Disclaimer: Any use of previously published material owned by today's guest is purely coincidental... Just kidding! The guest has granted permission for the use of his work in this conversation. Isn't that right Matt?
Matt Fromm- You are Correct!
Okay, with no further ado, grab your popcorn and sodas everyone because this is the place to be!
"Ten seconds. Hanger cleared."
He held his breath as plagued memories threatened to overwhelm him.
Private Gunnarsson saddled his rifle across his thighs.
Thankfully, his suit’s armor shielded the cursed thing's weight.
Gunnarsson flexed against the restraints, trying to maintain circulation.
The infernal swarms drifted just beyond the ledge.
The Ceres campaign was humanity's final gambit.
Their shuttle trembled, and the impact resonance filled his helmet.
The Agincourt’s railguns bellowed a response, their roar filling the air-mix atmosphere of the hanger. Soon, all would be silent.
“Release! God Speed.”
What a fantastic intro for Matt's Micro dose of Fiction series, The Twilight of Ares. The tension he built and the carefully chosen words reeled me in and have been following it since day one. I'm happy, no, ecstatic to say that the series is spellbinding and packed with action. It's a brilliant example of Matt's writing skills. It's what makes him tick! Let's see what else makes him tick!
Are you ready Matt? They're waiting...
Matt Fromm- Yeah, I'm here. Ready when you are. Sorry, I was just browsing my drafts on Vocal.
LW- Ha! I totally get that. I was doing the same an hour ago. Writing is the healthiest addiction I know of. Alright, let’s get right into it.
Seeing that we all just read the first episode of Twighlight, tell us a little more about it.
MF- I’ve hinted at this before, but the original concept traces way back to high school when I first really tried my hand at writing something. The original story was going to follow an XO on a dreadnought as humanity settled the solar system. That was going to lead to first contact and this grand sweeping saga. That’s when I realized at that point, I was in over my head. I tried to dive back into the story with something that was more grounded and focused on a budding Earth/Mars rivalry, which spawned some cool ideas, but still, it never really worked. Then, James SA Corey wrote The Expanse, and that idea went bye-bye.
I just released episode 13 and have outlined 3-4 more microdoses, capping the series with a longer (though still in the 500-100 word range, short enough to consume in a single sitting) finale.
While that finale should, hopefully, put a nice bow on this season, the door for season two is going to hang open should we ever want to return to this conflict.
LW- Whoa!!! Such a tease but I’m patient. I commented before about how this series has me hooked. Almost like binging on Netflix and coming to the end of the run, just to have to get in line with everyone else for the next episode. Tell us about your decision to join vocal.
MF- So, I would love to give an answer to this about how the platform really drew me in, but I was effectively bribed. The fantasy prologue challenge hit my feed right as I was wrapping up my first foray into writing a novel, and the temptation to enter was too great.
I didn’t win, but it definitely got the dopamine pumping, and the access to the challenges kept providing me prompts to keep practicing.
Once they loosened the requirements, I really started to let loose on smaller bites of fiction and some poetry, which I noticed got more traction than longer-form content. I also noticed I spent the most time browsing Vocal as a reader over my morning coffee, and I would stray towards shorter stories, poems, and articles. My super scientific N=1 study gave me the conclusion that I should focus on shorter-form works. I’m pushing toward finishing a novel that I hope will unlock a world that I can share more content from.
LW: Yeah! I see what you mean, brevity is trending. The quick in and out without losing the integrity of a story can be a challenge in itself. What kind of author do you consider yourself to be?
MF- Hmmm I thought this would be a simple answer; I have always viewed myself as a fantasy author. My favorite book is The Lord of the Rings. Looking over at my library next to my desk, the most prominent authors are Tolkien, Martin, and Sanderson. My most recent book orders are from Erikson and Gavriel Kay. You get the picture…
But I pulled up my highest-rated books of all-time list (Yes, I grade them), 2 are fantasy, and 3 are science fiction, and the reason we’re here is because of a science fiction story.
To take it a step further, of the four top stories I’ve received on Vocal, 2 are for Historical fiction, which is also where my academic background is. So, all of that to say, I’m still working on finding my footing.
For now, I’ll settle on considering myself a slightly above-average hobbyist who really likes giant sword and sorcery set pieces.
LW: Well, fantasy is definitely in your wheelhouse. You are great at writing action scenes which can be a troublesome feat. Have you ever trashed a project that you were deeply involved in?
MF: Trashed? No. I keep everything, no matter how bad I think it is. Probably the two things closest to being trashed were my first attempt at the Twilight of Ares from way back in high school, and that obviously got brought back to the editing room, and my first true novel, which sits on my shelf. That still spawned a published piece on here, quite a few other short stories that I haven’t published yet, a new Microdose series (oooo a teaser), and the new novel I’m writing now.
