Author Interviews

{Author Interview} Mark Matthews

MatthewsAuthorPicMark Matthews has worked in addiction and mental health treatment for nearly 20 years, and writing for just as long.

His most recent novel, On the Lips of Children, has just been released from Books of the Dead press.

He is also the author of STRAY and The Jade Rabbit. All three of his novels are based on true settings. He is an avid runner, and has completed over a dozen marathons including Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and New York. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, a licensed professional counselor, and lives near Detroit with his wife and 2 daughters. Reach him at


I’d like to welcome Mark Matthews to Horror After Dark.

{HAD} Tell us a little about yourself.

{Mark} I am the author of 3 novels. My latest is “On the Lips of Children” from Books of the Dead Press, and I’m pretty sure that’s how I got invited for this interview. (That, and I live just a couple hours south of you, and had you not given me the chance, I would be at your house at 2 am going through your garbage.)

{HAD} Is there a particular author or book that influenced you, either growing up or as an adult?

{Mark} Jack Kerouac’s  “On the Road” was a book that I grasped on to with all my might. I highlighted passages, memorized them, idolized the characters, and I turned Jack into a saint. He made it okay that “the only ones for me are the mad ones.” Otherwise there are too many books to mention.  One of them, “Where the Wild Things Are”, guided the story of On the Lips of Children. I see the novel almost as an adult retelling of this classic. (Click here for more on that)

{HAD} Do you feel you were born to write or was this something you realized you wanted to do over time?

{Mark} Writers have always been my heroes. I have an active imagination and a constant empathy for the human condition.

{HAD} What do you do when you’re not writing?

{Mark} I’m a parent, a full time social worker, I run marathons, and I soak up certain movies and TV shows. I also try to read close to an hour a day.

{HAD} What’s next on your To-Be-Read shelf?

{Mark} I have a handful of books to be reviewed for the site, but after watching True Detective on HBO, I am on a mission to read “Galveston” by Nic Pizzolatto

{HAD} On the Lips of Children is a dark read. Why does this type of fiction appeal to you?

{Mark} I think dark situations squeeze out our insides and help us find out what we are made of. Fiction is life with the heat turned up, and I try to burn, test, and torture the protagonist to see what comes out. Even though my novel is dark, I think it illustrates the lengths we will go to for what we love. The title is based on the phrase “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.”

{HAD} I’ve read that On the Lips of Children was inspired by a run on the trail. Without giving away too much, what’s one thing you would have done differently if this situation happened to you in real life?

{Mark} I can’t say I wouldn’t run down that trail, because I did, wearing headphones most of the way. So much was real: The man with the Dobermans, the baseball field, the dark trail where homeless men had camped out, the pier that smelled of fish bait. But once the kidnapping happened as described in the book, I would have called the cops and taken the risk that Macon did not of going back to jail. Of course, Macon had a bit too much bravado for that. And had Macon called the cops, things could have been worse.

{HAD} What was your motivation behind having Erin be a cutter?

{Mark} The fine line between pleasure and pain was something I hoped to capture in the novel. Cutting our skin is supposed to cause pain, yet cutters do it to feel relief and an endorphin rush, much like the rush of tattoos. An endurance run may shred our muscles and tendons, but we do it for the pleasure. Erin used to get high off of self-harm, and still exploits her body to its limits to feel highs and pleasures. There is also the irony that she fell in love with a man who cuts her skin, her tattoo artist, but later is nearly tortured by a man who cuts skin just the same.  Erin is to Lupita, (the mother in the tunnel) as Macon is to Dante.

{HAD} What characters were your favorite to write and why?

{Mark} It’s a tie between the 6 year old Lyric and the mother in the cave Lupita. Lyric provided an innocent perspective of the events, and wasn’t seeing the world through her damage. The events were her damage. Lupita offered the perspective of one whose damage was nearly complete. It covered her whole body like scar tissue. I often feel the urge to write about Lupita more, and someday I hope I can.

{HAD} If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

{Mark} This is my 3rd novel, and I for once did more right than wrong. I was more patient, got beta-readers, took their feedback, let time pass.  If I had known the book would find a publisher, I would have spent less time in making my own cover, but I did find a pretty cool cover art. To me this picture nails how I see Lupita.


 {HAD} In an apocalyptic world where food is scarce, would you consider flesh for sustenance or do you think you have the willpower to starve yourself to death?

{Mark} I think I could find an effective way to end my life that would be much less gross than easting flesh for sustenance and quicker than starving. I fancy myself as the dad from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and would keep a bullet or two in the chamber in case of emergency. If no gun was available, there are other ways to put myself down.

{HAD} If you could experience/play the role of one actor/actress in a film, who would it be and in what movie?

{Mark} I want to play Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables. I am indeed 24601, and have seen the play multiple times. I can’t sing, but that wouldn’t stop me. And I want to work a case with Rusty Cohle from True Detective.

{HAD} Would you care to share with us one thing most folks don’t know about you?

{Mark} I have been in recovery from addiction for 22 years. Okay, many folks do know that. I cry every time I finish a marathon. Okay, many folks know that too.  How about I’ve been to 25 Grateful Dead concerts. Not good enough? Fine, I can burp the alphabet.

{HAD} What can we expect from you in the future?

{Mark} My current project is ¾ done and I hope it is out this year. Like my first novel, it is also a true setting, but takes place in the urban blight of Detroit and follows a child who was born straight from squalor. Supernatural elements, heroin, abandoned buildings, mentally ill squatters, school lunch programs; all of this is the backdrop, and I’m not holding back.

{HAD} Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

{Mark} If anybody is reading from San Diego, please let me mail you some paperback copies so you can place them up and down the Ocean Beach Bike Path. Paperback copies sitting around the camp of homeless men who helped inspire the story is my dream. It is my nightmare. The horror.

{HAD} How can we find you?

Blog: “Writing, Running, and Chasing the Dragon”

Twitter: @matthews_mark


Click here to go to the publisher’s Facebook page and listen to a 2 minute narration from the audiobook.

Be sure to check out On the Lips of Children. You can grab a copy on Amazon.

I have an incurable book addiction and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I will buy a book based on its cover alone. I love promoting authors. I am... the Ultimate Reader.


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