Tell me about yourself, Mat.My name's Mat Blackwell, I'm from Australia. I've been writing professionally for TV for a good decade or so (a bunch of shows that Australians would probably recognise: The Glass House, Good News Week, The Sideshow, Wednesday Night Fever, Room 101, etc) as well as numerous sold-out Comedy Debates (“sold-out” as in “they have sold all the tickets”, rather than “have no cultural value due to the interference of corporate sponsorship”). But I’ve been writing short stories and novels all my life, ever since I can remember: I think I was about five when I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life (I recently re-found an old book that I was given when I was seven, and in the front my aunt had written in it “to my favourite budding author” – so it was clear to everyone that I wasn’t kidding).
Although writing for TV is fun (and has allowed me to craft wordage for people like Barry Humphries, Paul McDermott, Wil Anderson, Waleed Aly, Amanda Keller, Corinne Grant etc – a huge buncha Aussie comedians, basically), my first love is novels and short stories. I don't actually own a TV – I watch stuff on the laptop, when I watch stuff. I’m happy (and lucky) to write for the screen, but nothing compares to the grand sweep and internal access of the printed word: when screenwriting, I can only write what’s possible given the budget, but with books, I can write whatever I want, big, small, impossible to film, whatever. I love it heaps.
The kind of writing I love best is not just entertaining, but deals with something conceptual: big ideas, or tricky ideas, or grey areas, or taboos, or conundra. I studied philosophy back in my Uni daze, and I love a ripping good yarn that also deals with something philosophical. So that’s what I try to do with my writing: not just entertain, but provoke, or interrogate, or at least explore. And maybe have a laugh now and then too, why not?
I also feel like an inordinate amount of the world’s media is American, or USA-centric, or whatever the term might be, and it irks me no end that Australians are raised on American television and music and books. If this was a fair cultural exchange, I wouldn’t care, but it’s not: while Australians grow up singing songs about New York New York or being straight outta Compton, and watching shows set in California and Albuquerque, Americans don’t know the first thing about Bendigo or Broadmeadows or Bentleigh. So another thing that is important to me in my writing is to rep my hood, so to speak, and refer to Australians living and interacting in Australia. I know it might be easier to sell books by setting them in Los Angeles or whatever, but I’m just not going to do it.
Am I a grumpy misanthropic eccentric who doesn’t get out of the house very often? You betcha.
Tell me about your current Book:My current novel is “Beef”. It’s about vat-meat and love (and music, and psychics, and cults, and meaninglessness, and legacy). It centres around Royston Beef, a bumbling rudderless sociophobe who has a pretty charmed but meaningless life as inheritor of the world’s leading synthetic vat-meat corporation, and how his life changes when he meets Gene, a voluptuous psychic musician. The novel is basically an exploration about infidelity, and how far you can push it before it actually becomes an affair: the whole time, Royston is riding the fine line between technicality and truth, sliding closer and closer to definite infidelity, while trying to convince himself that he’s not doing anything wrong. This all happens in an Australia of the very near future, a world where the killing of animals for food is as abhorrent as the keeping of slaves, a world where music is entirely corporatised to the point where every song is about a specific product, a world where strange cults thrive and psychics are out of the closet, etc. It’s like a sci-fi novel, without the sci. It’s also like a romance novel, without the romance. I guess that makes it just a novel. Hmmm.
What are you working on now?Currently I’m working on an anthology of short stories, and the novel-length quasi-sequel to ‘Beef’, ‘The Post-Cultural Pregnancy of Sydenham Jones’. Short stories are great bite-sized morsels of goodness, and I’ve always loved them (to write, and to read). And although the story of ‘Beef’ is definitely closed off with the ending of the novel, I still felt that some of the more minor characters, and the world itself, still had more to say.
I’m also counting the days until the webseries I co-created and co-wrote is released onto the unsuspecting world. It’s called “Bruce”, and it’s a share-house black comedy set in 1788, the year that my wonderful nation was created by invading an already-quite-inhabited country and cramming it full of convicts.
The trailer is watchable here: https://vimeo.com/60045230
I’m also working on a black metal comedy web-series, a bunch of essays on ethics and art, and a seemingly-endless sequence of music reviews. There is always more to write!
Where is your favorite place to be when you write?The Stooge. That’s short for ‘studio’, it’s a dim and gnarly cramped dungeon of a space, filled with two decades of paintings, an augmented drum kit, and piles and piles of precious things/junk. I was actually interviewed recently about the specific relationship between my space and my creativity, you can hear it here: http://therightspaceshow.com/#/mat-blackwell/
What is your favorite Website?I do find myself coming here more than I should: it takes you to a different random useless website each time. http://www.theuselessweb.com/ I am a big fan of chaos-magic and creative randomness, so this suits my temperament perfectly.
My band with my daughter – we’re called “Stinky Picnic”, she named it when she was three. https://stinkypicnic.bandcamp.com/