Saturday, September 14, 2013

Odd Men Out by Matt Betts: Interview and Excerpt


Do you have critique partners or beta readers?

For this novel, I used both. I’ll probably do the same moving forward.  I worked exclusively with critique partners for years. I had a critique group that I met with every week, basically. It was a great way to learn the writing process, improve my writing and help others. As I felt like this book was ready to go, I sent it out to a few friends that weren’t writers, but were sci-fi fans. I also started working with an online group for critiques.

What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

I think writers need to be patient. It comes in handy when you’re sending out stories or queries and waiting for responses. It’s also important when you’re revising your work. You don’t want to call a draft final before it’s ready. 

An author needs to be relatively bulletproof. Is that an attribute? Writers need to be able to take criticism well and understand what to take away from a critique. 

Writers need to be psychic. That way they can come up with the winning numbers for the lottery, they can quit their jobs and write all day, every single day.

Who is your favorite author?

My favorite author just passed away recently – Elmore Leonard. I loved his writing and storytelling styles. He made characters come alive for me in his books through great, oddball characters and wonderful dialogue. Reading his books always seemed easy. Or maybe he’s always made it look easy with his writing. 

As a sci-fi and horror writer, I read a wide variety of genre writers. Stephen King is a favorite horror writer and he has been for quite a time. Cherie Priest is a wonderful steampunk storyteller. Her novel, Boneshaker, is what got me interested in steampunk as a subgenre.

Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?
One of my favorite pieces of advice was something Elmore Leonard said. “Leave out the parts people tend to skip.” Great advice. Edit your work. Make it the best it can be. Keep only what furthers your characters and the plot.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

Yes. I actually have a hard time writing if I’m not listening to music. I try to listen to whatever fits with the scene I’m working on. An action scene needs fast tempo and loud music, slower scenes need quiet music. Seems simple. If I listen to slow music at the wrong time, it throws me off.  

Some of my favorite musicians are Mike Doughty, Regina Spektor, and  Speechwriters, LLC. I have a huge musical crush on Regina Spektor. Her music is so wonderful and quirky. 

New York or LA? Why?

If those are my two choices, I’d go with New York. I like the change of seasons and I enjoy the East Coast quite a bit. But I hate crowds and both of those places are pretty crowded. If I had a choice, I’d stick with the Midwest. I like the open spaces and the occasional quiet.

What one word best describes you?

Decisive. No wait! Goofy.

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.

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He opened the hatch and held it for Lucinda. His hand came away with flakes of rust, and he wiped the red-orange residue onto his vest.

As Lucinda entered, she spoke up a little to be heard over the vibration and rattle of the Turtle’s movements. “Gibson says the passengers in the cargo hold are bitching,” she said.

It was dark in the hall, with only the sunlight that streamed through the occasional porthole to guide them. Still, Cyrus made a show of looking at his watch. “Six days already? Right on time. Let me guess; they’re hot and hungry and want fresh air? Did anyone mention to these people before they got aboard that they’d be traveling cross country in a giant, slow-moving metal box in the middle of summer?”

“With three hundred other people…”

He’d heard the same complaints on every trip he’d captained for the last two years. A three-week journey from one civilized and safe coast to the next and less than a third of the way through, everyone wants to go home. They hate the food, can’t stand the smell of their fellow human beings and the metallic grey and green walls are nothing to look at. “Is this meant to be your daily report?”

“No. Gibson was getting an earful. I thought I’d pass it along.”

Cyrus opened the hatch to his quarters. “I’ll make a note.”

“Oh, there is something else. I hate to mention it,” Lucinda said.

Cyrus turned back and raised his eyebrow. She never mentioned anything unless it was important.

“Gibson got a note from the administrator down in the hold.” Her face was hard to read as it fluctuated from skeptical to grim. “Probably nothing.”

“Go on.”

“She seems to think one of the passengers is infected.”


Matt Betts is a writer of speculative fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in a number of magazines, anthologies, journals and online venues. Odd Men Out is his first novel.

Social Links:

Twitter - @Betts_Matt

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