Rob Matthews

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world, starting with ROB.


 

The Indigo Bookshop, Toronto, Canada: Bill Bryson gets everywhere!

Rob, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
I’m a freelance editor. I wanted the Betterwrite website to be a shop window for our work. A designer friend set it up – I just supplied the words.

Tell us about your work.
I’ve done loads of non-fiction edits and proofreads.

What work are you doing at the moment?
Mainly fiction. And I work with other editors. When a job comes up I think: who’s the best person to do this one?

What do you like about your work?
Working from home. Long breaks with tea and cake.
And writers appreciate what we do to improve their work.

What don’t you like?
Correcting the same old mistakes in writing that come up time and time again.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
Fiction writers who don’t use contractions in their dialogue, with lines like “Do not go there.” No one speaks like that in real life. We say “Don’t go there.”

What has pleased you in your work?
I complimented a writer and they texted back: “I’m on the train. In my head I’m doing somersaults … your comments mean so much – I was scared you would tell me I was crap!” It’s nice to encourage someone. Writers need encouragement, like we all do.

What didn’t please you?
I worked for ages on a difficult edit, and the author ‘ghosted’ – just disappeared, and stopped communicating. I only got half my fee.

What amused you?
I told a writer to cut a gratuitous sex scene. His wife emailed to say: “I’ve been telling him to cut out those sex scenes for ages but he won’t listen to me – he’ll do what you say because you’re his editor!”

Whose writing do you enjoy?
I love Bill Bryson’s books.

Favourite title?
Notes From a Small Island, describing his adventures as an American arriving in the UK in the 1970s. He’s updated it in The Road to Little Dribbling.

What do you like about Bill Bryson’s writing?
I love his dry wit. He describes life’s simple pleasures: a nice cup of tea, a walk in the country, a lovely view. Then he catches you out with a shaft of dark humour.

Give us a quote.
At a tourist venue, he’s surrounded by a coach party of noisy, selfish old people. Then he adds: “I smiled benignly and stood back, comforted by the thought that soon they would be dead.”

What’s your favourite word?
Discombobulated. It just sounds great.

Any other quotes?
“…the multitudinous seas incarnadine”, from Macbeth. Wow, Shakespeare’s language is like music!

Favourite saying?
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
To enjoy our garden – it’s been a jungle for years.

How will you realise this ambition?
By following my wife’s instructions obediently. That works well in most areas of life, I find.

What have you learned about life?
It’s challenging and messy, but good overall. The first 70 years is just the warm-up act.

What have you learned about people?
It’s best to treat them just as you want them to treat you. (But I often forget!)

Tell us something people may not know about you:
I love World War Two Jeeps, and my younger son loves military tanks. We had a great day at the Yorkshire War Experience, watching these old vehicles in action.

Finish with a story, true or false, with a beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words:
My life was going nowhere. I went to a ‘deliverance service’ and met the love of my life. We’ve been married 17 years. We’ve done a low-maintenance garden together! (29)

Posted in Q & A.

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