Today's Author Spotlight is horror author Matthew R. Davis! Read on for the full interview. Publication date: February 29th 2021 Links...

Author Spotlight || Matthew R. Davis

Today's Author Spotlight is horror author Matthew R. Davis!
Read on for the full interview.

Publication date: February 29th 2021
Links: Amazon 


Jonny Trotter has spent the last fifteen years running from tragic memories of the country town where he grew up-but the black envelopes pushed under his door won't let him forget, and now that his father has died, he can run no more.


Returning to Waterwich for the funeral and wake with his partner Sloane, Jonny must confront old resentments, his estranged best friends Brendan and Coralie, a strange, veiled woman the locals call the White Widow...and the mystery surrounding the fate of his first lover, Jessica Grzelak.


A morbid and reckless city girl banished to the country to live with her aunt, Jessica loved to push the limits and explore the shadows-and no one has seen her since the night of her high school formal, the night she and Jonny went looking for the Chapel.


Rumoured to be found in the woods outside Waterwich, mentioned in playground rhymes about local lovebirds Billy and Poppy and their killing spree in 1964, the Chapel is said to be an ancient, sacred place that can only be entered by lovers-a test that can only be passed if their bond is pure and true.


Before he can move on to a future with Sloane, Jonny must first face the terrible truth of his past-and if he can't bring it out into the light at last, it might just pull him and everything he loves down into the dark, forever.

What's your latest release? 

MIDNIGHT IN THE CHAPEL OF LOVE, my first novel, published by JournalStone.

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work? 

I often describe it as a contemporary rural gothic mystery horror, which is a bit of a mouthful but covers most of the bases! The basic synopsis sounds fairly straightforward, even hackneyed - man returns to the country town he's been avoiding for years and must face up to his tragic past - but there's a lot more going on in this story, both above and below the surface. There's a cave out in the woods called the Chapel where lovers may test the strength and purity of their bond, which provides the narrative with a centre as well as a shot of cosmic awe. And it's a very Australian story, which may be of interest to international readers not used to such things. No spoilers, but I'll tell you this up front: there are no kangaroos.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

A drive between town and city, a Something for Kate song called "The Fireball at the End of Everything", my own conflicted feelings about the place where I grew up, the mysterious and ineffable atmosphere of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, the mistakes I'd made in relationships and the ones I was yet to make...

When you developed the characters, did you already know who they were before you began writing or did they develop organically?

The characters grew along with the story and changed to suit the narrative. For example, the main character's partner was initially a blonde white woman called Stephanie - a tip of the hat to Something for Kate and their bassist Stephanie Ashworth - but she didn't feel like an actual person so much as a conscious reference. I felt my way around in the darkness until I hit upon elements that I felt worked for the story: her name became Sloane, which felt right; she became a Chinese-Australian woman with a Polish-descended father, which fits neatly with some of the book's themes; she became an acquisitions manager for a local press, which allowed her an avid reader's perspective on the plot - she pushes Jonny to get closure on fifteen years of mystery and pain because she knows nothing else makes narrative sense! That last was something that found its way into the work as I wrote it, along with a number of other little details that add up to make Sloane Nowak a person I feel I really know and admire. Jonny Trotter, on the other hand, felt more like a cypher when I began writing as he didn't seem to have many distinctive characteristics, but he filled out and grew more real as I lived through him. I guess that makes sense as I have an intuitive understanding of the male experience, and indeed, the novel is in some ways an examination of Australian masculinity - the good, the bad, and the toxic. I find that interesting as I generally prefer to write female characters, and though there are strong and well-observed women at the heart of this tale, it is very much the story of a man.

What was more important to you when you were writing: character development or plot?

Character focus is very important to me when writing a novel, and on that level, my work carries the same weight as literary fiction - but I'm often disappointed by lit-fic's apparent disdain for solid, interesting plots. I try to ensure that my plots are watertight before I sit down to write the manuscript, that they start, continue, and end somewhere meaningful. And while I have a good idea of the characters when I begin writing, they accrue layers and details as I go that make them feel more real. So both elements are paramount to me.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned (about your story, about yourself, etc.) while writing?

I think the most interesting thing I learned came after. I put all this effort into writing a man whose insecurity and dishonesty damages his relationships and has far-reaching consequences... and then, without understanding it, I went and became that man myself. That particular irony was hard to swallow.

What books or authors influenced your own writing?

There are so many! I am the net result of all my reading, so hopefully the influence of thousands of other authors, filtered through my own perspective and experience, becomes something entirely unique. That said, it's impossible to ignore the influence of Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell, though I sometimes spot lines or techniques that remind me of other favourites.

What attracted you to the genre you write in?

If we narrow my genre down to just horror, which is at the heart of everything I do: I think that horror, despite its outlandish trappings, trades in truths other genres won't touch - not just in spite of its irrationality, but BECAUSE of it. I believe that good, thoughtful horror comes closest to depicting and examining the many-faceted, complicated, and confusing nature of humanity. Also, I like blood, boobs, and spooky shit.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished AMERICAN HIPPO by Sarah Gailey and I've started THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones. I'm also working my way through the MONSTRESS graphic novels by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda.

