Author, Poet, Zombie Wrangler Matt Betts visits Kendall Reviews for a chat.

Ohio native Matt Betts grew up on a steady diet of giant monsters, robots and horror novels. He is the author of the scifi/horror poetry collections Underwater Fistfight and See No Evil, Say No Evil, as well as the novels Odd Men Out and Indelible Ink. His latest novel, the giant robot vs. giant monster novel, The Shadow beneath the Waves, was released in February of 2018. Matt’s work was mentioned in a New York Times article on zombie poetry. Seriously. Even he can’t believe it.

KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

Well, I’m the father of two boys. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but only really gotten serious about it in the last decade or so. I love writing, but I also really enjoy teaching it as well. I occasionally teach at a kid’s camp here in Columbus that focuses on fiction and poetry for the younger writer. It’s a great program with wonderful writers. I speak at conferences and workshops. I also love to travel to new cons and meet new writers. I think it’s important to get out of your comfort area and go to cons where I might not know anyone, just to make new friends and learn new things.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

I’m sort of a pop culture junkie, I watch a lot of tv and movies, read a lot. I teach writing for kids and adults, I attend a number of conferences and participate in panels and run writing and publishing workshops. I also have two kids that take up a lot of my free time. They like to write and draw their own books, so that’s always a lot of fun.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

That’s tough. I have two kids now, and I really don’t remember a lot of the books I’ve been reading to them. I don’t remember a lot of the popular kids’ books, other than Dr. Seuss. I loved The Cat in the Hat. I also remember the Choose your own Adventure books as being a big thing. These were the stories where you got to the end of a chapter and you got to decide how the book progress by making a choice between one action or another. I thought that was pretty cool as a kid. I also became a pretty big comic fan after I bought the Marvel adaptation of Star Wars. I think comics certainly fueled my love of reading as I grew up.

KR: What are you reading now?

I’m reading Star Wars Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig. I’ve always loved the Star Wars universe and I read a lot of the books, but it became really hard to keep up. I’ve just started revisiting some favorites and checking out the new stories. I’m also reading a couple of books about cryptids and other weird creatures. I love ghost stories and true stories of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, Yeti and stuff like that. One of my upcoming books uses a lot of mythical creatures in it and the research for that made me interested in reading more accounts. I’m dying to get to this Elmore Leonard western set I just bought, but so far I haven’t had a lot of free time to read.

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

I was writing for fun when I was in grade school, but it wasn’t until I started reading Stephen King in college that I really started taking a real interest in publishing. I love Elmore Leonard, Arthur C Clarke, and Douglas Adams, just to name a few. I really read whatever I could get my hands on, so my list of favorite authors is kind of all over the place.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

I’m kind of a hybrid in that respect. The first three books I wrote were really just my finding my way and letting the story go where it wanted to go, but I’m working on a couple now that I had to write brief outlines when I pitched them. I’ve found even that really brief, one-page outline really helped get them written faster than the others. We’ll see what happens with upcoming books, but I think I’ll use a quick outline going forward.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do a lot of research for my books. The first took place in California during the Civil War, so I read up on what happened in that region at the time and place. Most was either through history books, or the internet. My family has a number of records from when our ancestors were in the war, so I used them as a sort of jumping off point for where to start. For a book like Shadow beneath the Waves, I did a lot of research on treasure hunting, boating, and marine life. I really enjoy research, and I think it’s always exciting to find a small bit of trivia or a little detail that I can expand to make a larger part of a story somewhere down the line.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

Honestly, I don’t have a serious routine. I aim for about two thousand words a day when a project is new. As I get closer to deadlines, I start upping that count by five hundred words. Once my kids are off to school, I’ll work on answering emails, and other clean-up work. I’m not a morning writing person normally, so I’ll try to clear everything off my plate before jumping into writing. I’m just not functioning in a creative place that early. If it’s a particularly crazy day, I may put off writing until the evening and work late into the night. Everything seems to flow better in the late hours.

KR: Which is your favourite of the books/stories you have written?

