No, but I thought, and it's been all the way through, if a good idea comes to me, I will write another one. But I'm not going to write one because I have to write another one. If that makes sense that it has to be because it's something that I'm passionate about that I want to write about. And then like I say, that black eyed kids came into my aura into my orbit, rather. And I was like, boom, sold.

Michael David Wilson 7:49

Yeah. And so I mean, do you still have that kind of approach that you won't write another one? Unless there's absolutely something where, you know, it really speaks to you? Or are you finding because of the subsequent success? There is a bit of pressure from readers and a publisher that is like, now we want more six stories?

Matt Wesolowski 8:14

Yeah, I think those are a bit of both, because there is pressure from readers and publishers to write another one. But at the same time, I don't want to write something substandard for readers and publishers who have been with me all this way. You know, I don't want to then write something because I'm bowing to pressure it not be very good. So I will wait. And I'll write one when, when the idea comes, which it may not, but it may, who knows?

Dan Howarth 8:43

Yeah. So does that mean that your next book is something different outside of six stories, then?

Matt Wesolowski 8:49

Yeah, I've got I've just finished something. I'm just in sort of the latest. I'm about to submit it. I need to read it about 50 more pages. And this is something completely new. And we'll see what happens with that.

Michael David Wilson 9:01

Is there anything further you can divulge about that one?

Matt Wesolowski 9:05

All I'll say it's about a cursed audio book.

Michael David Wilson 9:09


Dan Howarth 9:11

so yeah. Yeah, I'm there on day one. Right. Well, I

Matt Wesolowski 9:18

just need a publisher to say that. Yeah.

Dan Howarth 9:22

Nice one. And it's, it's a kind of an overt horror book. I mean, it certainly sounds like is that how you pitch it? Or are you still struggling that line between crime and horror?

Matt Wesolowski 9:31

I think it sort of straddles that line again, there is again, like everything like horror is a big part of me and a big part of my writing. So there is that horror element to it. But there is also I love the idea of can something be horror, as can something the supernatural but it also can't be at the same time, because if something is overtly supernatural, then you kind of left the reader with that one explanation I love when is a book which gives me like, two ideas like, is it or is it not? So I really try hard to hit that place. That's just what I like to do. So yeah, I'm not going to divulge too much more about it. But that's where we're going with it.

Dan Howarth 10:16

Yeah, ambiguity is really one of the strengths of your fiction. For me, that was one of the things that drew me in, you know, it's almost, you know, I imagine it's kind of difficult for agents and put in your publisher really, in some respects, because they are quite difficult to define. And whilst as readers, I don't think we're that keen on categories, we either like it, or we don't. I think when it comes to the publishing industry, from, from what I've heard and read, is that a lot of it is, is it this? Is it that I mean, is that something that you kind of consciously seek to avoid? I mean, it's certainly something that you, you know, the ambiguity of whether things are supernatural or not, is, as inherent in your fiction is, you know, the ambiguity between is it horror, or is it crime when it comes to sticking on a shelf in a bookshop?

Matt Wesolowski 11:02

Yeah, and, and thank you for the compliment. I, I kind of concentrate on books that I would like to read, like, I look, when I go in a bookshop, when I'm looking for any book, I don't particularly look at the genre. As such, I just look for a good story or something that's going to appeal to me. And my books could go in horror, they could go in crime. And that's not I don't feel like it's my job to have to, to have to say which one because I don't really know. And it is problematic, because there are times when publishers and agents and that sort of thing, don't know what to do with it. So then pass on it, you know, because they don't know what to do with it, which I think is a shame. But that's just the way it is. But that's essentially that's not I want to ask that. Does it sound arrogant? If I say that's not my problem?

Michael David Wilson 11:56

I don't think so. Because they didn't really that is more the job of the marketer, or the publicist is a function to sell the book rather than the creative function of writing it. And I mean, I think sometimes there's such a thin line between genres, particularly with crime and horror, that the marketing label can just be the difference in terms of what that publicist decided to push it as, I mean, an example in the UK, you've got people like Steve Mosby, and Gary McMahon, both of who are writing a kind of horror crime hybrid. But it just so happens that the publicist went more with crime for Steve must be, and we've horror for Gary McMahon.

Dan Howarth 12:45

I think Mosby is probably even more interesting, isn't it? Because he is relaunched as Alex north as which those books, you know, similarly, as good as this Steve must be titles, but perhaps marketed slightly better or slightly differently, have a call apparently sold a lot more often. Yeah,

Matt Wesolowski 13:05

we shared the same agent as well, Steven I.

Michael David Wilson 13:07

Yeah. Yeah. Well, what do you think about right in under different pseudonyms for different modes of work? Is that something that you would be open to? Is that something you're resistant to?

Matt Wesolowski 13:23

And yeah, I'd be open to that. I was having a chat with my agent about this, actually. And there's something else I've written, which is probably very unexpected, which I'm tempted to put out under a pseudonym. No, I'm totally open to I think it's kind of cool. It's kind of like a you put on a different hat to write something else. And I think with Steve stuff, Steve's Steve must be stuff is sort of more overtly crime. And it's Alex North stuff is has got that horror element. And it's, and it's wonderful. Like the Whisper man is probably one of my favorite books in the last few years. And he wrote the Slenderman thing before I could. But, ya know, it's I think it's interesting, that idea of switching between genres and names and I think, for a writer for certainly for me, I can put a different hat on and be another kind of writer. It's fun. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 14:25

Yeah. Are you able to tell us the genre that you might be writing in where you can sit, you're in a different CD name, or do you want to keep you know, all of that under wraps?

