Friday, November 29, 2019

Five Minutes with Author Storyteller Matthew Donnellon

Illustration by Matthew Donnellon
I came across one of Matthew Donnellon's stories on Medium at some point earlier this year, and it had all the elements of a good story. You have to keep going because you want to know what will happen next. Last week I came across his story "The Curious Case of Emma Lee." It was so efficient in pulling me in and carrying me along. Like a flume ride at the amusement park, you just let it take you, knowing that at the end it will give you a rush and a memorable splash.

I liked his self description on Medium that reads, "Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories." Sit down comedian made me smile. I did stand-up for six months or so a number of years ago. (There may have been some in the audience who would have preferred that I sit down.)

It's my pleasure to introduce you to Matthew Donnellon.

EN: When did you first take an interest in writing fiction?

Matthew Donnellon: I wanted to become a writer multiple times in my life. The first time I remember thinking, “This is cool. I want to make up stories like this,” was when I was 8 years old. I had just been given the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and I fell in love with the story, and this was the moment I became a fervent reader.

The second time happened when I was 18. I didn’t go to college write away and I was meandering and wondering what to do. I was reading something and it my dad that suggested that I should try writing since I read so much. That was the first time I ever considered it.

Then, in college, I was taking an Art History class. I had the professor multiple times and knew her pretty well. One day after handing back exams she came up to me and asked what I was studying. At the time, I was actually getting ready to apply to nursing school. She told me then that I should be a writer and that was really the first I truly considering trying to make that my job.

Illustration bt Matthew Donnellon
EN: What do you most enjoy about creating stories?

MD: I have a wildly overactive imagination, and for me making up worlds and characters is my favorite part. I like when I make up a character that I know so well that they feel like real people to me.

EN: Who have been the writers that most inspire you?

MD: Neil Gaiman is my biggest inspiration. I love his work and I love the way he uses language. In fact, more than a few of my stories are just me trying a Gaiman impersonation.

If I ended up with half the career he has I would die a happy man.

EN: Where are you from and how has that influenced your work?

MD: I am from Michigan. I was born and grew up outside of Detroit, but like many people here I spent summers in northern Michigan. Now, I split time between the two.

It influences me quite a bit I think. A lot of my stories take place in Michigan and the Midwest. And, a lot of my stories take place in the woods and farms and rural places because I have a lot of experience there.

In addition, I use a lot of plain language, which I think speaks to my midwestern roots.

EN: Some of the stories I've read of yours seemed to fall into the category of magical realism. Is that how you would characterize your style or genre?

King & Crown Logo
MD: Recently, I have written a lot of stories that would be considered magical realism. I started as a straight science fiction writer. Then, I did an experiment where I tried to write a new horror story everyday, so I also consider myself a horror writer. But, horror dovetails nicely into magical realism.

Having said that, my newest project, a series of stories collectively called King and Crown, is pretty much straight fantasy because that’s my favorite genre to read, and I wanted to try it.

EN: What do you do for a living? Is writing an avocation or a something more?

MD: I write for a living. It’s the only job I’ve ever had. Luckily, I was able to string enough projects together to keep me afloat after school. I started as a ghostwriter, and now my creative work is becoming more and more by main job, with some freelancing to supplement.

EN: How long have you been writing stories and when did you begin to take it more seriously?

MD: I really tried writing seriously around 18 or 19, so ten years as I’m 29 now. I must have started half a hundred books when I was younger. I became an English major in college and still kept trying to write. But, I only wrote two short stories the whole time I was in school. I mostly only wrote papers and I focused on academic writing, as at the time I was considering grad school or law school.

When I graduated, I wanted to try writing as a job. One, because I liked writing and, two, I wanted to be able to be flexible where I lived. So I quickly had to write seriously and put together a body of work to get clients.

I started writing fiction seriously about three years ago. I was hired by a website and I was told to create content and they didn’t really care as long as it got views. So, I started posting short stories, and they started doing well.

EN: Where can people see more of your work?

MD: Most of my work in a publication on Medium called the Inkwell. I’m the editor and sole writer.

https://medium.com/the-inkwell

My little brother also runs the Facebook page for my King and Crown story series.

https://www.facebook.com/bykingandcrown/

I also have a collection of short stories on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Curious-Case-Emma-Other-Stories/dp/1718001762

EN: Thanks for sharing. To anyone here who follows writers on Medium, I recommend following Matthew and checking out The Inkwell.

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Related Links
My review of Neil Gaiman's Art Matters and Other Insights for Writers
Unremembered Histories: Six Stories with a Supernatural Twist
(My own collection of stories in the Magical Realism genre.)

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