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Matt Athanasiou

King Nothing, flash fiction, Issue 16, September 1, 2011

Matt Athanasiou usually writes in Chicago. His writing has appeared in print and online publications such as Horror Bound MagazineThe Blotter Magazine, Danse Macabre and others. The South Million Writers Award recently listed his short story “And the Earth Opened Wide” as a notable story of 2010.

Get to Know Matt...

When did you start writing? I started writing creatively in 2004. A professor told my class that writers have the power to create new worlds, an idea that had somehow eluded my grasp before then. I went into the computer lab after class and typed a few sentences about people from another world, maybe to see if I could, and I've been putting word after word since.
When and what and where did you first get published? My first publication was a poem in a small university journal, entitled Mush, in 2006. The poem was my protest against a professor lecturing me about the necessity of marginalia and about the importance of Billy Collins’s poem by the same name. I sent my poem to Collins after someone told me the author would probably appreciate it. Collins mailed me a letter that said he had been wondering when someone would write an anti-marginalia poem.
What themes do you like to write about? Themes often arise after I've written a few drafts of a story--character and plot come first--but a lot of my fiction seems to focus on characters confronting an internal darkness while dealing with difficult situations.
What books and/or stories have most resonated with you as an author? Why? How do these stories and their characters find expression in your work? Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is the first book I read after I started writing creatively. The novel essentially told me that I can write about anything, if I can make it believable.
Tons of short stories have impacted my writing, but three stand above the rest. The first two are George Saunders's "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline" and Joe Hill's "Pop Art." Both stories never allow readers to question their fantastic elements, by making the paranormal integral and emotional pieces of the plots. The third is Benjamin Percy’s “Refresh, Refresh." This tale should come with a warning that readers might cut their fingers on pages of honed pacing and character development.

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