Matt Wesolowski 14:36

So I was actually writing a children's book like a middle grade book. But that's all I'll say.

Dan Howarth 14:46

Yeah, that was that was not what I was expecting. I was expected to go full on romance or something. Shiny vampires and all.

Matt Wesolowski 14:54

Yes, well

Michael David Wilson 15:00

I mean, is this something that you wanted to write? Because of, you know, having your kid because I know that you said before that you wrote something for your child. And I think you said you co wrote it with your sister, but I might. I might just be making that up. Maybe you have a sister. Oh, okay. Do I have an invented?

Matt Wesolowski 15:23

Yeah, no, it's really young. And we because my sister's like, sort of an art graduate. So she's very good at visual stuff. And so we wrote this story called Harry and the leaf man, where she sort of arranged, she made all these sort of collage pictures, and we turned it into a book for my son, Harry. And that was pretty fun. But now I've read him some of the children's book I've written and he really likes it. And it's not finished. But I've sort of read him a few initial chapters, and he's sort of my benchmark, and he'll tell me if it's rubbish. So yeah, it was it's just branching out. It's, again, it's a bit like the six stories thing. I got an idea. Yeah, I thought that would make a cool children's book. But I didn't go well. I can't write a children's book. And writing a children's book is really hard as well. Like, I don't want to be so easy. You know what I mean? It's not it's it's as tough was writing an adult book. Yeah, tougher. So yeah, it was just I got the idea. So I thought, well, I'll give it a shot.

Michael David Wilson 16:18

Yeah, I, I don't really know exactly how I even feel about you know, pseudonyms, because I, I know that, you know, I write a wide variety of things. And I'm going to be proud of everything I write. So I don't feel the need to change my pen name. But then I can see, particularly again with with Steve Mosby, if you've got a distinct style, it's kind of a marketing tool. But then particularly if you're writing a children's book, it's like, okay, if people become a friend of you, your children's work, maybe you don't want to them to Google your name. Find like Hydra or beast or something like that. If you though, then are you becoming one of the characters that you're writing about you? You're the deadly corrupt in his children?

Matt Wesolowski 17:17

Yeah, I mean, that's always the worry, isn't it? But I don't know, like Yonezawa wrote children's books under his name. And the you know, the what they called a Dr. Proctor vagary, right, the doctor practice series under the name Jonas. And, you know, he's written these sort of Scandi, crime books, and he did it. He did, okay.

Michael David Wilson 17:40

Yeah, yeah. I suppose on lightly with these things. It's like, listen to what the publisher and the agent says, and you'd hate to be brutally honest. If the money is good enough, then it's like, you know what, I think I can change my name for this. So yeah, there are like kind of practical and commercial considerations to even if it's kind of frowned upon sometimes to talk about that. Yeah. Well, I know that something you consider doing something that you wanted to do an early age was to become a Paris psychologist. So I want to know, you know, a little bit about that, like how serious you were in terms of being a Paris psychologist. And because we've also been talking about, you know, the line between horror and crime, and I suppose also, the line between reality and the supernatural. I'm wondering what your personal beliefs are in terms of all of this?

Matt Wesolowski 18:44

Oh, great question. So I've always been fascinated by the paranormal. And I want to blame the Osborn tails of the unknown world of the unknown series, which we all had as children. And I remember, even as a kid, being fascinated by the ghosts, one and me and my friends, going, going to various houses in our neighborhood that looked old. And with little chalk and stuff and going can we hunt for ghosts in your house? And I remember some bloke opening the door and going, No, you bloody can't the rugby is on. And so I've always been fascinated by it. And when I realized that you could study it, you could genuinely study the paranormal. I thought, well, that's for me. And so I went to university to after I'd been a chef, I thought, no, right. I need to sort of get my head back together. I'm gonna go and study and I want to do this. But unfortunately, I'm very, very bad at maths and maths is a huge part of getting a psychology degree. You need a psychology degree before you can do parasitology I believe. And so I went for a psychology degree and wasn't very good at maths and couldn't do it if there was a statistics module. Numbers just baffled me. I'm a wood wood person. Not a numbers person and I failed miserably at the numbers. So then did linguistics instead. So the Parapsychology thing kind of passed me by. But now I've had a few ghostly encounters. I had lived in a house with a poltergeist when I was sort of in my self destructive teenage goth phase for a summer and that was pretty terrifying. I saw an entity at the Greyfriars cemetery in Edinburgh a few years ago, which is pretty wild. Yeah, oh, no, I'm believing I believe in ghosts. For sure.

Michael David Wilson 20:34

Okay, well, I'm not gonna let you just get away with that. We need more details than what it was you so?

Matt Wesolowski 20:44

Oh, in the cemetery? Yeah. So we're doing the tour of the covenant is graveyard, where all the covenant is were locked up and sort of kept up with sort of an internment camp. And it's the most haunted place in Edinburgh. And there's accounts of people come out with scratch marks on them. And the guide was saying, if we were sort of all stood in this Mauser, Liam, and the guide was saying, if you see anything, you must put your hand up. And you must tell us, and there's the sort of, there's this group of people behind me who are drunk and sort of giggling and Nasaan. And I thought, okay, like, we're just sort of getting through this. And suddenly, this sort of hooded thing, just, it was so weird. It just sort of appeared in front of me. And it was, it was sort of juggling its head toward me, as if it wanted to fight, you know, and someone's gonna start on you. And, and weirdly, like my brain sort of, couldn't almost believe it was there. So I was, I was trying to look around it as if trying to make out that it wasn't there, and it wouldn't go away. And so I had to hunt up and go, excuse me. There's like a hooded thing right here. And the guide is like, get out, get out. And then people all the drunk people started screaming out. Weird. It was really weird.

