Matthew Dante: “When I started writing, this was my opportunity to write the stories I would have loved to have read growing up.”
I want to welcome Matthew Dante to the Blog. Matthew is the author of several novels, including two exceptional Queer Thriller Series: Fractured and Rough Edges. Fractured focuses on obsessive love, pathological behaviour, and injustice; Rough Edges deals with complex, hardened men finding unconventional love amid a violent criminal landscape. A Canadian, Matthew is an avid reader who loves Marvel and DC comics and travel; he also doesn’t mind letting everyone know that he’s a romantic at heart. In this interview, Matthew discusses what drives his creativity, the placement of sex and sexuality in his novels, and why, in Queer Thrillers, the genesis of an LGBTQ+ character’s criminal lifestyle or violent behaviour is rarely found in the simplicity of “Good Vs Evil.”
My reviews of many of Matthew Dante’s novels can be found in earlier blog posts.
Hi Matthew! Tell me, who or what inspired you to start writing, and when did you know it was time to move beyond writing for personal pleasure toward the intimidating world of publishing? How did you handle any nerves or anxiety about showcasing your work to a global audience?
Hey Ryan! Thanks for having me here today. I know better than to turn down one of your offers, especially when I hear the name “Jules” thrown around. [If you don’t get the reference, read my novels.]
As for writing, I’ve always been a huge reader and was obsessed with movies growing up. It’s no surprise that Stephen King was the one who made me fall in love with the written word. The Shinning and The Tommyknockers are still my favourite books. When I was in high school, I debated either becoming a Director to create the next big blockbuster or a writer to feed the unsuspecting minds of a new generation. In the end, job security won out, and I entered the exciting world of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing (which I love). However, I could never silence that nagging voice in the back of my head that wanted to bring life to characters and breath out stories people would cling to.
So, as it happened, Mother Nature decided to F* humanity and sent us COVID. This led to me having a lot of time at home alone with nothing but the voices in my head. One day these voices turned into two, which turned into three, and then eventually, I woke up one day with a novel written and an insane idea to self-publish (pause for horrified screams).
I’ll be honest, when I released my first book, The Prophecy, out into the world, I was a young, naïve, amateur writer who had yet to see and experience the true world of self-publishing. I learned quickly that with all those who adore your work, some will hate it. Thankfully, I met some great authors who reminded me that everyone has different tastes in reading. My job as an author is to find that niche of readers who enjoy the books that I produce and work on attracting them. It’s always painful to read a harsh review or see someone cut down something that you’ve worked so hard to create and bring life to, but it’s also so amazing when you hear that someone loves your book and has read it multiple times! That feeling makes all the pain, misery, and long hours of editing all worth it.
Your initial published work is in the dark fantasy genre. Aside from your single M/M Romance, Love To Hate You, which is fantastic, and I’m eagerly awaiting a sequel (hint hint), you’ve moved exclusively into the Queer Thriller genre with an M/M focus. Was this a conscious choice based on your own changing interests? How much does reader response influence your writing direction?
Great question! And very observant! I’m a writer who has to write what he is feeling and what he is interested in at the moment. I can’t be forced to write something just because someone wants me to (that’s when the manuscript becomes forced and flat). I started out writing fantasy because that was my interest at the time. What would happen if someone has been isolated from the world his whole life and then suddenly reintroduced into a society that had been told nothing but lies about him? As time progressed, my interests changed, and I began writing different genres. Love to Hate You was written after binge-watching a bunch of Hallmark movies (yes, they are my guilty pleasures).
The idea for Fractured Love came to me while I was driving down an isolated country road on my way to pick up my brother one afternoon. By the time we got back to his house, I had the whole outline for Book 1 drafted in my head and was busy assaulting my brother with every exciting detail and twist I was going to have in the series. To this day, I think my brother thinks I’m crazy and probably fears for any man who decides to date me (FYI, I’m single, and, I think, a good catch). Then, of course, we get to the Rough Edges series. Originally, this was to be an M/M romance starring Patrick and some other guy (I forget his name). I wrote 100 pages, then stopped because readers were messaging me, telling me how much they loved Seth (from Fractured Soul) and wanted to see him get a HEA. So, an idea popped into my head for an M/M romance starring Seth and Mick, but after page five, the book suddenly took a dark turn and morphed into an M/M thriller. As I said before, the characters take control when I write; I swear I have no control. Then suddenly, the Rough Edges series was born, and my original Patrick M/M romance was scrapped (for the best, I think).
