Richard Matheson Interview by Scott Brick
GROVER GARDNER: Welcome to Downpour.com’s interview series. I’m Grover Gardner, and today I’m pleased to present an exclusive interview with award-winning and acclaimed author Richard Matheson. Matheson is also a film and television scriptwriter. His works include “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” from The Twilight Zone as well as episodes of Star Trek. Several of Matheson’s novels are major motion pictures including I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come. His latest novel Other Kingdoms is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, the audio version is produced by Blackstone Audio and is available simultaneously with the hardcover on March 1, 2011. Conducting the interview is award-winning narrator Scott Brick.
SCOTT BRICK: I’m Scott Brick, and today it’s my great pleasure to be speaking with legendary New York Times bestselling author Richard Matheson. Thanks for having us here today Richard, it’s an honor to be sitting in your living room.
RICHARD MATHESON: You’re very welcome.
SB: I remember, you told me last time we spoke that most of your books tend to be set in the places where you live. I think you said that Shrinking Man was set in your home in Brooklyn.
SB: So, I’m assuming…
RM: Actually my latest one—that’s not true. I was never in World War I.
SB: Oh right, well, that’s true. But I was just thinking about how many scenes from…
RM: What Dreams May Come took place in this house.
SB: What Dreams May Come took place here?
RM: Yeah, in this house.
SB: In this very house?
RM: In this very room, in that very chair!
SB: (laughs) I just got a chill up my spine, that’s awesome. And I just got done reading Somewhere in Time, narrating it for Blackstone, and I saw that at the beginning of the end when the main character, Richard Collier, was convalescing it was seemingly, I would assume it was here in your home as well?
RM: Most of it took place at the Coronado Hotel.
RM: I wrote part one there.
SB: Right. Oh, you actually wrote part of the book while you were staying at the hotel?
SB: Oh, okay. I just saw at the beginning, as he’s leaving Los Angeles, it seemed very similar to this neighborhood. I was just…
RM: Oh it was, I had a wire recorder with me, or a tape recorder, and I just spoke as I drove away.
SB: Which is very much the style of the book. In the book, Richard is saying, you know, “good-bye Woodland Hills, good-bye 101 Freeway, good-bye Los Angeles” speaking into the recorder. So that was essentially you dictating the book as you were heading down to San Diego.
RM: That’s right.
SB: Oh, that’s extraordinary. I’m curious how it feels when huge luminary names, writers of the twentieth century—people like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King—Ray Bradbury said, he called you one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. Stephen King has said you were the author who most influenced him as a writer. And Dean Koontz said “we’re all a lot richer to have Richard Matheson among us.” I’m just curious—how does that make you feel when everybody is praising your work?
RM: Well, basically good.
SB: Do you start wondering if you should get ten percent of their careers, maybe an agent’s cut?
RM: No, I appreciate their interest.
SB: Do you know them very well? Ray Bradbury, I know he’s lived here in Los Angeles.
RM: I know Ray, and I know Stephen.
RM: I’ve never met Dean Koontz.
SB: Well, your latest novel, Other Kingdoms, was just released about a week ago—is your first novel in a decade. I’m curious, what was your inspiration for this story, for Other Kingdoms?
RM: Well, I’d like to say that there was an inspiration, but, it’s not so. I needed another novel idea, so I went to the Bodhi Tree...
RM: …and I got research books on the Middle Kingdom, on backpacking, and World War I—trench warfare. I knew I was going to need one of them. I did that a year before [I started writing the book].
SB: A year doing the research?
RM: I was just leaving the book on the shelf. I knew I wanted to do the backpacking novel, which I did. I decided to use that research material first. I always wanted to do a backpacking novel about two men out in the wilderness.
RM: Which worked out rather well.
SB: I saw that in parts of the book—Alex White, the main character, he’s eighty-two years old for part of it before he starts, recalling the time when he was younger, during World War I. I was assuming that your tradition of making yourself the lead character of all your novels was intact for this.
RM: Oh sure. Yeah, I was going to originally write the book as if it was written by an eighteen-year-old. And being my age I decided that I just couldn’t make it work.
SB: Right. What ways are you and Alex White alike? How is he like yourself?
RM: Well, I guess he would be me. Even Black, the gothic novelist, that’s probably a satire on me.
SB: That’s his pseudonym, right? Nom de plume, Alex Black?
SB: And that’s a satire of yourself?
RM: Probably, I didn’t think of it as that way, but it probably is.
SB: I saw a similarity between this book and Somewhere in Time. Somewhere in Time has the distance given to it by a foreword and the afterword by the main character’s brother. In this one, Alex White does the same thing himself. He says, “here are the true recollections of what happened to me when I was a young man in 1919.”
