Interview with mystery author Matthew O’Connell

author Matthew O’Connell joins me
today. We’re chatting about his new suspense, Spirit of the Fox.
This is Matthew O’Connell’s second novel, following
on the success of his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Painter of Time.
He is an award-winning entrepreneur, and holds a Ph.D. in psychology. He splits
his time between San Diego and Lake Tahoe with his wife Mari, two dogs and two
Please tell us about your
current release.
In Spirit of the Fox divorced parents David
and Chieko search for their missing daughter amidst an epidemic of suspicious
suicides that baffle detectives.
Meiko Wright wants nothing to do with the mother who
abandoned her nine years ago. Spending a year in Tokyo, where her mother lives,
won’t change that fact. But when she takes a nasty fall in a Shinto temple, she
wakes with no memory of her mother… or anything of her past life.
After years apart, Meiko’s mother Chieko is determined
to make up for lost time. But when her daughter mysteriously disappears, Chieko
promises she won’t lose her again. Along the trail of clues, the detectives
working Meiko’s case discover a pair of suicides linked by a strange seductress
and matching fox tattoos. Afraid her daughter may be next, Chieko visits a
local shaman who tells her dark spirits could make her attempt for a rescue
With time running out, Meiko and her family must
uncover the mystery of her mental captivity before she loses herself and her
only way home forever.
Spirit of the Fox is a cerebral
mystery novel at the intersection of science, spirituality, and folklore.
What inspired you to write
this book?
I love Japan, the culture, people, and food, and
I’ve always had an interest in Japanese folklore. So, it was natural for me to
set this story in Japan. I also wanted to write a story that raises questions
about science vs. mythology, alternative explanations, etc.
Excerpt from Spirit of the Fox:
Wherever she looked it seemed like there was nothing but hostile
faces. Neighbors who had turned against her family. Their faces were a
distorted blur of hatred and anger flickering on a backdrop of black smoke and
orange-red flames. They looked like demons. They were taunting her family,
yelling horrible things about her and her mother. She huddled close to her
mother, who pleaded and begged with the people who used to be their friends but
who long ago had turned against her and her family. Her mother sobbed and
sheltered her and her younger brother the best she could against a sea of
hostility. She held tightly onto both her brother’s and her mother’s hands. Her
father carried an enormous canvas bag on his shoulders. It contained all the
essentials they could take from their house before the neighbors set it ablaze.
He had a look of both resignation and defiance. Resignation about the
inevitability of having to leave their home and their village mixed with a
defiance that would over time grow into vengeance.
They slowly made their way out of town while the jeering mob
followed them and hurled invectives at them, vile, hurt- ful words that stung
like the acrid smoke from the burning remains of their home. She was confused
and frightened. Her little brother was crying, and so was her mother. She tried
to be strong, like her father. Gradually, as they came into the fields that
surrounded the village, along the dirt paths that led to the rice fields and
then to the forest, the sounds of the villagers died down, and they were left
with the sound of their own feet, marching steadily on the dusty path. She had
no idea where they were headed but was confident that her father had a plan and
would deliver them somewhere safe where they could start their life again. The
past year, and especially the past three months, had been a literal hell on
earth. Anywhere must be better than Izumo. At least, that’s what she hoped.
What exciting story are you
working on next?
I’m in the midst of writing a ghost story.
When did you first consider
yourself a writer?
Over the past 25 years I’ve written a lot (200+) of
technical articles, journals, white papers, etc. in the field of
industrial/organizational psychology. about 10 years ago, I realized that
writing non-fiction was not really where my passion lay. I’m an avid reader,
mostly fiction, and I thought that it would be fun to start working on writing
fiction. I also knew that I would be selling my company at some point and
wanted something to do when that part of my life ended. I needed something that
would challenge me both creatively and intellectually. My first book, The
Painter of Time, took me almost 6 years to complete. This second novel took me
almost 4.
Do you write full-time? If
so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how
do you find time to write?
I try to write fairly consistently. In his book, On
Writing, Stephen King said that to be a serious writer, you need to work at
least 2 hours a day on your craft. I don’t quite live up to that and I do take
breaks between novels. But I do try and work consistently on writing, doing
research, mapping out the storyline, etc.
Since selling my business
in May, 2018 I have plenty of time to write. But sometimes having a lot of time
doesn’t make you any more productive. I spend a lot of my days doing yoga, working
out, hiking, playing golf, paddle boarding, and reading.
What would you say is your
interesting writing quirk?
I like to include cats in my novels. I find cats to
be fascinating creatures and it’s fun to get them involved, one way or another,
in my books.
As a child, what did you
want to be when you grew up?
When I was very young, e.g. in nursery school, I
wanted to be a fireman or a policeman, because I liked the uniforms. Then, I
wanted to be a professional baseball player, a catcher in fact. Reality set in
and when I went to college I was convinced that I wanted to be a doctor,
specifically an orthopedic surgeon. I realized I didn’t enjoy being around
hospitals or sick people, which somehow led me to becoming an I/O psychologist.
Anything additional you want
to share with the readers?
I enjoy cooking a great deal. My wife tells me that
we only need about three channels on our TV, with sports and the Food Network
being two of them. She’s probably right. Food, and the enjoyment of food,
typically plays a part in my novels. That’s definitely the case in Spirit of
the Fox. In the ghost story I’m working on the main character is a chef.
Thanks for joining me today!

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