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The Emir’s Falcon, an exciting new young adult tale of outdoor adventure by award-winning Canadian author Matt (Matthew) Hughes, is now available in print, ebook, and audiobook editions from Saskatchewan publisher Shadowpaw Press Premiere.
“The novella evolved out of a real event that happened when I was an aide to Canada’s Minister of the Environment,” Matt Hughes explains. “The government decided to give a peregrine falcon to a Persian Gulf emir. I wondered how the teenage volunteers who worked with the birds at the breeding facility would react. Almost forty years later, I stopped wondering and made a story out of it.”
Matt (Matthew) Hughes writes fantasy, space opera, and crime fiction. He has sold twenty-four novels to publishers large and small in the UK, US, and Canada, as well as nearly 100 works of short fiction to professional markets. His latest novels are A God in Chains (Dying Earth fantasy) from Edge Publishing and What the Wind Brings (magical realism/historical novel) from Pulp Literature Press. He has won the Endeavour and Arthur Ellis Awards and has been shortlisted for the Aurora, Nebula, Philip K. Dick, Endeavour (twice), A.E. Van Vogt, Neffy, and Derringer Awards. He has been inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s Hall of Fame.
I’m recording, so we’re all good.
Matt: Okay. All right. What would you like to know? Matt, what would I like to know? Welcome to Discovered Wordsmith. First thing I’d really like to know is a little bit about you and where you live. Some of the things you like to do besides writing.
Okay. I have been a professional writer all my life.
I think I got my first paycheck in 1971. Okay. As a reporter covering municipal councils for a daily in, in Vancouver, and I went into weekly papers, was an editor of a couple of small weeklies, and then a guy who just won election as a member of parliament in Canada. Said, would you like to come to Ottawa and Ghost write my column for the local press in the writing?
And I eventually said, yes. I tossed the coin after a week of not being able to make up my mind and off I went to Ottawa and I became the MP assistant. And I was writing his column and helping people with their pension problems and immigration problems, all of that stuff that MP’s assistants do.
Been there about six weeks and he came into the office and said I’m seconding the speech from the throne debate, which is a big deal. It’s where at the beginning of a new par. The government sets out its whole agenda and then there’s a debate and they always have a couple of maiden mps do the the seconding and the moving and seconding.
And they picked him. So I had to write a speech. He said, write me a speech. So I wrote a speech, one draft. He loved it. He went out and gave it, it killed. And next thing I know cause of that speech, he’s getting all these request. For come and speak to this group and that group cuz he’s a great speaker cuz he is got a great speech writer.
And next thing I know I’m being headhunted by minister’s offices and I end up a speech writer to the Minister of Justice. Nice. And later on I went to the Minister of Environment and I did four years in Ottawa as a speech writer. And then I came back to Vancouver and I freelanced for corporate speech writing for almost 30 years.
And then what I’d always wanted to do was to write fiction. Originally science fiction, then I thought crime fiction was more my thing. And I started doing that towards the end of the freelancing. And then finally I said, this is what I want to do. I was getting $200 an hour as a speech writer in those days and I was getting next to nothing.
Cuz that’s what you get as a new author and a mid list author. So I made a brave decision just about, oh, just coming up to 15 years ago now. End of October, 2007, I gave up having a house. I gave up having possessions, and I’ve started wandering the world as a house sitter, which is what I’ve done since then.
I’ve lived in 12 different countries and visited 8, 9, 10 others passing. . And it’s eventually my pension came and kicked in and I got patrons on Patreon who helped me out every month with some money, and I sell books and I take my old books and I sell them again on Amazon. And all of that amounts to a pretty decent living.
As long as I don’t have to pay a mortgage or anything.
Stephn: That’s pretty interesting. So how many fiction books have you written since you switched to writing fiction?
Matt: I think I’d written 1, 2, 3. I’d written I think four by the time I went out in a road, or no, maybe six. So I’ve written 18 more since.
But most of my output has been short stories, novels for professional markets. The magazine of fantasy and science fiction. I’ve had I think 42 in there. Oh, wow. Most people would kill to have one. But they’ve liked my stuff. It’s very old fashioned fantasy in science fiction based on.
