In deep: Local writer goes big-time

Local novelist Matthew Jones is keenly interested in what he calls the "visceral stuff" in literature and film.

If the new film adaptation of Jones' novel Deepwater is even a fraction as raw as his novel, it will be visceral stuff, indeed.

Set in a mysterious town of Deepwater, Jones' dark psychodrama centers on a deranged love triangle at a run-down motel.

The author of five highly acclaimed novels, Jones writes fiction that is firmly character-driven. He has "never planned out a plot," he says. "I always start with a character and then trust the characters to show me what the plot is."

Jones feels that a worthy novelist shouldn't "try to prove to you how smart he is," but should concentrate on unpretentiously "disappearing into the work."

Prior to settling in Charlottesville a decade ago, Jones practiced law in upstate New York. An accident left him "incapacitated," he relates, and facing a lengthy convalescence.

Like one of his favorite authors, Walker Percy, Jones composed his first novel, The Cooter Farm, as a way of whiling away his bedridden hours.

"It took that injury for me to discover that I'd always meant to be a writer," Jones says.

Following its publication, writing became Jones' mainstay.

Around five years ago, an English film company, Halcyon Entertainment, approached Jones about filming Deepwater. He accepted and was invited to participate in its Vancouver-based shoot.

On location, Jones observed first-hand what a "collaborative art form filmmaking is," he says, "relative to what I do." Unlike writing– where a solitary autocrat invents the story single-handedly– the entire cast and crew contribute to a film's holistic vision.

Jones envisioned his tale set in the Adirondacks, but his producers wanted a California location. They settled on a Canadian spot that was a perfect reproduction of his original conception of Deepwater 's setting, down to its pivotal motel, he says.

Appropriately, the Vancouver town was named Clearwater.

Though he doesn't want to reveal too many of Deepwater's secrets, in Jones' estimation, the film is "a very interesting adaptation," and star Peter Coyote's performance is excellent.

With his sixth novel, Boot Tracks, debuting next spring, Jones remains committed to crafting memorable works. His prose is meant to operate on two levels, he says, "the word-by-word visceral experience of the moment, and, behind that, whatever emotional reverberations the experience sets off in the unconscious."


Charlottesville author Matthew Jones' novel, Deepwater, is making a splash as a film.