Everyone knows of the quiet, mindful observer who is the epitome of a shy introvert. Maybe a little nerdy and definitely unique, these are the people to “watch” for, the ones who are setting their next goal, or in Matt Coleman’s case, plotting his next mystery novel.
Coleman is a Texarkana Native and is a single father to two daughters who have inherited his sense of humor. He graduated from Texas A&M University-Texarkana with an M.A. in English, where he also worked with the East Texas Writing Project. After college, he spent five years teaching 7th grade English in the rural town of Redwater, Texas, later returning to Texarkana to teach for another four years at Arkansas High School, his alma mater.
As a writer, Coleman has always been inspired by authors such as Dashiell Hammett, Walter Mosley, and Flannery O’Connor. His writings have appeared in various publications including apt Literary Magazine and Shotgun Honey. Coleman also spent three years as a writer for the comedy podcast, The City Life Supplement, based out of Chicago, Illinois.
Outside of his inspiration from other influential authors, Coleman uses his real-life experiences to capture his audience’s attention, making his characters relatable through comedy and tragedy. In fact, many of his characters are based on people Coleman taught or knows through his personal life.
Juggling Kittens,Coleman’s debut novel, came out in 2016 from Pandamoon Publishing and contains various elements from his experiences as a teacher and the students he met during his tenure.
“My years of teaching have been the perfect breeding ground for characters,” explained Coleman. “I taught anywhere between one hundred and two hundred students a year for about ten years. That’s about fifteen hundred unique personalities from all walks of life,” he emphasized.
Coleman built genuine relationships with his pupils, trying to understand what kind of instruction they needed from him. He recalls reading their essays and papers that described their life experiences, growing with adoration for these people with each assignment as he learned more about them. Juggling Kittens became a personal letter to his former students and people he knew during that point in his life.
For Coleman’s second book, Graffiti Creek, he incorporated current events into the narrative rather than personal experiences from his hometown, making the novel more universally relatable. Much of his inspiration stemmed from the Me Too movement and Black Lives Matter protests.
Coleman caught himself watching North By Northwest one night after some introspective thought about his personal privilege compared to minorities and women in America.
“It struck me that this feeling of injustice and terror and constant dread felt by Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) in the film is not dissimilar to the fear marginalized people in our country feel all the time.”
It didn’t take Coleman long to determine his novel needed to address the issue of marginalized people in the form of a comedy-crime thriller, his own personal signature. His intention was to help the reader feel empathy for his characters, characters that reflect real-life issues that people encounter daily and should address. This formula became the perfect dark comedy writing for Coleman to release.
There is a recurring theme of exploring human nature in Coleman’s writing, where he leaves the reader asking questions about life, the paradigms and prejudices people may hold. He traverses subjects such as social injustices, ethics, heuristic living, and death in a way that eases the reader into the thought, as if they are carefully led down a path to arrive at the conclusion.
Coleman has already wrote a 3rd novel that commenced as a gift to his girlfriend, Sam. The plot consists of a boozy detective who loves to cuss and stir up trouble, later infiltrating her local Junior League by transforming it into a successful drug ring.
There is an obvious ability for Coleman to intertwine comedy and horror or the taboo in a way that is reader friendly and lighthearted. Often relatable, his settings are in
“anywhere” America and question the logic of the American dream under some particularly extreme circumstances.
His experience in writing for The City Life Supplement, contributing monthly, and his three novels have enabled Coleman to venture into projects like play writing. He has teamed up recently longtime friend Matt Lyle to create Raptured: A Sex Farce at the End of the World, expected to release at Theater 3 on Dallas in April 25, 2019.
The premise for the play is based in Uncertain, Texas, in Third Baptist Church, where members believe the rapture is imminent in only a few hours notice. People either prepare for Heaven or indulge in life’s sins.
Lyle and Coleman have known each other since they were in their twenties, like much of his other relationships and life experiences, his with Lyle has proven to be creatively fruitful. These relationships embodied in Coleman’s writings are a way to commemorate those memories and feelings. Everyone Coleman encounters provides some learning opportunity, an opportunity for him to develop a new character, a new story.
These writings aren’t thrown together on whim, rather they are heavily plotted, often months on end to plan and complete..
“ I do an outline, sometimes using big paper on my bedroom walls. I will walk myself through the story, chapter by chapter, going back over it again and again until it all makes sense. Then I will work to make sure each chapter has enough to sustain it. “
Once Coleman has completed all of those tasks, he sets a timeline to complete the novel, sometimes writing 3 or more chapters a week. Currently, Coleman is completing 2 books a year in addition to working full-time for Texarkana, Arkansas School Department as Director of School Improvement for the high school.
Coleman’s continued work with Texarkana students and involvement with the community provides ample inspiration for the local author. Not to mention, he is still holding onto childhood memories like attempting to bring back John Wayne from the dead and having his cousins use him as bait for Bigfoot. The perfect recipe to continue his dark comedy series.
His novel is available for purchase on Amazon and on Coleman’s website.