Stephn: going have to go look cuz I subscribe to that magazine, so I’ve got some. So I probably
Matt: some of your stuff. Well, You’ve probably seen, you’ve probably seen my name on the cover a few
Stephn: times. Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll have to go check. I’ve got a whole bunch of ’em stacked up there. So your latest book is The Amirs Falcon.
Why did you want, tell us a little bit about this book and why you wanted to write this particular book.
Matt: Okay. We’ll go back to my previous incarnation as speech writer to the minister of environment. In Canada, that department included the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
Had established a breeding facility in Alberta at a military base for Perrin Falcons and Falcons had almost been wiped out by the effects of D T on their eggs and so on. If you remember that Rachel Carson, the Silent Spring big book about it. So they were raising the, these falcons to let them out into the wild.
In fact, a lot of them, they let out into cities so they could keep down the pigeons and the rats. And then 78, 77 thereabouts, Canada was trying to sell a desalinization plant to an Amir in the Persian Gulf and they wanted to sell what we used to call a can do nuclear reactor to. This was well before solar energy.
And to sweeten the deal, they decided they would give one of the birds, the Perrin falcons, cuz the the Arab Amirs, they love Falcon so they decided they would give one. And I thought at the time I knew that I knew the program cuz I was working for the Min. And I knew that teenage volunteers actually did a lot of the work with the birds and I wondered what a kid might think if his bird that he thought was gonna fly free somewhere is now gonna have a hood and Jess is on its legs and be in a cage to be taken out when some Arab prints felt like going out and doing some falconry.
And I just filed that away in the back of my head. And it, you, I made a note on my hard drive kind of thing years later. And then I thought, what the heck? That’s a good story. The breeding facility closed years ago. It was a huge success. They repopulated the world with Perrin falcons, or at least Western Canada.
But I thought, okay, suppose it was still there. And suppose along came the government said, we want to give away your bird. And some Ukrainian Canadian, Alberta farm boy who was already having trouble with he wants to. Become a wildlife biologist now that he’s worked with the birds and his dad says, no, you’re gonna run the feed lot just like I did.
And my dad did. He just, he’s not gonna take it. It’s one straw too many on the camel’s back. And he steals the bird and runs off into the wilderness with it. And I placed it in a region called the Swan Hills of Alberta. Where as an 18 year old, I was conscripted to fight a forest fire. So I remember that area.
And then I’ve made characters and put them together and they clashed. And then in the end there was a resolution.
Stephn: Okay. And we don’t give it all away. So how, what genre would. Say that this is it action thriller or you mentioned misery?
Matt: It’s young adult contemporary fiction. That’s what it happens today.
It’s really for teenagers and it’s just a, not a crime story, not a science fiction or anything. Just regular story.
Stephn: Okay. All right. And do you know or can think of any other books that are out there that are similar to people who like that? The
Matt: yourself ? No, I don’t, I know absolutely nothing about young adult fiction except I wanted to write this one.
And it turned out that a guy I know in Saskatchewan, ed Willett a quite well known Canadian, I know him. Yep. He had a small press. and some years ago I edited six young adult books of his that were being published by an outfit called Coto Press. So I went to him and said who do I talk to at Coto?
Cuz I’ve got this ya. And he said they’re outta business, but I’m publishing things. Let me see it. And I gave it to him and he’s now brought it out. Nice. Okay.
Stephn: This is independently published through Ed, or what, how’s that? Ed has his own press. It’s called Shadow, pour Press, named after his cat, and I think mine was the second book he put out.
Matt: And he’s putting out another one of his own now. So he is becoming a small press publisher as well as everything else he does, which is podcasting and anthology producing and writing for, I think he’s published by Do mostly.
Stephn: Yeah, I believe that’s what he and I talked about. Yeah. When I talked to him.
Matt: And right now he’s just formatting a new book for me, which is another thing he does, which is actually a friend of one of mine from 10 years ago, science Fiction Space Opera. And I’m gonna have that out in the next few days. Nice.
