Please welcome Matt Hill to the blog! He kindly answered a few of my questions about his brand new book, Graft. Also, courtesy of the lovely folks at Angry Robot, we’ve got 5 copies to give away to 5 lucky winners, and it’s open worldwide. Enter to win using the widget below the post.
Will you tell us a bit about Graft and what inspired you to write it?
Hi Kristin – thanks for having me here! Graft is a near-future SF crime-thriller set in a post-collapse UK where people have to do increasingly desperate things to survive. One of these people, Sol, is a Manchester mechanic who steals old cars for donor parts. But when his partner decides to jack a high-value Lexus, Sol gets thrown into a trans-dimensional trafficking conspiracy. The car conceals a voiceless, three-armed woman called Y who’s been augmented and smuggled into the country for reasons unknown. And now her traffickers want her back…
The novel was partly inspired by my first car being stolen by two men in a recovery truck – it was such a surreal experience to watch the CCTV footage that it always felt like the start of something. As I played around with ideas, a story emerged that seemed to make sense in the world I’d written for The Folded Man, so I went from there.
What kind of research did you do for the book, and what is your writing process like?
Global human trafficking is an industry, complete with sophisticated power structures and mechanisms. I’d never claim to be writing about it with authority, but I knew I had a responsibility to try and understand its complexity, and to write about its effects humanely. That meant a lot of reading and note-taking – books, articles, reports.
For all the vehicle stuff, I plumbed my family’s brains – I have a few close relatives in the trade in one way or another. And then there’s all the local anecdotes and personal experiences you sort of draw on as you go.
My writing process isn’t massively organised. I try to write when and where I can, which is why I often draft scenes on my phone during my commute. When I’m on the laptop I tend to redraft as I go. I plan loosely, but I believe that eventually a first draft will start to move forward under its own terrible weight. It’s blind faith most of the time. That said, I don’t think you have to write every day. Your brain’s always working through stuff.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I’ve definitely always enjoyed writing (or at least the feeling of having written). And I’m pretty crap at maths. But growing up in Manchester I played drums and had all those dreams of being in a band. I also loved drawing and design-y stuff. So by the time I went to university it was almost a case of choosing a route and trying to stick to it. Initially I wanted to become a journalist of some kind, then pondered editorial, and finally became a copywriter, messing about with fiction in my spare time. I moved down to London about three-and-a-half years ago, and copywriting still pays the bills. It’s sometimes a challenge to juggle it all, but it’s no bad thing to have a structure – it keeps you disciplined.
What’s one of the first things that you can remember writing?
There were Warhammer 40,000 ‘battle reports’ and one bizarre Highlander-inspired illustrated short story in which some dude got off a stone plinth and started lopping aggressive skeletons in half. They were basically ripped out of Jason and the Argonauts, which I realised I when I found it a few years back. But my first proper memory of writing stories comes from primary school – a charming tale about a family trapped by an avalanche. I think it had a happy ending. Or at least I hope it did. I can’t remember what my teacher made of it.
What authors have influenced you the most?
It’s such a tricky question, this! Science fiction-wise, I’d probably have to say Philip K. Dick or Iain Banks, in part because I read so much of their work during a very formative time. Gerry Anderson’s TV stuff has always delighted me. Likewise, Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree series is, for better or worse, absolutely seared into my mind. I think I draw influence and inspiration from all sorts of places, though. Gaming, film, music… I’m a bit of a sponge.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
This one’s tricky, too! I’d probably go with Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. Its approach to alien invasion and humanity in general just felt so utterly different and unexpected, and it has such a brilliant protagonist in Red Schuhart. A very special book.
What are you currently reading?
We have a four-month-old baby on our hands so I’m finding it quite difficult to read anything without falling straight to sleep after half a page. But I’ve got a big stack of novels in various stages of intend-to-read-ness – at a glance, Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border, Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, Sandra Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star, Dave Hutchinson’s Europe at Midnight. Plus a bunch of non-fiction titles including a wonderful thing I dip in and out of called A Dictionary of Fairies by Katherine M. Briggs.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m currently working on the first draft of a new novel about a journalist and a steeplejack who get tied up in a story of urban exploration and extra-terrestrial weirdness. I’m hoping to get it down by summer. But after that, I’m not sure! The problem with novels is twofold: first off you need a strong idea, and secondly you have to feel comfortable with it haunting you for absolutely ages. Writing novels is an odd thing to do, really.
Manchester, 2025. Local mechanic Sol steals old vehicles to meet the demand for spares. But when Sol’s partner impulsively jacks a luxury model, Sol finds himself caught up in a nightmarish trans-dimensional human trafficking conspiracy.
Hidden in the stolen car is a voiceless, three-armed woman called Y. She’s had her memory removed and undertaken a harrowing journey into a world she only vaguely recognises. And someone waiting in the UK expects her delivery at all costs.
Now Sol and Y are on the run from both Y’s traffickers and the organisation’s faithful products. With the help of a dangerous triggerman and Sol’s ex, they must uncover the true, terrifying extent of the trafficking operation, or it’s all over.
Not that there was much hope to start with.
A novel about the horror of exploitation and the weight of love, Graft imagines a country in which too many people are only worth what’s on their price tag.
File Under: Science Fiction [ Y the Last Girl / So Much to Answer For / Under the Skin / Armed & Dangerous ]