Today it’s my pleasure to feature debut author Matson Taylor. Matson has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel. ‘Evie’ was released during lockdown in June and I’ll admit it went under my radar. Thankfully it was featured in Pigeonhole’s debut author’s month and I finally caught up with her – it’s a fabulous read.
Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.
Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.
He is represented by Alice Lutyens at Curtis Brown.
Over to Matson,
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Madonna Ray of Light – This song reminds me of lots of clubs and parties – many good memories of dancing with friends and really going for it. I love the energy and optimism of the song – two things I wanted to capture with Evie. I went on Radio 2 in August to talk about the book and someone messaged me a few days beforehand to say how the book had helped her through a hard time. She ended the message by saying that Evie is like a ray of light. That meant a lot to me. On the Radio 2 bookclub the author can choose a song to play at the end of their interview and, because of the message, I chose Ray of Light.
Puccinni Tosca – this reminds me of Rome. I lived there for 5 years and I try to get back as often I can. All the palaces, churches etc in the opera are places I used to walk past every day on my way to work. It’s such an amazing place – the whole city is like one big opera set.
Bee Gees Spirit Having Flown – this reminds me of mum. She used to play it a lot and I can picture the album cover very clearly. I hadn’t heard it for ages and then just at the start of lockdown I heard it on the radio. I just stood there, transported back in time, lost in memories. I bought the CD after that and have been playing it a lot – I feel like I’m 5 again!
Saint Etienne Mario’s Café – Saint Etienne are my favourite group – I could have picked more or less anything they’ve recorded. I was there right at the start with their first single (when I first moved down to London) and have stuck with them ever since. This song takes me back to uni but I also love it because it’s all about meeting friends and chatting about something or nothing over a coffee – one of my favourite things to do.
Sibelius Melisande’s Death – this is a really beautiful piece of music. I heard it at The Royal Festival Hall a few years – it was an encore so nobody expected it and it just stunned the room. We all sat there in silence, everyone clearly very moved. I play it when I’m in the mood for something poignant, when I want to wallow a bit in feeling sad.
What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Music – I’d find living without music very hard. It’s like reading in that it takes you off somewhere else, to another reality (disco in Studio 54, evensong in York Minster) or gives you immediate access to a lovely memory.
Chocolate – the darker the better.
Cinema – I love going to see a film. It’s great to be swallowed up by a huge screen and lose yourself for an hour or so … (ditto books – but I’m hoping you’ll let me have those without me asking for them – I really would go mad otherwise!)
A comfy mattress – What can I say? I’m a terrible sleeper…
Blue skies – they lift the soul. I can cope with pretty much anything if there’s a blue sky.
Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?
Appreciate time with mum more – when you’re young, you can’t imagine life without your parents. You just think they’ll always be there so you take them (and time spent with them) for granted. It’s only when they’re gone that you realise the importance of it all.
Write – anything – just do it – don’t put it off – don’t be scared – do it now, young Taylor!
Don’t be so fussy with food – when I was really young, I was terrible. The most unadventurous eater ever. And then I hit 16 and started eating just about anything.
Don’t leave all your old copies of Smash Hits, i-D and The Face in your bedroom when you go to uni because they won’t be there when you get back.
Have more holidays – for quite a long time I lived in Rome and Barcelona and all my holidays were spent with friends coming over from the UK to visit, which was lovely but it meant that I didn’t get away anywhere on holiday that much!
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
I was in an Italian tv ad – I used to live in Rome years ago and a friend of a friend of a friend was looking for an English person to be in an ad. I got very excited beforehand and thought I’d be doing all kinds of exciting things but all I had to do was get up from a sofa, walk towards the camera and say one sentence – I can’t even remember what the sentence was.
I can speak Catalan
I was a Seconder in the Boy Scouts – I never made it to Sixer. I still bear a grudge about it.
I’d really love to have a dog but I live in a flat in a mansion block and we’re not allowed them. I’ll make up for it one day by having five St Bernards…
When I was a student, I volunteered at Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of Lord Byron. I loved it. It’s such a beautiful place and Byron is a favourite of mine. I wrote a short introduction to his poetry for a museum pamphlet – my first publication!
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
Get a dog (see above!)
Evie is the first book in a trilogy. I want to make sure that I finish the trilogy and do Evie proud (plus write the 2 non-Evie books I’ve got in my head at the moment!)
I’d love to see Evie on tv or stage (in fact, what I think I’m actually saying here is I’d love to write a play/screenplay/musical)
Go to New Zealand on a Katherine Mansfield pilgrimage (she’s one of my favourite writers)
Go to a festival. I’ve never been to a festival – book or otherwise! It’s terrible, I know. I’m either too busy or away… or friends are too busy or away etc. There’s always an excuse. I’d love to go to a festival in a beautiful setting where you can stay overnight and listen to music till late and then get up in the morning and have a good walk and breakfast.
Thanks so much for sharing today Matson. It’s been great learning more about you, and especially discovering we’ll all be seeing more of Evie. I love your music choices, the classical pieces are beautiful and had me disappearing down a YouTube rabbit hole for a relaxing half hour. I think music would be very hard to live without too, both music and chocolate featured in my Five, though I’m less discerning with the latter. I love the fact you had the opportunity to live abroad, it;s such a great way of learning more about a place and probably about yourself. Ideal way of learning a language too, I’m still struggling with my Spanish and hankering after one of those courses that have you staying in Spain with a family – I’m still not brave enough. Sincerely hope you get your dog, they make life so much richer. Looking forward to meeting Evie again and to being able to say hello to you at a book festival.
Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?
The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.
If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.
Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.
Matson on ‘Evie’
“The book is a bittersweet comedy set in the Yorkshire countryside, written from the first-person perspective of Evie, a clever, confused and, I hope, very loveable sixteen-and-a-half year old. It’s about that funny time (in both senses of the word) between childhood and adulthood. It’s a book about lost mothers, uncoping fathers, and muddled daughters. It’s also the story of when the ‘50s finally became the ‘60s in Evie’s small village, with the modern world arriving in all its pop glory. I like to think of it as the lovechild of James Herriot and Sue Townsend with a good dollop of fairy tale and a dash of magical realism.
I really wanted the book to have a strong, fresh playful voice and, importantly, to have a heart as well as raise a smile. It’s basically a warm, sad, funny story about growing up and being lost then found.”
Keep in touch with Matson via