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Matthew Betley grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, which he considers home after his family moved there from New Jersey, where he was born and which also explains his affinity for the New York Yankees.  He attended St. Xavier High School and then Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he graduated with a B.A. in psychology and minors in political science and sociology.  He also spent the first semester of senior year investigating felony murder cases as an intern investigator in Washington, D.C., for the Public Defender’s Office, a formative experience that provided countless stories that could fill the pages of a non-fiction book.  Upon graduation, he worked in corporate America for five years in Cincinnati before joining the Marine Corps in 1999.  

Matt spent ten years as a Marine officer and was trained as a scout sniper platoon commander, an infantry officer, and a ground intelligence officer.  His experiences include deployments to Djibouti after 9/11, and Fallujah, Iraq, prior to the surge, both in staff officer support billets.

Finally, and most importantly, Matt is a recovering alcoholic with nearly eight years of sobriety.  He credits the Marine Corps with providing a foundation in discipline and personal accountability for his desire to initially seek help.  Matt is open and direct about it and has spoken in front of large groups of people with one clear message – if he can get sober, so can anyone.  He credits his recovery with providing the authenticity for Logan West’s struggle with his inner demons. 

Do you write an outline before you start a novel? If yes, how detailed is your outline? 

I do not.  What I do have is the novel plotted out in my head, especially the settings, before I start to write.  This is actually a good segue into my creative process, which works like this: when I sit down to write a scene, I mentally set the players in place in my head; I put on my ear buds; I listen to musical scores to epic dramas or action movies by great composers like Hans Zimmer, Brian Tyler, Stephen Jablonsky, John Williams, Michael Giacchino, etc.; and I write what I’m seeing, feeling, and hearing in my head.  To be brutally honest, I feel more like a scribe than an author.  

Do you edit and proofread your own work at all or do you just write it and hand it off to an editor? 

My editing routine is very methodical now after I heard this suggestion from Steve Berry and took it to heart.  Since my novels are comprised of major action sequences I label “Parts,” usually six to seven per book, I’ll write a part, edit it, write the next part, go back and edit both parts, write the next part, edit all three parts, and so on and so on, so that by the time I reach the end, the first part has been edited six or seven times.

How do you work with an editor without pride making a guest appearance like Jack Nicholson in The Shining? 

Call me crazy (see what I did there?), but I love editing and view it as a way to make the final product better.  It also helps that I’m with Emily Bestler Books, where I first had Megan Reid as my editor before she left to be an international literary scout, and now have Emily Bestler herself.  Both are brilliant and know how to fine-tune a thriller into a high-throttle racecar.  I also have several close friends that I use as beta readers and ask for critical feedback.  This speaks to one of the larger issues and requirements for this business – you have to have thick skin to be in this game.  I view it as a team sport, and my editor is a HUGE part of that team. 

What is the most difficult part by far about your craft? What's the one thing about being an author you wish you did not have to do? 

Easy.  For me, an impatient former Marine officer and recovering alcoholic who’s trying to make up for lost time, only one thing – the waiting!!!  I’m fortunate that I’m with an outstanding publisher, but we’re trying to build a brand, and it takes time – literally, several books and years – to build that kind of following.  I’m confident we’ll get there, but the length of time is much longer than I’d deluded myself into anticipating. 

On the flip side, what is the best part about what you do? That one thing that makes the answer to that last question worth every minute it? 

Every time I get feedback along the lines of, “Sir, you kept me up all night,” “Hey, you stole my sleep,” or “You interrupted my work and personal life,” it makes it all worth it.  (I also usually directly respond to those readers with a playful, “That sounds like you problem.”)  There is only one real thing that matters to me in this business – the experience that each reader has with each of my books.  It’s my obligation to maximize that immersive experience, and I take it seriously.  For me, it’s all about the readers.  On another and more serious note, as a recovering alcoholic, I’m also fortunate that I can share my story in a way that people who are struggling with drinking might be able to relate to and act upon.  I’ve written a blog for Joan Lunden, and I talk about it freely and openly in almost every book event I do.  Trust me – if I can get into recovery, anyone can. 

Please explain to aspiring authors and booksellers just how much work is required, even as a traditionally published bestselling author, to maintain your level of success?  

To put things in perspective, I’m at the one-year mark of my career, I’m with a Big Five publisher (S&S), one of the best imprints in this business and genre (Emily Bestler Books) and have a great publicist, and am represented by The Gernert Company in NYC and Creative Artists in Hollywood for a potential movie deal.  But guess what?  Having said all of that – and I don’t want to be discouraging, just instill realism – this is a brutal business.  There are no guarantees.  Everything is based on sales and how the books are received by the readers.  I tell every new author I speak to a few key things: 1) take full ownership of your trade – this is what you want to do as a profession; 2) have a business plan – most don’t think of the business side of publishing; I did, and I was fortunate to have S&S use it for my first book, Overwatch; 3) have thick skin – I’ll be blunt here; if you can’t handle rejection and criticism, stop writing now (seriously, stop) and save yourself the emotional agony; and 4) persevere – there is nothing that can make up for determination and pure gut-wrenching perseverance; even though there are no guarantees, the more you persevere, the greater you increase your chances and create opportunities for you to be one of the successful ones. 

Why do you think your books are so successful?  

I approached writing my first book simply – as a fan of action-packed, roller-coaster-ride novels movies and books, I wanted to write something that I would want to read.  I thought, I’m just an average guy.  If I write something I like, someone else might, too.  My goal with each novel is to viscerally suck the reader into the pages from the beginning, send them roaring down the literary tracks, shake them violently from side-to-side the entire way, and have them breathless at the end, begging for the next ride.  And I believe readers have responded to it.  I just hope I can continue to do it every time, because like I said earlier, it’s all about you.