Three Books

I asked for (and received) a couple of books for last Xmas: When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, and The Rigor of Angels by William Egginton. The first is a wonderful collection (sometimes interwoven) about the weird and wonderful (but weird) world of of physicists, mathematicians and chemists as they flirt with madness trying to come to terms with things like the would-you-believe basics of quantum theory. The latter is about the intersection of three great minds — philosopher Immanuel Kant, physicist Werner Heisenberg, and author Jorge Luis Borges — and how their shared interests in the struggle to understand how it is that we can’t always comprehend certain aspects of the world — were informed. I should mention that I received a third book at Xmas, from my partner, who thought I would like a collection of short fiction and essays from…Jorge Luis Borges.

Let’s just say that it’s been an intense ride, twisting my mind not only around the paradoxical ideas that quantum theory suggests, but also some strong narration and themes that rise from well-drawn portraits, the intimate (and wonderfully weird) lives of otherwise brilliant people.

Those first two books, by Labatut and Egginton, are very well done and I highly recommend them, by the way.

Speaking of Borges, I am truly amazed sometimes at his ability to distill entire universes with such economy; some of his work left me flabbergasted and dizzy. Some of it can also be front-loaded with a lot of geographical or historical weight and so it’s not exactly “diving in” literature; it’s a little like going to the gym, to be honest. But boy, the rewards.


Interview: The First Thirty, courtesy of Junction Reads

This is super last-minute, and I apologize for the late notice, however tomorrow (!) I’m going to be interviewed live (!) on Instagram. Junction Reads is an established (since 2014) Toronto reading series that brings attention to so many great authors. I’m going to take part in Junction Reads’ cool offshoot, The First Thirty, which is designed around speaking with authors about — you guessed it — how the first thirty pages of their published work came about.

From their website:

Writers know, and readers too, the first pages are the most important in any novel, memoir or story. And I want to talk about it.

The First Thirty is an Instagram Live series where I will meet authors for a quick chat (30 minutes) to talk about writing, and how they shape those first pages to be a warm welcome to the reader; to include the hook that makes a reader want to keep reading, and to give us the characters we either want to love or really hate.

You can hear me talk about my latest novel, Radioland, tomorrow (Monday, May 27th) night @ 7pm EST on Instagram by tuning-in to @junctionreads!

UPDATE: You can watch the interview here. I’m really impressed with the depth of Alison’s questions and if this is the last bit of promotion I do for Radioland then I’m happy to have it be this.


Hello, it’s summer


I’d like to enjoy myself this summer.

The city is alive, certainly this year more than last. I get the sense that this is the year people chose to figure out what “normal” was going to be. With the recent municipal election results, though I will admit I didn’t vote for Chow, it feels as if I can relax a little; at least one form of government has hope of improving things, depending chiefly upon Chow’s relationship with city council. I’m pragmatic. I’m not looking for magic wands, or accepting magic beans.

I’ve been working steadily on Book Three. It’s in a really good place, and if I’ve made progress over the last six months, a good part is thanks to feedback from a couple of early readers. This afternoon, I finished making revision notes based upon my reading of the latest draft, and I’m hoping — if stars align — I might have it completed for the autumnwinter. Feeling very good about it. It’s propulsive, well-plotted and, most of all, I gave myself license to write something that incorporated more satire. I wrote the first draft in the first eight months of the pandemic, and I needed an excuse to allow people to be amused. Being able to make people laugh is something I would love to do because laughter allows us to be so vulnerable. And because there were so many terrible things going on in the world, I wanted to spin a tale that, somewhere between the encroaching darkness of a movie like Brazil and the fantastical energy of a book like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, catches the reader off-guard with an certain amount satirical flair. It’s been a joy to work on (though I’d like to get it off my plate) and I appreciate the support from friends and loved ones as I keep at it.


The Big November Update

Holy cow, what a month. I’m sitting here at a sports bar (using their wifi) half-exhausted from everything that’s transpired since my last post here.

me at the launch

The launch for RADIOLAND went great and was well attended!

You can stream my interview with CBC Toronto’s Gill Deacon to assess whether I made any sense (I think I did, though I was very nervous being on live radio).

Speaking of radio interviews, I just completed a wonderful interview with Jamie Tennant for CFMU’s Get Lit. It’s not going to be available until mid-December, but I’ll let y’all know when that happens!

Last but not least…I have a giveaway of sorts. For my launch I decided to do something special and had custom guitar picks made, which I distributed to those who purchased my book. Guess what? I have some left over! So, while quantities last (I’ve never typed that before and it feels weird), if you get in touch and provide a photo of your copy of RADIOLAND (or proof of purchase) I will mail you one of these! Seriously! You can either DM via Twitter (@heymattcahill) or you can email me (matt at mattcahill dot ca).

I’m planning on taking a little time off to regroup (and catch up on my reading!) but I’m planning on getting back into Book Three in December and hopefully deliver the goods in 2023. Take care, and thanks for popping by!


Wr*ting Advice: A Slight Return

I’ve written before about writing advice. I’ve even created a somewhat cheeky sub-title for certain articles (Wr*ting Advice) about writing advice.

Let’s review the stuff I hate:

    • writing advice ends up being vague because when you write writing advice for a general audience you’re either speaking to someone more advanced (and leaving beginners out) or speaking to someone about basics (and leaving the more advanced out).
    • same as above, but with respect to what type of writing we are talking about; in general, when I’m writing about writing advice I’m writing about writing fiction (though I’m sure there are applications well beyond), but even then, what kind of fiction? Highbrow literary fiction? Genre (romance/horror/SFF)? Something in-between?
    • perhaps most hated of all is the pervasiveness of writing advice, which seems to have become its own cottage industry (not, I wish to clarify, writing workshops, which can be worth their weight in gold). When I see interviews with animators are they asked what advice they have for other animators? No. When I see interviews with performing artists (dancers, singers) are they asked what advice they have for other performing artists? No. Now, I’m not thick, I get it: writing is easier to access (all you need at bare minimum of cost is a pencil and a piece of paper) and so there are always going to be people trying it out, which is cool. It’s the disparate mess those seeking direction have to wade through that I feel bad about.

This all said, I’d like to mention a book that I found very helpful at a time when I decided to begin taking writing — the labour of, as well as the business of — seriously. I’m not sure whether I would qualify it as a “self-help” book, however it’s likely to be categorized as such. It’s called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, written by David Bayles and Ted Orland. The book was inspired by what its authors saw around them as they entered their 30s, namely that their artist peers were dropping out. The book is, in a sense, an examination of why that was, and delves into matters both practical and psychological without being overly technical in either area.

To this day, I use some of the book’s observations about perfectionism and artistic process in my work with clients (artmakers or not). If there’s one thing I walked away with personally (and I’m happy to say I walked away with several observations), it’s the importance of not getting hung up on any one project to the detriment of others (present or future). When you’re a beginner it’s easy to want cling to any proof that you’re good; this especially holds true for those without the means/opportunities to attend a writing workshop or join a writer’s group. The problem with this — especially with more ambitious (in scope and/or length) projects — is that one might be tempted to continue working on a particular project for a very, very long time (or submitting it in vain to every. single. publisher) and leaving other ideas by the wayside in the process. It’s not about whether that original idea is good/not-good, it’s about how much of your creative life (which, for those of us who need to pay rent for a living doing other things, is finite) you’re expending on one single thing as opposed to moving on to the next idea and, along the way, seeing progress of a different kind; going from “this is good” to “this is different/more advanced.”

It was first published in 1985. I read it in 2005, and I’m sure it’s just as useful for someone in 2021. If you decide to buy this book (or any), please consider purchasing from a retailer who isn’t Amazon, thank you.

One thing I will also say, specifically about any sort of guide or self-help book, is that its inspirational value is typically a combination of its contents and where you are. It can be a bit like match-making: someone you meet when you’re 23 might not be a good fit, however they might be a perfect fit when you’re 31. This brings me back to what I was saying in the beginning: when seeking writing advice, having an understanding of where you are is just as important as whatever ballyhoo’d resource people are recommending.


Radioland Update!

Hello all! I am extremely pleased to announce that RADIOLAND will be published in Fall 2022, with Wolsak & Wynn. It’s been a long haul with this one, and while I still have a fair amount of work ahead of me, it’s gratifying to know that not only will this book have a home, but that it will be with the same great team, including editor Paul Vermeersch, as THE SOCIETY OF EXPERIENCE.

(This wouldn’t have been possible without my agent, Kelvin Kong at K2 Literary.)

Here’s a summary of RADIOLAND (from my author site):


Kris is an alt-rock musician who abruptly drops out of his popular band to rake over an unprocessed trauma from his childhood; Jill is an outcast who operates in the shadows of the city, cursed with a dangerous type of magic that draws mysterious strangers to her. By chance, they start a correspondence with each other and a strange relationship begins – one that coils around their lives like a macabre spell. As they share their stories with one another, they each approach the source of their misery and risk losing themselves, even their lives, in a darkness that seems destined for them.

    Everything Jill senses tells an intense story, so she numbs herself with alcohol to keep her head clear, hoping she’ll meet someone who can tell her how she came to be the way she is. Kris struggles to maintain his grip on reality as he pulls apart the threads that make up his identity. Working through fallen mentors, splintered identities, and substance dependency, the two of them try to help each other make sense of their lives, though it may ultimately reveal one of them as a serial murderer.

Radioland explores the absurdity of fame, the toxicity of trauma, and the morbid dangers unearthed as we seek a greater understanding of ourselves.

Radioland is Matt Cahill’s second novel, and steps further into the metaphysical social realism he has employed in his short fiction as well as in his debut novel, The Society of Experience, which Harper’s Bazaar magazine picked as one of the best of fall 2015.


Gladstone Press

Two years ago, my partner, Ingrid, launched Gladstone Press. The purpose? To reissue classic books (or books that should be considered classics if they aren’t already household names) with modern design and high quality materials. Both the media and the general public have been very receptive to the idea.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Ingrid, if you don’t know, is one of the top book designers around, and so Gladstone Press is a natural fit for her, and I’m always impressed by her dedication and commitment to each title that she selects.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Especially in light of how hard publishing has been hit by COVID, it hasn’t been an easy path lately for publishers or indie bookstores, but I’m happy to see people are still ordering her titles.

The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford

If you haven’t figured out your summer reading list yet, check out her site. You can order direct from Ingrid or you can ask your local bookstore to order a copy for you.