Michael David Wilson 22:00

Wow. Yeah. It's such a bizarre kind of experience. And I mean, well, how do you even explain it? That's the beauty of the supernatural. You don't really try to but I mean, you also just mention, yeah, having an experience with a poltergeist?

Matt Wesolowski 22:21

Yeah. So a group of sort of friends of mine and I were flat setting for some students in this area and Newcastle called fennan. And it was the oldest student accommodation there, there were sort of big, big old houses with like, five bedrooms and, and we were sort of were used as a sort of das house for a summer while the students were away. So there was a lot of, you know, drinking, going on smoking, and messing about music and all that sort of thing. And just, everyone had weird experiences. They're like, everyone experienced something. And no one told each other until one night where we all kind of got together and we all kind of shared our experiences and that sort of that and we all got really freaked out. Like I used to throw stuff down the stairs all night, you'd hear things being chucked around the house, like it would open shop windows, there was a door that would never close like you would close it and then you'd come out the bathroom and it'd be open again. Like that door just never closed. It was really really and it didn't swing open. It was there was carpet there. You know, it took something to open it. Oh, it was horrible.

Michael David Wilson 23:25

Oh, my word.

Dan Howarth 23:27

Sounds awesome.

Matt Wesolowski 23:33

All my life, I believed stuff. And when this happened, it's genuinely horrifying. Like, I've always thought, oh, always want to see a ghost. And then when it happens, it's really horrible. Like, it was genuinely horrible.

Dan Howarth 23:48

Yeah, see, I think I'm still in that kind of, it's never happened to me kind of phase but talking about the things that you're into growing up, like, you know, the Osborn book, it goes, like, you know, me and Michael have discussed this before, you know, older family members telling you ghost stories and horror stories that probably an inappropriate age, if shaped some of like, what you're into, doesn't it? And I think, you know, the idealist amongst, you know, certainly in me, you know, thinks back to those ages, that age in particular, thank God, you. That's what you craved as a kid, wasn't it? You know, I'd love to see it go. So I'd love to be involved in something like that. But I guess until you have that experience that you can't, you know, quite easily explain away. It probably does seem something that's probably more romantic to hear about than it is to actually experience.

Matt Wesolowski 24:36

Absolutely. I mean, like, I've read ghost stories. I've read ghost stories and audiobooks of ghost stories ever since I was really really young. And I had this book called like the little vampire Lau just it was everything I was obsessed with all my life. And like you say, get this romantic idea of what would happen if I saw a ghost and then when you see it, your brain does this funny thing as well which sort of is there to protect you like, so there's three of us who experienced quite an intense, what shall we say, like encounter with this poltergeist where it was slamming the window open and closed. And I could go on and on about this, but I won't. And afterwards, we found even like an hour afterwards, we were finding it really hard to remember it, because your brain almost tried to protect you from it. So it goes, well, it didn't happen. But it did. Like it, I wouldn't just lie, either.

Dan Howarth 25:30

It's true. And even down to like, the childhood goes on. And like, you know, one of my mates now still kind of gives me shit about when we meet up. It's like, the loft conversion as a kid. And like, I was convinced that, you know, there was something up there was this new room had been on Earth in his house, and we must have been about 10 or 11 or something. And there was something so spooky about getting the you know, the ladder folded down, and you climbed up into there. And I was convinced, you know, we spent hours up there with this like old tape recorder that is more mad and, you know, scattering talcum powder all over the floor to get prints and stuff like, yeah, I was desperate, desperate for some evidence as a kid. So I think it is it is like a romantic thing. And I think there's something nostalgic about ghost stories and horror to a point as well back to that like childhood period.

Matt Wesolowski 26:20

Definitely, definitely. And I think as an adult, when you go into this stuff, maybe it's something to do with recapturing that little bit of magic as a kid, when you're sort of conditioned as you grow up to be skeptical about everything. And maybe it's just clinging on to the idea that there is something we can't quite explain. And there's something kind of like a story about that, perhaps.

Dan Howarth 26:42

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think you know, some of that, some of the experience of being scared. I think it doesn't happen too much to you as an adult, really. But it is nostalgic in a way because you you scare easily as a child like you know that that single on the back of your neck as he gets old, the you know, the scary part of that ghost story as a kid or whatever. You know, I think perhaps secretly that's as horror readers what we all kind of crave a little bit when we open a book is to recapture that.

Matt Wesolowski 27:12

Yeah, like my friend and I were having a chat yesterday about this. And he made this amazing point. And he said, The when you have your first laugh as a baby, that it's usually from a game of peekaboo. Right? You know, the parent covers, their face opens and says peekaboo. And if you look what peekaboo is, a child is completely dependent on that parent. Or baby if you if the baby doesn't have a parent round, it's going to die. The parents joke there is this thing in front of you who you depend on to live has gone. You're gonna die. Oh, no, it's back. And that's funny. That's true. And we were talking about how that is funny. We were talking about comedy. And he was making the point that That's comedy. That's your first laugh. You know, I might die. No, I won't. And there's some things that with fear and why we like it. And that and the dark humor.

Dan Howarth 28:15

Yeah, got that. Yeah, that's actually really a really sinister thought that you've just

Michael David Wilson 28:27

Yeah, and I mean, we've said before on the podcast that there's such a thin line between horror and comedy anyway, because I mean, with the exception of erotica, they're the only genres where they're trying to produce some sort of physical reaction.

