Shelter Island-based author Matthew Quinn Martin recently released Nightlife: Night Terrors. The book collects his horror novel, Nightlife, his companion novella, Nightlife: Hazardous Material, and an all-new entry in the series, Nightlife: As the Worm Turns. Focusing on supernatural horror and dark urban fantasy, Nightlife: Night Terrors is a strikingly good read and presents a fascinating mythology that Martin slowly develops over the three interrelated stories. Though the series is a hit with genre fans and has a devoted following, Martin initially struggled to find a home for it.
“I wrote it in 2009 and my agent sent it out. It got your typical ‘rave rejections’ and I decided to throw it in the trunk,” Martin says. It wasn’t until Simon & Schuster relaunched their mass-market imprint Pocket Star as a dedicated eBook platform, when they contacted Martin and were interested in publishing Nightlife. “Of course, there was a three-year gap so I looked at how clunky it was and worked very hard on it.”
Nightlife tells the story of Beth, a young woman who finds herself the reluctant ally of Jack, an enigmatic, brooding man who saves her during a terrifying attack by a vampire. But the grotesque, animalistic creatures in Nightlife are a (intentionally) far cry from the pretty, more sexualized, glamorous vampires presented in series like Twilight and True Blood. “The idea hit me when I was living in the city with my wife and I was walking to my crappy bartending job,” Martin notes. “The vampire thing was still very seductive and all that, and I thought to myself, ‘what if there’s something else at work?’ It was weird…when I first started writing, I thought it would be more comical, like a Joss Whedon [who created shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and directed the first two Avengers films] kind of thing with scrappy dialogue. But as I worked, it took a darker turn.”
While As the Worm Turns is a direct continuation of Beth and Jack’s story, Hazardous Material tells an entirely different tale set in the same world. Martin originally conceived Hazardous Material as an unrelated short story after learning of an urban legend involving “Polybius,” an old arcade machine from the ’80s that reportedly caused its users to experience seizures, violence and even suicide. “The story actually had an embryonic version of [a key character] from Nightlife, so I incorporated it and doubled the length,” Martin explains.
A Connecticut native, Martin set the series in the fictional city of New Harbor, a direct analog of New Haven. “If you set something in a [huge city like] New York or Chicago, it’s mythic, you can have fake streets. With New Haven, you start staging set pieces on someone’s property and it quickly becomes weird,” he says.
Martin moved to Shelter Island with his wife, Jennifer, who grew up there. “Jennifer moved out here when she was 4 or 5; her father was a Pan Am captain. At the time it was pretty empty,” he recalls. “I’ve had a connection to this place since we were dating, and I’ve seen the island change a lot. Four years ago, Jennifer was getting tired of the city, and I figured I could work anywhere. We came out here and have been here ever since.”
Martin is looking forward to future projects. In addition to working on a Young Adult novel with writing partner Libby Cudmore, Martin is working on something that could be of particular interest to East Enders. “I just got asked to be on the writing staff of a serial novel app that’s set in the Hamptons,” he says, stressing that the project is still in its infancy. Martin is floored by the response to Nightlife. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone wants the universal acclaim. I’m almost skeptical of it!”
Visit matthewquinnmartin.com for more on Matthew Quinn Martin and his Nightlife series and other works.