A lot of authors have a soundtrack while writing. Are there are songs you had on repeat?

I don't write to music these days - too distracting - but I always, ALWAYS have songs looping in my head, and the ones playing as I wrote this novel were dictated by the chapter titles, which took their names from songs by acts mentioned in the story. I appended a playlist to the back of the book so readers can check out the songs and artists in question - The Cure and Joy Division, Deftones and Silverchair, Chelsea Wolfe and Diamanda Galas... Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Godflesh, Something for Kate. And there are plenty of artists namechecked in the book who don't get chapter titles, because music is how I relate to people and the world - it moves through literally everything I do.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

"Keep going, kid. You're on the right track."

What are a couple of your favorite movies to kick back with to relax?

I've been leaning hard on RICK AND MORTY lately to unwind, and DOCTOR WHO is always close to my heart. I don't like to rewatch movies too much in case the shine wears off, but the Cornetto Trilogy - SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, and THE WORLD'S END - is something that repays repeat watches and is endlessly amusing whilst still delivering genuine pathos and great writing.

Do you have a WIP? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

At the risk of jinxing myself, I'm preparing to write a creepy, heartfelt novel manuscript about derelict places, those who explore them, and the people who fall through the cracks. I've spent a lot of time wandering through abandoned ruins with my favourite photographer, and it's all going to pay off in grand style once I unpick the plot knots holding me back from starting on this one...

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?

My modest but informative blog is at and you can find me on Facebook. I don't have the time, inclination, or talent at creating pithy bites of information to bother with other social media right now!

I’m an author and musician (plus sometime editor, visual artist, scriptwriter, composer, and all-round Renaissance man) based in Adelaide, South Australia.

I write dark fiction, horror for the most part, though I take an eclectic angle to all things. My approach to writing is character-focused, broad-minded, and averse to standard tropes. I cut my fangs on authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Richard Laymon, Anne Rice, Dan Simmons, Tanith Lee and Poppy Z. Brite, and these days I’m also drawn to folks like Alan Moore, Laird Barron, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Karl Edward Wagner, Joe Hill, China Miéville, Tom Piccirilli, Venero Armanno, Kaaron Warren, Joel Lane, Dennis Lehane, Livia Llewellyn, and Angela Slatter (to name just a few). So if you’re looking for a list of influences, there’s a place to start.

I’ve had around sixty short stories and poems published around the world thus far. The first story I recall writing came at the age of seven, a three-line opus about decapitating an invading horde of giant chickens; at thirteen, I won an all-ages writing contest and had my entry, a vaguely blasphemous sci-fi potboiler called 1″Time and the Bible”, published in Port Pirie newspaper The Recorder. I’ve always written, but for many years it came second to trying to establish a career in music; I didn’t begin submitting my work for publication until 2010, which is also when my first story appeared in print — the fittingly titled “Debutante”.

I won two categories in the 2019 Australian Shadows Awards: Best Short Story (“Steadfast Shadowsong”) and the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction (“Supermassive Black Mass”). My work has been shortlisted two other times for the Paul Haines Award (“The Heart of the Mission”, 2016; “This Impossible Gift”, 2017), twice for Best Novella in the Aurealis Awards (“Andromeda Ascends”, 2018; “Supermassive Black Mass”, 2019), and once for Best Horror Short Story in the Aurealis Awards (“Pilgrimage”, 2019). I also served as a reader and judge for the Horror Novels and Novellas categories of the 2016 and 2017 Aurealis Awards — acting as Panel Convenor the second year — a Novels judge for the 2018 and 2019 Australian Shadows Awards, and an Edited Works judge for the 2019 Shadows.

My first collection of short stories, If Only Tonight We Could Sleep, was released by Things in the Well on January 31, 2020. My first novel, Midnight in the Chapel of Love, will be released by JournalStone Publishing on January 29, 2021.

I’ve performed spoken word shows with punk poets Paroxysm Press, including three Adelaide Fringe gigs, and with the SA Writers Centre — the latter in the West Terrace Cemetery. I attended MAPS Film School in 2010 and since then I have been sporadically involved in short films and live videos as a scriptwriter, director, editor, producer, composer, grip, and (gasp!) actor. My most recent film work has been as an extra in a number of club scenes for Dick Dale’s forthcoming splatterpunk feature Ribspreader.

I play bass and other instruments, sing, write songs, edit videos, create album sleeves, and do all sorts of other things in the progressive/alternative rock/metal bands Blood Red Renaissance (on hiatus since 2013) and icecocoon. I’ve so far played on seven albums, three EPs, and seven singles. I’ve gigged extensively with numerous bands and one-offs, including two interstate tours with BRR and one with Priority Orange.

I currently live in Somerton Park.

Matthew, thank you so much for being a guest on Cats Luv Coffee Book Reviews!