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That Radical Matti McLean

A young Toronto author speaks up about writing, coffee, and overthrowing the government

by Erin Woods

Matti McLean is the kind of person admirers call “prodigy” and jealous types call “annoying.” At 26, he has already published his first novel and is well on his way to completing his second.
“I think I’ve always been a writer,” he says. “I remember writing a play for my church called Noah: the Untold Story… I was probably around ten or eleven.”

photo by Jerald Berezner, Toronto, 2011.

McLean is not only young; he is also prolific. “I am an extremely fast writer,” he admits. “A lot of it is because when I wrote plays, I didn’t edit them as I went… And so I think I cheat in that way, because that’s not how you’re supposed to write.” But McLean learned something from those plays that were dashed off in one night. Once the actors were on the stage—or the characters were in the novel—they would begin to interact and the story would evolve in wonderful ways.

One of those evolutions took him from an unfinished story called “Five 5teps to Overthrow a Government” to his dystopian YA science-fiction novel Catalyst: Book One of the Saga of the Radicals. The novel, which was released by Brighter Books in May 2011, follows the story of a very confused young man named Micah who is flung head-first into a resistance movement against a dictatorial government when he is accosted by a corrupt police officer. Jacob, the mysterious fighter who saves Micah, leaves the protagonist with more questions than answers. Leon, who offers Micah governmental protection if he betrays Jacob and his fellow Radicals, is no better. And throughout all this Micah is struggling with his own unnerving new powers that seem to flare up uncontrollably and without warning.

McLean confesses that his story of an underground movement against controlling authorities may have come from his own distrust of government.
“I don’t like that they have all the power and it doesn’t feel like they’re listening to the people anymore,” he explains. “My whole thing with my books is that I want people to question things… I’m not saying that there’s a perfect way to do it. There just needs to be reciprocation.”

When he isn’t writing about overthrowing governments, this young writer works the clichéd job of serving coffee and the not-so-clichéd jobs of actor and occasional writer for the sci-fi television series Dark Rising: The Savage Tales of Summer Vale. He also acted in the film of the same name, playing the character Weeber. In his free time McLean creates web series, works on a movie he plans to produce, and directs plays, most of which he writes himself. Asked why he takes on so much at once, Mclean replies, “Money. I would like to get paid at some point. I would like to someday make a living off my art.”

In the meantime, it’s coffees by day, writing by night, and everything else in between.

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