SB: How does distance, that kind of distance and perspective on the story help you as a storyteller?
RM: Well, I was able to comment as a man my age what I thought about what was going on.
RM: Which I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
SB: Certainly if you were presenting it like you were still eighteen.
RM: Yeah, several reviewers have commented on the fact that I have too many ”asides.” Too many brackets—
SB: Oh, like parentheticals, asides?
RM: Yeah. I had a lot more and the editor had me cut them out.
SB: Oh, is that right.
SB: Well, to me that seems like part of the process of you looking back. Looking back at the younger—
RM: It works for me, but they wanted…I cut quite a bit out. Not just parentheticals, but part of the story.
SB: Oh, is that right?
SB: How much did you wind up losing? How much did you cut out?
RM: I don’t know, you’ll see when you see Barry Hoffman’s Gauntlet edition.
SB: Oh, okay.
RM: He’s going to do the unchanged version.
SB: The unedited manuscript, okay. When will that be coming out?
RM: Oh, it can’t come out until a year after the main edition.
SB: Okay, got it. You finished your very first novel, I believe that was Someone is Bleeding, that was in 1953, so—
RM: —Well my first novel I wrote when I was fourteen.
SB: Oh, that was the one that just came out recently that hadn’t been published yet. I’d forgotten about that. So, that’s when you were fourteen.
SB: Wow. Could you compare how you felt when you finished that very first one with how you felt when you completed Other Kingdoms.
RM: Well, I must have been crazy to attempt a novel about World War II and England, the blitz, the South Africa Campaign. All that in one book. I’m amazed that I was even able to write it, much less make it work at all.
SB: Yeah. How did it feel, how satisfying was it to know that you had turned the last page, that you’d written the end. Do you still get that same sense of satisfaction as you used to?
RM: Oh, I probably do, yeah, probably.
SB: Do you ever have a celebratory drink, a cigar, just something to say, you know?
RM: No, I just want to know what I’m going to do next.
SB: Oh, okay. Have you already got the idea for the next book?
RM: Well, it’s being typed up right now.
SB: Is that right! How far into it are you?
RM: Oh, it’s done.
SB: The next book is already done. Oh, wow.
SB: Can you share anything? Is there a title, anything that you can tell us about that one?
RM: It’s called Generations.
RM: It’s a very strange book for me. It has to do with my family.
RM: It’s more fantasy/autobiographical. I don’t know if it will work.
RM: Tor may decide it’s out of this world.
SB: You talked earlier about experimenting with different genres. There was a horror period, a science fiction period.
RM: I didn’t experiment. I was just interested.
SB: You certainly had your Western period, a time when that genre interested you.
SB: Given that Other Kingdoms—it seems to be a combination of fantasy and romantic suspense, I didn’t know if you saw it maybe going back to the period that you wrote Somewhere in Time, What Dreams May Come, that kind of supernatural-romance period, is this maybe your—
RM: No, I never think in terms of what I’d done before, just what I’m doing now.
SB: Let the idea take you where it will.
SB: Yeah. Got it. Well, I’ve come to the end of my questions, and again I want to say thank you. Thank you for having us here. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to—
RM: You’re very welcome. I hope I said something worthwhile.
SB: Oh, eminently listenable. Absolutely worthwhile. It’s a real privilege to get to celebrate a new Richard Matheson novel.
RM: Thank you.
SB: Thanks for helping us.
RM: You’re very welcome.
GROVER GARDNER: Thank you for joining us for this exclusive interview of legendary and acclaimed author Richard Matheson by Scott Brick. You can find Other Kingdoms and other Richard Matheson titles, as well as Blackstone Audio’s complete selection of titles at Downpour.com.
This interview was recorded in March 2011.
Disclaimer: This audio and transcript have been edited slightly from the original recording for quality and readability.
Listen to more of this interview with Richard Matheson about Somewhere in Time, here on Downpour.com.
For over half a century, Richard Matheson has enthralled and terrified readers with such timeless classics as I Am Legend, Somewhere in Time, and What Dreams May Come. Now the grand master returns with a bewitching tale of erotic suspense and enchantment.
The year is 1918. Alex White, a young American soldier recently wounded in the Great War, comes to Gatford to escape his troubled past. The pastoral English village seems the perfect spot to heal his wounded body and soul, but the neighboring woods are said to be haunted by capricious, even malevolent, spirits. He is warned to steer clear of the woods and the perilous faerie kingdom it borders, but Alex cannot help himself. Drawn to its verdant mysteries, he finds love, danger, and wonders that will forever change his view of the world.
Other Kingdoms casts a magical spell, as conjured by a truly legendary storyteller.