Christian Mott, one of our longest-running editors and the one behind the encouraging letters our contributors receive, is one of four people who helped us start this publication and community back in July of 2014, when it was still called Ant Farm Journal.
Since then, he has written three screenplays, has been a part of multiple web-series, and is in post-production on his first feature film. A silent but powerful talent, Mott has developed himself as a writer not only of poetry for the whimsical, but of film for the realist, and has begun not just writing for them, but directing them as well.
Mott, tell me a little bit about yourself: your education, where you’re from and how you believe that inspired you to seek a career in writing?
Well, that’s a little tricky. When I was a kid I always hated to read, so books were never really a big part of my experience. It’s kind of a miracle I ended up being a writer. Now I’m obsessed with literature. Growing up I had a pretty insufficient education for the most part, but I always had stellar English teachers who were really passionate about the stories we were reading and the authors who wrote them. I had teachers who absolutely adored Edgar Allan Poe, I mean, these old white-haired church ladies just gushing over his macabre brilliance, so I’m really not surprised his stories became one of my biggest inspirations. More or less because of those teachers, I found a passion for writing fiction, and I ended up pursuing it through college and getting my BA in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing.
I’m from the South, so I’ve lived in Mobile, Alabama my entire life. I was a normal, albeit wimpy kid. I liked video games and got hurt a lot, but I still played outside all the time. I think that has a lot to do with why I enjoy writing, because playing outside when you’re a kid is such classic nostalgia, like Stephen King’s group of Losers from IT, or the kids from Stranger Things. We had that typical suburban neighborhood gang that ran wild on our bicycles day and night, playing games in both the streets and the woods, drinking Mondo’s and eating pizza pockets and stuff. We got in trouble all the time too, I mean, spooking the neighbors, coming home too late for supper, or just getting covered in mud, or grass stains, or blood. Normal kid stuff.
Strangely enough, I think it was my relatively normal childhood that ultimately made me seek a career in writing. I mowed the yard and did my chores, and man, I complained about how tough life was, but you know, looking back I had it pretty good. I wasn’t forced to grow up too fast. I got to be a child and got to enjoy it for what it was. I’m worried about the future of literature, though. Kids grow up too fast these days. There are fewer and fewer reasons to go outside anymore, and I wonder to myself what the hell they’re gonna write about when they grow up.
When did this interest in writing develop? Why fiction? What excites you most about what you do?
Again, tricky. Despite hating to read when I was a kid, I always had this weird idea that I was going to write books. Even when I was really young I would daydream about going on The Tonight Show to talk to Jay Leno about being the youngest author to ever write and publish a book. Of course, that didn’t happen. I mean, it’s happened for other kids out there, but definitely not for me (haha). It was always just a silly thought, though, until I actually ended up starting to read for fun. The first novel I remember enjoying was The Three Musketeers, which got me interested in reading other novels, but all that meant was I didn’t feel like dying when I had to read something for school. But then I was assigned The Great Gatsby, and that’s when everything changed. That book destroyed me in the best way possible. I didn’t know I could care that much about characters who only existed as words, as symbols in ink on pieces of paper. They weren’t real people, but I felt like they were real. That’s when I got hungry, and I started to read as many books as I could get my hands on. But while that satiated the hunger, I eventually realized I also had a thirst that could only be quenched by creating such stories myself.
“I had a wild desperation to be able to put ink on paper, to put those symbols, words, in some magical order”
that’s so heartbreaking and beautiful that it could make a fourteen-year-old boy, a kid who has always hated to read, actually cry. I felt like I needed to be able to create that experience for other people, and that’s when I found my calling in life, my purpose, I believe. I found my identity, and at a very early age. I’ve now been writing and trying to hone my craft for over a decade, and that original desire has never wavered, not once.
Why dark stories? Why children’s stories?
So, I think it’s by the sheer grace of God that my conservative little Christian school kept Goosebumps books in the library. Those were the only books I ever enjoyed reading until I was in high school, and were honestly my saving grace when it came to AR. I think it had a lot to do with my own personal fears as a kid, because it helped me understand what fear was and how to handle it. It helped me observe fear from a safe distance and come to terms with its existence, you know? Kind of like going to the zoo and watching a lion from the other side of the glass—it’s ferocious but magnificent. Like I said, I was a pretty wimpy kid, and I guess that made me feel vulnerable, and I grew up in a pretty consistent state of fear and anxiety. I mostly just worried a lot, worried about things that only grownups should’ve been worrying about, or maybe things nobody should’ve been worrying about. I was also tormented constantly by recurring nightmares. They pretty much were always variations of the same theme: something hiding in the dark, something waiting. And that’s where a lot of my story ideas come from.
