Mat Hudson’s new book Hazel: “Like Matilda meets X-files”
interview by Brent Cole
Mat Hudson has the unique ability to be hugely talented while also flying under the radar locally – his mild manner never hinting at the different skills he possesses. Whether it’s working in graphic design or being a published author (this month’s cover is loosely based off of his new book Hazel), Mat seemingly does it all. He worked on Hazel for over a year and it will be released at the end of the month featuring his words and illustrations. He shares some thoughts about the book, the process and more.
Where did the idea for Hazel come from?
So it began as an idea very late one night in (I think) November of 2013. I was with my good friend and hero Steeb Russell, in his studio talking about everything and nothing. I brought up the idea that I wanted to write a non-picture book, an adventurous chapter book that harkened back to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew but felt more like the Goonies.
I knew even then that I wanted the story to star a younger sister, who usually ends up getting very minor side character roles. We talked for a long time about the idea until Steeb said he had a name for the character. He said Hazel, we played an old Donovan song “Season Of the Witch” and the idea began to grow.
The book follows the story of Hazel, a 10-year-old girl, who considers herself a documenter of all things. Her primary tool is her Polaroid camera. She decides, after being bitten by two strange mice at her family’s PNW home, that she’s going to tag along on her older brother Hank’s adventure with three of his friends. Hank is 15 and wants little to do with his sister. The adventure takes place at an abandoned dinosaur/old west amusement park called When Dinosaurs Ruled the West. Hazel eventually joins the others on their quest for treasure as the mice that bit her follow her, begin to grow and become more and more dangerous. The book is an illustrated chapter book; like Matilda meets X-Files.
Is the character Hazel written with anyone in mind? Did you have a little sister or niece that’s she’s modeled after?
Yes, she is very similar to my now 12-year-old sister. We are fairly close for living so far apart (Michigan and Washington). Hazel is very much a combination of the two of us. I so badly wanted her to have an adventure like the ones I loved as a kid, but so few of them have strong female characters and even fewer star younger sisters. Hazel would be a bit character in most other stories; here she is the star, flawed, funny and intensely excited about documentation and adventure.
How long did the process of getting the book together take?
The idea for the book was born early in 2014. I worked closely with my editor Sara Holodnick (of The Bureau of Historical Investigation Sara Galactica) starting early May, on fine-tuning the story and character and discovering exactly who she was and how the book would play. We launched the kickstarter in June and successfully raised $6,000 by July. The rest of this time has been spent perfecting the story and finishing the illustrations and layout. It’s taken a little over a year.
How did you begin the writing process? Did you have a background in it?
I’ve written stories my entire life. Being a storyteller is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I went to school in Fort Lauderdale for film and story.
What else can you share with us?
I’m a Michigan native. The oldest of five kids. I’ve written and told stories my entire life. The earliest I can remember is a 30-page fan fiction I wrote in second grade called “Jurassic School,” the dino DNA finds its way from the island to a San Diego school where miraculously dinosaurs begin to attack the afterschool programs. I went to art school in Florida but dropped out to move to Washington to become a reading tutor at Sunnyland Elementary here in Bellingham. My first book was published by Yetee books out of Chicago my last year tutoring. Hazel is my second book set to come out Feb. 28.
For more information about Mat Hudson and his new book Hazel see stuffbymat.com.
Published in the February 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine