An Interview with Matejs Kalns
Posted on April 2, 2023
by Jeyran Main
1-When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Probably very late on, I’ve always written stories from a very young age, scribbled little ideas and scenes. I didn’t fully commit to writing a novel until I was in my late twenties. It was a very nerve-wracking experience, but my debut book received a lot of positive feedback, so it’s been very encouraging and likely gave me the confidence to keep writing more.
2-How do you schedule your life when you’re writing?
I work full-time and have a young family, so that comes with a lot of responsibilities. However, my ideal writing set-up would be getting up at around 6 a.m., having a couple of espressos, and then writing/researching for the next four or five hours. I usually ease into things, re-reading and editing from the day before—it’s almost like a train slowly pulling out of the station—and then there’s a certain rhythm once I’m back in that creative world. Writing first thing in the morning is an important part of the process for me.
3-What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I need absolute peace and quiet when I’m writing. I’m always in my office, and I’ll usually have some old jazz playing in the background if I’m researching or editing. But if I’m in the creative part of the process, I actually find music rather distracting.
4-How did you get your book published?
FriesenPress has published both of my novels, and it’s been a good fit so far—I have very limited time for marketing, and retaining full creative control is very important for me. I’ve had a couple of smaller publishers offer contracts that I found rather restrictive. However, I’m considering looking for an agent for the next work, which I’m currently researching and developing.
5-Where did you get your information or idea for your book?
For Baltic Shadows, this book is a sort of homage to my passion for film noir. I’ve always wanted to write a story like this, full of mystery and murky characters in dark corners. Setting the tale in the 1980s as the Soviet Union crumbled seemed a perfect fit. A lot of my research comes from history books and articles, along with interviews. However, the ideas seem to fall from the sky; I’m not sure how or why they appear!
6-What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I don’t know if this is taboo for writers to admit, but I’m an obsessive movie fan. I find a lot of inspiration in good films, great acting performances, snappy dialogue, and beautiful direction. I often have actors and actresses who become muses in one way or another. I also spend a lot of my free time either reading, cooking, or with my family.
7-What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Reading the history of this period, of any period, is always fascinating. There was a great deal I learned diving into how the USSR slowly eroded in the 1980s and arguably long before. There are so many incredible stories of bravery when reading about refugees, dissidents, and ordinary people that lived and persevered under the Iron Curtain. It’s hard to imagine the strength of character, so many individuals had, fighting against the system at that time.
8-Is there anything you would like to confess about as an author?
I don’t think I have any confessions other than that I am never happy with the final product. Meaning that I could probably keep editing and tinkering for the rest of the time, nothing is ever perfect, and it’s difficult to let go and finally publish.
9-As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I think, more than anything, I probably wanted to be Indiana Jones : )
10-How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, though obviously, we all prefer positive feedback rather than negative. Usually, I just think the work is not for them. Many genres don’t appeal to me, and many incredible books are within those genres. So, that’s often how I look at any “bad” reviews—maybe my style of writing just isn’t for them, and that’s okay! Find your genre, and read what you enjoy.
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Good review, and an interesting period & setting for a novel. Yes, I can believe this story would have called for more than the “average” amount of back-up research.