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Interview with writer, lawyer Matt Knight

Matt Knight, thanks for taking this interview.  

Bio: Matt Knight is a San Francisco-based writer and intellectual property lawyer. His writing crosses two genres: near-future fiction that explores the misuse of modern technology and the dark side of human nature, and women’s fiction focused on love, crisis, and personal growth. He holds a BS in pre-med from Pfeiffer University, an MS in biochemistry from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and a JD from the University of Houston Law School. Various careers seasoned his life in North Carolina and Texas – chemist for the EPA, researcher of urinary bladder cancer, editor of the Houston Law Review, and clerk for the Civil District Court of Texas – before culminating in a fifteen-year career in California as a biotech patent litigator specializing in genetic engineering. His publications have appeared in the New York Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, IBPA Independent Magazine, and the Houston Law Review, as well as his publishing law blog Sidebar Saturdays. You can find more about his books at MattKnightBooks.com.

Can you please tell the story of how you became a writer and where you are currently at?

I’ve always had my fingers in something creative. Whether making paper mâché puppets as a young boy or oil painting in college, creative projects fueled me. It wasn’t until after years of school and fifteen years as a lawyer, that I decided to ditch the legal gig for writing. Currently, my GPS coordinates are split between San Francisco and Maui.  

Mr. Knight, can you tell us that one story you wish everyone knew about yourself? You know that one story you’d tell if you had to introduce yourself to people? 

Hm, good question. I would have to say this: my love of ocean swimming. In particular, my love of ocean swimming in Maui. I often do marathon swims with friends. I’ve swum the ‘Au’au  Channel, a ten-mile stretch of ocean from Lanai to Maui. I’ve swum from Maui around Molokini, a small crater about 4 miles off shore, and back. How can you not be excited to swim over brilliant colored coral and lave fingers where Honu turtles meander and pink-tailed Humuhumus flit.  There are spinner dolphins and humpback whales, manta rays and psychedelic colored parrotfish and schools of yellow tangs. I guess I’m really jazzed about anything ocean related, really. I surf. I’m learning kite surfing now. The ocean is my happy place. 

Maybe one other story, which is a little more humorous, I accidentally (well, kind of sort of) took my parents to a nude beach on Maui. I wrote about it in the New York Times (https://nyti.ms/2TRWlrF).

Mr. Knight, you are a writer. Can you talk about what you are doing and share any stories about The Writer’s Legal GPS?

I’m currently working on two projects – a final draft of a near-future thriller, The Gene Pool (book one of The Residuum Trilogy), and an essay about an encounter with a shark during one of my swims across the ‘Au’Au Channel. 

I recently published The Writer’s Legal GPS: A guide for navigating the legal landscape of publishing for writers, agents, editors, and publishers who want to understand the legal risks and rights associated with publishing.  It was a by-product of my publishing law blog at Sidebar Saturdays, which I designed to help fellow writers with questions about publishing law or legal scenarios in their fiction. It was my way to give back to the writing community.

What part of the writing business do you like the most?

Creating interesting characters and plots that entertain readers. If I can do that, I’m a happy camper.

Mr. Knight, what genre of entertainment you are into now or would you say you want to be a part of in the future? The idea is to set goals outside of this current environment.

I would love to write a movie script and be part of a writing team for a television/cable series, especially if the material starts from one of my books. Awesome all around.

Mr. Knight, during this time of lockdown, these interviews are to help people find new books and movies, etc. What has been your entertainment or what books/movies would you suggest.

There are so many, since we’ve been in hunker-in-the-bunker mode FOREVER!  I have a slew of books and movies, some old (because why not watch great movies again or reread entertaining books twice), some new. 

I would say: RuPaul’s Drag Race;  Michele Obama’s book Becoming (the audio book since she narrates it) was inspiring; Madeleine Albright’s book Fascism: A Warning (the audio book too because she narrates it) was particularly relevant and a scary assessment of where we’ve been lately in the political spheres; Harry Potter movies and books because I’m obsessed with them and love getting lost in the magical world; any Jack Reacher book; The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker; Jack Ryan cable series; Queen’s Gambit; Ted Lasso; The Hunger Games (books and movies); Twilight series; Middlesex; She’s Come Undone; Presumed Innocent; The Devil in the White City; The Devil Wear Prada (the movie…haven’t read the book); Notting Hill (I’m a sucker for a good love story); Fried Green Tomatoes; Jason Bourne series; latest James Bond movies; and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (I know, little cheesy but ‘eh, the kids are entertaining).

Whew…that’s a list. But you asked.

Mr. Knight, please tell my reader about what you have been doing recently.

My philosophy is to learn something new every three years. Right not, it’s kite surfing. One word: AWESOME.

Mr. Knight, the classic question: what charity do you support? Can you provide a link to it and explain your reason for supporting that charity?

ASPCA and PETCO Love (formerly PETCO Foundation, my law school friend is the current President). I’m a dog lover. We have a Ridgeback name Jack, 110 lbs., and he keeps us running.  

Mr. Knight, what is your dream project for writing about or writing partner? 

Harvey’s Grace. The book follows two intertwining stories, past and present, about one woman’s relentless quest for love, and another’s attempt to avoid it at all costs.  The story is loosely based on my grandmother. I love writing about her. I’m on a second draft. The book has been sitting while I finish The Residuum Trilogy. I’m itching to inhabit Grace’s world again.

Mr. Knight, what question do you wish I had asked? And what is the answer to that question?

Where do you write and what is your process?

Some writers are known for idiosyncratic writing spots and behaviors. I am not one. I don’t write in a bathtub with the company of a parrot, or in a parked car inspired by the horns and grinding gears of traffic. If there is anything peculiar about where and how I write, it is this. I need consistency, a clean workspace, and to write in a place that boosts creativity, which is why I gravitate to Maui.

When I’m on island, my body hits the reset button and I feel uninhibited. My desk is one of two places, the dining room table or a table outdoors on the lanai. Our home is small but the ocean view is big, overlooking three islands – Lanai, Kahoolawe, and Molokai – and a crescent-shaped volcanic crater, Molokini.

My day starts early (5 am) with a meditation and then exercise, usually an ocean swim or surfing. The water provides time to mull over a plot or develop characters. It sets the tone and creative flow for the day. If I avoid emails and social media when I return, I easily slide into writing and inhabit my fictional worlds. If I can’t exercise first, I’m less focused. I don’t feel centered. My productivity goes down. So, I guess maybe I do write in a bathtub, the ocean.

But I don’t have a parrot. Instead, I am joined by loquacious mynahs, zebra doves, and egrets. Evenings I tend to take off. I’ll cook, read, watch a movie, or visit with friends. I can often be found playing ping-pong with my friend Dorothy, a 94-year-old legend on the island who I’m embarrassed to say kicks my tush. There are times when I get a second wind and write into the night. Then my companions become the geckos and wine to counteract all the caffeine from the day.