Sasha Savage is in love with Jack – a handsome, charming … vegetarian. Which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that Sasha’s family are very much ‘carnivorous’. Behind the family facade all is not as it seems. Sasha’s father rules his clan with an iron fist and her mother’s culinary skills are getting more adventurous by the day. When a too-curious private detective starts to dig for truths, the tight-knit family starts to unravel – as does their sinister taste in human beings . . .
Today Matt Whyman joins us for an interview. Welcome Matt!
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
I had no ambition whatsoever when I was younger, and that troubled me. At school, everyone else had grand designs to be doctors and engineers. I just struggled and then drifted. Eventually, I left school and got a job in a factory as a wireman due to a misunderstanding about my surname. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I escaped into books – first through reading everything I could lay my hands on and then by writing.
How do you come up with themes for your stories?
The concept for THE SAVAGES came from being responsible for feeding my family. I do all the cooking at home, which means dealing with different demands from four children. Being a writer means money can be tight. Some time ago, I was looking to cut back on the food budget to make ends meet. I realised that meat was the most expensive item. So, I decided to cut that out of the shopping list completely. I also knew that telling the kids would lead to all sorts of protest, so I just didn’t tell them.
Instead, I bought a veggie cookbook and for a month served up really nice meat-free meals. Nobody noticed for weeks, until one of my daughters asked why we hadn’t had sausages for a while. That’s when I came clean. Sure enough, there was outrage, and muttered claims of child cruelty. The next day, I cooked what had become my signature dish – a nice pinto bean chili – and the kids just refused to eat it. That got me thinking about how we define ourselves by the food we eat, whether we’re canivores, veggie or vegan, and in some ways this food fundamentalism served as a metaphor for all sorts of intolerance. I figured writing about a family who consider themselves to be at the top of the food chain would be a fun way to explore issues surrounding food and the role it plays in our lives.
What elements do you think make a great story line?
I consider myself to be a reluctant reader. Unless a book grabs me by the throat and drags me into a world, I just lose interest, and that’s uppermost in my mind as a writer. I want you to feel compelled to turn the pages, and throw every narrative device at the story to enable that. That means a fiendish plot, three dimensional characters and, I hope, a sense of simplicity. I want you to lose yourself in the story rather than stop and wonder how long a sentence took to write.
What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Over the years, I’ve come to realise that writing a first draft is a period of deep insecurity and regret that I didn’t pursue a proper career in an office with people. At the same time, no matter how difficult the process, you have to believe that with hard work and commitment the book will end up with all the right words in all the right places. No matter what the reception, I know I’ve put my heart and soul into it, and done my level best.
Do you have a favorite character?
I’m fond of Ivan Savage – the 12 year old psychopath in waiting. In creating a family of modern-day cannibals, I wanted the reader to understand their outlook on life and even maybe empathise with them. In some ways, they put more thought into what food is served on the table than most. People are free range, after all, and in plentiful supply, and so long as you’re only picking off the rude and the insolent then the world can only be a better place. When you look at it this way … but for a young boy who has grown up with this secret tradition, I figured it would mess up his sense of right and wrong in a big way. Ivan is a struggler when it comes to fitting into the world. He tries hard to express himself through his sense of humour, but we’re talking about practical jokes with deadly consequences – not that he can see what the problem is. I loved writing about him, and he looms large in the next book, AMERICAN SAVAGE, which has just published in the UK.
Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
This question made me laugh! My family never have any idea what I’m writing from one book to the next. There have been times when I talked about how my day went, but nobody paid any attention. So, over the years, I’ve just done my own thing. Sometimes, they’ll see one of my titles in a bookstore and express surprise that I wrote it. If you want to know what I’m working on at the moment, you’d be better off asking my wife’s dachshund (who stays at home with me while she’s at work).
Music Playlist for THE SAVAGES
They say that music is food for the soul. With this in mind, and the dietary choices made by the Savage family, I have served up a playlist with a tasty theme:
Eat to the Beat by Blondie
Meat is Murder by The Smiths
Bare Feast by Ratatat
I Ate a Vegan by Afraid of Figs
Constant Craving by KD Lang
Flesh for Fantasy by Billy Idol
Cannibal Dub by Grace Jones
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
He has written two novels for adults, Man or Mouse and Columbia Road, as well as both fiction and non-fiction for teenagers, including Superhuman, XY, Boy Kills Man, XY:100, The Wild, the So Below trilogy, Inside the Cage,Goldstrike and The Savages.
His most recent books, Oink! My Life With Minipigs (also known as Pig in the Middle), and Walking with Sausage Dogs, are both comic memoirs about family life with problem pets, published by Hodder and Stoughton.
Matt has worked as ghost-writer for the recent autobiography of a celebrity dancing dog, and under the pen name of Carnegie-nominated mystery writer, Lazlo Strangolov, author of Feather and Bone and Tooth and Claw.
A graduate from the University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, Matt is often invited to teach the subject for writers of all ages. Recently, he has hosted workshops across Russia and the Middle East.
In 1995, Matt became the first agony uncle for 19 magazine, and has subsequently written regular advice columns for B, Fox Kids, AOL UK and Bliss. He often appears on television and radio in this role. Over the years he has co-presented a series of ITV’s cult Saturday morning show, Love Bites, and a live weekly phone-in on LBC. He is currently resident agony uncle on BBC Radio 1′s The Surgery
Matt is married with four children, and lives in West Sussex, UK.