Novelist and recovering addict, Jeffrey Matucha
KA: - Hey Jeffrey! Where are you at right now, what are you working on?
JM: Right now I'm promoting my latest work Crash Shadow. I'm also working on a play with some of the characters from the book. I'm also looking to promote some of my earlier works, including a couple of older novels.
Crash Shadow is self-published, but I am open to having it picked up by a major publisher. At this point I would even be willing to work on the length or the title if I could get it accepted by a major publishing house. There are, of course, some changes I wouldn't make no matter what, such as certain dialogue changes and character revisions. Skye still has to be able to punch people for this story to work.
I'm also looking at publishing some of my previous works with the self-publishing route. Shorter novels along the same vein as Crash Shadow.
KA: - So, your debut book, Crash Shadow: The Tale Of Two Addicts, how much of the material is based on your own personal addictions?
JM: I'm much more familiar with one of the two major addictions than the other, but I had plenty of help. Being from the punk, new wave, metal and oh-my-God-what-did-we-do-last-
night scene I have no shortage of friends who've been through the substance abuse ringer. To prepare myself for the book, I interviewed a couple of my junkie friends who are now in recovery. Even though I already knew quite a bit about heroin addiction, I wanted to get a real feel for what the junkie experience is like. Some of the work is inspired by my experiences, but it's mostly the experiences of my friends and colleagues.
But at the same time it really is just fiction. It's amazing how many people believe your work is autobiographical. They'll ask you if Carl's Place is a real bar, or what was it like having really bad DT's in a dark warehouse. I oftentimes have to remind people that it is a work of fiction.
KA: Exactly. I have to literally warn people that my books are not about me!
KA: - What was your poison(s) what did it for you, and when did you know that you hit rock fucking bottom?
JM: My main poison was always alcohol. I tried plenty of other recreational substances, but alcohol was always King. It's one of the most pernicious recreational drugs out there, primarily because it's so readily available, and it's the most socially acceptable recreational drug.
I didn't really hit a bottom. I slowly weaned myself out of substance abuse, as many other addicts have. It's a myth that addicts have to hit rock bottom in order to start cleaning up. Sure, plenty do, but many people just bring themselves out of it slowly, quitting certain substances and keeping others, and then finally going all of the way. That goes along with a lot of other myths about substance abuse, myths I want to try to dispel, such as the idea that you have to lose everything if you're an alcoholic or a drug addict. Many addicts have nice homes, complete families, and good jobs. They're able to keep themselves in denial about their substance abuse because of the stereotypes.
KA: - Was the process of writing Crash Shadow cathartic?
JM: In a way. I've already written about this topic in some of my previous works, such as my two previous novels The Falling Circle and The Clubber. My main goal with writing Crash Shadow is to expose people to the world of hardcore drug addiction and to alternative culture in the big city. My hope was that it would be an eye opener for those people who aren't aware of how these worlds really operate.
KA: - You are a big time runner now. You do epic marathons and everything. I've seen loads of ex addicts take up exercise or extreme running. Does it truly replace the synthetic rush of opiates and endorphin's drugs gave you?
JM: It sure does help. I ran my first marathon in 2009 as a bucket list item. I got hooked after that. People like myself can become obsessed with other facets of life. I've seen some people transfer their addictive personalities to art, to music, and sometimes to other things which I don't think are so healthy, like spending addictions or simply becoming addicted to attending twelve step meetings. They feel they're still doing all right, even though they've transferred their addictions to something that doesn't involve substance abuse. Though I think I'd rather have someone occupy their life with non-stop meetings rather than slamming heroin.
Someone once told me that recovery was a question of balance. But balance is the last thing an addict ever does. One day we're drinking and taking drugs as if there's noand then suddenly, boom! Nothing. No drugs of any kind, not even beer. That's not balance, that's going from one deep end to the other. Addicts are experts at taking something and not half-assing it.
KA: - The style of your writing is interesting to me. I dig it. You go back and forth between characters for each chapter. How did you settle on that style?
JM: I wanted to show both sides of addiction, the active user and the recovering addict. I thought writing in such a style would prove to be quite challenging, but in this context it always flowed quite naturally. Having the characters connected by a distant relationship really helped. Plus both sides of addiction have so many similarities. When you're a using addict you hang out with other addicts, go-betweens, and dealers. When you' a recovering addict you have sponsors, sponsees, and, of course, other addicts. Both realms use code words and rituals that are basically known to the people who inhabit those worlds. And, of course, they have their own unwritten rules, which is much more easily talked about between active addicts, rather than twelve steppers.
KA: - You are self published, correct? Do you think that's more freeing literary wise than traditional publications?
JM: Definitely. There's no editor screwing up your dialogue, and they're not putting a cover on your book that makes your stomach turn or releasing incredibly cheesy advertising tag lines. Even so, I would love to have this book picked up by a publisher. Definitely the hardest part of self-publishing is the work you have to put into promotion.
KA: - Who did you use for the editing process? I see you just recently had an editing update released.
JM: The recent updates were more for formatting problems than content. The Kindle version of the book was majorly borked. That's all fixed now. As for an editing process, believe it or not my mother copy edited my book, even though it's the kind of book you don't necessarily want your mother to read. My mother is a voracious reader, and a great copy editor.
KA: - When writing your book, did you have it planned out ahead of time or was it more write as it comes to you?
JM: For this work I really had a good idea of how I wanted it to progress, especially when it came to the parallel story-lines. I had a very clear idea of how I wanted each story to progress, and all I really had to do was fill in the details. That's not always the way it works. For other projects I've started with a more-or-less solid outline, but then had to feel my around to put the story together, weaving things and letting the story-line work itself out as I wrote.
