Matt Mayr grew up in a small mining community north of Lake Superior, where he learned to hunt and fish from a very young age. He holds an Honours English Degree from York University, and attended the Humber School for Writers mentorship program twice. He has traveled extensively in India, Nepal, and South America, trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp, and paddling deep into the Amazon Basin. He lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter, where he is working on his next novel.
Matt, you’ve traveled extensively around the world to remote locations (Amazon Forests and the Mountains of Nepal) and yet the setting for your book Bad City is urban. What lead you to write about a dark urban landscape rather than a wilderness adventure?
A lot of the book takes place across the river from the city, and a lot of it is about escaping the city, and the evils of the city, so in a way it’s about the wilderness. You also have the Simon’s backstory, which takes place in South India and Northern Ontario, and so that is a prominent theme as well. Most of my writing borrows from my own life and experiences, my upbringing and my travels.
Greed plays a role in your book, as does the struggle for power. What do you think drives men like Eli to become leaders that rule with an iron fist?
I think most men/women in positions like that start out with good intentions, but along the way they lose their objectivity. Once you can’t see or understand anyone else’s point of view it becomes very easy to believe only in yourself, and that what you are doing is for the good of the people. Eli believes that what he is doing is the rightest thing there is.
Other characters, like Travis, Anton and Simon, what motivates them to do what they do?
Each has their own motivations, whether it’s revenge, love, jealousy or greed. They are driven to change their environment or to settle a score or to escape the darkness for a better place.
Bad City is a dark book. Dark times create dark responses in people of all types. Are the dark actions a response to the times, or do the dark times require dark actions to find the light?
A survivor finds a way to survive, and sometimes that requires a dark action. They are absolutely a response to the times.
Evolution takes on many forms—traits which help one species survive over another, or responses to environment which force species to evolve to survive. How do you feel humanity has evolved over the past 10k years, since the dawn of civilization? And, what sort of traits will we need to evolve to survive an apocalypse like you write about in Bad City?
Tenacity, the will to survive. I’ve been watching the show Naked and Afraid, which is actually about pure survival. A man and a woman dropped off in the middle of nowhere with nothing and they need to find water, food, shelter. It’s about as hardcore as you can get. And it’s really a little microcosm of what would happen in a major paradigm shift. Some people fold after a few days, others make it through the challenge. And usually it’s the person who talks the toughest and acts the most macho that gives up first. It really shows you how much mental toughness plays into survival.
What authors/books do you resonate with?
Right now I’m reading Karl Ove Knausgaard, and his attention to detail and life’s little truths just blows me away. To touch on profound universal themes so regularly in your writing is a real gift.
You are working on your next novel. Care to tell us a bit about it?
I’m currently shopping a literary fiction novel set in a logging town in Northern Ontario. Real Canadiana.