Get to know Matt Hader, Screenwriter and Author

Matt Hader's first novel, "Bad Reputation," takes place in a northwest suburb called Balmoral, but the landmarks like "Gemstone Grocery Store" resemble a number of places in Barrington.
Matt Hader's first novel, "Bad Reputation," takes place in a northwest suburb called Balmoral, but the landmarks like "Gemstone Grocery Store" resemble a number of places in Barrington.

He grew up in the Chicago area and tried out the California screenwriting experience. Now, Matt Hader and his family are living in Barrington and his first novel, “Bad Reputation,” has received enough love that he has been asked to write seven short novelettes based on the same characters. They are all slated to be released through the Amazon Kindle system. The first was released in January and the second is due to come out in a few weeks.

Where does your love of writing come from? How did you originally get started?

I’m the seventh of eight children, and to get any little bit of attention in our home, when I was a kid, I learned to tell stories. OK, they were mostly lies that were told to get me out of whatever trouble I had placed myself into. But I was always finding new ways of adding in a bit of creative flourish to spice them up.

My first writing gig was working as a comedic writer, creating skits for the V-Shows at Maine South High School in Park Ridge. From there I went to college, studied at The Second City, and got a few on-air radio jobs where I put some of those writing skills to work in creating spots and comedic bits.

My family members are simply a creative bunch as a whole. It was naturally ingrained in us by my late mother, Joan, who, outside of being a VP of a bank, was a professional singer. We caught the creative bug through osmosis, it seems. Several members of my family wound up working in show business (comedians, actors, musicians, writers).

My brother, Rick, is the “Clown Prince of Baseball,” Myron Noodleman. My sons, Matt Jr. and Shane, are musicians. My guitar-playing nephew Nick Hader lives in L.A. and performs regular gigs at the Viper Room on Sunset.

My brother Bill’s oldest kid is a regular on “Saturday Night Live,” and I’ve written screenplays with my brothers Art and Andy, too.

Describe some of the screenplays you’ve worked on.

I write mostly dark comedy and action-oriented material. I pen speculative screenplays that I try to sell to producers, and I’m also hired to write for producers who have existing stories they want told.

I’ve written over 60 screenplays in my career – probably none that you’ve ever heard of. Completing screenplays and getting paid for them … and then having them actually produced into feature films are all very separate, and difficult, challenges to overcome.

It’s an extremely competitive business.

I did write and produce the Indie feature film “Dead Horse,” starring Daniel Von Bargen (“Seinfeld,” “O’ Brother Where Art Thou,” “Philadelphia”). I also served as the creative consultant for the ESPN documentary “7th Inning Stretch,” starring Pat DiNizio of the rock group The Smithereens, and Bruce Springsteen, as well as other notables.

Why did you decide to move to Barrington? What are your favorite things to do here?

We moved to Barrington when my wife, Lori, received a job promotion and transfer to her company’s headquarters in the area. I grew up in Chicago and in Park Ridge, so I already knew of Barrington’s reputation as an excellent place to live. I work out of my home, so I can live pretty much anywhere nowadays.

We were very lucky to find a picturesque, and newly renovated, Sears Craftsman home in the historical district. We fell in love with our home the moment we walked in. We love the Mayberry-like feel of the village of Barrington. We walk to all the shops, restaurants, and grocery stores – and the neighbors here are fantastic. But we’re still close enough in proximity to be connected to Chicago and all that has to offer.

Where did the idea for “Bad Reputation” come from? Are there some ties to Barrington in there?

Bad Reputation is set in the fictional town of Balmoral, Illinois. Barrington is the model for that fictional town.

Balmoral is similar to Barrington, geographically speaking, but not so much in the real or civic sense. I chose the name Balmoral because, to me, it sounds like “bad morals,” and that fits in perfectly with some of the characters of the book.

I first got the idea about 10 years ago, when I was living in California. When I moved here, a film production company that I regularly work with asked if I had ever thought about writing a novel.

Given that I was thinking of Barrington as the setting for the story all along, and because of the actual move to town, I thought that maybe I had been touched by a bit of kismet.

I wanted to base the story in a Midwestern suburban/small town setting where the occupants of the town are slightly removed from the big city and Barrington fit that bill.

I sought to capture a small town group-think experience, especially as it relates to the way a lot of the townsfolk treat my character.

With the way my main character is treated in the course of the book, there’s definitely an anti-bullying undertone to the piece, and that’s a topic I find both fascinating and heartbreaking.

What has the reception been like for your first novel?

Readers seem to really enjoy the book. I designed it to be a fast read, which is a succinct screenwriting-type approach. Most screenwriters, by necessity, are very concise storytellers.

There was a recent article about a Chicago-area book club that named “Bad Reputation” to its all-time top five list alongside “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “The Help.”

I was honored and humbled all at the same time to be mentioned with such heavyweights.

What should people look forward to with the novelettes?

I made a concerted effort to delve into various emotional states with the novelettes. A few are dark and brooding, others are more darkly/dangerously comedic, and one is rather warm-hearted.

One novelette takes place before the events of the book, one takes place during the book’s timeline, and others take place after the book ends. I’ve had discussions with my publisher about creating whole novels from a few of the novelettes. They’ve become creative gifts that can keep on giving.

What are your future writing plans? More screenplays? More books?

I am conjuring up the sequel novel to “Bad Reputation” as I work on the screenplays I’m under contract to complete.

There have also been ongoing feature film adaptation discussions for “Bad Reputation,” as well. I’d love for the story to hit the big screen some day.

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