Matt Davies is an Australian author of young adult fiction.
A full-time writer and editor for 12 years, he has ghostwritten several nonfiction books, written feature articles for a number of Australian magazines, published more than 100 articles online for the health sector, and written scripts for television commercials and documentaries. Matt sat on the board of the Emerging Writers’ Festival for five years, including two years as chair.
Matt’s debut YA novel, This Thing of Darkness, was published by Scholastic Australia in November 2018. The manuscript was highly commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript.
Now Matt Davies answers our Ten Terrifying Questions …
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Melbourne. My family moved to Sydney, then back to Melbourne, then to Taipei and back to Melbourne again. As an adult, I’ve also lived in Beijing and London.
I spent a lot of my childhood in an outlying suburb of Melbourne called Warrandyte, which is where This Thing of Darkness is set (although it’s called Andersons Creek in the book).
My schooling was mostly in Melbourne, with a three-year stint in an American school in Taiwan.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I can’t remember what I wanted to be at twelve, but that was when I wrote my first short story, so I guess I should have known!
At eighteen I was enrolled in a media studies degree at uni, with a plan to become a journalist. I wanted to write features because I liked the idea of longer form writing. But that never eventuated.
By thirty I knew I wanted to be a novelist. I had so many stories inside me and I’ve always preferred working on my own. I have a freelance writing and editing business, which keeps me afloat, but even at thirty my long-term plan was to make a living through my own creative writing.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Sadly, I probably thought that books were boring. I was not a reader as a kid and there weren’t a lot of books in our house. My parents weren’t great readers and I preferred to watch a film or sit in front of the TV for entertainment. I loved our Nintendo too! (It was the 1980s, after all.)
Clearly, I don’t think that anymore. I became an avid reader in my twenties and that hasn’t changed.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
I didn’t write my first novel-length manuscript until I was almost thirty because, although I wanted to write a novel, I had no idea how. I made a start but couldn’t find my voice. Because I hadn’t been a reader I thought novels should be like the High Literature I’d been made to read high school. Then a friend gave me Harlan Coben’s Tell No One, which is written in an easy conversational style. It made me realise that I didn’t have to try to emulate anyone. I could use my own voice.
So many books, films and TV shows have influenced my writing since then. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars taught me that it’s possible to write popular, affecting YA. The Hate U Give reminded me of the power and privilege all novelists have to say something important.
I wanted to write screenplays because I love writing dialogue – trying to get as much information as possible across through only what characters say. It’s very difficult to get a novel published, but the odds of getting a screenplay produced are so much slimmer.
But now that I’ve published a novel, I’m hooked. As a reader, novels allow you to get into the heads of characters in a way that visual mediums never could. And that’s what I want to give readers. Films are a guided experience; novels allow a deeper internal connection.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
This Thing of Darkness is a contemporary YA set in Melbourne. It’s about an 18-year-old girl called Riley whose boyfriend disappears after it comes out that he may have been involved in a horrific crime.
All this happens while Riley is trying to come to terms with the death of her sister in a house fire that she feels responsible for.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
This Thing of Darkness is ultimately about second chances and the power of forgiveness. I hope the book will instil empathy in readers; something there’s not enough of at the moment.
Right now in Melbourne there’s a perceived youth gang issue, perpetuated mostly by the media. I’d like readers to take a moment to think about how young people who become involved with the youth justice system end up there. What went wrong? Why did they turn to crime? What can we do to help them?
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Liane Moriarty. She’s an Aussie and she’s hugely successful. On the surface her writing might seem simple, but it’s far from it. It’s so full of insight and I love her dry humour. Her books feel authentically Australian and you get the sense that you’re hearing her own voice when you’re reading her work.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My immediate goals are to get my debut novel into as many hands as possible. It’s only just been published, so I don’t even know what people think of it yet. Long term, I want to get better with every book. A few bestsellers among them wouldn’t hurt either.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
My story of getting published is all about persistence – so keep reading, keep writing and keep learning. If one project doesn’t get you where you want to go, work on something else. I’d written six manuscripts before This Thing of Darkness got published.
Matt, thank you for playing.
This Thing of Darkness by Matt Davies is published by Scholastic Australia and is available to order now from Booktopia
Bestsellers of the Week
This Thing of Darkness
Rileys sister is dead and she feels responsible. Nothing numbs the pain. Nobody gets her. Until she meets Dean. Hes new to the school, mysterious, and Riley is immediately drawn to him. But when Deans dark past surfaces, their two tortured worlds collide.
This Thing of Darkness explores the power of understanding and forgivenesseven when the pain is unbearable and the crime unspeakable.