Interview with Matthew W. McFarland, author of Fifty/Fifty and other stories

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Author Interview: Q. Please tell us about your current release.

It's a collection of short stories, entitled Fifty/Fifty and other stories. Here is the blurb:

Fifty/Fifty and Other Stories is a collection of eleven outstanding short stories by Northern Irish author Matthew W. McFarland.

In 'Fifty/Fifty', a policeman is called out to an attempted suicide on the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. His previous experience with 'jumpers' has led to one death and one life saved - his current record is fifty/fifty, but all that is about to change.

In 'Defenestration', a man is thrown from the twelfth storey of a building in mysterious circumstances. As he falls towards almost certain death, he contemplates his fate, killer whales, flying cats, and the untapped potential of the human mind.

In 'The Burning Bar', a man enters a burning building to rescue the love of his life, and becomes trapped, as the whole place collapses around him. Will he manage to escape before it is too late?

'What Have You Done?' deals with the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland, as a civil servant comes face to face with an ex-terrorist, leading him to discover how the previous generation coped with living through the worst of the Troubles.

These, and seven other stories, touching on sport, fatherhood, arachnophobia, faith, and cannibalism, make up an exciting collection of short fiction which will leave readers wanting more.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for your book?

As it's a collection of short stories, it is difficult to say. Each story has its own inspiration. The first story in the collection, for example,  was inspired by a photo taken by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, and a famous  anecdote from BB King. The title story, Fifty/Fifty, came to me when I was at a wedding in a hotel in view of the mighty Forth Rail Bridge.

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?

I began writing short stories when I took up an evening class in creative writing - I had recently started living on my own, and was looking for a way to get out of my small flat and interact with other humans!

I found that I was able to write stories which everyone seemed to want to hear, and was able to do it quickly and without too much effort. More than that, I really enjoyed writing, and got a kind of buzz, or a release when doing it.

Q. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about the book?

I might try to make it longer, with maybe a few more stories, and the initial release had a cover which I'd designed myself. It now has a much nicer cover, which was done by a professional. I might have changed the title too, as it is difficult to find when searching, but I had a particular idea in mind for the cover, and so went with that particular story as the title story.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Making that first step in putting it out there - giving it to others to read. Writing is a part of your soul which you are laying bare for all to see, so it's not easy to just let that go.  I was doubtful of their honesty too, fearing they might try to spare my feelings, but the reviews I've had from complete strangers on amazon and sites like goodreads have assuaged that particular suspicion.

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to when writing? If so, what kind of music?

More than anything, I need to hear something familiar, something that I've heard a hundred times, otherwise music distracts me.

I like a lot of singer-songwriters, like Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens, Feist, David Kitt. I like a lot of British bands, like Radiohead, The Beta Band, Super Furry Animals. I grew up listening to my parent's Beatles albums, and I like other 'classic' stuff of that era, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young. I also have a bit of a soft spot for motown.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I tend to lead readers down the garden path, so to speak. I like to confound expectations, without just going for a random twist. It's quite the bad habit!

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

I'm hoping to release my second collection of short stories in the coming months, and I'm also working on a novella. I am trying to research an epic novel about my hometown of Belfast in the '30s and '40s, but that one may take a while! It takes in depression era Belfast, World War II, and involves an elephant, the Belfast Blitz and a famous dance hall.

Q. Please tell us your latest news.

I've just commissioned a cover for my next two books, the collection of short stories and the novella, and finished up the fifth story in the collection. I'm using the same artist, Rustin Petrae, as he did such a great job on the last one. This week I also sent out copies of my book as part of operation eBook drop, which is a great initiative where authors can make their eBooks available to coalition servicemen and women. You can find out more at smashwords or the operation eBook drop website.

I've recently expanded my distribution to all the major eBook retailers, and I'm looking forward to a great year in 2013.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope that they enjoy reading my stories as much as I enjoy writing them. Also, I like to interact with my readers, so feel free to get in touch - the greatest innovation of the internet, in my humble opinion, is allowing more people to communicate freely with a world which was never before accessible.

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