Stephn: So do you consider yourself a hybrid author? You’ve done some independent, some in
Matt: My nutshell description of me is that I am a crime writer, trapp in a science fiction and fantasy author’s career.
I started out to write crime stories. I won an award, was selling stories to Alfred Hitchcock magazine. And a very good online magazine called Blue Murder, which unfortunately died. And I had a crime novel from Double Day Canada, but I’d written a fantasy I couldn’t sell way back in the old days when I was just noodling it.
And then I saw Warner Aspect was looking for just that kind of book. So I sent it to them and they said, yeah, okay. And do as a sequel. So I did a sequel and then I became recognized as a kind of heir to Jack Vance, the great science fiction fantasy author. At which point an editor from tour said if you’d like to do one for us, we’ll buy it.
So I did. And then I started writing short stories in order to raise my profile cuz you need to do that. And I was selling them to fantasy and science fiction and as aov and suddenly I was a speculative fiction author. So I kept doing that. But really what I do crime stories set in space opera and dying earth fantasy setting.
Stephn: Oh, nice. Okay I come from a family of minor criminals, so it comes naturally . I. I’ve often said I’m the white sheep of my family, ,
but I don’t involve myself in the crimes. I’ll just write all about ’em. When’s the next family reunion? You need some more ideas. Right?
Matt: Now most of them are dead now.
Stephn: that’s even better. But you mentioned a a book that Ed’s working on. Is that the next book coming out? Got a little bit about,
Matt: that’ll be out, that’ll be out in the next two or three days I think. It’s called the other. It’s a space opera and it features a fellow I’ve written, ooh, maybe 10 stories and four novellas about are called lure.
Who is based upon the characters that Sydney Green Street played. The big fat guy in the Mals Falcon. Yeah. Fat man. They called him . And this is my guy. I love Emre. He’s a forger, a confidence trickster, a thief a middle man sometimes for other people’s crimes and. He’s extremely coate to use the polite term and a gourmet.
And the reason he makes his living as a criminal is so he can afford to live at a very fancy private club in a city on old Earth, which is a fussy, not very much remembered place. There were 10,000 worlds in this civilization very far future. Totally. Unlikely to ever happen. But he likes to live in his club and eat gourmet meals.
And when he needs more money, he goes out and steals or forges or whatever he does. And in this novel he is tricked and Shanghai off to a very remote little planet, a desert planet where they have a certain. They require people to look a certain way and he doesn’t look that way. And so he becomes a member of a despised minority, an irregular as they called and put to work in a circus of freaks.
And he has to figure out how to get the hell off this planet which is not easy. And then he asked to figure out who did this to him, who sent him here, and why? The book is called The Other and I intended it to be the first half of a two volume thing. I sold it to a a small press in Canada called Underland, and they were going to have me do the second half.
I even wrote the first chapter of it. But then Underland decided she didn’t wanna be in that business. She was a lawyer who was dabbled, which is fair enough. So she sold her list to another outfit and they weren’t interested in the sequel cuz they figured the other hadn’t done well enough.
This was before ebook, so it was basically a paperback and that was all it was of it. It was shortlisted for the Phillip k Dick Award. It’s a good book. Wow. Nice. But without eBooks you just don’t do it without eBooks. And this was before they came.
Stephn: The character, just from what you said about him, sounds a little bit like KO’s Ozzie Boone from the odd Thomas series.
Matt: I don’t know that.
Stephn: A little bit like that. Reminded me of that. Yeah. You’re your books, the Amirs Falcon isn’t out yet, but your books, what type of feedback are you, have you been getting obviously if you’re writing for the the magazines Hitchcock, and that your short stories are doing pretty good?
I’m, anybody read the Amirs Falcon to give you any feedback?
Matt: George r Martin is a fan of my. Okay.
Stephn: So no, no big names or anything.
Matt: He gives me blurbs. David Gerald, the guy who invented triples. Yes. He says I’m a treasurer. Nice. And Rob Sawyer, Canadian science fiction author is a, both a friend and a supporter and other people you mentioned.
