‘Most creatives I know have a passion project’: Five by Five’s Matt Batten discusses his fantasy-fiction novel

Passion project side-hustles are becoming increasingly common in the creative industry, as an artistic outlet for people outside of the regular 9-5. Five by Five Global’s executive creative director, Matt Batten, is the latest example, having published a fantasy-fiction novel this week, with more hopefully in store.

The anti-hero novel, ‘Dark: And the Boy in the Hole’ follows the story of “the boy with no name”, and his journey in life.

The synopsis reads: “Having been imprisoned in a deep stone pit by the tyrannical King Baltus for as long as he can remember, the Boy With No Name is unexpectedly set free by the last living minotaur, the albino Grim. Together, they escape into Myrr Wood to join the few remaining monsters of the Old World – a ragtag bunch of goblins, trolls, bendith, harpies, a wendigo, and the only lykkan left in the realm – all hunted by humanity to the brink of extinction.

“When the Nightlings discover the boy can mimic anything he sees, including their own fantastic abilities, they are ready to follow him in an uprising against the world’s greatest monster: mankind. However, there is a traitor among the Nightlings, traps have been set, and the King has a deadly new weapon that could wipe out the creatures of the night once and for all. War is coming. But first the boy must decide if he is human, or monster.”

Batten spoke to Mumbrella, and said that most creatives in the industry will tell you that the job is great, the industry is fun still, but the job doesn’t quite live up to the creative outlet that’s sitting within us all.

“We all have deeper desires to craft and create something truly magical,” he said. “And you might have those moments every now and then in the job, in this industry, but it’s not fully there all the time. So most creatives I know have some kind of passion project.

“But, at the end of the day, we need to acknowledge that we’re not in the business to make art. We’re in this business to creatively solve marketing problems.”

During Covid, Batten found himself in between jobs, freelancing, and had a lot of spare time — thanks to lockdowns — to put his head down and write. Having started the novel a decade ago, he found himself picking it back up.

“Life gets in the way, right, so this has been sitting with me for about 10 years. I’ve had this dormant desire to write and express myself through stories, and it was during Covid that I was actually able to address that.”

The novel draws on real world experiences, especially humanity’s greed, desire for power and mistreatment of each other.

“It draws on all those things, but in a fantasy, medieval city setting,” Batten said. “It draws on the notion that the greatest evil we have is actually ourselves – it’s humanity. It’s all the nasty stuff we do.”

With plans to turn the novel into a series, as well as publish a compilation of horror/dark fiction short stories, Batten has had some steep learning curves.

“Now I have two projects I’m working on simultaneously, while also continuing my very busy job at Five by Five … It’s a long learning curve,” he said.

“Working with an indie publisher, that’s new. Understanding how that industry works, drawing on the processes and practices they use, it’s all stuff I’m learning as I go.”

Batten said it was scary taking the plunge to become an author, but well worth it.

“It’s one of those things where you just have to do it, just explore it,” he explained. “It doesn’t mean you have to actually stop your job and your career that you really enjoy, you can enjoy this other part too. It’s certainly scary.”

‘Dark: And the Boy in the Hole’ can be purchased on Amazon, or indie book shop Better Read than Dead.


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