I met Matthew Brockmeyer through the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Horror Writers Association. We were selling books together just last month at the Bay Area Book Festival. Between customers, Matt told me a little about living up in Humboldt County, which I haven’t visited in way too many years.
Here’s his official biography:
Matthew Brockmeyer lives deep in the forest of Northern California with his wife and two children. He is the author of the award-winning and critically-acclaimed novel Kind Nepenthe. His short stories have been featured in numerous journals, magazines, and anthologies, both in print and online. For more, please visit his website: www.matthewbrockmeyer.com
Did something in the real world inspire Kind Nepenthe?
Kind Nepenthe was inspired by the culture of rural Northern California: that strange mix of back-to-the-land hippies, rednecks, bikers, pot growers, and meth freaks that populate the back hills of counties like Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino. The Emerald Triangle, they call it. I think the novel is especially poignant today, in that the way of life portrayed in it is quickly beginning to become obsolete. With the legalization of marijuana, the price of weed has plummeted to next to nothing, forcing families who have lived in the hills for generations to leave. Business are closing, community centers going bankrupt. It’s the end of an era and people are growing increasingly desperate. This struggle for survival is one of the main tenets of the book.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
Hmmm, that’s a really tough one. I suppose some of the writing I’m most proud of is the final scene with Rebecca. It’s a moment of great existential crisis and collapse. I once took a creative writing class with Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk and we studied the montage in literature. Melville and Gatsby used them to show the passage of time. But in modern literature they can also be used to reveal the rawest inner-understandings of a character. Bret Easton Ellis does this masterfully in the end of Lunar Park. It’s a “life flashing before your very eyes” type of free verse, where visual snippets fly by like pages flipped in a book, full of lyricism and sadness and music and dashed dreams and regret. Heavy stuff. Well, this scene of Rebecca in an alley behind a bar at the end of the novel was my homage to that whole thing. Montages in literature can be very powerful as well as very poetic.
What was your writing process like as you wrote Kind Nepenthe?
I had a general outline worked out. I knew where I wanted it to go. I just started sketching in the details. After a year or so, I had a rough draft of over 300 pages. I rewrote it, edited a lot out, got it down to 200 pages. Then I went in and added a few things and polished it up, expanding it to around 250 pages. That was about another year and during that time I workshopped it heavily. I worked out the climactic violent scenes with splatter punk founder John Skipp. Worked on my character arcs and dramatic structure with David Corbett, Ania Ahlborn and Mark Spencer, all fantastic authors and fabulous teachers. The ending changed drastically during this time. The characters really let themselves be known more, started showing me some of their quirks and such. It was a very organic process.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
Probably making all these new friends! I’ve met so many cool people; it’s been great. Somehow Grand Master of Horror Award-winner Ray Garton got hold of it and read it and gave me a fabulous blurb. That was pretty mind-blowing. I get messages all the time from people who have read it and loved it. I’m a total geek and really like talking about books and movies and horror and culture, so it’s been wonderful meeting all these fellow bookworms and horror nerds.
What do you have planned next?
I’m working on a new novel right now. It’s very punk rock. Set in San Francisco in the early eighties, during the heyday of Flipper and The Dead Kennedys. It’s about a young punk runaway girl, strung out on heroin, who gets indoctrinated into a cult of blood-worshipping pornographers, and her father’s quest to rescue her. It’s going well. I hope to have a finished manuscript ready by autumn.
Want to know more? Here’s the summary:
Rebecca thought she’d find a hippie paradise when she moved to the desolate back hills of Humboldt County. A place to commune with nature and teach her five-year-old daughter how to live off the land. Instead she discovered a nightmare.
Coyote is a washed-up pot grower. Strung out on pills and dealing with dropping prices and looming legalization, he wonders if it’s even worth it anymore.
Diesel Dan abandoned his son for a life of methamphetamine and prison. Now he wants to make amends. He’s going to be a grandfather. But his son is on the same dark road of drugs and violence that once consumed Dan.
These characters will come together in an explosive ending that will leave you stunned and breathless. But more than just a gripping horror novel, Kind Nepenthe is a deep examination into the nature of love and greed, lost ideals, and the essence of evil in one of the last frontiers of the American West.
Kind Nepenthe is available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2LhBjvQ
Or check out Matt’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Matthew-Brockmeyer/e/B06Y3NC5GC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0