Q&A With Matt Scott
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Q&A With Matt Scott
This afternoon I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Matt Scott the author of the Surviving the Lion’s Den Trilogy which debuted in 2021. His novels are Surviving the Lion’s Den, The Iranian Deception, The Ayatollah Takedown.
Q: Matt I saw on your author website, you encountered David Baldacci at a book-signing back in 2018. What was it like meeting David Baldacci and did you expect him to tell you that you were never too old to write a novel?
A: Honestly, I was so nervous to meet him that I didn’t know what to expect. It was my first time meeting an author of his caliber, so I half expected him to sign the book and take a quick picture with me before someone on his staff hustled me along. Nothing could have been further from the truth. He was kind, gracious, and took his time with me. He reiterated to me that he didn’t write his debut novel, Absolute Power, until he was in his late thirties, which I didn’t previously know, so his words gave me an extra boost of hope.
Q: What made you choose to write spy thriller novels?
A: When I was younger, I was much more into politics than I am now, though I still keep up with it. When I watched The Hunt for Red October movie for the first time with my dad, I began to see how the spy world can help shape political environments. Plus, without the soldiers on the ground that do the dirty work, no decisions at a high political level can be made. As time went on, I discovered the novels of the legendary Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and Joel C. Rosenberg, and their genre just spoke to me and kept me hooked in ways that other authors had not done previously. Based on their writing style and character development, I mentally absorbed what I was reading and began developing my own novel in my head. Plus, from time to time, scenes or plots from their novels ended up manifesting in real life, so I thought it was a good way to look at the world.
Q: Would you mind telling myself and the readers of the blog about your Surviving the Lion’s Den series?
A: Iran has always fascinated me. Most people only know Iran through the eyes of their government’s hatred for Americans and our government’s responses to it. I wanted to dig deeper and understand why the Iranian government hated us by researching the CIA’s 1953 coup that deposed Mohammad Mossadegh. But I wanted to explore Iran in a way that would allow readers to tour the country through my novels and see it for what it really is: a beautiful country with generous people who are oppressed by their own government. The first novel in the series, Surviving the Lion’s Den, does just that by way of my protagonist, Kirk Kurruthers, who flies to Iran to seek revenge for his grandfather who was murdered by Iranian forces for his involvement in the 1953 coup. Simultaneously, there is a CIA operative who is kidnapped and taken to Iran to be tortured for coveted information. I just liked the idea of one character trying to get out while the other is trying to get in, and then having an escape at the border. For my second novel, The Iranian Deception, I wanted to find a way to put together the two worst government regimes in modern history, the Iranians and the Nazis, and see what I could do with it. It was a bold decision, but I remain proud of it. It also allowed me to further develop a minor character from the first book, Ben Thrasher, and make him the lead. The third book, The Ayatollah Takedown, brings the previous two novels full circle and is my attempt to creatively engineer regime change in Iran and how it could be done. Despite the books being a series, I think the best thing about them is that they can be read in any order and still be enjoyed.
Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your novels? Hollywood is long overdue for creativity.
A: I wish they did, but they do not. However, whether they admit it or not, every author secretly writes their novels with certain actors in mind. One of the things I love talking to my readers about is which actors/actresses they would like to see play the characters in my novels. Personally, I see Milo Ventimiglia playing Ben Thrasher.
I certainly hope that someone in Hollywood notices my novels, but if they do, I hope they would try and stay as close to the written plots as possible. I think Hollywood has unexpected success doing that with Jack Carr’s The Terminal List. John Grisham has also been fairly lucky with Hollywood. But, as Michael Connelly says, once you get the royalty check from Hollywood, it’s theirs to mold.
Q: If you’re writing a new novel now, is it book 4 in the Surviving the Lion Den saga, a standalone novel, or the start of a new series?
A: My contract with my publisher was only for three books, so I’ll have to wait and see what happens in terms of Sales. But, once an author, always an author. We are simply not genetically engineered to turn off our creative juices, and I’ve got some ideas stashed away that I’m itching to play with.
Q: If you were to write in another genre other than spy thrillers, which genre would it be and why?
A: I don’t know how good I would be at it, but I would write horror novels. They are my guilty reading pleasure. The idea of writing something that scares people to their core or makes them literally jump as they are reading is a truly delicious thought. And, in horror, authors aren’t really bound by elements of the natural world, so the fantasy part of that creativity gives them a lot of leeway with readers’ imaginations. Kill Creek by Scott Thomas remains my favorite, but I have several books by other authors in that genre on my bookshelf.
Q: If David Baldacci were to ask you to collaborate with him on a novel, would you say yes?
A: It would be a dream come true, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to say “yes.” However, my verbal response would probably be preempted by me squealing like a little girl and doing the “Cartlon Dance” (from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) in excitement, a combination of which may make him rethink his decision to ask me.
Q: How do you deal with writers block and negative feedback from readers, trolls and family & friends who might not support your writing if you deal with it at all?
A: Knock wood, but I have yet to experience writer’s block. That said, I feel like I have designed my daily routine in a way that helps prevent it. I always have my outline on my second screen, so I know what direction I am taking the story when I sit down, and I always re-read and edit the chapter that I wrote the day before, which helps get the creative juices flowing as I prepare to write the next chapter.
As for negative feedback, I take it in stride and try to look through it from an objective lens. Did they not like the book because they thought it was about something else? Or did they not like it because of mistakes or errors that I made? I can’t really do much about the former and some people are just openly negative people. I cast both aside. But there is a difference between someone who wants to be negative for the sake of being negative, and negative comment that you can view as constructive. So, I think it is important to listen to your readers’ feedback because they are the audience that writers ultimately report to. Criticism can be tough, but it is part of the game, and sometimes it is necessary for a writer to improve his or her craft.
Q: What is your advice to anyone wanting to write great spy thrillers like you do?
A: Thanks for calling my novels great! First, surround yourself with the right environment to succeed. By that I mean that you should read novels written by other spy novelists like those I have previously mentioned, and don’t be afraid to reach out to them. One of the things that I have learned during my journey is that big-name authors often respond to your comments or questions on social media.
I would also recommend watching spy movies and rewriting them in your head. Ask yourself how a certain character would react differently based on action taken by a separate character. Reworking those scenes in your mind is a fun workout for your creativity.
Third, do thorough research. The thriller audience is smart. For example, they know a mistake about certain gun types when they read it. They are also known to look things up on the internet as they are reading your story to either verify if it is true or see what something looks like. Readers will forgive you once or twice, but if mistakes keep happening, you will lose their trust because you didn’t do enough research.
Lastly, trust your instincts. There is no better feeling for me than not knowing how I will get a character out of a situation at the start of a chapter and then finding a way through that dilemma by allowing my creativity unrestricted permission to do what it needs to do.