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Meet Matt Witten


{From the 2024 Spring magazine}


If you love cozy mysteries, gripping thrillers, or absorbing TV dramas like Law & Order, CSI: Miami, House, and Medium, you’re going to love Matt Witten. 

The author of four Saratoga-based whodunits and two thrillers as well as countless plays, TV episodes, and movie scripts, Witten combines analytical thinking, sensitivity, keen wit, and tight writing skills to create relevant plots that engage readers and viewers alike. 

Witten lives in Los Angeles now, but his Saratoga/Lake Luzerne roots go deep. He and his educator wife, Nancy—Witten’s toughest editor and biggest fan—lived in Saratoga from 1990 until the late ‘90s when a call came through tapping him to write for Law & Order in LA. Nancy had just been appointed Head of the Adirondack Community College English Department, but she supported her husband’s big break. Together, they packed up their two young sons and headed west, where new opportunities arose for both of them. For decades, Witten wrote steadily for television while Nancy taught sixth grade in a prestigious private school for actors’ children. But every summer, they’d return to Lake Luzerne to visit family and enjoy the peaceful splendor of the Adirondacks.

This past summer, for the first time in 25 years, Witten’s upstate NY stay was extended into October due to the Writers Guild of America strike which mired 11,500 screenwriters in a months-long labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. All communication between writers, agents, and movie personnel was suspended during the strike, so it was an unsettling time for writers. But the resulting professional vacuum actually freed Witten to pursue a personal passion: novel-writing! He began his third thriller when the May 2nd strike began, and by mid-October, two weeks after the strike ended, he’d submitted the finished product to his agent.

Witten enjoys the diversity and unique challenges of writing for theater, television, and movies. “Writing for TV helps my dialogue because every single sentence needs to be good,” he muses. “I think my latest novels have fewer parts that people ‘word-skim’ because I’m so aware of the need to make every line count. But when I’m writing for TV, I’m writing someone else’s vision rather than my own, and what I enjoy the most is just sitting in a coffee shop writing novels. I like the pure simplicity of it. It’s something I really care about, and it comes from my heart.” 

The clichéd image of a writer slaving away in solitude in a drafty garret doesn’t mesh with Matt Witten. Far from needing literary seclusion, he can become “cranky and lonely” when writing at home and works best in low-key social settings. In the ‘90s, Witten regularly worked on his locally-based amateur sleuth series while holed up in Madeline’s Espresso Bar in Saratoga (he even titled his first book Breakfast at Madeline’s). The habit stuck when he moved to California, where his LA workday mornings generally begin with a 45-minute bike ride to his favorite coffee shop for tea, hummus toast, and hours of productive wordsmithing. 

Being part of a writing community is vitally important to Witten. “In TV, when you’re on a writing staff, you automatically have that sense of community. But as a novelist, you have to kind of work at it.” Witten belongs to multiple writers’ groups in LA. But one of his fondest memories involves Creative Bloc, a consortium of Saratoga-based creatives that met regularly in the 1990s in a rented space at the corner of Broadway and Caroline Street.

“Writing is a very lonely business,” Witten says, “and I’d felt a bit disconnected from life in Saratoga for the first six or seven years I lived here because there weren’t many playwrights in the area, and I was a shy person—less shy now,” he adds. “Then I joined a weekly chess club, which helped a lot, and then I met cartoonist John McPherson and author Nancy Butcher. John had this idea that we should all have an apartment or suite that we would share, and we could hang out and create and be surrounded by one another, so we wouldn’t feel as lonely. 

“After Creative Bloc was formed, instead of being home alone all day, we had a place to go—nine writers and six desks, and we had a blast! After seven years, I finally felt like I was part of the community. And then, just six months later, I got the Law & Order call. Since then, I’ve tried to find that sense of community wherever I am.” 

A thoughtful and studied writer, Matt Witten cares deeply about social issues and seeks to understand the varied viewpoints that motivate people to act as they do. By delving into the psychology of each of his characters, Witten brings them to life on the page. His natural instinct for humor may ease the sharpness of certain societal truths but the grit remains as he draws us in, challenging us to unravel his intricate plots. 

“I love the act of writing, and I’m learning things about human nature that I didn’t know before, so I feel like I’m writing the best now that I’ve ever written. To be a writer you have to enjoy the writing itself. You have to look forward to sitting down in the morning at a desk or a coffee shop. It has to be fun! And right now, I’m honestly having the time of my life.” 

If you’re a fan of cozy whodunits with a Saratoga setting, check out Witten’s first four Jacob Burns novels. If psychological thrillers are more your thing, pick up The Necklace, set in Lake Luzerne, or Killer Story—and hold on tight! When it comes to writing, Matt Witten does it all and does it well. Better still, this widely acclaimed wordsmith with local roots is super-approachable and a really nice guy. 

To learn more, visit Matt at