SPFBO Spotlight on Matthew Sylvester

Anne C. Miles > SPFBO Spotlights > SPFBO Spotlight on Matthew Sylvester

Matthew Sylvester wrote Hell Hound for SPFBO 6. It’s a unique book in the contest. It’s Urban Fantasy with a lesbian, Half-Indian-from-India, foul-mouthed witch assassin as a protagonist. I’m not being clever calling her a witch. She’s actually a witch. When I say foul-mouthed, I mean it. The book has loads of swearing. There’s an homage to Jim Butcher in the book that fans will appreciate. Sylvester’s bad guys are evil, really evil. (Warning: some small animals might be injured in this novel). He does draw the line at killing babies. Yes it comes up. The book is action-packed from beginning to end. While this book isn’t to my tastes, if you like action-packed stories, you might enjoy it.

Matthew took the time for an interview with me, it’s below.

SPFBO Spotlight on Matthew Sylvester

Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7.

Deciding that he would ‘get published’ as part of 2013’s New Year’s resolution, Matthew has since been accepted for a wide range of anthologies, covering a number of genres.

Since that initial success, Matthew has created the LitRPG/LitFPS Permadeath Series, the alternative history dieselpunk Blaise Maximillian: Bitter Defeat series, Shadow Company – a military fiction series, and is currently working on the Devil’s Run RPG.

He is also the author of the critically acclaimed ‘Practical Taekwondo: Back to the Roots’.

With regard to his martial arts background he has been studying martial arts since 1991 and since then has been studying pressure points and their uses in the martial arts and on the street (initially as a Special Constable and as a Door Supervisor). He can also now be found wielding daggers, military sabres and longswords as part of the Iron Door Collective.

All of this practical hands-on experience means that he is uniquely placed to write fight scenes that are not only plausible but some of which are based on personal or anecdotal experience (although he must admit he has never slain an orc. Unfortunately.)


Welcome to my lair, Matthew Sylvester.  Tell me about a great book you’ve read recently! 

Task Force Helmand by Doug Beattie, MC, is an absolutely blinding read. It gives a perfect insight to life as a British soldier on deployment in Helmand at a time when the Taliban were incredibly active. As an author in many different genres, including military fiction and mil-sci-fi I find books like these both invaluable as research resources, but also highly entertaining. 

What’s your favorite song? 

I’m not really into music in the sense of having a favourite song. I think that the first song which ever captured my attention was the Airwolf theme track. God I loved that show, and hearing the music was guaranteed to get me into the living room in Olympic record time. In fact, I think it’s high-time for a remake of that series. 

Okay, time to escalate things: you get to travel to any book’s setting and world but you have to choose only one. Where do you go? 

That’s a really tricky one. Really. It would have to be a world where healthcare is easily accessible through either technology, or magic. One series which I particularly loved was the Forgotten Realms Halfling’s Gem by R. A Salvatore. So I’d go with that and become a cleric so I could heal both myself and those that need it. 

How do you like to work? (In silence, with music? 

I have music or stream films/drama whilst I write as I like to have a background noise, whilst not having to continue a conversation, or necessarily concentrate on what’s happening. I also change the sort of music I’m listening to dependent upon what I’m writing. For my current LitRPG/GameLit series it’s psychedelic trance, for my urban fantasy and dieselpunk series it’s usually electro-swing. 

Do you prefer to type or to handwrite? 

Type. I’m also trying to work out how to dictate, but find I’m having to correct too much for comfort right now. I don’t want to lose writing time to teaching my computer how to listen to me. 

Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? 

I used to be a pantser, but found that only sustainable for short stories. For longer stories, I now have chapter plans which I try to adhere to. I usually find I can’t fit everything into one chapter so just add another with ‘events in previous chapter’ continue!

D’you write in your underwear, or underwater in scuba gear? 

I think that at some point I have definitely written in my underwear. And I’ve definitely written in swimming shorts whilst sat next to a pool. That was a good day as I hit around 8,000 words whilst thumbing on my iPhone. 

Tell me about your writing method! 

Just sit down and write. I’ll either write on my laptop or my phone depending where I am. If I can, I aim for 1,000 words a day (I have a full-time job), but if I can bang out a chapter a night I’m more than happy. 

I’ve also tried sprints, with no correction. That last bit is particularly difficult as I’ve taught myself to correct as I go rather than ignore the red lines and just get the story down. Chris Fox’s method is based on that and people can hit 5,000 words an hour. I think that the best I’ve managed was around 3,000. 

If I have a day off which I can properly dedicate to writing I can get anywhere between seven and ten thousand words written. 

What/Who are your most significant fantasy influences? 

Dungeons and Dragons, Rivers of London, Dresden Files, 2000AD, and Shadowrun have all captured my imagination when it comes to fantasy. 

What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Write what you know. No-one lives in a fantasy world with orcs and magic spells, or a science-fiction setting which has teleportation and cloaking devices. I do have basic military skills, as well as an interest in counter-terrorism and cyber-security, but I don’t want to limit myself to just writing about that. Or martial arts. I hold multiple black belts, but again wouldn’t want to stick to that either. 

“Just crack on and write” is probably the best advice.

Can you tell me a little something about your current work(s) in progress? 

I’m currently writing a GameLit/LitRPG trilogy in a far-future setting for Mountaindale Press, which riffs off Hunger Games, Battle Royale, Uploaded, and Blade Runner to name just a few things. It’s action-packed with a female protagonist who finds herself unable to conform to the rules of an authoritarian society and so ends up in a million-strong Battle Royale event called the Culling. 

I landed the contract whilst in the middle of writing Be-Were, my second book for the Jane Doe Chronicles. It follows on from Hell Hound, which is my entry into SPFBO. 

How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write? 

I try and remind myself that I want to get out of my day job and into writing for a living. However, I don’t beat myself up if I don’t write. There’s just so much going on right now, that I don’t need the added stress or guilt of not having written. 

Who are your favourite characters in literature or pop culture? 

Jack Reacher, for the fact that he’s an unstoppable force of nature. The books are easy to read, don’t really require any thought, and I can just play them out in my head as I read. 

I also like Peter Grant in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, Dresden in The Dresden Files and the characters from the Tanith First and Only

And do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing? 

Underpowered. Driven. Loyal. Tenacious. Vulnerable. I put my characters through a lot, rather like Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig’s Bonds. They keep getting put down but push themselves up and continue to fight. 

Tell me about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure

I wouldn’t have a clue, I’m afraid.

Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle me with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work? 

If you like realistic fight scenes, action, and characters that regularly get put through the wringer, then you’ll love my books…but not if you don’t like swearing. 

Buy the book here.

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