Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski *Review and Author Q&A*

Today is the second stop on my Countdown To Hull Noir feature and I’m delighted to welcome Matt Wesolowski to the Bloomin’ Brilliant Books for an interview. Matt is taking part in the Getting Away With Murder: Golden Age Vs Digital Age talk on Sunday 19th November. I unfortunately missed Matt at Newcastle Noir so I’m pleased to be seeing him this time round.

Before my interview with Matt I’m sharing my thoughts on his debut novel Six Stories.

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

My Thoughts

Six Stories, the debut novel by Matt Wesolowski, has been on my radar for a while having received rave reviews by other book bloggers. It was a book I knew I wanted to get round to reading sooner rather than later partly because I loved the sound of it and partly to see what all the fuss is about. Is it worthy of the fuss and the rave reviews? Damn bloody right it is! I loved this book!

Journalist Scott King is attempting to unravel the death of teenager Tom Jeffries that occurred in 1996 in Scarclaw Fell, Northumberland. Through his podcast he interviews those who were present at the time to try and get to the bottom of who or what caused his death. Told through the podcasts and punctuated by the son of the owner of Scarclaw Fell, Six Stories offers something totally unique and I got completely drawn into this book immediately.

Orenda have this knack of finding really talented authors and Wesolowski is one of those talented authors. Telling a tale through six different voices is not an easy task but Wesoloski pulls it off flawlessly, ensuring that the unique personality of each character comes through in the narration. None of the characters are particularly likeable, something that I love in a book, and it has you second guessing as to who is telling the truth about Tom Jeffries’s death throughout.

Six Stories is beautifully written and I fell in love with a folksong that one of the characters recites. I Googled it to see who had written it and discovered it was written by Wesolowski. Six Stories is brimming with atmosphere as Wesolowski describes the rugged and hostile terrain of Northumberland with its marshes and disused mineshafts. It literally bristles with tension and unease.

As Scott King unpicks what happened on that fateful night, we discover a tale of bullying and pack mentality amongst a group of teenagers known as the Rangers who spent time at Scarclaw Fell. This brought back memories of Lord of the Flies to me as each of the, now grown-up, teenagers talk of their place within the group, the pressure to fit in, the social dynamics and tussle for dominance. This gives Six Stories a depth and added layer that I wasn’t expecting. Alongside this, Wesolowski makes you think about the role of the media in reporting crimes and the impact that trial by media can have on those targeted.

I absolutely adored the way old and new folklore meld together throughout Six Stories giving it a creepy, ethereal feel. The hairs on my arms regularly stood on end while reading this book and yet the creepiness also has an enchantment to it due to the prose.

Wesolowski has managed to thread the story together in a complex way and has pulled it off brilliantly. Six Stories deserves the praise it has received and Wesolowski is an author to keep your eyes on. Current, unique and startling Six Stories is a must-read!

Published on 15 March 2017 by Orenda Books.

Q&A With Matt Wesolowski

 

Six Stories has a very current format in that it is told through the use of podcasts. What was the inspiration behind this?
I’ve always been fascinated by true crime. From being a teenager, I read a great many books about real murders and serial killers before I ever read any crime fiction. I always wanted to write about a fictional true crime but never had enough skill to do so convincingly. When someone recommended me the Serial podcast, I was instantly hooked on its unique way of storytelling and it was like I had finally found the medium to write my fictional true crime.

Social Media now has a huge presence in our lives. How so you feel about it? Is it a force for good or a necessary evil?
There are good and bad things about social media. I’m not a big fan. It makes me sad that so many people, from young people to adults feel that they their only validation can come from ‘likes’ on photos of themselves. To me, that’s baffling.
However, it is a great tool for sharing book recommendations, jokes and strange things – a double-edged sword perhaps? It’s not going anywhere, so I think we have to be careful about how we use it. You see people utterly consumed by it which is pretty depressing.

Six Stories is told via six different people and interspersed by Scott King. How did you go about ensuring each character had their own unique voice?
That was really hard to do. I had to hear their voice, the character had to arrive in my head pretty much formed before I could do their voices justice. This was for sure the hardest aspect of writing the book.

Six Stories has a complex plot in that it takes six different point of view. Did you have to meticulously plot it or did you see where your writing took you?
I never plan, I’ve tried a few times and it’s killed the story dead before it’s started. With Six Stories, I didn’t know who killed Tom Jeffries until I was about half way through episode five! It was only after I’d completed the first draft that I had to go back and snip off all the frayed edges of the story.

How important has social media being in the promotion of your debut novel?
For all my fear and resistance of it, it’s actually been really important. Karen, my publisher had to tell me to unlock my Twitter account so people could interact with me when Six Stories came out. I still find it amazing when people tweet me to tell me they liked it, that’s really special as I’ve done that with so many authors I like!
Social media can be a wonderful tool; for things like book promotion, I just find being accessible to anyone on there a bit scary!

Where you active on social media prior to the release of your novel?
I’m quite a solitary and private person so I find being ‘available’ on social media quite stressful. I appreciate, though, that you have to be so I use Twitter and there’s a Facebook page I use for author promotion stuff. I’m not one for arguing about politics etc online though; to me, that’s just an exercise in futility.
One of the themes in Hydra, the follow-up to Six Stories explores the detrimental effect social media can have; I think I was exploring my own fears!

You were at Newcastle Noir and are taking part in Hull Noir in November. Does talking at literary events come easily or do you get nervous?
I do get really nervous because I know how important these things are; people have paid money to come and hear you and you don’t want to let them down! I remember being an audience member at these sorts of events and buying books because of how the authors came across. I do my best to not appear nervous!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Always. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life; chef, teacher, shop assistant, but I always wrote, that was always the ultimate goal.

What has been the best part of your journey to published author?
I think it’s when you see your work in an actual shop. There was a wonderful moment when my son was five and we saw Six Stories in Waterstone’s. He pointed it out to me and gave me a massive hug and said he was proud of me. A few tears may or may not have leaked out!

If you weren’t writing what other job would you love to do?
Like I say, I’ve done a lot of jobs but I’ve not really loved any of them like I do writing. I love animals though, so perhaps working with them in some sort of rescue centre?

Thank you for taking part Matt. I have really enjoyed reading your responses.

For full details of Hull Noir 2017 including programme and ticket details click HERE. Hope to see you there!

 

4 thoughts on “Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski *Review and Author Q&A*

  1. Wow, your review is so spot-on you made me dive into the story again!! I just loved the atmosphere and how Matt masterfully pulled all the threads to make such a strong and creepy story! Loved the questions too! Social media can definitely be scary, it’s like you’re naked in front of everyone! Fab post!

    1. Oh thank you Meggy. I loved this book and really can’t wait for Matt’s next book. Oh I have my moments when I have to step back and take time out from Social Media as it freaks me out!

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