Matt Wesolowski 28:45

Absolutely. And the best comedy is the darkest comedy that taps into our horror if you look at shows like The League of gentlemen inside number nine, Nighty night all of anything Julia Davis writes basically all of that sort of thing has a really tragic horrible edge to it. And that's what makes it so funny. It's peekaboo it's nearly something's nearly gone something we've nearly lost something were frightened. Oh, no, it's okay.

Michael David Wilson 29:15

And see now now I'm thinking there's gonna be some sort of you know, novel or TV series idea called peekaboo that something really fucking dark comedy about a baby that I didn't know their parents massacred, but oh no, they're not I don't know there's something there's something inside number nine. And I'll leave you to that one. Then. I can write down my own

was that met?

Matt Wesolowski 29:52

I said that's a pitch.

Michael David Wilson 29:53

Yeah. You know, publish. Yes. Reach out if you want me to

Dan Howarth 29:59

write That's awesome.

Michael David Wilson 30:06

Well, I do wonder with the supernatural, we've obviously spoke about some of these experiences you had when you were younger. Have you had anything recently? I mean, what's the most recent supernatural encounter?

Matt Wesolowski 30:22

Unfortunately, I went to the was it Chimera Festival, which is a little horror festival up in Edinburgh, and I went back to Greyfriars kirkyard for a tour to see if the same thing would happen again, and unfortunately, it didn't. It's been a while actually. No, I haven't had anything for quite a while even spent a night at Chillingham Castle, which is probably the most haunted castle in England, which is about an hour's drive from me. And the only most frightening thing there was how many spiders were in a room of

Michael David Wilson 30:58

Jesus. Yeah. Well, you do and you beat your cry in your like, these haunted places. It's like Go on, let's, let's have one, you know, particularly

Matt Wesolowski 31:12

talking about some podcasts. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 31:15

yeah. Exactly.

Dan Howarth 31:19

In terms of the the kind of folkloric aspects of your work, do you have any kind of tried and tested resources? I know you've mentioned podcasts and stuff, you know, where where do you turn if you want kind of inspiration around those kinds of things. Folk Lloyd's

Matt Wesolowski 31:35

again, it's something I've always been really into. I always was fascinated by this book we fondly have which is now mine. I think it was my dad's. And it's called British folk tales. And it's an adaptation of loads of different folktales from the British Isles by Kevin Crossley, Holland, I think it was published, perhaps in the early 80s. And that, but I loved that book as a really young kid. And I read it again and again and again, until I could almost recite these stories, these old English folk tales. So that's always been a fascination for me wherever I go. I'll try and find out what the local folklore is about a wonderful book called A cult Britain, put out by hellebore magazine. And it's nice. It's wherever you go in England, you can find out what the local folklore is. And so yes, it's wonderful. And I just love it. And I was reading a quite recent study. For Changeling, actually, which is fairy encounters, that that two researchers have done a huge survey and are still doing this survey about people's encounters with fairies. And that's fascinating as well. And you'll find similar encounters happening in lots of different countries and in lots of different ways. All this stuff, just, I love to draw on it. I think it's absolutely fascinating. It's part of us as a race. folklore is hugely important to us. It's, it's our cautionary tales, it's it's part of our culture, and I think why not draw on it? Because it's still got so much to say.

Dan Howarth 33:17

Absolutely. I think it's it's one of those things along with kind of music and food, you know, that each area each country has its own kind of identity. And I think that you know, when when you travel and finding out about local law is one of the like the most fascinating things that you can do really?

Matt Wesolowski 33:33

Absolutely. I was in Anglesey recently and, and Wales has got such a rich, beautiful, fascinating lore unto itself. It really feels like well, you are in a different country when you're there. And it's so evocative with the landscape and everything. And you can see why inspired writers like Arthur machen, who's perhaps one of my biggest influences.

Michael David Wilson 33:59

Yeah, have you traveled Macau or the UK and learn about you know, folklore in different countries too.

Matt Wesolowski 34:07

And I've been haven't been out of Europe to my detriment, but I'm really interested in Scandinavian and Nordic folklore. So I've been to Norway a couple of times, I mean, mainly to go to black metal shops. And then I went to the shop where you're anonymous set up how Veta which is now still a black metal music shop and you can go down into the basement and see all the old anyway, that's off the subject.

Michael David Wilson 34:42

is very interesting to me.

Matt Wesolowski 34:47

But ya know, I do like to I am fascinated by other cultures folklore of Iceland is really interesting. I've been there a couple of times, like they, their sort of fairy lore is still there. really important in our society, you know, they'll build roads around fairy churches, rather than move the witch and fairy churches in Iceland to these great big standing stones. And, and you know that that was another big influence for my writing in Changeling, again, were in Iceland, when they tried to move certain stones, all the machinery would fail, or the builders would refuse to, to go and work and they say, No, I'm not touching that. I think that's so interesting. It's so cool.

Dan Howarth 35:32

Really, is there? Is there anything kind of folklore why is that you've kind of read about and you you're itching to write about, but haven't kind of got to yet have you got, you know, one that you're kind of holding back on or just not been able to build a story around? What's kind of the, you know, the most interesting thing that you've that you've not gotten to yet? Ah, that's

Matt Wesolowski 35:53

a really good question. There isn't anything like that. Now, I'll tell a lie or tell a lie. When we went to Anglesey, I went we went to this abandoned and Victorian jail, which is now a museum. And I've got another book sort of in as you know, you've written a book and your next one is always sort of in the back of your head waiting to come out. Usually, when you're about 80% through the one you're supposed to be writing. And we went on this jail and and listened to the stories about it, and its history and some of the ghosts that it has, and that was just inject this into my veins, because this is the next. Yeah, there was a lot of that there was a lot of that there. I would I would love to go back to Cornwall. So that that South Coast, there's a wonderful witchcraft Museum in Boscastle, which I've been to when I was much younger. And I'd like to go there again. Because that was a huge source of inspiration as well.

