Today I have the pleasure of introducing Matt Betts as this week's Speculative Fiction Writer. He recently released his debut novel, Odd Men Out. If you love zombies and multi-genre fiction, then this is the book is for.
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, and what do you do when you're not writing?
I’m originally from Lima, Ohio and I’ve lived in Columbus, Ohio now for quite a while. When I’m not writing, (or editing, of thinking about writing) I spend time with my sons. They’re a lot of fun to play with and are both at great, creative ages. I like to read when I get time and I’m a love watching movies. Good ones, bad ones, doesn’t matter.
Q: On your website you refer to yourself as a zombie wrangler. How would you wrangle a group of zombies?
I’d have to create some kind of diversion to get them interested in something other than eating me. Brain on a stick?
Q: Your debut novel, Odd Men Out, is just out. What's it about?
It’s got a lot going on. It’s basically the story of a military group called the OMO, which is tasked with keeping the peace after the Civil War ends in a draw. The two sides called a truce in order to work together to fight an outbreak of the dead that have come back to life. So there’s this uneasy peace, which is broken by a Union splinter group that wants the North to be back on top. The OMO is then forced to confront the group and stop them from obtaining a powerful weapon that could further their nefarious plans.
So, there are dirigibles, undead, Civil War superweapons and, also a giant Godzilla-like beast that further complicates things.
Q: As soon as I saw the dirigible on the cover, I was hooked. What made you choose that particular mode of transport for your novel?
I love airships as a mode of transportation. They’re so much fun. As an author you can take that technology and run with it, as long as you stay in certain boundaries.
I think that image of a airship was where I originally started the story itself and started writing from there.
Q: Odd Men Out has been described as steampunk, alternate history, science fiction, and horror. How difficult was it balancing the different genres in one novel?
I wrote the kind of book that I like to read. You know? I love scifi, steampunk, horror, classic monster movies, etc. so I just started writing, without worrying about how it would be labelled. I didn’t worry about the genres or the balance of the narrative until I was done with an early draft. Then I went back and cut and rewrote to make sure it remained the same tonally. There were versions where I beefed up the horror and others where I reined it in. But in the end, it wasn’t too difficult to get a story I liked.
Q: Would you like to share an excerpt from Odd Men Out with us? Sure!
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 streaming 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 shit. 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.”
“She seems to think one of the passengers is infected.”
Q: Odd Men Out is published by Dog Star Books. What would be the key piece of advice you would offer someone seeking a publisher?
Keep at it. Revise your work until it’s the best it can be and then start sending it out. If you get rejected, get it back out there. If a publisher is kind enough to give you some sort of reason why they rejected your work, take it into consideration. It’s rare to get feedback, so take it serious. But keep sending it out, and don’t get discouraged.
Q: Now for the compulsory random question: If you could live in any alternate history of your choosing, what would it be and why?
Whoa. That’s a tough one. Maybe one where I didn’t lose a bunch of my favorite action figures when I was 12 years old? What a sweet world that would be. Either that or one where space travel started earlier and quickly became more commonplace. Tough call.
About the book
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. Word of mouth could turn this from an under-the-radar debut novel from a little-known imprint into a genre-busting cult classic. Get on board now.”—David Pitt,Booklist (starred review)
The stakes are high and the action and surprises are nonstop as Betts skillfully mixes elements of steampunk, alternate history, science fiction, and horror.—Publishers Weekly
“Betts has built a vivid steampunk history of the Reconstruction, one where giant lizards and zombies roam a desolate United Nations of America.”—Paul Melko, Award-Winning Author of The Walls of the Universe and The Broken Universe
Thank you, Matt. I'm with you on the space-faring alternate history. How amazing would that be?
I will be back on Friday with a cover reveal from YA writer, Elizabeth Arroyo. Until then, happy reading and writing!