Sunday Shorts – “Threesome” Q&A with Matthew Bright

ThreesomeMatthew Bright is the editor of the upcoming Threesome: Him, Him and Me erotica anthology from Lethe Press. As a sit-down isn’t really possible (he’s from my native land of Britain) we had a back-and-forth e-mail discussion. If you’ve not “met” Matthew, you’re in for a treat. He’s funny, talented, and one of the best design artists I’ve met.

Few sexual fantasies are as potent or lasting as “the threesome” – as an adolescent, the first time you saw a hot couple walking hand in hand and you wanted to follow them back home and into their bed, as an adult when you discover that your partner has been fantasizing also about the bartender at your favorite club.
 
1+1+1 = sensual delight!
 
Editor Matthew Bright, no stranger to threesomes himself, has invited twelve authors to write stories that range from the sweet and romantic to erotic and playful and even a bit depraved.


 

NB: You have an incredible visual talent as well as being a talented author and editor (which, if you weren’t also quite nice, would be really annoying, by the way). All the visual art I’ve seen you produce is stunning. I’ve spoken with poets before about how their sense of lyricism and musicality influences their prose writing, but I’m curious if the same holds true for you and your design talent?

MB: Ha, that’s very kind of you! And I’m British, so nice is in my blood, along with tea and gravy.

NB: I miss good gravy.

MB: Oddly enough, design was never something I thought of as my ‘thing’ until very recently. I always talk about my formative years stapling together stories I’d written into books as something that lead to me being a writer, but I probably spent as much time making bad photomontages of Harry Potter art, and somewhere along the line I learnt some things, I guess.

I very rarely approach stories with any related thought as to what design might accompany it later down the line, but I do tend to write – or start to write – with a strong visual image in mind. My story in Threesome spun out from one single image (three people naked on a woodland floor at night) and developed from there. After that there was lots of conscious writer-graft to fit that image into a cohesive story somehow. I’m quite thankful for that image kickstarting everything, because my story was an eleventh hour piece to fill the slot of a writer who pulled out, and the writing process was powered on that picture in my head. (Dreadful self-serving to put your own story in an anthology I know, but needs must in this case!)

NB: It’s not at all uncommon, at least in my readings of anthologies. I think you’re safe from the tar and feathers. I find the idea of starting with an image fascinating, though. I’ve only tried that once, for an anthology coming up from Beautiful Dreamer Press, and it was a completely different angle to approach writing for me.

MB: When I think back through most of the stories I’ve written, the seed of them is often one strong visual image from which everything has spun out. So maybe there is a connection between my design work and my writing… who knows? When I was a child writing stories I always drew the front cover first so maybe I’m still unconsciously doing that to this day.

(As a side note, the control that comes with being given the opportunity to do editing, covers and layout is a wonderful thing… until you don’t get to do all that and it’s like sitting in the passenger seat while someone drives your expensive car. These things cut both ways!)

NB: Speaking of that eleventh-hour story, Tom Cardamone posed a question I’m repeating with all the editors I’m chatting with. In collections the author (or for an anthology, the editor) has to select and order the stories, and it’s such an important part of the process, but we rarely discuss that process. I noticed with Threesome, you’ve very specifically broken the tales into groups. How did you approach the selecting and ordering of the tales in  Threesome?

MB: Oh man, this was a bit of a learning curve, and it gotta say this is a totally unappreciated art. The Myriad Carnival was my first experience of putting an anthology into an order, and editor extraordinaire Steve Berman gave me the benefit of his experience. (I didn’t ask, but y’know…) There are a few rules of thumb to follow – like, you should start with an easily accessible story, and keep similar stories apart, etc. Advice which was very welcome, and I promptly ignored completely and did my own thing.

NB: Ha! I wouldn’t have the guts. Or the slightest idea where to start. Well, now that I’m hearing answers from the editors I’m talking to, I’d know where to start, but…

MB: Threesome was different because, like you said, it is strictly split into three. I wish I could say it was a deliberate choice to fit the theme but actually it was just a fortuitous solution to a problem. The thing was, once I’d got all the stories together for the book they were quite eclectic, ranging from sweet character drama, through full-on filth, to surreal fantasy, and I worried that if I mixed them up that the contrasts would be jarring and a reader would feel constantly short-changed going from one to the other. So my solution was to divide it specifically into those three sections so that readers would at least have an idea what they were getting. (Alternatively, I planned this from the start. It’s called Threesome, of course it’s in three sections. Yeah, let’s go with that.)

So what we’ve got is a first section which are character-based stories about the implications and complications and thrills of a threesome, edging sexier into the second section which is, frankly, quite filthy, and winding up in our third section which all sorts – selkies, animated scarecrows, vampire bears and some story about a handsome chocolatier with odd powers. It’s by some guy called Burgoine – heard of him?

NB: I hear he has an apostrophe fetish. Hey, maybe there’s room for a grammar erotica collection someday?

MB: I’d call it Interrobanged. I just had line edits from Jerry Wheeler on a story of mine and according to him I have a fetish for em dashes, so that’ll be my story. The orgiastic scene of the lonely writer offering comfort to the hundreds of em dashes cut by the mercurial editor.

NB: Comma splices have never sounded so sexy. Or, y’know, maybe not. That said, gaslight Egypt, threesomes, dark carnivals… What’s next for Matthew Bright? Got an anthology theme you’ve always itched to attempt?

MB: Well! I always have lots of projects on my plate, so that if I procrastinate on one of them I usually achieve something on another one. So here’s everything that’s coming/is in progress (deep breath): as editor, Clockwork Cairo, a collection of Egypt-themed steampunk; Gents, a collection of Victorian-era gay erotica; and A Scandal In Gomorrah, a collection of queer Sherlock Holmes stories. As writer, I recently completed a steampunk detective novel I’m looking for a publisher for, plus I’m working on a short story collection of ten stories transposing 19th century gothic characters across the queer history of the 20th century, and a farcical bear-centric cosy mystery. PLUS, my dark carnival anthology The Myriad Carnival just came out and ARE TOU TIRED YET?

NB: Exhausted. I have no idea how editors balancing writing and editing projects do it. Truly.

 

You can find Threesome: Him, Him and Me directly at Lethe Press here, or—as always—check Indiebound for your closest brick and mortar. It should also be available wherever fine quality LGBT books are sold.


Matthew Bright

Matthew Bright is a writer, editor and designer who occasionally wonders what order those occupations come in. His short fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine’s Queers Destroy Horror, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Biggest Lover, and Revolutions: Manchester Speculative Fiction, amongst others. He lives in Manchester, England with his partner and a dog with a taste for valuable hard-back books.

 

 

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