My name is Matt Shaner. I live in Wyomissing, PA with my wife and son who will turn four this summer. My wife and I met in high school and have spent thirteen wonderful years together. Our son loves everything to do with sports and action. We attend Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Wyomissing.
I have eighteen short stories published online and in print including one selected for anthology by Fantastic Horror. Eternal Press has published my novella Life After Death and novel The Reserve. I’m editing a novel I just finished for publication and trying to get other work out there. If you read my stuff and enjoy it, please let someone know!Now on to the interview.
RA for All: What are your recollections of discovering horror books at the library?
Shaner: One of my earliest experiences was during our RIF (Reading is Fun) days in elementary school. There was a great series of scary stories/urban legends called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark with these almost gothic style drawings. I snapped them up with the usual selection of Goosebumps books and eventually finding my way into Stephen King and other masters of the dark. Halloween was always my favorite holiday and the libraries would move the scary titles front and center. Dark fiction, written well, is a great escape.
RA for All: You are currently getting your MFA. What draws you to writing dark fiction in particular?
Shaner: I think we learn the most about ourselves when we look at the dark side of life, emotion, psychology, and reality. There is power in dark fiction. After reading a recommendation on a website, I picked up Sara Gran’s book Come Closer. It is short, can be finished in one night, and scared the crap out of me. I put it down thinking, wow, this powerful stuff. Crime novels touch it, satire can make you laugh, romance will avoid it, but the darkness, when done well, can spur a primal emotion. We are addicted to fear. Walk to your car in the parking lot after a night shift and listen to the wind, the footsteps, or what was it? I mean the lot is empty right? Our mind plays fear so naturally that it is a joy to engage in writing. I love losing myself in a scary story and, hopefully writing one good enough to provide the same impact to a reader.
RA for All: What draws you most to the short story format?
Shaner: Short stories are a great venue for quick engagement. Short stories can pack all the elements of a novel into a condensed punch. I find good short story writers (Flannery O’Connor, Clive Barker, King, Raymond Carver, etc.) to be an inspiration. Any of my short stories start as a snapshot, a mental moment in time and space. I love the way they flow. I love how a skilled short story writer can engage you and leave you wanting more. I think, in some ways, short stories can be more challenging than a novel to write and become more rewarding when they work in the end.
RA for All: Your work incorporated many genres and genre blending is quite a trend these days. What are your thoughts on genre distinctions' place in fiction today? Specifically, what does it mean to you as a writer, a writing teacher, and a reader?
Shaner: I love the idea that we can now blur some lines and communicate across forms. Now, there will always be fans of specific styles and I can’t take that away from anyone. There is a reason for our genre specific professional associations and people will always latch to a style they enjoy. As a writer, it offers a freedom not found often in the past. One of my favorite authors, Richard Matheson, is a great example. His writing spans the territory of horror, science fiction, crime, suspense, and fantasy. Some stories hit all of those points. A good writer can make it work.
As a teacher and reader, it is a challenge to stay open and relevant for students. Today we are in a quick hit media society. Readers need to be grabbed. A book can be put down or returned to the library without remorse. A movie fan will feel bad after dropping thirty on the tickets and snacks, and probably hesitate to walk out. Look at the most popular stories now, they cross lines of love and magic, fear and suspense. People want to be engaged. They want to feel something and a good writer will provide that. A good teacher will pick texts and structure lessons around quality stories regardless of genre. A reader will be more open to experiment as books can now be downloaded with a single touch. We are in a great time for writers and readers. I look forward to seeing what is coming in the future.
For more information about Matt Shaner check out the links he provided.