Dan Howarth 36:56

Absolutely. No, that sounds that sounds great. It's just there, I find it really interesting to see how kind of folklore shapes different areas, it's just, you know, it really does kind of make us unique, and in our locality Israeli and kind of go in going on to that. And I'm just about to hear Michael roll as Isaac, but this is something that I find interesting is how do you see your kind of identity as somebody from the northeast, or just from the north in general? Do you feel like that's something that shaped your work?

Matt Wesolowski 37:26

Absolutely, absolutely. I do. I think there's a huge disparity between things set in London, it feels like a lot of a lot of books have to be set in London, or to have appeal. And I think the North often gets overlooked in that sense. And as a northerner being literally overlooked by Westminster. And, you know, it's always up here, where the resources are taken from the most. It's always up here, where the poverty is highest. Thanks to the Tories. That we feel it, you know, we feel my identity as a northerner is really strong, and I made a really sort of conscious decision in writing to set a lot of my books, like specifically not in London, I don't have anything against London, I just feel as a northerner, I want some representation. So a lot of my stuff is set. It's always in fictional places, but I think there needs to be more writing from the north more northern voices, because not every English voice is Southern. And yeah, and I feel like as a Geordie as well, we don't, I don't feel up here in the Northeast. It's so significantly part of England, I think I feel more affinity with perhaps the Scots or the Welsh, just because of how overlooked we are up here. And, and when I go places like Scotland and Wales, and they've got such a strong heart and a strong identity, I love it. And I feel like that up here.

Dan Howarth 39:08

Yeah, I would totally agree. I mean, I live on Merseyside, which obviously is quite a defiant area of the country. I think love Liverpool.

Matt Wesolowski 39:15

I love Liverpool. It's like my favorite English city. Second.

Dan Howarth 39:21

Yeah, of course. They've always got so much character, isn't it? And I think in the last probably 10 years, I mean, I grew up like the other side, chest removed. But again on for about 10 years ago now. And I think over that time, you can really notice the creativity and the kind of individualistic side of this city has really started to flourish.

Matt Wesolowski 39:43

And after Liverpool, one city of culture and got a huge cash injection, you've got all those now thriving, independent businesses and I love Liverpool's defiance. Like I went when I first visited and there's taxis that say don't buy the sun on it. I was I Yes.

Dan Howarth 40:00

Uh, yeah, no, you're right. I mean, I've, you know, I've seen a particular man in Liverpool drive around with that sticker in the back window of his car. So, you know, it's something that pervades from the top to the bottom. Really.

Matt Wesolowski 40:14

I think there's a bit of that in football as well, you know, like football, I think comes into it. I really feel genuinely that football is part of culture. And I think like people are just trying to do that and kicking the ball. No, it isn't. It's a lot more than that. It's about identity. And it's about culture. And I think Liverpool funds and funds and Newcastle fans and like, we get a lot of stick that you know, you do in northern bastards. We've had spurs funds chanting, we pay your benefits, Chelsea funds singing and stuff like that, you know, and livable funds, I know get a lot of stick just for simply being livable funds and being from the north as well. And, and, yeah, so there's that bit of defiance as well. I feel defiant now, as a Newcastle fan, just going back to football. We're now being blamed for all the atrocities in Saudi Arabia. When it's like we're football fans, we've had no say in this.

Dan Howarth 41:13

Yeah. Yeah, you're right. It's, it's, well, that in itself is an issue that could take up an entire podcast, isn't it, I think really, probably more suited to this is football. And this is horrible. Don't get me wrong, I would love to open up about all this stuff. But we're trying to try to keep it on the on the horror side. I mean, in terms of in terms of place, so to bring it back to the north in terms of place in your fiction, as you say, you know, you're always looking at things in the north. And I must admit, that's something that I always try and do my stories to what's your process for almost information gathering kind of sensory experience of building those places, because I mean, going back to beast, which was one of one of my favorites of the six stories, boxes, you can almost feel the cold and that book, the way that it's so what's your process for, for gathering that information and getting it down into, you know, the identity and the DNA of your book,

Matt Wesolowski 42:09

I think sensory experience, what you just said, is really good way of doing it. It's just being there. It's just being in these places. And being from these places. Like when you go up in Northumberland, for example, the landscape is very, very different from if you're say, perhaps in North Yorkshire, or if you're down in the south, if you're down in like Dartmoor, or somewhere like that the landscape has a very different feel to it, and a very different look to it. And so, Beast was, this was interesting, because the idea for beast didn't start as something supernatural. The idea for beasts started with just a picture in my head of one of those sort of old seaside towns, I used to live in Lancaster for about 10 years on the northwest coast, that sort of filed coastline, where you've got places like more come and Blackpool which used to be these thriving Victorian seaside towns that are now a little bit dilapidated. And I had this vision all I had for Beast was a vision of a town like a dilapidated seaside town, and a black, big black monolithic tower that the locals call The vampire tower. And that was it. And I didn't really know why the call vampire. But they did. And I thought I'd, you know, I've been to all these places, and I really have to concentrate on trying to capture the vibe of those places, because people from those places will catch you. And and you can tell when an author is being disingenuous or hasn't been somewhere, you know, and I can tell that I'm reading so I really have to work hard to capture that essence.