Comics is the Flic called Kurt Busk. I know that name. He’s very much in my corner. Nice. Yeah. I get I get good reviews and I get help from people like that, that they’ll give me a blurb I can put on the cover. Beautiful. Yeah. Like George Martin. George Martin is a great fan of Jack Vance, a late Jack Vance, and he’s given me a quote from a book I did two years, no, a year ago.
He said, Hughes does Jack Vance better than anyone except Jack, him. Wow. Which I was really touched by.
Stephn: I can tell you, I bet some of the other authors that are listening to this of hate you right now because of all the great contact you have. But maybe the, and I know some people, I’m not a huge Martin fan and I’m not Game of Thrones, but I bet there’s some people that would say, Hey, George, stop reading other people’s stuff and finish the next
I defend him. If it pops up on a Facebook page or something, he has the right to do what he wants to do. Absolutely. Career working his way up to learning how to do this really well.
Stephn: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what our country says it’s based on, and that’s what we say the dream is that people can do.
Yeah. So more power to. So this particular book, it’s a little different for you cuz it’s the teen, but if you had a choice, would you like to see it turned into a movie or a TV show?
Matt: Which one are we talking about? The
Stephn: Amirs Falcon?
Matt: It would be a pretty short movie. It’s only about 38,000 words long.
Okay. A lot of ya stuff is not very lengthy. Yeah I wouldn’t mind, I can say without saying too much that right now some of my stuff is being looked at by very well placed people in LA particularly a historical novel I had out three years ago, which I consider to be my magnum opus, my, my great work.
And it’s it’s when I wait. 40 years and more to write because, mostly because it was very hard to research it. It’s, I’ll tell you what it is in a nutshell. It’s in the middle of the 15 hundreds, a Spanish gallion commercial Gallion coming down the west coast of South America was shipwrecked on the jungle coast of Ecuador, and the only survivors were 27 African slaves.
And they moved in on the local population of Indians who had been decimated by disease and bad abuse by the Spaniards as they were going up to conquer the Inca Empire. And they formed a new mixed society and then they out fought and outthought the Conta doors for 30 years. Until finally the Spanish made a deal with them because these people controlled a river and the Spanish really wanted a port at the mouth of that river.
And so they became and stayed independent for generations. It was a successful mixed what they call a maroon society. Okay, nice. And I think it’s a natural. A TV show, like for a streaming of 10 episodes or whatever, especially since it has a happy ending, which most slave stories don’t have.
Stephn: But if you end somewhere before you know the whole story. You got that cliffhanger for season two. Yeah, you could. So Matt where will we be able to find your book? And do you have a.
Matt: I have a website. It’s www matthew hughes.org. I was a little late to the party. Somebody had already got hughes.com and you can find me all over Amazon.
I write as Matthew when I’m doing science fiction and fantasy. And as Matt, when I’m writing crime, I also have done a couple of media tie-ins where I was Hugh Matthews not too hard to figure.
Stephn: Yeah. Okay. And we talked a little bit about your next book, but for you personally, what are some of your favorite authors and books that you’ve read throughout your life?
Matt: Anything by Jack, Vince, I,
Stephn: that id, that was be first
Matt: answer. I’m sad that he is, I think, becoming forgotten by younger members of fandom because he was unique at a. Voice and style and wrote about anti-heroes instead of guys with big swords and stuff. Him for sure. My actual reading for recreation is more whoops, is more crime writing suspense.
Elmore Leonard Robert B. Parker. Who else, particularly that we used to be. He’s dead now. A British author called Reginald Hill, who was just excellent at doing police procedurals set in Yorkshire, England which is where my dad came from and where I house set. So basically I’m reading a lot of crime and suspense occasionally a historical novel, not.
I haven’t kept up with science fiction and fantasy. This is awful to say. I haven’t really, since the mid eighties, that’s when I started to read crime. As I say I am a crime writer, but it’s some sort of fluky thing that I’m able to sell. Science fiction and fantasy.
Stephn: I’ve read all the, all except Reginald Hill.