So, getting back to your original question, while reader feedback or requests get taken into account, I have to be inspired to write a story. Otherwise, it will feel flat and forced. As an interesting tidbit, most of my great ideas and plot twists occur when I’m in the shower. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve jumped out of the shower to quickly jot down an idea or sentence before I forget it.
What attracts you to the genre of Queer Thriller with a focus on M/M romance? In what way do your personal interests, life experiences and sexuality impact your writing in this genre?
I’ve always loved reading horror, thrillers, and romances. Growing up, it always bugged me that all of the stories I read always involved straight men saving straight women. As a gay man, I could never relate to the character as I knew that could never be me in those stories. Then, I accidentally stumbled across an M/M fantasy book on Amazon. At that point, I discovered there was a whole LGBTQ+ world of stories out there, but the sad part was that no one was talking about it. So, LGBTQ+ youth have no idea this world even exists. When I started writing, this was my opportunity to write the stories that I would have loved to have read growing up. Stories in which LGBTQ+ characters were the heroes and the leads. And their love was celebrated. When it comes to personal life experiences, I like to place a little bit of myself into every character, whether it be a physical trait, an emotional crutch, or just an interesting situation. Growing up as a gay man, I have suffered through discrimination, bullying, challenges of dating, and even the awkwardness of maneuvering the LGBTQ+ community. I think these experiences have given me a unique perspective that I hope translates well through my characters and stories.
In addition, as many of my readers know, I have a university degree in Criminology and work in the anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing industry, so I enjoy bringing that aspect of my life into my stories. I think it adds a bit of excitement.
The Fractured and Rough Edges Series skillfully showcase the visceral violence that permeates the lives of your queer characters. Fractured especially spotlights the psychological aspects of violence, an individual’s cerebral response to trauma. The turbulent relationship between Mark and Alex goes beyond physical torment and suffering, beyond verbal battery, into a realm of emotional combat and intense inner dialogue, excavating fear, disgust, desire, and love. The mental gymnastics these characters engage in to come to terms with what’s happening between them is fascinating. What led you to explore this intense psychological warfare in the Fractured Series?
As I mentioned before, I have a degree in Criminology, and I always found it so fascinating how criminals are made. There is no set formula to explain why one person turns to criminality and violence while another doesn’t. Factors such as environmental influence, psychological disorders, learned behaviours, and even past experiences are all used to determine what creates a criminal. One of the more common rationales for criminality is: criminals are not born criminals—they are created.
In the Fractured Series, I wanted to explore that aspect, with Marc having suffered physical abuse by his father growing up and then Alex having suffered through external influences of society. I wanted to show how someone like Alex could start off seeing the world as wonderful and just, but then his views on humanity and society can darken through external influence, such as being kidnapped and almost killed. We even get to the point where Alex no longer sees the world as black and white but understands that a gray area also exists—an area where violence and criminality may be justified. I wanted to highlight people’s internal struggles when torn between what is right and what society has deemed wrong.
Action and violence are standard elements in Thriller Fiction, Queer-focused or not, and your work in this genre provides scenes of intensely detailed visuals. The farm scenes in Fractured Mind and pretty much any scene in the Rough Edges Series where Patrick does his “information extracting” are impactful and memorable. Were there any scenes in either series you felt you’d written too graphically and were removed or edited down? In your opinion, is there a line that can be crossed, or is the Thriller Genre an “anything goes” property?
Wow, tough question. I’m a Taurus (Me too!), so part of my damage is being a stickler for detail and ensuring that things make sense. I have timelines and copious amounts of notes that I try to keep so that I don’t accidentally mix things up. In that regard, when writing a particularly graphic scene, I try to strike a balance between being impactful to the reader so that the feeling or scene I’m trying to convey gets through but also not being so graphic that the reader cannot continue to read through the scene. I think the scene in Fractured Mind where the killer takes his first victim took me about a day to write before I was able to strike the right balance between violence and gore.
When it comes to steam in my books, I will only include a sex scene if it makes sense to the story. This is why some of my books are steamier than others. Protecting His had two main characters that were very sexualized and fed off each other’s sexual prowess, but in Fractured Love, the story was more focused on Marc’s internal demons and dealing with the feeling of being betrayed by the person he loved. In my opinion, adding sex to a scene for the sake of having a steamy book detracts from the story being told. Perhaps I should start using violence and steam rating indicators at the back of my books so readers are aware.
