Blogger Interview: Matthew McNish

Matthew's blog The Quintessentialy Questionable Query Experiment is all about his writing journey and helping others perfect their queries before submission.

ABK: Tell us a little about yourself to start off.
MM: Not much to know. All the adventurous parts of my life are thankfully past and not to be admitted to in public forums. Now I work a soul-sucking day job in the tech industry, raise my two daughters, collect books, walk my dog, run a blog, write stories, and drink a lot.
ABK: Who is your favorite all-time protagonist and why?
MM: Hmm. I might say Frodo Baggins, but my love for him is really overshadowed by my love for Aragorn, Gandalf, Samwise, and Legolas, so although those are my all time favorite books, I may not count Frodo as my favorite protagonist. Harry Potter may be close, but then he's also sometimes a bit of a nob, so I'm not picking him either. I'm going to go with Nailer, from Ship-Breakr, because although I really loved Andrew Smith protagonists like Jack from The Marbury Lens and Troy from Ghost Medicine, I talk about Andrew Smith too much.
ABK: Same question as above, but for your favorite Antagonist.
MM: I don't have a great answer for this either. He really isn't an antagonist in the pure, traditional sense, but I'm going to go with Tyrion Lannister. He's just so clever and so tortured. My favorite true antagonist has to be Sauron. There's just something about the way Tolkien pulls off supreme evil, without ever bringing the "character," "on screen."
ABK: You help other writers by critiquing queries on your blog. When and why did you start doing that?
MM: It's kind of a long story. I jumped into the query waters far too prematurely myself, ended up confused and frustrated, and was ready to give up, a couple years ago. Then one day it struck me to start blogging. I figured I could share my own bad queries, and show people what not to do. Then, as I met published and successful writers who also blogged, it morphed into sharing their successful queries, which was really popular for a while, and taught me a lot. Finally, as I got good at recognizing what made a good query letter, I started offering my services to help my fellow aspiring novelists.
ABK: What inspired you to write your first novel (published or unpublished)? What got you started?
MM: I always thought about writing a novel. Daydreamed about it. I never really tried though. I wrote a lot of short stories and poetry when I was in school, but I gave up on all of it for over a decade. Then a few years ago, a novel-worthy idea finally struck me. I actually went to reform school when I was a teenager, and one day it just came to me: what if that school had been really cool, instead of a half-formed nightmare? What it they had taught me martial arts and magic? Everything else in the book is basically true.
ABK: What was the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
MM: Well, and I've talked about this a lot, my big problem was knowing how to write a novel. I just sat down and wrote every thing that happened in my head, in the story. It took over 400,000 words to do so. I had no idea how long a standard debut novel was. I like long books, so I wrote a long book.
ABK: Are you a Night Owl or Early Bird? When is the best time for you to sit down and plunk out a few thousand words?
MM: Well I've really never been a morning person, but now that I have to be, because of work, I get the most writing done in the morning. I can revise a bit at night, or critique friends' novels, but I really can't draft well at night, on a laptop, in bed, three sheets to the wind.
ABK:What book are you reading right now? Do you think that what you read effects how, what you write?
MM: I'm reading Solstice, by PJ Hoover. I'm also reading three unpublished novels that I cannot name. Two are ones I'm critiquing, and one is just not published yet. I try my best not to let the voice of other authors effect my own, but I do remember my character getting a little sarcastic and demented after reading some Charles Bukowski.


  1. Thanks for the interview of Matt, A.B. He's a great guy--and also, judging from his post on his own blog today, incredibly busy.

    Nice blog you have here. Like the Shakespeare stuff. Following.

  2. Thanks for the interview! I think I knew all your answers before I even read them, Matt! :o)

  3. Super interview! As I read through this, I just kept thinking, you are going to LOVE WFC. I have to say, as much as I liked Nailer, I'm quite partial to Samwise and Gandalf. Two of the most well crafted characters, I think. I loved their natures. But Sauron, definitely the best villain ever, hands down.

  4. I think very highly of Matthew and his blog and the service he provides to other writers. Thanks for letting us get to know him a bit better!

  5. Great interview. I'll have to check out his blog.

    Yeah, Sauron is amazing. And even though I don't want to like Tyrion, I can't quite help liking him.

  6. Thanks for having me, Amy. You rock!

  7. Great interview. I love your choices Matt for favorite main characters and villains. And you're not alone in needing to learn how to write a novel the hard way.

  8. Great interview, AB! argh... I do have to read Shipbreaker. It's been on my TBR list for a while now thanks to Matt. And shew! Thank goodness I don't have the 400K version--LOL! :D <3 Mr. Rush. Er... MacNish~

  9. Matt. You are that cool. Nailer is awesome, and I have a sort of obsession with Tyrion Lannister. Legolas was one of my first loves. I think I was 10.
    I have LOTR cardboard friends in my classroom. Also Han and Chewie.
    Yes. I am that geek.

  10. Isn't Matthew McNish just super adorable!?!? Yes he is! Thanks AB Keuser for having him here in your blog!! He ROCKS! Especially with that goatee! Take care

  11. Too bad the magic stuff wasn't real! But now you can pretend it was...
    Can't beat a hero like Aragorn.

  12. Nice interview. Matt's an interesting guy.

    LOTR - Legolas was my all time favorite. If I ever write fantasy, even though I write mostly sci-fi, the story would have to have elves in it. Gandalf was the second favorite.

    Thanks, A. B.

  13. I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Matt. I learn a lot from his critiques.


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