Four or five years ago, the name John “Mick” Matthews didn’t mean anything to the pedestrians walking past Warner Theatre, where Matthews used to panhandle.

Now he’s published every other week in Street Sense as the author of The Mysterious Masonic Ring. The on-going story has acquired a fan club, and many readers look forward to its next segment in each new issue.

“I’m probably the longest-winded writer Street Sense has,” Matthews guesses, explaining how his writing is always cut into new pieces once he submits it in order to fit it in his permanent space in the paper.

But the episodes don’t take as long to craft as some might assume, based on their entertainment value. Matthews does most of his writing the night before it is due, working until morning at the Au Bon Pain at Union Station.

Matthews has different outlets of inspiration, and many of them come from reading other novels in his free time. He’s currently reading (and loving!) the A Song of Fire and Ice series, which is the inspiration behind the television show Game of Thrones. Matthews has never seen the show.

“Nobody taught me how to write. I learned by reading… There’s no such thing as purely original writing. The basic principles of stories are always the same,” Matthews explains.

“I’d always been a big fan of Dan Brown… [but] I was really disappointed in his use of the city’s geography. There were errors in [The Lost Symbol, which is based in D.C.] that screamed at me. I’m a Washingtonian!… I was really mad about that. And the ending. The ending was very anti-climactic.”

When Matthews started writing The Mysterious Masonic Ring, which was inspired by a man he met with a Masonic ring during the OccupyDC movement, he wanted to correct Brown’s geographic mistakes. Matthews always includes the location of his characters at the start of each episode.

But when it comes to places in the District, Matthews doesn’t favor just one.

“One place is as good as another,” he says.

Matthews currently sells in the Foggy Bottom area, but he moves around. He does have at least one consistent customer, though, whose visits brighten his days.

“She’ll always have little things for me. Socks, a shirt, Spam, a backpack. She’s my favorite customer. Getting to know this lady has been an experience. She showed me this website for the top twenty-five douchiest bars in D.C… I used to go to half of them!” Matthews says, laughing.

Although it seems as if Matthews has found his true calling in writing, he has job experience in just about every labor-intensive area.

“I’ve done everything from office work to construction to landscaping to retail to door-to-door sales. You name it, I’ve probably done it.”

But he had three heart attacks last year, which makes returning to those jobs difficult. He’s also had difficulty tracking down viable references from companies for which he’s done work that closed in a bad economy.

“It could happen to you. It’s one of those things where you lose your job, a family member dies and leaves you in debt or whatever. Sometimes the most outrageous things you can imagine happen to you… you don’t think about it until it happens,” he says of homelessness.

Apart from reading and writing, Matthews also finds happiness in his personal relationships.

“There’s someone who makes me happy,” he says. “I’m trying to make her happy, though. That’s the thing.”