As stated, violence is an essential component of the Thriller Genre, as seen in Political, Spy, and Legal Thrillers, to name a few. But does Queer Thriller navigate a literary minefield outside these sub-genres? Like Queer Horror, the potential to trigger LGBTQ+ readers who’ve endured real-life violence and trauma due to their sexuality or gender identity is always present. Do you feel queer authors, more than non-LGBTQ+ ones, are obligated to be intensely self-aware of this while writing, or is it an unfair, creatively stifling responsibility to be saddled with?
This is something that I think all writers are faced with and suffer from. We are writing fiction, yet we also want to be sensitive to readers’ feelings. I think one way we try to combat this is through the use of trigger warnings. This gives readers an opportunity to decide if the content may be too difficult to read. As many readers of my work will know, I don’t shy away from writing scenes that may be difficult for readers. The sad reality is that these things occur. As a society, we need to be aware of them and take action to stop these atrocities.
In Fractured Soul, I touch on the issue of human trafficking and prostitution. This is a billion-dollar industry that is still very active in our world. While it might be difficult to read, we must be aware of what is happening worldwide and how these crimes are evolving. For instance, human trafficking has morphed into domestic trafficking, where criminals take men and women in their own communities and force them into the sex trade or other such activities. I hope that, while a scene might be challenging to read, I can educate readers and entertain them. The more people are aware, the better our chance of combatting these atrocities.
As valid a genre as Queer Horror, do you believe Queer Thriller Fiction, aside from supplying entertainment, can provide oft-silenced LGBTQ+ voices with an avenue of artistic expression to work through psychological trauma and emotional, if not physical, scars? For both writers and their readers?
I could see how writing Queer Thriller Fiction may help someone work through psychological trauma and emotional scars. But that would be a personal question that could only be answered by the individual affected. Personally, I think it’s important that LGBTQ+ people have a voice when it comes to thrillers. These events/situations happen not only to the straight community but also to the LGBTQ+ community. Criminals will prey on anyone, anyone can be a potential victim. Also, one could look at it from the opposite perspective: LGBTQ+ people can also perpetrate such crimes. I think that my stories bring these possibilities to life.
In the Fractured Series, your main characters are gay men. However, in the Rough Edges Series, you include bisexual and, in Patrick’s case, conceivably pansexual male characters. Was this an intentional move toward writing a broader scope of LGBTQ+ representation? As an author of Queer Thrillers featuring M/M Romance, do you find it creatively challenging, exhilarating, or both to write a character’s complex sexuality and sexual activity into your narrative, which potentially differs from your own?
As I said earlier, it’s really the characters who tell me their story. As I develop their backstories, their personalities and sexualities start coming forward. In the Rough Edges series, these groups of men lived in a particular environment where machoism and being tough are expected. I wanted to show in this series the emotional, psychological, and physical struggles one might face under such external influences. While an environment might force a group of people only to display or share one particular type of sexual orientation (e.g. heterosexuality), this is not the reality in which we live. People have various sexual orientations, and I wanted to show how people in these environments may cope with their differences. As for writing about different sexual orientations, I try and do as much research as I can when it comes to sexual orientations that are dissimilar to my own. I think that if I limited my characters to only a single orientation, I would be limiting the relatability my readers have to the characters in my books.
What book is on the nightstand or in your kindle that you’re currently reading?
Currently, I’m reading Everleigh’s Ring by S. Legend. It’s a dark erotic story about a criminal who falls under the conservatorship of a psychopath. It is very dark and dives into the sexual proclivities of the master.
What does the future hold for author Matthew Dante? Are you planning on starting a new thriller trilogy or exploring more M/M Romance fiction? Spill!
Currently, I’m putting the final touches on Book 4 of the Rough Edges Series and working on the first draft of Book 5. I’m also signed on to contribute a short story for the Packing Anthology, scheduled for release around September or October of this year. Still trying to decide if this will be an M/M romance similar to The Devil Wears Pink in the Cruising Anthology or if this will end up being a dark romance/thriller similar to the Rough Edges books. In addition, I’m also working on a few ideas in my head, some of which will remain secret until the voices all agree on a direction. As I said before, the characters are the ones that create the story, I just write what they tell me.
Thank you, Matthew, for taking the time to chat with me so candidly and with such enthusiasm for the Queer Thriller Genre. I look forward to the release of Packing and more from the wellspring of ideas flowing in your head! Continued success with all of your gripping series.
For more information about Matthew Dante, follow him on his Amazon Author Page, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. To purchase Matthew’s books and merchandise, sign up for his Newsletter or get a comprehensive list of his work and activities, click the following link: Matthew Dante linktr.ee.