I’ve read all of those. I, I know that, how good all of that
Matt: is. Oh I would also throw in Lawrence Splunk. Okay. I really like Lawrence Splunk, especially his scutter. About the ex alcoholic cop who becomes a detective, and those are wonderful. Nice.
Stephn: Okay. And you’ve traveled all around. Have you run into any bookstores that are like your absolute favorites?
Matt: Because I’m a house sitter. I tend to buy my books in secondhand stores and then give them back when I leave cuz I can’t take a big suitcase of books around . I used to have about 3000 books when I was settled and I gave them to one of my sons. So he’s got them. Favorite bookstore?
There’s Monroe books in Victoria. Which was run by Jim Monroe. He’s gone now, and his ex-wife is Alice Monroe, the very, very famous short story writer. And I think by now she might have won the Nobel Prize for literature. She’s very good.
Stephn: Okay, I’ll make sure and put besides links to your website links to the bookstore and some of your favorite.
Along with your book. Of course. Yeah. Alright, so Matt, before we move on to some author talk which we’re gonna talk about beginning, oh,
Matt: one other thing I should plug this we’re talking about Jack Vance and so on. His son John has his own press. It’s called Spatter Light Press, named after a Jack Van’s story.
And. He authorizes a few people to write stories set in the universe of his father can’t use the same characters, but you can use the setting. And he authorized me to write one called Barbarians of the Beyond. I did use that title because Vance had an early book called Vandals of the Void, so I thought I’d wanna do the same thing.
But one, its is a kind of sequel, or you could call it a companion novel to one of Jack’s most famous series, which was the Demonn Princess. Demonn Princes are about a man who tracks down five master criminals in a space opera setting who together staged a raid on the community where he was a boy and took everybody off into slavery.
And my take on it was to say, okay, we know what Jack’s hero did to kill each one of those, or settle each one of those bad guys. What happened to the people who were taken away. And so I had made a story about the daughter. I’ve got a female protagonist, which Vance usually didn’t do. I wanted that to be different.
The daughter of two of the people who were carried off or who were now cooks and chef to a pirate lord on a very far off planet, but she makes her way back to where the raid. Because her parents had hidden something there, which was very valuable, which they’d stolen. And she believes and they believe that if she can convert this into cash, she could buy them out of servitude.
And she’s been trained her whole life since. A little girl for the job of going to this planet, getting there some. And finding that thing, cashing it in and then going to the place where you buy and sell slaves. A place called Interchange and getting your parents back. And then of course it doesn’t quite work that way cause it never does, but it gets a good story if it did.
Yeah. Anyway, it’s barbarians of the Beyond and it’s the one that caused George Martin to say I do Jack Vans better than anyone except Jack. So do recommend it. It’s a hell of a hell of a rattling. Good read is what it’s, yeah. Okay. Good.
Stephn: All right. So Matt, you’ve got years of experience writing.
If an author came up to you and said hey, why should I get your book this new one? What would you tell them?
Matt: The aim is Fal.
Stephn: Yeah. Yeah. Someone said, why should I get it and
Matt: read it? Cause it’s a good book. It’s a good story. It’s about three different characters, very different one’s a farm boy, one is the son of an Amir, an Arab, and the third one is the daughter of a matey trapper.
And the story ends up in her trapping territory. So she’s involved, they’re all entirely different people. They have. Lifestyles, agendas, wishes. And yet this situation of the stolen bird or liberated bird brings them into contact with each other and each one of them, and this is a trick to doing good Ya fiction or any good fiction.
Each one of them develops and changes because of the conflict and association with each other and each one of them. I think comes out the better for it. So if you wanna see how to do young adult fiction take a look at this. Take a particular look at how the characters develop out of con conflicting with each other.
Cause that’s the trick to doing fiction, is you have conflict characters struggle and contend. Against each other, against their environment, against their inner selves. And when you capture that kind of thing properly people want to turn the next page and see what happens.
Stephn: Agreed. All right.
Great. Matt, thanks for sharing your book with us. I’ll make sure and have some links for everybody that’s listening to go check it.