All The King’s Men is being written by an incredibly talented and diverse team of writers from around the world. The stories in the anthology are informed by their unique perspective on the world, and their own fascinating experiences.
We here at anthology HQ want to celebrate these writers and their experiences. We not only want to support their other creative endeavours, but we also want to give you some insight into them as people and as creators, and to give you a chance to follow these great writers beyond this anthology.
Today’s featured writer is Matthew Kocanda, a writer and artist based in Indiana.
Please, tell us about yourself.
To put it simply, I’ve been intimately attached to art for the majority of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of simple drawings I did of things I was interested in as a child. I would draw pictures of The Simpsons, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario characters, among countless other cartoon and video game characters. In high school, I started creating my own work that aided in the initial development of my style. However, my junior year of college at the American Academy of Art in Chicago is where I really came to become the artist I am today. If it weren’t for the guidance from professors like Mat Barber-Kennedy, Tom Herzberg, Kristin Mount, and Rich Kryczka, I would have never created the art that I do today. My body of work takes heavy inspiration from nature, dreams, and the infinite void of space. Outside of painting and writing, I also pride myself in being a self-taught chef, I play hockey, write mediocre death metal, and enjoy de-stressing with a full night of raiding on Destiny with my friends.
How long have you been writing?
I became serious about my writing about five years ago. However, when I say “serious,” the extent of that is simply writing strange, abstract poetry and posting it on Tumblr. I had not entirely created a single body of work until getting into contact with Shane.
Who is your favourite writer, and why?
As clichéd as it sound, Kurt Vonnegut is easily my favourite writer. Something about the way he approached writing in an entirely off-the-cuff, unapologetic fashion had always resonated with me. In terms of writing style and formatting, I take heavy inspiration from the works of Chuck Palahniuk, Chuck Klosterman, and Mark Z. Danielewski.
What can you tell us about your writing process? Do you approach each project in the same way?
In a way, yes. I would describe my writing style as a sort of stream of consciousness. I don’t entirely plan anything out beforehand, and I typically just sit down and write the way I would speak. Obviously, when writing my addition to ATKM, I had to plan out the story and plot line more than I typically do, but when it came down to actually writing it out, the majority of it was simply purging my thoughts and emotions into a cohesive piece. I feel as though I approach each work in a similar fashion, however, the emotions behind everything can be wildly different.
Your story in All The King’s Men is a very distinctive piece entitled AMethYst, a fascinating piece in which the injudicious application of experimental technology causes the protagonist to doubt his grip on reality. Can you tell us what this story means to you and where it came from?
AMethYst was an interesting piece for me, primarily because I didn’t entirely have a plan for it aside from the general concept. The reason I decided to go the route of experimental technology which invariably caused the protagonist to lose his mind was simply because I could relate to that emotion. Not entirely the futuristic aspect, obviously, but simply that feeling that nothing is real and everything is simply an illusion. Right around the time I got into contact with Shane, a lot of elements of my life started to fall apart. During that time, I became reclusive and slightly paranoid of everything. When I started writing the story for AMethYst, I found it to be a great way to purge those detrimental feelings I was having in a productive and positive manner. While my paintings provided that as well, this was another outlet that allowed me to be more abstract with the way I felt, while still creating something that had more narrative to it than my paintings could.
In addition to being a writer, you are also an accomplished watercolour artist, and identify painting and design as your primary passion. Do you feel that producing art makes you a better writer, or do you see them as distinct and separate pursuits?
I have thought about this extensively over the past year, and I believe that my writing and my paintings are somewhat divided and distinct. I don’t entirely approach the two in different ways, but there is a difference in the way I view the two. My paintings feel like a way that I can expose parts of myself in a more secretive and hidden fashion. The whole “hidden in plain view” mentality. I paint scenes and images that express the emotion I want, but in a way that isn’t entirely connected with reality. With my writing, however, I feel that I create something that is more linear with our true existence and dimension. Even in the case of my story for ATKM, I feel that it has a greater sense of humanity, and it allows me to create a character that can speak and exist and connect with the audience.
You’ve recently released a very limited print of your latest painting, æther, a piece you describe as your “most personal and favourite piece of art to date.” What can you tell us about it and the backstory it represents, please?
æther is a piece that I have been wanting to create a for a few years now. Without giving away too much, this painting provides a back story and a reason for a recurring character in my body of work. This little purple ghost that appears in many paintings with a seemingly menial reason for existing is actually explained with this painting. To put it simply, æther is the constantly evolving reflection of myself, and the way it has transformed over the years is a representation of how I have changed during that timeline. This is a simple explanation, and there is a lot more to the story, but overall, that is why this piece is so important to me. It was one of the few times I felt like I truly poured every piece of myself into a single image.
Are you working on or planning anything else at the moment?
As of right now, æther and AMethYst were my main focus in terms of writing and art. But moving forward, I plan on finally putting together my collection of strange poetry to release as a book called Cracked Hands and Too Much Time to Think. This has been an ongoing project for roughly three years that I could never be fully content with, but am starting to be genuinely happy with. For paintings, I never really plan anything out aside for deeply personal works like æther, so it will end up even being a surprise for me on what my next painting will be.
Where would you like to see yourself and your writing career in five or ten years’ time?
In all honesty, I never even thought I would get to this point in terms of having a piece of my writing published, so my involvement in ATKM has already exceeded all expectations I had for myself as a writer. My goal for the future is to continue refining my ability to write narrative work, hopefully be published a few more times, and eventually release my own independent body of work. Oh, and working with Shane again would be absolutely incredible.