My friend Matthew McBride is one of the more exciting authors out there, never repeating himself, he goes to that fearless side where real artists go, where the footing is never sure. His latest, our Pick Of The Month, The End Of The Ocean, takes place in Bali with an American nursing divorce wounds, getting involved with an island woman, and Wayne Tender, a shady guy on the hustle. I’ve described it as Graham Greene meets Elmore Leonard, but in this interview we did, Matthew shed a little more light on it.
- I remember you saying you were going to Bali and would use the experience to write a book. Did you know this was the story you were going to tell before you went?
I remember that. We were at Noir at the Bar, in Austin, where I’d just been interrupted, in the middle of my reading, by a woman whom I had offended. Not by what I’d read, mind you. It was my attire. I was wearing a t-shirt that said Nicholas Sparks is an asshole and she didn’t like it.
But, to answer the question, I had no idea what I would write. I wrote the first thousand words while working at my regular job (over the years I’ve found that’s when I do my best work—when I’m being paid to do something else). After that, I realized if I wanted to be true to the story I had to physically go to Indonesia, so the day I got my first royalty check for A Swollen Red Sun I bought a one-way ticket to Bali, said “fuck my job,” and never looked back.
- What did the location give to you as a writer?
It gave me everything I needed. Because there are some things you cannot Google, and I wanted more than pictures. I wanted words and conversations and to explore the thoughts in my own head. I wanted to know how I’d be treated, so I’d know what my character could expect. I experienced strange and beautiful things I could not have imagined that found their way into the book.
- To me the book is about love, but not looked on it in a typical way. What did you want to explore with that emotion?
I wanted to write a novel that was completely different from anything I had previous written. I don’t think of it as a book about love—to me, it’s about the absence of love, and what that does to a man. I didn’t want to write about a tough guy with a gun. I wanted him to feel things: Love and hate and pain and guilt. It’s a crime novel you don’t realize is a crime novel until you do.
- As a friend, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities you have with Sage. What are the major differences?
I think an author who truly cares about their work would be unwilling to confirm or deny any similarities or differences between the main character and themselves and would always prefer to keep their audience guessing.
- Wayne is one of those wonderful characters who you can never quite put your finger on until the end. How did you go about constructing him?
Although I’d already begun to write him, I could never quite picture him (visually) in my mind. I just figured he would eventually come to me, sometimes that’s how it works, and when it did, I was actually on the flight to Bali. I was sitting beside a guy on the plane who looked like Nick Cave. He looked important. Well-dressed. I wondered who he was and where he was going? He looked important to me, and mysterious, and in that moment he became Wayne Tender. The rest just fell into place.
- It seems each book gets more personal. Does that affect the writing of it in any way?
Hemingway said it best: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
You can order copies of End of the Ocean from BookPeople now!