T. Mattison is an author and filmmaker who wrote the screenplay for and
directed the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s The
Gilded Six-Bits, which aired on Showtime. His debut novel, Unsigned
Hype, has been optioned, and he is currently writing the film
adaptation of the book. Mattison has taught literary criticism at the
College of New Rochelle, film production at Brooklyn College, and
advanced directing and actor coaching at Regent University. Snitch
is his second novel.
releases this month, has received praise from some of the most
acclaimed movie producers of our time, such as Lisa Cortes (Precious)
and Stephanie Allain Bray (Hustle & Flow)
and has also received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.
What is even more fantastic about Mattison’s success is that he writes
for Revell, a Christian publisher.
This month Christian
Fiction Online Magazine speaks with Mattison about Snitch,
a writer’s responsibility, and what defines Christian fiction. This is
the end of our Thrilling the Romantic Soul Series.
statement: “It is the writer’s responsibility to present both sides and
let the audience indentify and become the protagonist.”
The reporter who wrote the story
misquoted me on this. What I said was that it is the writer’s
responsibility to present both sides and let the audience determine
what they think. I went on to say that despite the appearance of
objectivity, the writer still influences the audience’s sentiments
through the use of the mechanics of storytelling. I went on to explain
that audiences emotionally identify with the protagonist, and at a
certain point audience members become the
protagonist and have the same wants and objectives as the protagonist.
Suspense is the emotional space between the audience’s intense desire
for the protagonists to achieve their goal and their pronounced fear
that the protagonist will not achieve it.
Snitch is the
story of an overnight bus driver who witnesses a crime and the moral
dilemma he faces as he decides whether or not he will keep silent about
what he saw to protect his job and his past, or whether he will talk
and risk his life and his family.
Snitch’s spiritual takeaway?
The spiritual take away for Snitch
is that nothing can happen in the universe without God’s approval.
Translation: God is absolutely sovereign in the kingdoms of men.
You stated the
goal of Snitch was “to go into that world
and communicate God’s point of view in that setting. What is God’s
sovereignty in that environment? What novels have exemplified this
statement for you?
God’s sovereignty shows up in
many ways in Andre’s, the protagonist, world. At the end of the story
it is apparent that all of the things that happened to him—the good,
the bad, and the heinous—were providential and part of an intricately
conceived plan that ultimately benefits everyone around him and
restores an entire community.
authors or stories helped you to create
I set out to write a novel like
Nathan McCall’s Them, which presented a realistic,
diverse African American community that featured black people from all
different walks of life. I lived in Harlem for many years, and what is
striking about Harlem is that you can have a PhD living in the same
neighborhood as a hustler who flouts the law. That creates the
potential for rich character interaction, and it is something that I
set out to create with Snitch. Another book that
influenced the writing of Snitch was Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire
of the Vanities. That novel did a superb job of showing what
happens when characters from completely different worlds collide.
Haley was a singular
inspiration through Roots and The
Autobiography of Malcolm X. And although they are not
authors, I am greatly inspired by the Cohen Brothers. They have a
definitive style and voice in their films that is quirky, dark, and, at
times, comedic. Also, I’m exceptionally competitive, so anything that
is currently hot in popular culture fires my creativity. I view
anything in the zeitgeist as what I’m competing against.
difference between writing, songwriting, and novel writing?
Beyond the tools of the medium
and how they are used to express your creativity, I don’t see a
distinctive difference. I wrote music when I played the trumpet, and I
wrote rhymes and made beats when I was a rapper and hip hop producer.
Now I write novels, screenplays, and spoken word poetry. When I have an
idea and I sit down to write it or expand upon it through successive
drafts, I never consciously tell myself “Okay, Booker, you are going to
write thus and so, so you must think and approach it a certain way.” It
all starts with the idea for me.
Why should we
care about Andre’s story?
Andre’s story is important
because what he faces in Snitch graphically
illustrates the silent crisis we are facing in our country, but it is a
crisis that is not getting enough attention. Eighty-five percent of
metropolitan police departments consider witness intimidation a
problem. We only have to look south of our border to Mexico to see what
can happen when lawless elements overrun a system of government where
the participation of witnesses is paramount. And when you add the Blue
Wall of Silence, and what has happened to police officers who have
snitched on other cops, we have a perfect storm of elements that has
the power to fundamentally transform the civil order that most
Americans take for granted.
What is the
biggest obstacle you have faced as a published author?
The biggest obstacle that I have
faced is getting my stories to my audience. I haven’t yet discovered
the formula that causes my book to reach a critical mass.
definition of Christian fiction? How do you relate your books to that?
I would define Christian fiction
as fiction written specifically for a
Christian audience. Often, Christian fiction has, at its core, an
evangelical message where the protagonist gets “saved” or uses their
faith to overcome a significant obstacle. Using that definition, my
writing would fall outside of those parameters. I am an apologist at
heart, so my writing is geared toward answering the tough questions and
thorny issues that a non-Christian would grapple with. More to the
point, I would describe the two novels that I have written to date as
readers purchase Snitch and
invite you to speak at their event?
You can buy Snitch at
Booker can be contacted through his Website for
speaking engagements: www.bookertmattison.com.
Thanks so much for interviewing