Indie Groundbreaking Book: This Is Where It Gets Interesting
New Short Story Collection Combines the Paranormal and the Mundane for a Thoroughly Entertaining Read
There's been a sentiment in entertainment for a few years now that the most innovative screenwriters have been working in television instead of in feature film. Quite simply, this is because TV networks have recently been more willing to tackle innovative and unique stories than Hollywood studios. In theory, this is also why television has been in a relative golden age lately—with groundbreaking programs like Breaking Bad and House of Cards exploring unique subjects, focusing intently on character development, and thrilling audiences with the depth of their stories. At the same time, Hollywood has slumped into an age of derivative subjects, paper-thin characters, and shallow stories, relying more than ever on sequels, split-up adaptations, reboots, and comic book films.
Based on This is Where it Gets Interesting, a fascinating new collection of stories from first-time author John H. Matthews, a comparison could be drawn between the television vs. film discussion and a short story vs. novel conversation. Granted, novels have never taken quite the dip in quality and originality that blockbuster cinema has as of late. But This is Where it Gets Interesting is a groundbreaking book because it takes a genre that has become played out and shallow lately—ostensibly, paranormal fiction—and finds a way to make it interesting again.
That's because John H. Matthews doesn't draw his paranormal thrills from supernatural battles between good and evil, and because his characters aren't vampires or werewolves…or even zombies. Instead, Matthews finds the paranormal in the utterly normal, the supernatural in the mundane. His stories are about dark, weird, and outlandish things that happen to people who are otherwise the least interesting individuals on the planet.
Indeed, almost every story begins in a commonplace setting, with the focal character doing something unremarkable: at a diner, eating a Reuben; in the back alley behind a gym, smoking a cigarette; or heading to the backyard to take out the trash. From these dull settings, Matthews derives stories that are often surprising and usually off-the-wall crazy. He balances creepy imagery with hilarious situations like an old pro, even though this is his first published work. In short, he's like a B-movie horror director who just happens to be writing in prose rather than in script.
Even a short look at the book description will tell you what Matthews was going for with This is Where it Gets Interesting: "Psychics working at the DMV. A retirement community run like a dictatorship. A summer fest featuring chili that summons the dead." We also encounter a ghost who haunts arcade games, a backyard that mysteriously and repeatedly becomes a site of horrific and fatal automotive accidents, a death row inmate who possesses inexplicable invincibility, and a man who awakens one morning to find that he has been transformed into a Norse warrior.
All of these stories are unique and imaginative, and it's tough not to think about what they could have been had Matthews expanded each idea into a more full-fledged work. As is, though, the truncated nature of these stories makes them arguably more compelling. There's something satisfying about only meeting each of these characters once, about only getting to enter their world for a few pages, or about never hearing the full story. After all, sometimes, the detailed explanation behind a mystery spoils the magic of it. We've all heard the one about how a magician never reveals the secret to his trick, and here Matthews is a magician of supernatural suspense and creepy comedy.
As is, This is Where it Gets Interesting plays almost like an unproduced season of The Twilight Zone or The X-Files. The comparisons are there in the mysteries of these tales, or in the characters we meet along the way. These comparisons will also be enough to make readers wonder what these stories might look like as a television program. Luckily, though, John H. Matthews writes with prose that complements his zany stories perfectly. He's the master of a quick set-up: a one or two-sentence paragraph at the beginning of a story that draws you in right away and forces you to keep reading. He's also fond of cliffhangers, often ending his stories in ambivalent fashion. It's a trick that makes you want to go onto the next story—even though you know that the chances of ever getting all the answers are slim to none.
If This is Where it Gets Interesting is groundbreaking for the way it tackles the popular paranormal beat of recent years in a new way, then it's also groundbreaking for being the introduction of a talented and creative new writer. John H. Matthews is a gifted storyteller, and this short story collection is the perfect arena for his abilities. Similarly to how some of the stories on television these days are too deep and complex for the multiplexes, Matthews simply has too many ideas—and too many interesting ways of conveying them—to focus on just one of them for the purposes full-length novel.
Interested in checking out This is Where it Gets Interesting? The book is available on Amazon.com, in both Kindle and physical formats.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at email@example.com.