Dan Howarth 43:43

Yeah, I think the kind of I don't want to call it a trend. But certainly the larger amount of more kind of narrative nonfiction around nature and place, particularly, you know, around Britain, I think is really set a standard, perhaps for fiction writers as well to be able to make our locations as authentic as some of some of those books. You know, I think about authors like Benjamin Meyers, for example, is probably a big proponent of that in his fiction, you know, so deeply rooted in place. There is an expectation now for readers that that things are as authentic as possible.

Matt Wesolowski 44:18

Definitely. And I think there's a there's a big debate in the minute at the minute about authenticity, and I think places probably not as important as perhaps some of the more social issues, but it is important and Ben miles is a really good example. Andrew, Michael Hurley is another one who captures place so wonderfully. And I think when we read these writers, like I know when I read Ben Meyers or when I read under Michael Hurley I want to be I want to capture that feeling they do. I want to capture it as well. So it's almost like the bar is set. And we all kind of want to get above it or equal at least.

Dan Howarth 44:58

Absolutely. And then say terms of authenticity. You know, one thing that I think is very striking about the six stories, books by Scott King or any of the other characters, is the voice is always extremely distinct for each character is the process, you know, how do you consciously kind of bring a different voice in because so much of this is almost oral history? You know, the voice, the opinion, the way that it's delivered is so vital to the success of the book. So are there any techniques or things that you've learned that help you shape that?

Matt Wesolowski 45:32

Yeah, I mean, that's, that's the hardest aspect of them is the voice. And when I first started out, one of the biggest debates I had with myself is do I write this in dialect do I write this, like, perhaps serve in Welsh, or Niall Griffiths, or someone like that, in that sort of dialect form. And I've sort of wrestled with that for quite a long time until I thought, if I can write it not in that style, but still get the voice across that I'm happy with that. That's just what I wanted to do. But like, it's gonna sound a bit pretentious, but it's the only way I can really describe it. I have to hear that voice in my head. I have to hear them. Hear the character speak to me before I can write. And, and sometimes it takes a little while sometimes it's difficult. And and what was the hardest thing is staying with that character. So if I'm writing it six stories chapter, I have to do it quickly. Because I can't take too much time in between them, or I'll lose that voice. And once I'm into that rhythm, it's almost like they're speaking in my head, and I have to write it out. Do you know what I mean? It sounds a bit wonky, but it's the only way I can describe.

Dan Howarth 46:46

No, so Okay, so I mean, it's, you know, it's kind of a very focused way of doing things really by the sound of

Matt Wesolowski 46:52

it. Yeah, it really is. And I think that's, you know, like, obviously, I think, from listening to a listen to a lot of audio books, as a kid are listened to, like, I can't walk around the house without something on like, an audio book or podcast likes, otherwise, I'm stuck with my own brain. And no one wants to hear that. So I've got voices going on all the time. And me and my friends are always sort of done silly voices silly accent. I'm quite good at doing well, people might think I'm not. But I think I'm quite good at doing various accents. And no, I'm not going to do any now. Because. But yeah, so voice is, as always been like, I've no maybe part of me as well. Like I work with, like I say I work with people. I work in a profession where I've got to speak to people and listen to them. So maybe it's coming from like an amalgamation of all of these things, perhaps.

Dan Howarth 47:52

Yeah, it certainly sounds that way. I mean, is there you know, that was one thing that I was going to speak to you about in terms of your day job, how that ties in with the writing? Because he's still, you know, do you still have that day job, and is that still something that you lean on for kind of, I suppose writing inspiration without meaning to be derogatory to you. So your day job was, you know, he's still taking something from that page, when you sit down to write either in the evenings or days off, or whenever it is that you're writing

Matt Wesolowski 48:24

are totally and it's not derogatory at all, it's really important. Like, I used to work full time as a teacher for like permanently excluded teenagers with behavioral issues in pupil referral units. So when a pupil has been permanently excluded from every school, they sort of end up in one of these units. And I taught a lot in those. And then I went part time, because working alongside those kids was wonderful, and I loved it. But working alongside people with a lot of problems like that has a quite a drip drip effect on your own sort of emotions. And I kind of had to take a bit of a sabbatical from that. Actually, when I wrote the first six stories, then went back part time. And now I work I don't really have that job anymore is working with kids and care, doing the similar sort of thing, one to one English tutoring. And now I work predominantly in schools for new writing North working, doing creative writing workshops. And that's really interesting, and it's really great because I feel like with this work, it helps me keep a little bit up to date with almost like what's going on in young people's culture. And I think as an adult and as a father and now I'm on for a it's really easy just to dismiss everything that young people do is stupid, and I don't understand it. So it's ridiculous. You know, I don't get like for example, tic tock, I don't get it. I'm not going to be on x. I'm a middle aged man. It's not for me, but instead of going i It's crap and stuff. You bid. And it's better for me to try and understand it didn't I mean, does that make sense? Like, when you people, like, I want to understand their world a little bit, I don't want to be in there because it's like, it's for them. It's not for me anymore, but you can't just go on. And I think as a writer, you can't just go on thinking, well, everything just should be like it was in the 90s.

Dan Howarth 50:26

No, I think you're absolutely right. And I think you know, that, that's probably to the detriment of, you know, not only people as parents or grandparents or, you know, in those family roles, but also as politicians where people have that viewpoint of, you know, this is how it was, you know, back in the, you know, the fucking 50s If you're Jacob Riis, MOG, or, you know, wherever it may be, you know, people, people close their minds. And I think that that is a problem for them, not only as creatives, but also as people.