That’s tough. I mean, I like them all a lot, and they’ve been difficult and fun in their own ways. I think the first book I got published would probably win – Odd Men Out. It took a long time, but I learned so much writing that, and for it to pay off so well eventually, was very satisfying.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

I did at first. That first book, Odd Men Out, got some pretty good reviews and it kind of spoiled me. But there were a few bad ones in there that snapped me out of it, and convinced me to focus on the writing. Every writer can’t please every reader and it’s futile to even try, so I write books I enjoy writing and hope others feel the same.

KR: What scares you?

I’m afraid of all kinds of stuff, I suppose. As far as real life – I have kids, so I’m always worried about their safety and their health. I have a lot of friends who write horror and paranormal novels, and they seem to be good at making me squirm with the things they come up with in their books. I think the subtle horrors are the things that scare me – the stuff that goes bump or creak in the night. The average, everyday scenes that have something slightly off are what really push my buttons in fiction.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

Tough one. I have a lot of ebooks, myself, but I usually end up reading a paperback. I’ll have a dozen books on my tablet or phone when I’m traveling, but I always pack a paperback into my bag, and I usually end up reading it, too. I don’t know. There’s something about having a physical book that makes the reading experience complete for me.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

Sure! My latest book is The Shadow beneath the Waves. It’s a story about a band of treasure-hunters who track down a long missing giant war machine called the Cudgel, in hopes of reaping fortune and fame. Unfortunately, in exploring the machine, they free a massive beast that the Cudgel had trapped. So it becomes up to the crew and their military contacts to try to stop the monster. I’ve always loved monster movies. I’ve loved Godzilla, Mothra, and Gamera since I was a kid. And the idea of a giant robot fighting those type of monsters is just a lot of fun for me. I loved coming up with the monster and the robot, but the real challenge in this story was creating the characters throughout the book. I think the crew I’ve created are interesting characters in a book that could easily be all explosions and monsters.

KR: What are you working on now?

I’m working on a sequel to my first book, Odd Men Out. It’s been a long time in the making, just because I’ve really had a hard time finding the right story to tell. The world that that book takes place in is so rich with characters and possibilities that I’ve had trouble focusing on just one and telling it right. It’s such a blast to revisit that cast of characters and get them back in action.

KR: Fast forward ten years! Where do you see yourself?

I really enjoy what I’m doing. I love writing and publishing. I love helping other writers. I honestly wouldn’t change much, except hopefully I’ll be writing a little faster. I mean it would be great to be rich and famous, and to have movies made of my work, but if I can still enjoy what I’m doing in another decade, and still have people that want to read my books? That’s terrific. I couldn’t ask for more.

KR: Thank you very much Matt.

You can find out more about Matt via his official website here

Please connect with Matt via Twitter @Betts_Matt

A group of treasure-hunters hits the high seas chasing a tip from a mysterious source. If it’s true, it could be their biggest score yet-literally a massive robot the size of a skyscraper lost since the last war, worth a sizable reward, and bragging rights. But in trying to the raise the Cudgel, the crew of the Adamant accidentally unleashes a beast trapped by the battle machine years ago. The giant monster awakens to complete its war-time mission to destroy the Pacific Northwest. 

Using their wits, their experience and a few contacts in the government, the crew sets out to fix their mistake and stop the menace. Can a handful of eccentric sailors resurrect the gigantic robot in time to stop the vicious creature’s assault? 

You can buy a copy of Beneath The Waves from Amazon US & Amazon UK

The Civil War has ended but not because the South surrendered, instead it’s on hold while both sides face a new enemy-the chewers, dead men who’ve come back to life. Cyrus Joseph Spencer didn’t fight in the war and couldn’t care less about the United Nations of America that resulted from it. His main concern is making money and protecting his crew from all manner of danger. But when tragedy strikes he’s forced to take shelter onboard a dirigible piloted by the U.N.’s peace-keeping force. It’s soon apparent that many more dangers are lurking and Cyrus must decide whether to throw in with strangers in a desperate bid to protect the country or cast off on his own.

“It’s impossible to say this too strongly: this steampunk-horror-historical-thriller crossbreed is an amazing book.” -David Pitt, Booklist (starred review) 

You can buy a copy of Odd Men Out from Amazon US & Amazon UK

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