Monday, June 18, 2012

Writers With Day Jobs: Matthew Funk

Matt Funk is everywhere these days. He manages to churn out a steady stream of top notch stories with his own unique blend of darkness and deep emotional, um, darkness. His stories go down some scary rabbit holes.

Matt is also among the best dressed of all us crime fiction scribes. Shameful, really, the way the rest of us just go about our lives like unemployed frat boys. Yes, Matthew Funk is a man with focus, drive, and writing chops to spare. Now that he has signed onto the illustrious Team Decker, you will be seeing more of him very soon.

Before we begin let me remind y'all that June is almost over and so is your time to get ALL of the Snubnose Press titles for only .99 on Kindle. Join in our anniversary sale!

Now then, please welcome Matt to tell us a bit about his job and his process, his hopes and dreams and his time as a graveyard shift gas station attendant.

What do you do as your day job?

I'm a digital marketing consultant. The official job title is Social Media Marketer, but expertise in social media is only one cog in the machine. As my Air Force general grandfather used to say when giving cause for a second glass of Dewar's, you can't fly on one wing. Marketing over social media effectively also demands savvy with Search Engine Optimization, site design and copy writing, not to mention an aptitude for reaching customers offline and hauling them onto the Web. Wrap that all up into a single sheet and it comes out to digital marketing.

It has to be a flexible definition. Success in that field requires that one be dynamic, shifting with the tides of user trends, staying on top while the MySpaces topple and the Pinterests rise. Yesterday's proven formula for success is tomorrow's dud. It's a thrill living on the frontier.

When do you find time to write?

Whenever the phone quits ringing. As soon as I'm off the clock, even for an hour, I'll slam words onto blank pages as fast and best as I can. Exact hours depend on the season. I'm a Valley Boy, so cold weather mornings don't suit me, making winter a fallow time for 5am writing. Evenings and weekends suit me best, until the skies warm and I settle into a green steel chair at Starbucks before the world has woken up. 

Sometimes I just have to switch the phone off. I may not be living with my parents and roaming the corn fields with a sword in hand like Robert Howard, but I'm not notorious for being a social butterfly. Writing always takes priority. It's an easy choice, considering I was always more disposed to crawling into a corner to daydream than I was to hanging around, flapping my gums.

Has your job or coworkers ever influenced a story?

Rarely. They say that one should write what they know, but when what I know mostly boils down to stupid cat videos on YouTube and superficial gasps for Facebook fame, I bore easy. My job influences how I understand effective marketing of my writing's message, not the writing itself. 

There happens to be an exception coming down the pike, though: Crime Factory accepted a ghastly short I recently wrote for their upcoming Horror Factory issue, and social media features prominently in it. I fuse toxic waste, Twitter and teen cruelty into a single murderous flow. That was a delight to write. Still, I think much of what I write is an escape attempt from the superficial world of marketing.

What would it take for you to quit and write full time?

Dr. Evil's answer comes to mind: One million dollars. In other words, a financial platform I could survive comfortably on for an extended period of time. And by "extended," I don't mean, "halfway through a car payment on a Chevy Volt." I would need a sum of money solid and rich enough to grow a future from on its own.

Part of that is because I really love my day job - love its protean nature, love the war stories, love how it weaves into my overall vocation of storytelling. The other part has been ingrained in me since I was a teen. For as long as I knew I wanted to be a writer, I knew I would need a paycheck coming in from elsewhere. It would take a hefty sum to keep me sleeping soundly. Considering I've always been able to produce work despite a day job, and that I suspect professional pressures might add to a feeling of artistic foment, it would take quite a bit to get me out of the saddle.

Do your coworkers know you write? Do they know you write dark crime fiction?

Many of my co-workers know that I write professionally and that I write dark crime fiction. My immediate bosses, JD Rucker and Ron Fortier, both took an interest immediately. They have backgrounds in creative work and staunch love for the craft. And I've been told on a few occasions that I have loyal fans in the guys like Robert Moronez and Kelvin Cruz who've risked reading my work. One close co-worker, Erin Ryan, is going to be in the Acknowledgments of my first novel given her support. 

This is all to say that I make no secret of what I do, and for the most part, folks around the office are supportive of it. 

What do they say about it?

I've yet to receive a bad review. Most tell me that they liked whatever story they read, want to know when the next one's out and would appreciate a signed copy of any novel that sees print. Bear in mind, I work with people who have 12-inch Jason Vorhees models in their cubicles and game design gigs like Fallout on their resume. This is an easy crowd.
Matt reading at Noir At The Bar

Do you think people respect writing as a job, or does it come off as less "work" than a labor or office job?

They respect it, but seem to apply the same outlook I do: That it's hip, it's wondrous, it's a raison d'etre and all that, but day-to-day comes down to paying the bills. I've never had anyone assume what I do is easy, even in the case of getting a story up on some friendly blog. In that sense, they see it as even more "work" than our daily grind, given that the whole effort has an air of mystery and glamour around it. But they also know, as I do, that whatever work it takes is done on my own time.

