Matthew Franks' new novel The Monster Underneath has been one of my favourite reads so far this year - and with so much great new horror around, that's saying a lot. He's an exciting new talent. Here he talks about his early influences and you can find out more about his latest book:
The year was 1984. I was eight years old and my preferred reading material was Mad Magazine. I discovered many movies through that magazine. For example, the legendary Mort Drucker's famous parody of The Godfather led me to later watch the film and changed my life forever. It was in that same year that I saw two other movies that would also impact me in such a way that they set the stage for a novel I would write thirty years later.
The first film, Dreamscape, introduced me to the idea of someone entering and participating in another person's dreams, a.k.a. dreamwalking. In this classic movie, Dennis Quaid plays a psychic that uses his abilities to assist the great Max Von Sydow in developing a program to help people work through their dreams. This is all good and well until a fellow psychic played by Twin Peaks alumnus David Patrick Kelly enters the picture and conspires in a plot to murder the president in his dreams, thus stopping him from signing a peace treaty with the Soviets that would eliminate the need to produce more nuclear weapons. In the end, the two psychics face off in an epic battle of good versus evil complete with a terrifying snake-man and unresolved father issues.
In retrospect, wrapping such a high concept around my eight-year-old head didn't prove as difficult as actually seeing the movie. Given its "PG-13" rating, I had to prove to my parents that it was okay for me to see five years before the suggested viewing age. Luckily, the poster for the movie looked like an Indiana Jones type adventure (brilliant marketing by the way). Seriously, you could transfer Kate Capshaw’s image to the movie poster for Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom standing behind Harrison Ford and no one would know the difference. But I digress. Since I'd already watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and lived to tell the tale, I was able to watch Dreamscape unhindered by the MPAA.
Seeing the next film I'm going to discuss, however, didn't prove so easy. To see it, I would have to be more tactful, even cunning. I would have to call upon an ancient resource that many a young person went to in times of desperation. I would have to call upon my friend-with-the-permissive-parent and watch it at his house. And that's how A Nightmare on Elm Street came into my life.
Like Dreamscape, the horror classic incorporated dreamwalking into the story. Only, in this case, there was no good supernatural power to combat the bad. In this case, it was straight up evil in the form of horror icon Freddy Kruger played by the incomparable Robert Englund. For roughly an hour and a half, I witnessed helpless teenagers getting murdered in their dreams and ultimately never stopping their pursuer. After all, horror isn't necessarily about defeating evil. Sometimes evil wins and comes back again and again and again. And then it's a franchise.
Years later, other dreamwalker movies came along. There was The Cell, which was visually stunning and featured Jennifer Lopez in a wetsuit. Then there was the hugely successful Christopher Nolan film, Inception. I enjoyed both films but not as much as Dreamscape and A Nightmare on Elm Street. There was something about seeing them when I was younger that, one day, ignited a spark to create a dreamwalker story of my own. I hope you'll check it out.
Reality can be the difference between a dream and a nightmare…
Max Crawford isn’t a typical prison therapist. He uses his unusual psychic ability to walk with convicts through their dreams, reliving their unspeakable crimes alongside them to show them the error of their ways.
Max always has to be on his toes to keep himself grounded, but the FBI agent waiting for him in his private office immediately puts him on edge. The bureau wants Max to go way outside his comfort zone to enter the dreams of suspected serial killer William Knox.
To get a confession and secure the future of his prison program, Max must gain Knox’s trust by any means necessary—and survive the minefield of secrets waiting inside a murderer’s mind. Secrets that could turn Max’s reality into a living nightmare.
Matthew Franks lives in Arlington, Texas with his beautiful wife and children. He studied psychology and creative writing at Louisiana State University then obtained a Master’s Degree in counseling from Texas State University. When he’s not working on his next story, he’s counseling adolescents or trying to keep up with his three highly energetic daughters. You can connect with Matthew at: authormatthewfranks.com.
Praise for The Monster Underneath
“An assured, gripping, totally engaging debut, Matthew Franks will have you burning through the pages of this taut supernatural thriller at breakneck speed. If Christopher Nolan and Stephen King ever teamed up to write a novel, this would be it. Highly recommended!” –Ronald Malfi, author of Little Girls
“What if you could see inside the dreams of anyone you came in contact with? Would you dare to look? Could you handle the things you’d find within? The Monster Underneath is a real nail-biter – one of those ever-spiraling stories that you just can’t put down until you reach the surprising end!” –John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant and The Family Tree
“The Monster Underneath is an intense and clever debut in which reality is more terrifying than the nightmares and twisted dreamscapes of a madman. Author Matthew Franks is a name to remember, his stories you won’t soon forget.” –Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Evolutionist and East End Girls
“Matthew Franks’ debut novel takes you through the darkest, twisted alleys of a killer’s mind and then drags you several steps further, beyond the status of observer and into the disturbing realm of accomplice. A harrowing tale of murder and delusion and moral ambiguity.” –Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Damnable, Diabolical, and the dark thriller collection, American Nocturne
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