A Conversation between Christopher Reich and Matthew Betley
Christopher Reich: What inspired you to become a writer, specifically, in the thriller genre?
Matthew Betley: I have zero formal training as a writer, no English literature background, and never once considered being an author while I was growing up. But one year, while my wife and I were on vacation, I was reading an international best seller in the thriller genre that had been recommended in a magazine by another world famous author. The problem – I kept thinking to myself, I can write a better novel than this. It was approximately a year later, now out of the Marine Corps, that I finally put digital ink to virtual paper, putting my money where my mind was after a year of talking and obsessing about it. It was really that simple – I had a vision, made a decision, and put it into action. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Considering how fortunate I am to be in this position today, it was definitely the right choice.
Christopher Reich: What was it like writing your first novel?
Matthew Betley: An emotionally brutal roller coaster. From the very first rough draft – which you saw and gave me great and harsh feedback on – to getting an agent, to receiving a book deal with Emily Bestler Books at Atria, it was nothing short of a series of highs and lows, with near deals, constant rejections, and a nomad-like journey wandering in the publishing wilderness, wondering if it would ever happen. I would tell anyone who wishes to become an author that no matter what, you have to have the thickest skin possible and get used to rejection. I remember reading that you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a book published with a major publisher as an unknown author. But based on initial beta reader feedback, I persevered because I believed I had a product people would want to read.
Christopher Reich: What authors influenced you the most?
Matthew Betley: Easy – Matthew Reilly. I read Ice Station when I was a junior officer in the Marine Corps in 2000. His pacing, the intimacy of the action – especially in his first novel – and the scope of his settings were original, making it nearly impossible to put Ice Station down– or any of his books, for that matter. For me, it’s what the genre should be.
Christopher Reich: How much of Overwatch stems from your own personal experiences in the Marine Corps?
Matthew Betley: We have a saying – “You can take the man out of the Marine Corps, but you can never take the Marine Corps out of the man.” Like my main character, Logan West, I am a former Marine officer, and all-too-briefly commanded a scout sniper platoon as a young and inexperienced lieutenant. I’m also a recovering alcoholic, as well as extremely sarcastic. (You have to have a sense of humor in today’s age.) However, while I had a significant amount of tactical training as a junior officer, my deployments were in a staff support function. (Unfortunately, incoming rockets and mortars don’t care about your exact function.) The locations, settings, military units, and certain narrative components are all very real, but the overall story is completely my own.
Christopher Reich: How likely is something like this to happen?
Matthew Betley: The world is a much darker and more dangerous place than it was when I was getting out of the Marine Corps in 2009. These are strange times. So to answer your question – anything is possible. Less global stability creates more opportunities for bad guys of all backgrounds to wreak havoc, both here and abroad. Still, while I wanted to create a realistic setting and origin story for Logan West and friends, my universe is definitely distinct from reality in that my version of our leaders will always make the hard, right decisions when needed.
Christopher Reich: What are your plans for the future of Logan West?
Matthew Betley: When I started writing Overwatch, I had plans for three Logan West Thrillers. My intent was for each novel to be a self-contained story inside a larger story arc. I’ve actually just finished First Shot - book two of the series out in 2017 - which takes the overarching plot much further down the proverbial tracks. I’m about to start writing book three, which is outlined in my head, and I know where book four – and possibly five – is going. Beyond that, if the readers will have me, I’ll continue to write. In the end, it’s all about them.
"A gripping, fast-paced, and frighteningly real tale told with bravado and expertise by someone who was there! Wall to wall action from start to finish. You will not put this book down!" (Christopher Reich, #1 New York Times bestselling author )
"As a former Marine, Betley really knows his stuff. Fans of nonstop, nail-biting action will love this one!" (Kyle Mills, #1 New York Times bestselling author )
"Matthew Betley has proven he’s an accomplished writer. Overwatch is a brilliantly conceived thriller that surges from the first chapter through mounting deception to a powerful conclusion." (Clive Cussler, #1 New York Times bestselling author )
"Matthew Betley’s Overwatch crackles with authenticity. You wonder how much of it is true." (Matthew Reilly, Author of Ice Station, Seven Deadly Wonders, and The Great Zoo of China )
“Bridging the gap between first-hand military experience and thrilling fictional adventure story, Overwatch is a great read for veterans and non-veterans alike.” (General (Retired) Stan McChrystal, former Commander, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) )
"Matthew Betley bursts onto the stage with a thriller that dares you to put it down. It is rare to find a debut novel that keeps you up all night, furiously flipping pages, but Overwatch does that- and more." (Joshua Hood, author of CLEAR BY FIRE )
"Overwatch is an exceptional read - a thoroughly engrossing thriller that reminds us of battles fought and threats we still face. We might have expected from Matthew Betley the gripping battlefield accounts that could only come from a seasoned warrior. But the humanity of its characters and the relentless drive of its narrative will make readers impatient for Betley's next book." (Stephen Hayes The Weekly Standard)
"Betley has made Logan someone readers can relate to and feel for. He’s human, like the rest of us. In a genre where most protagonists are a pair of tights and a cape away from being Superman, this is a welcomed and refreshing change of pace....Overwatch is my early pick for the best debut novel of 2016!" (The Real Book Spy)