Be honest, if you wrote full time, do you think you'd be disciplined about it?

Absolutely. Writing is a physical urge for me at this point. It's my chief entertainment, my favorite escape hatch, my leading sense of validation. I don't devote so much time to it because I have to, but because I want to. The time I devote, I organize. Scheduling helps me reduce stress and pander to whatever control freak element I have in my bones. 

In short, writing and discipline are two of my favorite things. They're my steak and potatoes. How could I not enjoy them together as much as possible?

What job, other than writing, would you most like to have?

And other than marketing? Slotted right below "full time writer" and my current day job would be a game theorist. I'd enjoy working for the RAND Corporation analyzing international relations, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia, and deriving game theory from the data. I relish all study of human behavior, from the deeply, immediately personal up to the level of national destinies. That's my principal academic background and it would be a lark applying it toward an influential end. 

I'm disillusioned with politics these days, but I adore political science. Being able to bottle the human hysteria into predictable modes of interaction is a blast. I'm not vain enough - almost - to presume I'd be comfortable as a puppet master, trying to pull strings from a basement in Langley or some sweaty, partisan war room. I wouldn't mind lending the decision makers some critical food for thought, though.

What has been your best job? Your worst?

I am now in my best job. Considering the positions I've had before - Editor and Tutor - that's saying something. I love writing and teaching, but nothing quite beats learning how to sell at a time when my fiction career is getting traction.

As for my worst job, I didn't feel terribly fulfilled as a tutor at times, but it still wasn't so shabby. I preferred my job as a graveyard shift gas station attendant - there was more time to kick back and absorb stories from the road and the night, and I always enjoyed seeing the dawn. Still, tutoring was a pretty keen gig for a "worst job."

When do you find time to read?

Unfortunately, on the list of things I love that get wedged into the crannies of my life, reading is a low entry. It hovers just above exercise. Often, it's the same process - I read while on a stationary bike. I also tote a book to most meals I take alone, grab glimpses while walking from one place to another, bookend my meals with a chapter or two. Occasionally, I'll get into a rhythm with reading that finds me filling my off-time with it. I usually don't do that unless I'm researching a writing project or have become obsessed with an author or oeuvre, though. 

Have you ever, or maybe how often, have you considered quitting and shacking up to write novels, money issues be damned?

No. Only some of that denial is due to the money. A large part is because I know I'd want to be doing something else - other kinds of writing, other sources of income, other artistic pursuits outside the artistic medium. There's so much in the professional sector that inspires me outside the realm of novel writing, or even fiction writing. I'd love more time to write long-form fiction, but if it becomes the sole source of my professional focus, it loses its luster. It becomes less special. It risks changing from "what I most want to do," into "all I do."

What is your ultimate goal with writing? Full time journeyman or millionaire? Or are you satisfied doing it part time?

My ultimate goal is to write a novel-length work that is regarded as a major artistic installment in the genre or literary canon. I'd like to achieve other benchmarks of success - I'd enjoy evolving a series of published works, a fan base would be keen, and money would certainly be welcome - but so long as I hit the mark on artistic contribution, I would be pleased as can be.

Given what you've earned writing, dividing it by the hours spent, what would you say is your hourly wage as a writer?

As a fiction writer, nada. And that's all according to plan. As a professional marketing writer, about $31.

Do you have a spouse/partner that would support you writing full time?

I do indeed - Gina Marie, a long-time fan of my work who became a stalwart friend and then a lover. She supplies fodder for my stories, fiercely candid criticism and unflagging support. She is almost as in love with writing as I am, and enjoys every aspect of editing, craft and planning that I share with her. Like me, she has a lot of day job taking up her time. But also like me, she views writing not just as a passion, but as a privilege. Storytelling brought us together. Supporting it is an integral part of supporting us.


Josh Stallings said...

Wonderful interview, great series. Matt, I love your view of how writing fits into a greater world that is a life. I lack the control freak gene that so many of your great writers have. I do feel that writing is both my escape and drive. Couldn't but it better than, "It's my chief entertainment, my favorite escape hatch, my leading sense of validation." I'd only ad it is also my main form of therapy, it quells the dragons of the night.

Jimmy Callaway said...

Matthew Christian Funk is my life-coach. And Hail Satan for that.

Steve Weddle said...

good stuff

Ryan S. said...

I'm new to this blog and the interview series. This is a great interview to begin with, and I'll be back to read more. Thanks Eric and Matt.

Pamila Payne said...

Mr. Funk produces like Detroit in the fifties - speedy production, high quantity output and quality you can count on right down to the tail fins. The ride is often bumpy, and the driver is a grinning demon, but that's just how we like it.

M. C. Funk said...

@ Josh - Thanks for the praise, my man. I had to put the control freak gene to good use somehow. To do any less would have been inefficient.

@ JC - Honored to be the Kimbo to your LT. Let's keep working that It Factor.

@ Steve - Word

@ Ryan - It's hooked me too. Glad I helped haul you into the fold.

@ Pamila - I also feature rack-and-pinion steering and a hip soundtrack. Killer to hear your compliments, as ever.