KA: - At the end of the novel, when all was said and done, did you feel a sense of sadness, like a goodbye to the characters? I know I did for my book.
JM: I can't say that. I have plenty more to write about with these characters. I've written a lot of stories with Skye. In fact, I already have an idea for a sequel! Plus Skye is the lead character in the play I'm writing.
KA: - Do you have more to say, will there be more books from Jeffrey Matucha?
JM: I have too much to say. I have more ideas than I can write out! I have another book in mind, but at the moment I'm currently working on that play. I decided to try my hand at play writing when I saw a few modern productions. I will say that I was not inspired to try my hand at a play because I thought the productions I saw were so good they prompted me to write. Rather, the modern productions I saw were so badly written I knew I had to try my hand it it, because there is simply no possible way I could write something so terrible. Flat characters, completely implausible dialogue, and just shoddy writing. And these are plays that actually got produced. Someone actually took the time to rehearse and build sets for those awful works!
Which is not to say I haven't seen good productions. Heather Marlowe's The Haze was incredibly powerful. And then there was The Book of Mormon, which knocked my socks off!
KA: - What truly got you through drug/Alcohol addiction, what would you say to others struggling for their life right now?
JM: I can't say for sure. I was caught in that cycle for such a long time. Being caught in a well of substance abuse can feel like and upward or downward journey when in fact you're not going anywhere. You're just spinning in circles. I can say my friends helped me through a lot of it. That is, the people who really were my friends. But all in all it was myself that pulled myself out of it. It always is.
If you're someone who's caught in the grip of am active addiction I say just go to a twelve step meeting. Find other addicts who are trying to stay clean. Twelve steppers will hate me for saying this, but the thing that truly got me through my first year of recovery is just being around people who weren't using. Twelve steppers get mad when I say that, barking "No no, it's the program that kept you clean!" But really, it was the community of clean addicts. The steps and sponsors and all that rot? That came later. Which is not to say that's the way it works for every addict who's trying to clean up, but that's how it worked for me.
KA: :- What's your take on drs prescribing opiate pain meds for chronic pain, are you for the government controlling that and coming down hard on patients and pharmacies?
JM: That's a can of worms for sure. I know many doctors over prescribe medication. It's a drug culture that's gotten out of hand. I've seen personally what many pain and psych meds have done to people. It really takes them apart and shuts them down. At the same time, there are good reasons to get bombed on super hard drugs. Some people really are fighting chronic pain, and if it takes a good strong opiate to ease their life, then so be it! But I do believe that it's being abused overall.
KA: - When are drugs a good thing for inspiring art. Are you a weed fan?
JM: Drugs inspire art because they take you to another side, whether that other dimension is euphoria, psychedelia, or even just abject misery and chaos. Drugs just introduce another algorithm into people's thinking, and not always for the best. Ultimately it's the person who makes something out of it. It's a very tricky business.
I've never been a fan of weed. It's the one recreational narcotic I just couldn't get into. I always thought that made me an odd person in the drug culture. Even many people who aren't terminal teaheads like to have a bit of weed now and then.
KA: - Take me through your day when you were an addict versus a typical day for you now.
JM: When I was using I had a job, and I had relationships. It's the same now, but I'm in a healthy relationship, and I have two jobs. Plus the marathon training schedule. When you're not using your life gets filled with life, rather than self-medication. Plus my temperament has really improved, thank God!
I still have flashes and connections to that old world. I still have to go to a dark, crowded club full of drunk punks every once in awhile and listen to music that sounds like barbed wire going through a meat grinder. The other day a friend who's still "living the dream" called me up and asked me to help him move a couch he had found on the street. He wanted to tie it to the top of the brand new Prius I had just bought, and he got quite stressed out when I refused to let him tie a grungy couch to the top of my shiny new vehicle. That's because he's an old friend who remembers what I used to be like, and oftentimes expects me to still be that person.
KA: - When you first released your book, were you hesitant, or were you fully confident that it needed to be read?
JM: I did have some hesitation, because you cannot read this book and not get the idea that I have some intimate knowledge of drug culture. It really does put a lot of yourself out there, even though it is just a work of fiction. Like I said, it's amazing how many people assume what you've written is autobiographical. I keep having to explain to people that it's a work of fiction, that I made these stories up.
But I also knew I had to write this work. I simply had to get my side of the drug issue out there. There's so many distortions about drug abuse in the mainstream media, even in documentary work, which always showcase the most extreme cases of addiction without qualifying them. In my stories there are not tons of guns everywhere, every other word isn't the f-word, and dealers don't threaten you when you try to buy drugs from them. They are in sales, after all!
KA: - Which books are currently in your reading library?
I've been reading a lot of nonfiction lately. I recently read Mary Roach's, Grunt. She's one of the best science writers out there. I'm also rereading Sarah Vowell's, Partly Cloudy Patriot. And I've also been reading some of Leonard Cohen's writing, since I found a collection of his works at a nearby little library. I also started Patti Smith's, M Train, which I'm really enjoying.
KA: Nice! I am also a fan of Patti and Cohen.
KA- Now, get up here and tell readers why they should read your book.
JM: When most people hear about a novel about drug addiction, they're probably expecting lots of the aforementioned guns and f-words and gratuitous sex and violence. There's plenty of swearing and some violence, but it's a more raw and realistic look at what's really going on out there. Life really is stranger than fiction, and that's what I try to capture in this work. It gets real, it gets gritty, and it puts you right there, so you can really experience what it is these kinds of people go through.
Thanks for the chat, Jeffrey!
To buy his Novel, click here!
To buy his Novel, click here!