Today, we have the pleasure of diving into the mind of this seasoned writer C.B. Matson and exploring his unique approach to storytelling in the fantasy genre.
From his adventurous background to his literary influences, Matson’s creative journey is as captivating as the worlds he builds within his novels.
Matson’s life has been a tapestry of diverse experiences, with roles ranging from mining geologist to strategic planning consultant. His wanderlust has taken him across continents, immersing him in different cultures and histories.
So, grab yourself a cuppa and join us as we explore C.B. Matson’s magical realm.
How do you approach world-building in your stories?
Okay, color me lazy…writing Historical Fantasy means the world has already been built. Well, at least as it was perceived in the 12th Century. That gives me a lot of latitude. Manticores yet dwell in the high passes, old deities wander the forests. Magic still works. I love to dig into the historical details of cities and peoples…Nubian traders bring gold and ivory from the Mali Empire. Mongol tribes amass at the Gates of Alexander, soon to throw them down and overwhelm the nations of Europe. Truly more interesting than any world I could devise.
Can you walk us through your writing process?
So let’s talk about writing, yeah! [fist pump, victory dance, muscle cramp] Every writer eventually becomes this Nosferatu vampire-person for story ideas. Neighbor dies… hmmm? Virulent disease… hmmm? You get the picture. It’s the teasing out of stories worth telling that’s the art and perhaps is the toughest part of writing.
Twyla Tharp, in her book “The Creative Habit” recommends collecting and maintaining Idea Boxes of possible projects. That’s one way to sort out the phials of blood and vital humors that you’ve collected. Most writers have some kind of Idea Box, a spawning ground for new stories. Grubby little idea-larvae wriggling about…never mind. To sort this stuff out, I ask myself three questions: 1. Do I want to write this story? 2. Am I capable of writing this story? 3. If I wrote it, would anyone want to read it? By question 3., most of the larvae have died.
Turning an idea into a project and then a story means writing, and herein lies the rub: whether to “pants” and endure the slings and antics of outrageous protagonists, or “plot” and endure, well, whatever it is that plotters endure. That is, write by the seat of your pants and let the story just take whatever path it takes, or plot it all out with outlines and character descriptions, so things converge where you want them to converge, when you want them to converge. In my experience, pantsing is much more fun for the author, but plotting makes a much better product for the reader.
Would you survive in your own fantasy world?
It would be tough, the archaic language and all. Medieval toilet habits too…sheesh (scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail comes to mind). Aside from that, yeah, ‘cause like the stuff I know, engineering, health care, and well…I know what’s gonna happen. “Run, fools, the Mongols are coming!!”
What themes do you explore in your work?
Three words that would describe my writing would be: Experiential—I try to immerse the reader in the story setting; Focused—I like to get right down into the soul of my characters; and Complex—theme, plot, and action all have wheels-within-wheels, subtext, and conflicting motives.
My themes are simple and I usually establish them at the beginning of the writing process. “Half Sword,” the first of my Tapestry series, is centered about Self Discovery. Not only my protagonist, but my supporting characters must discover their own fears, strengths, limitations, and courage before they can overcome the barriers and adversaries they encounter.
Next (as yet untitled) book in the Tapestry series is all about Belonging…finding a people, a purpose, and ultimately, love in a world torn by war and dislocation. After that, Becoming. My protagonists must become who they were meant to be, who they must be in order to survive. Did I mention that my stories are character driven?
What do you consider to be your biggest influences as a writer?
As an author (and a reader), my Holy Trinity is Bradbury-Steinbeck-Eco (all dead, yes…I know). Ray Bradbury for his evocative story lines. His narrative is almost poetic, and his plot drivers hover between sci-fi, fantasy, and magical realism. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is perhaps my fav.
Unarguably John Steinbeck is one of the greatest 20th Century American authors. I only wish I could write dialog and create characters like he did. His stories do not build high tension, or include much action, but still, reading them is like eating a warm scone with clotted cream on a lazy Sunday morning (yes I have. And for that, and for Benny Hill, I forgive the British their somewhat irrational spelling).
Umberto Eco was a phenomenon all unto himself. Professor of Italian Medieval Philosophy and Semiotics, among a gazillion other topics. He wrote faster than I can talk (which isn’t that fast…but) and his first novel, “Name of the Rose” went best-seller/movie-deal right off the presses. Eco was a Renaissance man, a true genius of words, symbols, and ideas. For the quintessential Historical Fantasy, I can strongly recommend “Baudolino.” Never could quite get into his “Kant and the Platypus,” however. But hey…he’s the genius, not me.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to research for your stories?
Ho boy! Do I get into some weird stuff researching the Byzantine world. Perhaps the strangest is the “Apocalypse of Methodius” that foretells the barbarian invasion of the late Roman empire. Right up there would be, “The Travels of Sir John de Mandeville.” I have a 1915 translation that describes (among many other weird things) blemmyes, gryphons, and monopods, all found east of Eden in the land of Nod (where good Sir John claimed to have visited).
What do you hope readers take away from your stories?
A sense of wonder…isn’t that what fantasy is all about? Wonder, and perhaps a sense of joy…when the story wraps, the characters reach their goals and their destinies, and you can’t wait for the next tale to unfold.
Would you rather have a pet dragon or a unicorn, why?
What—WHAT? A dragon, really? Like in my backyard? Maybe a little one that would light the charcoal in my grill and growl at the Amazon drivers. But I’ve got a dog that does that (no, she doesn’t light the grill, but she enjoys it when I do).
Of course a unicorn would be quite decorative and would just graze gently in the yard. I’m afraid riding it would be tough. My luck, the neighbor would choose a dragon, a big one, and it would eat my unicorn. That, and it would leave huge steaming mounds of dragon poop all over the yard. Maybe I’ll take a pass on the whole deal.
If you could have any magical ability, what would it be?
I’d want the power to create magical ancient worlds and people them with fascinating characters having amazing adventures…Wait, I already do that. Never mind.
If you were stuck on a deserted island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Eponia, the horse. ‘Cause I’d get hungry on a deserted island and I could always eat the horse…okay, never mind that one either.
Where is the best place to start reading your work?
The only place to start reading my Historical Fantasy is “Half Sword” on Amazon mybook.to/Half_Sword.
Let’s see… [ponders stuff to definitely leave out] I grew up on the California coast and ran away to sea when I was eighteen. Still got the Coastguard Mariners Certificate to prove it.
Since then, my rather checkered career included mining geologist, commercial fisherman, civil engineer, mess-hall cook, surveyor, and strategic planning consultant. My work has taken me to Africa, Latin America, Europe, the former Soviet Union, Middle East, India, and the Pacific Islands. These days, when I’m not writing, I enjoy hiking, tinkering, and “… simply messing about in boats.”
What inspired you to start writing in the fantasy genre?
Years ago, I started writing Science-Fiction/Fantasy because that was my primary read. It was all a pile of dreadful trash, written for my own enjoyment. Then I picked up “Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco and found my Holy Grail, Historical Fantasy.
Not saying my stuff was happy Pulitzer ever after, or even worth reading, but I upped the action and developed my own approach to the genre. When Neil Stephenson put his Foreworld series out on Kindle Worlds, I jumped in and contributed three rather large Historical Fantasies.
Find C.B. Matson online
Amazon Author page: https://amzn.to/3qEfQ65