Josh Matthews lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife, teenage daughter, and four lovable but exasperating pets. Josh used to work for the U.S. Government where he had the opportunity to travel around the world and be exposed to numerous cultures, many of which will appear in the Hell Gate saga. He has always been a fan of horror novels and monster movies and sees the Hell Gate saga as his way to share that love with a new generation of fans.
Josh, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have traveled over many parts of the world and have shared that you planned to incorporate some of those cultures in your novels. What cultures have you included in the Hell Gate saga?
The Hell Gaters are a diverse group of adventurers ranging from Americans, Europeans, Russians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Koreans, and Japanese. They begin their journey in France and over the course of the series travel to Russia, China, Japan, and America.
Much of my education revolved around the idea of cultural competency, understanding the beliefs and practices of diverse population groups. I am curious what research you do to accurately represent some of these different cultures? Do you actively attempt to help develop positive attitudes toward these cultures in your books?
The reason I chose the locations I did is because I’ve either lived in that country (Japan and Korea), had close friends who immersed me in their culture (Australians, Russians, and Koreans), or extensively studied the countries (Russia and China). Most of the locations that appear in the books I have visited and, for the few that I have not, I’ve done research on them (thank God for Google Maps). Some of the people the Hell Gaters encounter along the way may be taking advantage of the apocalypse for their own purposes, but those are individual cases. I portray all the cultures in a positive attitude.
Let’s talk about the Hell Gate saga. Please tell us a bit about the plot and main characters. What led you to want to write in a post-apocalyptic setting?
The saga centers around Jason McCreary, a sixteen-year-old whose mother conducted a failed scientific experiment that opened several portals between Hell and Earth, allowing all sorts of demons to invade our realm. Jason takes it upon himself to travel the world and close these Hell Gates, pulling together a band of volunteers to help him. As for the post-apocalyptic setting, I wanted to create a barren world in which most of humankind has been annihilated and the social order has been completely restructured. It provides me with the opportunity to create various end of the world settings.
Another plus for me has been writing about demons. When using traditional monsters, like zombies or vampires, you have to follow certain tropes or risk losing your readers. With demons from Hell, I can let my imagination run wild. It’s challenging (but fun) to come up with new and more horrific monsters for each book.
The illustrator, Loraine Van Tonder, did amazing work on the cover art. I love the concepts of France and Russia interwoven into the artwork. What was the process like working with the illustrator? How did you develop the concepts for the cover?
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked throughout my career with excellent cover artists; Loraine and Shannon Perrine, who did the cover art for Wasteland in Red Square and Rise of the Sataners, are among the best. I always envisioned each cover showing a Hell Gate with the associated host city as the background. When I presented this concept to Loraine and Shannon, they took my original idea and turned it into these awesome covers.
You have long been a connoisseur in the horror and fantasy genres. Are there certain works that heavily influenced your own storytelling? What similarities are you hoping readers discover that will resonate with them?
The book that most influenced my writing style was Graham Masterton’s The Manitou. I read it when I was ten. Up until that point, I had read only the classics (Wells, Verne, Poe, Stoker, Shelley). Once I got a taste of what modern horror was like, especially with all the violence and gore, there was no going back.
I don’t try to be like other writers. I’ve found my own voice and am happy with it, and hopefully so are my fans. I consider myself a storyteller. My goal is to entertain my readers and not preach to them on social or political issues. Since this book is intended for young adults as well as older readers, I don’t use excessive foul language or include sex scenes. However, there is plenty of blood and gore and lots of action. I hate a book where you’re on the edge of your seat for three hundred pages and then everything is wrapped up in the last two or three. I write final action scenes that go on for twenty or more pages. Oh, and don’t get too attached to any of the characters.
The fourth book in the series, Nightmare in Tokyo, is with my publisher and is scheduled for release this November. In this book I crank up the action more than in the previous books and introduce my most evil demon yet. I’m in the process of drafting the fifth and final book in the series.
It has been a pleasure, Josh! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to make some new fans. Anyone who is interested in getting to know me better can check me out at the following social media sites: