Friday, 4 July 2014

Matt Gardner: On Sex & Death

So I am incredibly blessed to have wonderful friends.  Take, for example, Matt Gardner, one of the first ever Mills & Boon boys, who took to the role with such aplomb, has written a book.  It's dark, it's funny and it's all about sex and death.  Downloadable for free from Amazon in the UK, US, Australia, and I'm sure elsewhere too...

On hearing that its free this weekend, I immediately hijacked him and asked for a guestpost!  Despite the fact that he has just moved halfway across the country, and is currently finishing the final draft of his first novel, he agreed...

I didn’t set out to write a collection of dark, twisted tales. When I launched my blog Interstellar Lovechild, I knew that I wanted to try my hand at some form of regular creative writing, and flash fiction seemed the best way forward – a new story every week, somewhere between 250-1000 words. I didn’t mean to make the majority of them dramatic little vignettes that went behind the closed doors of the protagonists’ lives, and reflected upon their most intimate and vulnerable moments.

It just sort of happened that way.

Mind you, I’m very glad that it did. Sex is fascinating – the politics and power and passion, the love and lust and longing. I’ve posited in the past that it’s like religion in many ways – we all have different takes on it, place varying degrees of importance on it. Terrible and wonderful things are done in its name or the pursuit of it. Both have sex and religion have the capacity to make us contemplate our own mortality, and the word ‘god’ is bandied about in both.

In Sex & Death, I wanted to treat the subject as something fairly matter of fact. It’s about sex rather than love, and though there are one or two stories that could be considered romantic from a certain perspective, and one or two that might be considered to deal with the more extreme side of things, I didn’t want to sensationalise or over-exaggerate. 

So it is that although there are a few stories that deal directly with the act of sex, it’s all of the emotions before and after that I’m rather more interested in. So we have the pressure beforehand that comes to the fore in the unfortunate tale of erectile dysfunction in Under Bright Lights. The jealousy and self-doubt in the uncomfortable thought of someone else doing what you’ve been doing in the Facebook-induced paranoia of I Don’t Care or the in-the-act anxiety of Embers. The hollow emptiness of a tryst stolen with a stranger in a hotel room or club toilet in No Strings Attached and 21st Century Love.

The point is that sex is used as a catalyst to push our most primal buttons, and that’s what happens in a good number of these narrative vignettes. There are comic moments amongst these tales, sure, but for the most part, the drama is as messy as the act itself. Whatever your gender, whatever your sexuality, the emotions, the hopes, the fears, the joy, the despair, it’s often all the same. Sex is intense, so often a crucible of heightened passions, and that makes it a wonderful subject for character studies and narratives that are perhaps a little more about people than plots.

The reactions to Sex & Death have been encouraging to say the least. It was never going to sell by the millions – a genre-agnostic collection of flash fiction being self-published by a new, unknown writer doesn’t exactly scream bestseller – but it’s been a great way of getting people interacting with my writing, and I hope that the 5-day free period will serve to aid that.

Sex & Death will be free on the Kindle Store through to the end of the week. You can bag yourself 30 striking pieces of microfiction here.

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