There have been a few challenges I tried to start a WIP for, but usually within an hour, I can tell if I can make the idea work or not, to try and limit getting too deep in.
Right now, my biggest challenge is keeping the 5 or so active WIPs going, keeping time available for when ideas pop into my head, keeping notes on future series and stories, and balancing that with the day job and life. Luckily, life is calming down, slightly coming up, and I’m hoping (read praying) I can finish both Twilight of Ares and The Final Expedition soon.
Some ideas have always been swirling around in my mind, though, that have never gotten to paper. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the First World War era and a lot of classic dystopia works to try and hash out the fourth Microdose series from some old seed ideas 👀
LW- Interesting… Whenever I get a story idea, I create it with the title or the first sentence and come back to it later to see if it’s worthy of developing. What was the published piece you mentioned that your novel spawned?
MF- My submission to the Fantasy Prologue challenge – The Scourge. It was actually the prologue for the second book in the planned series, interestingly enough. For the most part, it works as a stand-alone, and most of the greater world details still check out.
LW- If you could require everyone on the planet to read one book, what would it be and why?
MF- You’re probably expecting me to say The Lord of The Rings, and everyone should read that, but it’s a boring answer. Find me in the comments where I will fight this fight to the death.
But, I’m going to go with one of my favorites from this year – The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. It is a metafictional piece in which the reader assumes the role of an individual getting lunch with a man in Pakistan as he tells his life story. I don’t think it’s a perfect book, really a novella, but it is short, easy to follow, unique, and eye-opening. It’s the type of book that, in my opinion, we should be teaching more. The type of book that challenges the notions of what a book should be as it expands your empathy and worldview.
LW- Thank you! I will definitely have to check out your recommendation. And I’m glad you didn’t say lord of the rings, lol. Love it but agree with your reasoning.
MF- I really need to dedicate something to Lord of the Rings and why all the haters are wrong. Funnily enough, I think I’m terrible at writing non-fiction when compared to the curve so I tend to stay away from it.
LW- How do you create characters? What is your process?
MF- You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actively thought about this. There are really 3 things I utilize for them. First, is archetypes. Look, they’re timeless and universal for a reason: the rogue who would be king, the mysterious wizard, the fair princess who is more cunning than she gets credit for, the hard-nosed captain, etc. Writers read, and I’m no exception, so I twist characters. I like to create something new and explore other sides of archetypes. Even if these characters don’t end up being main characters, I’ll spin them off and use them to explore other parts of the world with interludes, epilogues, prologues, short stories, etc.
Second, I live on Wikipedia. History provides so much cooler characters than we give it credit for. I’ve got Hero of Two Worlds by Mike Duncan sitting on my shelf right now, and I’ve always wanted to integrate a character like the Marquis de Lafayette into a fantasy setting.
Finally, my inkling to write, I think, was formed growing up building legos and recreating every major fantasy set piece battle I could. Once I got older and got into more RTS games, I found myself making mental backstories for my Total War generals and the like. Finally, I play a few dungeon crawlers and RPGs, and that gives me some good practice. I would like to do a micro/short story series on my brother-in-law and my current campaign. My plan is to reach out to the creators of the game to get permission to post to Vocal. Hopefully, I can make that one work.
LW: That’s deep and complex. I love how you mentioned that History has worthy characters deserving credit, thank you for that. We all have our methods. It was nice to hear yours.
LW- If you could meet a deceased author, who would it be?
MF- It’s Anthony Bourdain. I don’t think there’s been a single creator as influential to my taste as him. The “warts and all” attitude toward humanism is beautiful, and No Reservations and Parts Unknown both have helped me look beyond my four little walls for inspiration, beauty, and understanding. They’ve also made me more aware of cultures and myths, which serve as great inspiration for writing. I love travel, I love other cultures, and I love diving in and trying to understand other people, even when we don’t agree. He’s the only author with a dedicated shelf in my library, and A Cook’s Tour is right up there near the top of my favorite book list.
LW- Anthony Bourdain was a genius in his own right. He was also a guest judge on the Bravo TV show, Top Chef. This is where I know him from but have since seen other shows like Parts Unknown that you mentioned.
LW- What is fulfillment to you as a writer?”
MF- Look, I am not going to lie; we’re all here to get published. Deep down, it’s the goal to write something amazing that is considered for a Hugo or a Nebula. With that said, that requires a level of dedication, skill, and luck that is damn near impossible to come by.
If I could publish a novel that my goddaughter picks up, reads, and inspires her to pick up another one. I’ll consider that success. If I can keep people entertained and scratch the creative itch that gnaws at me to form other universes and epic tales, then I’ll keep going. It’s a stress reliever, a distraction, for me.
LW- I like this answer a lot. If you have touched or inspired one person, then the effort was worth it.
MF- Bingo! I think if you write a story that one person reads, that makes you a success.
