Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Interview with mystery author Matthew O'Connell

Mystery author Matthew O’Connell joins me today. We’re chatting about his new suspense, Spirit of the Fox.

This is Matthew O’Connell’s second novel, following on the success of his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Painter of Time. He is an award-winning entrepreneur, and holds a Ph.D. in psychology. He splits his time between San Diego and Lake Tahoe with his wife Mari, two dogs and two cats.

Please tell us about your current release.
In Spirit of the Fox divorced parents David and Chieko search for their missing daughter amidst an epidemic of suspicious suicides that baffle detectives.

Meiko Wright wants nothing to do with the mother who abandoned her nine years ago. Spending a year in Tokyo, where her mother lives, won’t change that fact. But when she takes a nasty fall in a Shinto temple, she wakes with no memory of her mother… or anything of her past life.

After years apart, Meiko’s mother Chieko is determined to make up for lost time. But when her daughter mysteriously disappears, Chieko promises she won't lose her again. Along the trail of clues, the detectives working Meiko’s case discover a pair of suicides linked by a strange seductress and matching fox tattoos. Afraid her daughter may be next, Chieko visits a local shaman who tells her dark spirits could make her attempt for a rescue impossible.

With time running out, Meiko and her family must uncover the mystery of her mental captivity before she loses herself and her only way home forever.

Spirit of the Fox is a cerebral mystery novel at the intersection of science, spirituality, and folklore.

What inspired you to write this book?
I love Japan, the culture, people, and food, and I’ve always had an interest in Japanese folklore. So, it was natural for me to set this story in Japan. I also wanted to write a story that raises questions about science vs. mythology, alternative explanations, etc.

Excerpt from Spirit of the Fox:


Wherever she looked it seemed like there was nothing but hostile faces. Neighbors who had turned against her family. Their faces were a distorted blur of hatred and anger flickering on a backdrop of black smoke and orange-red flames. They looked like demons. They were taunting her family, yelling horrible things about her and her mother. She huddled close to her mother, who pleaded and begged with the people who used to be their friends but who long ago had turned against her and her family. Her mother sobbed and sheltered her and her younger brother the best she could against a sea of hostility. She held tightly onto both her brother’s and her mother’s hands. Her father carried an enormous canvas bag on his shoulders. It contained all the essentials they could take from their house before the neighbors set it ablaze. He had a look of both resignation and defiance. Resignation about the inevitability of having to leave their home and their village mixed with a defiance that would over time grow into vengeance.

They slowly made their way out of town while the jeering mob followed them and hurled invectives at them, vile, hurt- ful words that stung like the acrid smoke from the burning remains of their home. She was confused and frightened. Her little brother was crying, and so was her mother. She tried to be strong, like her father. Gradually, as they came into the fields that surrounded the village, along the dirt paths that led to the rice fields and then to the forest, the sounds of the villagers died down, and they were left with the sound of their own feet, marching steadily on the dusty path. She had no idea where they were headed but was confident that her father had a plan and would deliver them somewhere safe where they could start their life again. The past year, and especially the past three months, had been a literal hell on earth. Anywhere must be better than Izumo. At least, that’s what she hoped.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m in the midst of writing a ghost story.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Over the past 25 years I’ve written a lot (200+) of technical articles, journals, white papers, etc. in the field of industrial/organizational psychology. about 10 years ago, I realized that writing non-fiction was not really where my passion lay. I’m an avid reader, mostly fiction, and I thought that it would be fun to start working on writing fiction. I also knew that I would be selling my company at some point and wanted something to do when that part of my life ended. I needed something that would challenge me both creatively and intellectually. My first book, The Painter of Time, took me almost 6 years to complete. This second novel took me almost 4.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I try to write fairly consistently. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King said that to be a serious writer, you need to work at least 2 hours a day on your craft. I don’t quite live up to that and I do take breaks between novels. But I do try and work consistently on writing, doing research, mapping out the storyline, etc. Since selling my business in May, 2018 I have plenty of time to write. But sometimes having a lot of time doesn’t make you any more productive. I spend a lot of my days doing yoga, working out, hiking, playing golf, paddle boarding, and reading.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to include cats in my novels. I find cats to be fascinating creatures and it’s fun to get them involved, one way or another, in my books.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was very young, e.g. in nursery school, I wanted to be a fireman or a policeman, because I liked the uniforms. Then, I wanted to be a professional baseball player, a catcher in fact. Reality set in and when I went to college I was convinced that I wanted to be a doctor, specifically an orthopedic surgeon. I realized I didn’t enjoy being around hospitals or sick people, which somehow led me to becoming an I/O psychologist.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I enjoy cooking a great deal. My wife tells me that we only need about three channels on our TV, with sports and the Food Network being two of them. She’s probably right. Food, and the enjoyment of food, typically plays a part in my novels. That’s definitely the case in Spirit of the Fox. In the ghost story I’m working on the main character is a chef.

Thanks for joining me today!

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