“Third Wind” begins with an intimate look at the runner’s high, the euphoria and determination that comes with long distance running or other endurance based sports. Where did you find inspiration for this story?
I’m a runner and its endorphin trance gives rise to ideas. During a very long run, I began to think about the nightmarish film version of The Red Shoes, based on Hans Christian Anderson’s bizarre fairy tale. I was also thinking about obsessive types who run 100-mile marathons and about the toxic ambitions that fuel much of L.A. The story began to fall together.
Andy is one of those characters readers love to hate, a person driven by the need to succeed and feeding on his own ego get there. That sort of character is a familiar trope in a variety of genres. What is it about characters such as Andy that appeals to readers? Vicariously sharing the dreams of success? Reveling in the come-uppance?
There’s an amoral part of all of us in Andy or we couldn’t relate to him.
The use of sensory input for “Third Wind” is masterful, ranging from the sensations of heartbeat and breathing, to how the light is transformed by tree branches, to insects throwing themselves at the street lamp, to the echo of Andy’s screams at the end. Your work on television exhibits the same skillful use of the senses and the environment to set the stage for the story. When writing, do you deliberately set out to create such sensory images, or do they come about by creative happenstance?
In scripts or prose, the registration of the five senses occur naturally as part of my writing process and are essential to me; truths that bypass the rational. We are sensory, tactile beings; our flesh does not lie. Dread icing the gut. Breath in spasm. Blood racing. No dialogue or action could be more evocative. Environment, equally, is always a pivotal character, whether harsh, healing, or barren. In the same way that anatomy is destiny, setting can never be coincidental.
Your creative talents would seem to have no end—writing prose fiction, writing and producing projects for television and film, drumming and live performances. Do you find such a variety of creative outlets influence one another, or do they keep to themselves, as it were?
Creativity is perhaps a re-routing; a way to simultaneously evict and better house what moves or plagues us. Frisson and profundity seeking release and form, in that sense. For me, it’s all alchemy. Craft and skill refine flow but creativity is a never-ending river. Given that, drumming, writing, and performing, as creative experience, are identical.
When did you first dip your toes into the dark waters of horror fiction?
I was writing odd things as a child. Funny, dark pieces. I wrote a spoof issue of National Geographic with weird, surreal articles and lampooning ads. As for horror, I wrote the first story I ever published, “Graduation” when I was 17. It nearly sold to Esquire and I knew I’d found my calling. I started writing television two years later. A different calling.
What’s in the pipe for Richard Christian Matheson? What can readers expect from you in the coming months?
My third short story collection, Zoopraxis, will be out in late 2015 from Gauntlet Press, and several new stories are coming out in different anthologies. My latest novel will be out in 2016 and my production company, Matheson Entertainment, is very busy with films, series and Broadway. This week, my band goes into the studio to record our new album. I also write essays online about various things; I have one now on Talkhouse.
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