LW- Do you share your work with immediate family members?
MF- I do! I try my best not to spam anyone with work, but I always share poems with my wife since she’s the inspiration for most of them, historical fiction with my dad and brother (my dad is The Final Expedition’s biggest fan), and I have a small circle of friends with similar reading tastes as me that I will share things with from time to time. One of my general outlooks is if I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing it with my family (assuming it’s to their taste), why would I share it with you all? I have some other friends that I’m working with to bring a short story series to life on film as well who I’m not afraid to share my works and ideas with.
LW - Great answer! Some people feel that their family will be too critical because they don’t really know that creative side of us that comes through in our work. I don’t share with my family as much as I should, I always share with friends. Currently working on that.
MF - It’s definitely not easy. I remember when I posted this story: https://vocal.media/fiction/the-gods-behind-the-bar
I had sent it to my brother since he helped inspire a few of the beats. He texted me back two typos, and all I could think of was, “Well, there goes any credibility I had…”
But we bounced back!
LW- I loved that story! So unique in its ability to incorporate mythology with the mundane. What are the top 3 things you have learned being a part of the vocal community?
MF - Be humble. I like to think I’m not a terrible writer by any means, but holy hell, some of you on here blow me out of the water. I was riding a nice high off my last top story, then I read this piece by L.C. Schäfer The Invisible Man, and I went back to the drawing board on a few WIPs.
Be real. With so much AI content around, being genuine and authentic is probably the most important thing you can do right now in the space. In addition, don’t fish for reads. Take the time to genuinely enjoy other creators' work without hunting for reciprocation.
Proofread. I hate when I have to be that guy, but there is nothing worse than when you crush through a piece, think you have everything figured out, pump yourself up that it’s a top story or a challenge winner, and then look back a day or two later and see a typo or grammar mistake. We know how much time and effort goes into our posts, but when I see typos in my own work, and I have my reader hat on, my first thought is, “Wow, this was lazy by me.” I’m beta reading for Ashley Lima, and I passed on a piece of advice I heard once: “It’s better to be torn to shreds by your beta reader than your first buyer,” and I’ve always internalized that advice.
LW - Ahhh, yes, the dreaded edits! They can make or break a story. Certain mistakes disrupt the flow for the reader. They then have to reread the sentence to see if it was them who read it wrong. Been there plenty of times and usually laugh off my own mistakes or become a little embarrassed if the mistakes were, well, embarrassing. (wonder how many will be in this article) 😂
LW- This has been uplifting getting to know the author behind the work I enjoy. Let's end this with a fun question. What is the wildest thing you have ever seen or experienced?
MF - My wife would love me to say our wedding, and she’s not wrong on that one, but once upon a time, I did open for Third Eye Blind in a sold-out theater. That was awesome! I played in a band through High School in the suburbs of Chicago where I still live. One guy knew another guy who knew another woman who knew Stephan Jenkins, and they needed a second opener for their Chicago show. Next thing I knew, we were packing up and heading downtown to the Riviera Theater in Chicago to play a five-song set. Quite literally, a once in a lifetime experience for a sixteen-year-old.
LW - Wow!!! Third Eye Blind cranked out some hits. What role did you play in the band? Please say you were the lead singer! (fingers crossed)
MF- Lol, I was the bass player! I got out of the arts but our frontman who’s still one of my best friends moved to Europe and made it enough that he lives a good life as a professional musician. I share my work with him as well, and it usually ends up with us reminiscing. One day, I’ll write a song with him.
LW- Good times, Matt! I think you are on the right road to success. The Vocal community and Vocal FB groups are full of support. They help make us tick! They contribute to our driving force! They are a big reason why we “boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.” (Shameless Star Trek plug)
MF - Thank you again, Lamar! This was fun and thank you so much for reaching out! I love reading interviews with other writers, so it was quite an honor to be on the interviewee's side. I hope everyone checks out my little library below. The final thing I would like to tease is that I’m hoping to run a challenge here soon around fantasy micro fiction, backed by my own award. Stay Tuned!
LW- Excellent! Can't wait to see the prompt! I will definitely be entering! I love how the creators on this platform have branched out with their own challenges to initiate and accelerate creativity. Very Inspiring...
Well, there you have it folks! Make sure and check out Twilight of Ares! It won’t take long at all to catch up and share in the amazement! All the info you need to dive into Matt’s world is below. Please subscribe to both of us for free, entertaining, and versatile content. We will be honored to subscribe to your channel as well. Thank you as always for stopping by! Ldubs-
Continue reading Twilight below!
Third-eye-blind - Semi-charmed life.
About the Creator
Creative writer in the Northeast US who loves the paranormal, mystery, true crime, horror, humor, fantasy and poetry. Take a chance, you'll be thoroughly entertained.
"Life is Love Experienced" -LW
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme