Our chat with Matt…
I started writing when I was about twelve. I just always loved the mixture of imagination and planning that goes into it and I used to pester my friends to read the stuff I was doing which none of them really did! I would write anything, short stories, little plays, imaginary romantic stories featuring the girls I had a crush on (and yes they did sometimes write back as well!) and I always had the ambition to write a novel and be published one day. I had no idea how hard that would be.
The earliest attempts to get recognition for my writing came with entering short story competitions in the local newspaper the Hemel Hempstead Echo. I never won one of those competitions but I seem to remember coming second when I was about fourteen.
When I was fifteen I set about writing my first novel. It was a science fiction story called Leo and the Landlady about a bunch of Alien Lizards that invaded planet earth. I did finish it but no one actually ever read it and I believe it is sitting, unloved and still unread, in my mum’s attic to this day. Oh well, it was rubbish so that’s probably just as well!
My ‘Everest Files’ series has had some great reactions including a couple of pupils (one boy and two girls) who have told me with utmost sincerity that they have decided to climb Everest as a result of reading the book. Wow! That’s an amazing feeling for me as an author to think I have inspired a love of adventure.
I have done almost 500 school visits all over the world so there have definitely been some ‘interesting’ moments! I think the strangest question I ever got asked was at a school in Scotland where a year 6 boy asked me
‘Have you ever killed and eaten a OX!’ I had to disappoint him on that one!
Then there was the time that my rucksack went missing at a school in West London. That was potentially quite serious because it had my credit cards and passport AND laptop in it! It took four hours for a year 8 boy to admit that he had hidden it inside a piano because he thought it was his friends bag!
Hmmmmm. I wasn’t so impressed with that one. But at least I got it back and a hilarious letter of apology as well!
I loved The Lord of the Rings as a child and I think the books have stood the test of time really well because I still admire and love that epic flight of the imagination. I was always into science fiction and adventure as a child but Tolkein’s epic fantasy was a revelation for me I got so deeply into it I never wanted it to end. The films were superb as well, one of those rare times when the film is every bit as good as the books.
Gosh what a question! The straight answer is I don’t really know. I do rush about the country doing a lot of school visits and sometimes get invited to far flung international schools in Asia and the Middle East. Somehow, magically, by scribbling on trains, planes and automobiles, I do end up writing about a book a year. Sometimes I take a special time out to do it but more normally its just a question of grabbing the chance to write when you can. Luckily I am someone who can write in busy places: noise and disruption don’t worry me too much I just tend to get on with it.