Talking to people with passion for what they do. By Justin Strain.
Matt Wingett, photo: Paul Windsor
Matt Wingett – Southsea author and publisher. Much of Matt’s work involves Portsmouth, the city of his birth.
Tell us about the books you write. I don’t really have a genre, I have a setting, and that is Portsmouth. In 2017 I wrote a novel, The Snow Witch, telling the story of a mysterious young woman arriving in a snowbound Portsmouth and facing her past. In 2018, Portsmouth, A Literary and Pictorial Tour – a journey through historical Pompey, using descriptions from writers both famous and obscure. Last year I published Mysteries of Portsmouth, looking at paranormal and unexplained events over the last 200 years.
What have been the high and low points? My high point is the art exhibition based on The Snow Witch that was held in Cascades in November. The whole experience was so uplifting and quite humbling. My low point: 10 years fighting writers’ block,- which isn’t just not feeling like writing, as some people imagine, but a deep sense of doubt in one’s own value as a writer.
What is it about Portsmouth that captures your imagination? The city is an amazing mixture of rough, gritty, and beautiful. It’s poetic, joyous, dark, dangerous, with so many people living close to each other on an island with international connections and an extraordinary history.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in writing? Find your own voice. Try things out, but if it doesn’t work for you, ditch it. There’s a fashion in writing classes that villains must be likeable or have some quirk that makes them seem vulnerable. Utter rubbish. Follow what feels true to you, not what feels true to someone else.
How do you write? I type straight onto my laptop. I used to take notes, but if I can’t remember something, it’s probably not important. I do occasionally lay out the structure of a book onto cards, to help get the contents right. I will often rewrite to balance the sentences. The Snow Witch went to 28 drafts.
You often write about strange occurrences, has anything happened to you while writing? I sometimes sit in the half lotus position, listening to ethereal music while writing. I once went into a trance and cut off the blood supply to my foot. I got up to walk and crashed into furniture, sending everything flying. My father-in-law told me it served me right, but I have yet to find a moral connection between sitting and bad things happening to you.