Matt Wesolowski 50:58

Yeah, absolutely. And like you say, it's so easily done. It's so easy to just disparage everything, because it comes through fear, I think, a little bit of its fear of the unknown, and something that's happening, and you're not part of it anymore. And maybe this is the idea that you might become obsolete. So yeah, work is really that sort of work is really valuable to me, because I know if I didn't have it, I know, I would spend all day every day up in the attic writing, and I wouldn't interact with anyone. And and that would that would make my writing suffer, I think.

Dan Howarth 51:32

Yeah, absolutely. And in terms of the kind of work you do for new writer North who were, you know, certainly every deal, and I've had with them, you know, through blogs, and social media and stuff like that has been, has been fantastic. Am I right in thinking that you did some kind of mentoring or some work with Eliza Clark? Who wrote body parts? Is that right? Or have I made that up? No, that's

Matt Wesolowski 51:52

true. So Eliza, applied for which I think the applications are open right now actually, for it's like a young person's at some kind of grant with New writing north for aspiring young writers. And what they did with with Eliza is they, she, she'd won this grant, but they also paired with a mentor. So I got an email from them saying, Would you mentor like a young young, aspiring writer, and, and, and I did, and I remember, and it was great. It was wonderful experience, like reading her stuff, because I was like, Oh, my gosh, there's so much talent there. You know, like you genuinely going into these things worrying in case. I know that, that I couldn't do anything that I couldn't help. And we work together really well. And she was so dedicated, and boy parts. So books started off as a short story. And we worked on that together. And and said, There's a book in here, you know, and that's gone on to do really, really well. So it's an absolutely wonderful scheme. And, and she posted quite recently on Instagram, I think saying how much it changed a life like that, getting awarded that grant. And just getting that little I know that little boost from an organization does wonders. Yeah,

Dan Howarth 53:12

yeah. I mean, you know, if anybody hasn't read that book, I would, I would absolutely recommend it is one of the most wicked and vicious first person narrators I think I've ever read. It's one of those kind of almost, I would go as far as to say, well, Carver esque in terms of its kind of sardonic world belt, you know, worldview. It's absolutely a sizzling piece of fiction that it's really really good.

Matt Wesolowski 53:38

Absolutely. Well, I

Michael David Wilson 53:40

know something else that you're quite fond of. is found footage movies, so I'm wondering I mean, how they played into an influence the lights of six stories, because of course, there are a number of commonalities.

Matt Wesolowski 53:56

Oh, definitely. I mean, I think like the six stories books are sort of a literary found footage. I think sort of true crime is in a way, but no, it's I love found footage, but I love good found footage. I watched one which I hadn't seen to my chagrin and it's called butterfly kisses. I don't know if you've seen that one.

Michael David Wilson 54:17

I have not seen that one now.

Matt Wesolowski 54:20

I think I recommend it fully. It's one of the best found footage movies I've ever seen. But um, yeah, like Blair Witch Project, for example, was a massive influence. I remember it was actually when I was a chef, and Blair Witch Project had been marketed just on the internet. And so well, I didn't have the internet because I lived in this like scavi little bed set. And so I didn't know anything about it until one of the chefs at work came in with this VHS tape this sort of pirated VHS tape and all it had on it in tip X was that that symbol from Blair Witch Project? Yeah. And it was such a thing. So it was like that was part of the mythos. Have it and he'd horribly gone home and told his girlfriend that he had been given a snuff movie. absolutely terrified. And I thought what like, this is so powerful, you know? So fun footage when it's done well, yeah, huge influence. I love it. And I just want more. I just want people to recommend me found footage movies that I've seen.

Michael David Wilson 55:23

Yeah. And I remember I mean, much like yourself with the Blair Witch Project. I mean, that was such a kind of amorphous I suppose. And the mystique around it, that there was a way that can confuse you. And it's like, is this actually real? Are we watching a film because it was such a new medium at the time. And I think, you know, there was even that to a certain point with the lights of paranormal activity. We actually viewing, you know, something that has happened, and I think that really kind of ramped up the fear level when you're watching something. And you're like, I don't know, if this is real, and boy, oh, boy, that will make it harder to sleep that evening.

Matt Wesolowski 56:11

Absolutely. And then you've got something like host, which has taken the sort of the Zoom meeting, and that's absolutely brilliant, you know, and it's like, that is how horror is evolving. I feel.

Michael David Wilson 56:23

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that kind of ties into what you were saying about tick tock, and it's like, it's not your world. But you know, you want to at least be aware of it. And I suppose as creators, we want to innovate, we want to utilize these mediums and tell our stories in those ways. And, you know, the host and the zoom, call it, it couldn't have happened at a more perfect time. I mean, I think it did happen as a result of what was going on. And people using zoom. So

Matt Wesolowski 56:57

yeah, absolutely. And that's what that's where horror works. Horror, prey horror, uses our, our fears and our current fears, and our future fears. And it Yeah, it was perfect for the time.

Michael David Wilson 57:10

The director, Rob Sanford, he's got a new one out called dash cam. Yes. I haven't seen that. Yeah. So I haven't either. But I mean, for my understanding that is, you know, another one that's going to you Alliance in these technologies. I mean, probably the clue is in the name. It's still dashcam. So it's probably not a spoiler to talk about that footage might be presented. But yeah, I love this kind of innovation and keeping these different sub genres fresh.

Matt Wesolowski 57:43

Absolutely. Absolutely. I think it's got to be the way.

