This is one of an ongoing series of interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.
Matthew Olson-Roy grew up in Ludington, Michigan where he learned that bears sleep under sand dunes, asparagus has a queen, fudgies have a season, and hands make good maps. He spent many years studying the works of famous authors at universities in Michigan, Washington, and abroad until they gave him a Ph.D. and asked him to make something of himself. Along the way he picked up nine languages, served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Stockholm, Sweden, and taught Swedish, English, and World Literature to college students eager to learn about meatballs and Pippi Longstockings. He lives with his family in Luxembourg, where he is writing a series of children’s books inspired by local tales of dragons, giants, witches, werewolves, and elves. “Our Monstrous Family”, published in issue 1.2 of The 3288 Review, is his first work of published fiction. Read more about Matthew Olson-Roy at his website.
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3288 Review: How and when did you start writing? Was there a specific event or moment which sparked your interest in the written word?
Matthew Olson-Roy: Maybe I should credit the independent bookstore in the town where I grew up, the ironically named Read Mor, with my love of reading, and consequently my interest in writing, or at the very least the importance of copy editing. On its shelves I found one fantasy world after another by authors such as Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, and J.R.R. Tolkien. And if you hadn’t already noticed from that list, I always had to read a series because I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving behind the characters whose lives had touched me in some way.
By the time I became eligible for the Young Authors and Illustrators contest in sixth grade, I realized that I too had a story to tell. My book was called—spoiler alert—Milo and Blooper Break the Spell. After the contest, I started a sequel, of course, but never finished it. I never got around to naming it either, but I’m sure its title would have been something equally revealing like Blooper Dies in the End. Subtlety and the art of suspense are skills I apparently developed later in life.
While I continued to read fiction, and even spent many years in grad school studying to become a literary scholar, I left the writing of fiction behind until a trip home to Michigan for Christmas in 2010. Hidden in the basement among old boxes of books, my mom had found the original drafts of those sixth grade stories. For the next few nights I read them to my children before bed. When we reached the start of the ninth chapter of the sequel, there was only one word at the top of the page. “Milo…” Well, hell hath no fury like the wrath of two children whose storytelling has just been cut short, so I had to promise my little monsters that I would finish the sequel for them. That’s when I reimagined Milo into a character in my first novel, and I’ve been writing ever since. Continue reading →