SIX STORIES by Matt Wesolowski (check out the review here) was a fantastic and innovative novel, and The Crime Review was lucky enough to get a chance to ask some questions about the story and his writing process thanks to Orenda Books. Find out more about how SIX STORIES was created below!
The Crime Review: Obviously this book was based around the idea of a true-crime podcast like Serial. What prompted you to write this particular story?
Matt Wesolowski: What fascinates me in any murder case are the small details, the subtle dynamics between people, especially between those who are close. Family, friends. I thought what better than to explore the death of a teenager from a close-knit little clique? I have worked with teenagers in my day job for nearly 10 years now… and, reflecting on my own teenage years, there are so many little things that matter to you at that age, so much jostling for power that as you grow up you forget. I thought that delving into this could be a really interesting story…or six!
The Crime Review: You use two very unique storytelling devices in your storytelling in SIX STORIES – the podcast episodes, and the perspective of the man who found the body of Tom Jeffries. Why did you select this format?
Matt Wesolowski: I’d been enjoying Serial so much and desperately wanted more when it was over. I wondered if anyone had written anything in this way. I was listening to Serial whilst running in the morning and with the podcast format so fresh in my mind, Six Stories was more like an experiment to see if it could be done. I had no idea if it would even work.
The Crime Review: I think it definitely did work! Did writing in this format – specifically the podcast sections – present any unique challenges or opportunities?
Matt Wesolowski: The biggest challenge was being consistent in the individual voices of the characters. When writing in this style, for it to feel authentic, I could not let up and drift into my generic ‘author voice’. It felt almost like method acting, I almost had to ‘become’ every character and stay with it. I wrote each part very quickly so not as to lose this consistent ‘voice’.
The Crime Review: Those voices came across very clearly; there was also one other interesting ‘character’ that didn’t have a voice but did have a very palpable presence. What prompted you to add the paranormal element of Nanna Wrack?
Matt Wesolowski: You know, this was my first attempt at crime after writing horror all my life; maybe Nanna Wrack was, in an odd way, my anchor, my way of clinging to the familiar, whilst treading unchartered waters. I am also really interested in mythology and folklore and how it transcends cultures and places. Nanna Wrack rose up out of the manuscript as a result…I had no real control over her…
The Crime Review: Your cast of characters, while small, is very interesting and varied in the type of people they are. How did you develop characters with such different voices? (Being from Canada, I was happily surprised to meet Anyu in particular!)
Matt Wesolowski: Everyone tells a story in their own way, and especially when you have the same one being told by different people, it’s crucial that these voices are varied. I took a lot of influence from when I was a mainstream school teacher and you had a plethora of dramas and incidents to sort out; whoever you spoke to had such a different way of seeing it.
Anyu was an interesting one; I wanted to create a character who appeared utterly removed somehow, almost inscrutable but who had the same insecurities as the others – like the paranormal element, teenage angst transcends cultures!
The Crime Review: Do you tend to empathize with one of the characters more than the others?
Matt Wesolowski: I think we’ve all encountered a Tom Jeffries in our lifetime; the subtle, vindictive bullies are always the ones who leave the worst scars than those who just beat you up. I think all of them contain elements of myself. I was bullied all through school but, in turn, I was also a bully, something I’ll always feel shame for. I understand that feeling of wanting to be totally individual but also the desperate ache of wanting to fit in.
The Crime Review: That’s very poignant. That probably helped in the excellent job you do of describing and building suspense around the layers of the group dynamic between the teenagers. Did you have any particular inspiration or experience that you drew on to create that intricate and richly detailed structure?
Matt Wesolowski: If you look back to your teenage years, there’s a lot of small incidents that seemed so important at the time, that you just think are ridiculous now! I often ruminate over lapses of judgement on my part, over 15 years later. I did use that feeling from my own past when constructing the story.
The Crime Review: The sense of realism really comes through! Do you read crime fiction in your spare time? If so, do you have favourites – authors, series or novels? How about podcasts?
Matt Wesolowski: I read a lot of crime and a fair amount of horror, but also love being recommended stuff that’s out of my comfort zone. One of my friends bought me ‘Stoner’ by John Williams, a book I would never have even considered reading and it blew me away, profoundly moved me and I love that! Some of my favourite authors are Lauren Beukes, Benjamin Myers, Kati Hiekkapelo, Patrick McCabe, Stephen King, and HP Lovecraft.
As for Podcasts, I really like True Crime and paranormal discussions: ‘Last Podcast on the Left’ and ‘My Favourite Murder’ are two stand-out favourites of mine. My girlfriend and I always go to sleep listening to the dulcet tones of Dick and Jill who present ‘True Crime Brewery’ and I’ve just started listening to a couple of UK true crime podcasts – namely ‘S’Laughter’ and ‘They Walk Among Us’.
The Crime Review: I am very much looking forward to reading more of your writing! What is next for you?
Matt Wesolowski: The difficult 2nd novel is complete and awaiting approval; it’s very different to Six Stories in that there’s less of a ‘gimmick’ in terms of format- it’s more of a procedural on that tentative place between horror and crime. The darkness and horror element, however, has not abated, if anything it’s much darker than Six Stories…I’m about half way through the third one right now, which is darker still!
Wow, I can’t wait for those next novels! Thank you so much to Matt Wesolowski for taking some time out of his busy writing schedule to answer our questions and visit some of the other blogs that are taking part in the SIX STORIES blog tour for more about this great novel!