I don’t intend to write strictly for children by any means, but an important part of my literary journey is a desire to write fantasy/horror stories for children, stories much like Goosebumps, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and A Monster Calls. That concept frightens a lot of people: horror for children. It doesn’t sound quite right, and I understand why, but I’ve come to believe it is incredibly important. It’s not, like, slasher horror, and it’s not typically any scarier than creations such as JK Rowling’s Dementors in the Harry Potter series, or even the idea of Voldemort himself. Horror for children comes from a place of whimsy, like any Tim Burton film, and is almost always much more fantastical, thrilling, and amusing than adult horror. It’s safe, but it’s honest. So it all comes back around to the fact that I want to write stories that help children observe their own lions and face their own fears.
I always just tell people that I like to use Darkness to tell the story of Light, you know, and Fear to tell the story of Courage. There’s so much evil and hatred in our world, whether we like to admit it or not, and it’s essential that children be equipped with stories that can help them learn how to overcome such darkness.
Let’s talk about screenplays. What intrigues you regarding this? Was this always something you were interested in?
Yes, absolutely. Around the same time I started believing that a future in writing stories was possible, I officially began to allow myself to consider than maybe, just maybe, a future in film was also possible. When I was in 5th grade our teacher made us fill out a fun questionnaire for some end-of-the-year antics, and one of the questions was, What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? My answer was that I wanted to be a actor. To be more specific, I wanted to be Jim Carrey. I watched Ace Ventura and The Mask a lot. Like, a lot. And I made home videos for school projects as often as the teachers allowed.
But the more I got into reading and writing, I started to delve more into the genre that got me hooked in the first place: horror. After reading Dumas and Fitzgerald, I started really getting into the classics, so I found my way to novels like Dracula and Frankenstein. Most people don’t think of them as novels, if they even know they were originally books at all. But those classic monster stories are absolutely nothing like the way they’ve been portrayed in Hollywood. They are so much better and more intellectual than you would think. So pretty early on, I always told myself that if I could get into film at some point in my life, I’d make it my life’s work to recreate all the monster classics—the ones that were novels first, anyway—and make these incredibly long, dramatic cinematic films that more accurately depict the authors’ original concepts.
I always saw writing as my segue into film. It seems like anybody who’s anybody out there ends up having all the doors open they want open, and they can do whatever they want. So I told myself I’d make a name for myself as a writer, and then people would trust me enough to let me make important movies (haha). It’s a dream, anyway, but I’m going after it.
I ended up getting into acting a few years ago, and I’ve since acted in a number of feature films, short films, and web-series. Last year I co-wrote and produced my first feature film, Marley, which is a very contemporary adaptation of A Christmas Carol where Scrooge is a female in her twenties. Our production company name is Southern Winter Productions (#MarleyIs Dead), and you can find us on social media.
I’m still editing the film as we speak, and although it isn’t even finished yet, it’s already been creating new opportunities for a few of us on the cast and crew. I really can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen next and where this will all lead to.
What is your goal, and what are you trying to accomplish?
Other than the few things I’ve already mentioned, I’m mostly just trying to do as much as I can with my life as possible. Too many people don’t do what they want to do. They work jobs they hate just to survive, and they hope it keeps paying them enough until they can retire or die.
I don’t want to be that person. I physically and mentally can’t handle working jobs I hate working or doing things I don’t want to do. Sometimes that gets me into trouble, but for the most part I’ve just followed my gut and it’s worked out fine.
When I graduated college I had a two-step plan for success: 1) get a job in a coffee shop; 2) keep writing. God made it clear that rest would take care of it itself. I put my plan into action and so far it’s been a success. I’ve been con stantly working on novels and short stories, and now I’m writing film scripts and making movies. I’m already finding affirmation in the things I love to do, and I’m still in my twenties. But it doesn’t matter how old you are, if there’s something you want to do, you’ve got to go do it. Because this is it, this is your chance to make the most of your life. It’s not a matter of IF opportunity will come, but WHEN. So stay sharp.
I had a lot of fears as a kid, and I still do, sure. But for many years now I’ve thought my greatest fear was growing old. And yeah, the thought of getting old does scare the crap out of me. But I recently had an epiphany: it isn’t so much the getting old that bothers me, as it is the fear that I won’t have fulfillment in my old age. So my absolute greatest fear is that one day I’ll look back and wish I’d put more effort into my creative endeavors, or wish I’d tried a little harder to make a difference in the world. I have to give it my best shot, because this is my chance. Even if I fail, I have to keep trying. Because failure I can live with, idleness I can’t.