Author Spotlight: Matthew Keeley

1. Congratulations on the launch of The Stone in My Pocket! What can you tell us about the book and the inspirations behind it?

Thank you! The book is inspired by lots of different memories and experiences I had growing up: weekends spent in a caravan in a little countryside town, crystals I used to collect, my favourite book shop, and my fascination with anything supernatural or eerie. I took little pieces from all of this and created Nathan – a seventeen year-old outsider living in a Scottish village in the 90s. He hears voices in the middle of the night and sees a ghostly figure watching him from a distance.

2. You mentioned during the book’s virtual launch that the manuscript went through quite a few redrafts! Did you enjoy that process, and can you tell us a bit about it?

Yes, I enjoy redrafting more than producing the first draft! It’s much easier to work with an existing draft than to create something from nothing. I have some trusted readers who look at the book at various stages and give me feedback. It’s nice to hear positive thoughts but also helpful to see things from an objective reader’s perspective. They can tell me when the pace is lagging, if there’s an element of the plot they want to know more about, or if there are any inconsistencies. It feels rewarding to then get to work and fix any problem areas as well as tightening up the language and ruthlessly cutting unnecessary phrases, sentences, or even whole scenes! I lost 3000 words just in the final round of editing before publication!

3. What are your favourite SFF books?

The Handmaid’s Tale and Never Let Me Go are two of my absolute favourites that I’ve read multiple times. I also love 1984, The Hunger Games series, Ready Player One, and more recently I’ve really enjoyed The Power by Naomi Alderman and The Humans by Matt Haig.

4. How do you balance work as a writer and a teacher, and do you have any tips for budding writers currently working on their own stories in their free time?

Firstly, I think when you work a full-time job and write in your spare time, you simply have to accept that progress is going to be slow – it’s a mental shift more than anything! I read interviews with professional writers a lot where they mention writing a book in a year or less; it took me about six years from starting writing The Stone in My Pocket to it finally being published. 

It can be frustrating but as long as you dedicate at least some time to it every week, even if you can only manage a few hours, the commitment pays off eventually. You also need to be willing to accept that you really do need to give up some evenings and time at weekends to devote to it. I also write short stories and short pieces of non-fiction and I definitely recommend that to any new writers. It’s really useful in terms of improving your skills, but it also feels good to be able to finish something in a much shorter space of time. It’s a morale booster, too, if you can get it published somewhere while your novel or screenplay or dramascript is underway in the background.

5. Do you have any exciting new projects in the works?

I’m about halfway through a first draft of a new novel. I started it a couple of years ago (see previous answer!) but have had to keep leaving it aside to promote The Stone in My Pocket and my first novel, Turning the Hourglass. It’s pretty different to those two books – a contemporary Scottish novel without any speculative elements. The main character is a woman in her thirties who has moved back in with her parents under strange circumstances and each chapter is narrated by someone different. 

I’m also thinking of starting my own podcast (because I don’t have enough to juggle right now). It’ll be based more on films than books though!

Thanks so much to Matthew for speaking to us. Find him online:

Twitter: @matthewjkeeley
Facebook: @matthewkeeleywriter
Instagram: @matthewjkeeley