Michael David Wilson 57:46

Well, we're coming up to the time that we have together, and I certainly do appreciate it. You've given us the vast majority your morning, it must be early afternoon for you now. So yeah, thank you so much for being so generous with your time.

Matt Wesolowski 58:07

Oh, it's an absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me. It's been really good fun.

Michael David Wilson 58:11

Yeah. I wonder where can our listeners connect with you? So you

Matt Wesolowski 58:17

can you can connect with me on Twitter where I will not be arguing with you. My handle is at concrete, Kraken. And on Instagram, I'm Matt J. Laski. All right. And you can connect with me on Facebook if you like. But I don't really look at it that much. But on there.

Michael David Wilson 58:38

Yeah. You want to add him just bump up your friend count because that's important to you, then that can be

Matt Wesolowski 58:49

that's Sorry, just going back to social media, you know, something that really don't get when grown adults are bothered about how many followers they have on grown adult and you go in and need 2000? Why? What will happen? What will happen?

Michael David Wilson 59:08

Well, the weird thing as well is when I see people who say something like I've lost seven followers today, and it's like, I wouldn't fucking know if I have I'm not I'm not meticulously kind of looking at my follower. Count and and then of course there are these apps. I don't know if they actually work where they supposedly tell you if somebody has unfollowed you will God it'd be terrifying to be that obsessed with it, quite frankly.

Matt Wesolowski 59:42

Okay, so there's an author who I'm not gonna mention who who must have had that because that I unfollowed them for my own reason

Michael David Wilson 59:55

enough to justify why you and I could unfold Oh people because I'm curating my fucking feed to just things that I it doesn't. If I unfollow you, it doesn't mean I'm not your friend. I mean, it might do that there's a multitude of reasons but don't jump to that. I might do exactly unfollowed Dan, because I'm sick of hearing about the football. I don't.

Matt Wesolowski 1:00:22

Like it doesn't matter. But yeah, this author then very quickly, unfollowed me and I was like, right, we've never really interacted. So you've genuinely I can tell that you've genuinely got that. That technology. I thought How petty is that? Like how, like, You're a grown man. Yeah, I just think the whole thing. And it's when you see grown adults having silly arguments and blocking each other. You're like, Oh, my God. It's the playground again. Use a pathetic growth.

Michael David Wilson 1:00:50

Yeah. Yeah.

Dan Howarth 1:00:53

Love this rage, man. I'm not gonna lie.

Matt Wesolowski 1:00:57

For Sunday morning,

Dan Howarth 1:00:59

what what a way for us to end this conversation just sending the guests the way absolutely furious. That was busted.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:12

Maybe, maybe this will make it better. It really depends what you say to this final question. Do you have any final thoughts to leave our listeners with?

Matt Wesolowski 1:01:25

Oh, man, Be nice. Be kind to each other. That's rubbish, isn't it? I should say something more spooky. And oh, here we go. This is what my kickboxing like teacher says before we're about to go into like a load around a sparring. And I think this lesson will resonate throughout all walks of life. So I was grading on Friday night, and that was four hours of hell. And he got us round. And he said, you know, there are some people out there who are grading who are fighting, you're all in your pods. Some people are bigger than others, you know. So if you're a massive, great bloke and you're fighting someone half your size, this is the lesson. Don't be a dick.

Michael David Wilson 1:02:10

Thank you so much for joining us for part two at a conversation with Matt Wesolowski. Join us again next time when we will be chatting with Connor Habib. But if you want to get that ahead of the crowd, if you want to get every episode ahead of the crowd, become our Patreon. A patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Now not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can submit questions to each interviewee. And actually, there's a little bit of time to submit a question to Connor Habib, not a lot, probably about 24 hours at the time of recording. But if you're getting in there quick, if you are an early listener, then you could still be a patron you could sign up and you could submit a question to Connor. And not only do we have Connor on soon, but we will be shortly talking with Kevin Lucia claim McLeod Chapman, and Paul Tremblay to name but three more. We've always got great people that we're chatting with are always looking to learn insights into writing and indeed unlock some of those life lessons from the masters of horror in fiction in film. And indeed, further if you've got a guest request for this as our if it's someone you'd like to hear us interview, who has yet to be on the show. Send us a Tweet at This Is Horror. Okay, before I ramped up a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 1:03:53

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Michael David Wilson 1:05:05

well, to wrap up, I just like to thank those who have recently become a patron of This Is Horror. So thank you very much to Matt Garberville to wialon Kolomna to Dan hail to Susan Erlam, to Tyler Anderson, to Jeff Amberlynn. And to Robert Stahl. So great to have you as part of the This Is Horror Podcast Patreon community. And as well as all of the bonuses and perks that I spoke about previously. You can of course become a member of the writers forum. And you can declare the challenge that you will be taken on to take your right into the next level. I'm currently doing the old write a novel in 90 days challenge. I know Bob is involved too. So is Dan Howarth. So a lot of familiar faces, a lot of people who are going to give you encouragement. So if you want to take you right into the next level, do consider becoming a patron. Well now said I'll see you in the next episode of Connor Habib, but until then, take care yourselves be good to one another or read horror. Keep on writing and have a great great day.

Dan Howarth 1:07:25

Oh no, I agree with you, Michael. Sorry. I was saying conscious. Was it conscious? Not conscious as in they're aware of what they're doing conscience. That's the word good. Yeah. Remember how to speak that conscious conscience. That's the one conscience

Michael David Wilson 1:07:43

Stop saying conscience.

Dan Howarth 1:07:45

Please edit this out. Like you know. But yeah, you know what I mean? They don't give a shit, basically. And yes, they are doing it on purpose. That's what I'm gonna do.

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