Intro: Hello folks! We’re here today for an interview with Kyle Mata. He is the author of the newly released Sci-Fi novel, Scorpion: The Rae Wars. Join us as we find out how he got his start, how the Scorpion Universe is developing, and what’s coming up next!
Tellest: Hi there Kyle. Thanks for joining us. You started writing back in college. Were those the same stories your readers are able to enjoy now, or have you moved on from them?
Kyle Mata: The short answer is no, none of my first writings ever really made it off the ground. My history as a writer is quite sporadic. The first thing I ever wrote was actually a trilogy of Star Wars books with a friend of mine back in 2009. She would write a chapter, then I would write a chapter and so on. We went back and forth for a year, and had grand plans to have it published one day. Unfortunately, we never made it past book two before she had other things in life that drew her attention. I continued that method of ‘writing with a friend’ with two other good friends of mine, it was a blast, but they never did get finished. I realized by this point how much I loved writing and started two other stories on my own. They are both about thirty pages long and never made it further. During this same time I started These Things We Do for Freedom. I wrote the prologue, basically establishing the rules for my writing…and then I didn’t touch it again for the rest of my time in college. In early 2014, I was transferring my files from my old computer to my new one and stumbled across the two-page word doc and just picked it right back up. So from 2010 to 2014 I didn’t do any writing at all. But I’m glad it’s something I stuck with in the long run. Maybe someday I’ll dust off those old works, but right now my focus is on the Scorpion Universe.
T: Are the people you worked with in those collaboration works coming out of the woodwork to team up again now that you’ve got your books officially up at places like Amazon?
KM: Oh man, I wish. I haven’t worked on any collaborative stories in a few years. However, I can say a few characters were devised collaboratively. I have a small group of my friends and family that have read literally every story I have ever written. I call them my beta-readers, and they’ve really helped me grow as an author. One of the guys I used to write with is an original beta-reader. Shout out to Andrew! He started reading my old works, worked on some collaborative stuff with me, and now he’s prime in reading whatever I crank out these days. I’d love to do more collaborative stuff. Writing with someone else is great because you get to incorporate details into a story that you would have probably never thought of yourself. It also helps you get past things like writer’s block and dips in motivation. I highly recommend it to those who want to start writing but don’t know where to start.
T: Do you have any specific science fiction properties that you gravitate to? Any big franchises catch your fancy? What about sci-fi writers?
KM: I’m a sucker for space battles, powered battle armor, and really cool characters. Star Wars was my gateway into science fiction, I wish the old canon hadn’t gotten so out of hand. Now I have to say Halo is the franchise that really catches my fancy, as you said. I grew up with Spartan-117 and I’m always quick to buy the games as they come out. Aside from just the well written story and stunning world-buidling of the games, the Halo books have some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever read. Which is a great segue into sci-fi writers. Karen Traviss was one of my first inspirations to write. I started writing my first collaborative Star Wars story after reading her Republic Commando series. She then went on to write an awesome post-Halo 3 trilogy. I’d love to know how she ended up writing stories in two of my favorite universes. If I ever had a chance to chat with any sci-fi author of today it would be her.
T: You’ve got a pretty interesting background in that you’re an air force officer. Are you currently active duty? Does that kind of think influence your work?
KM: I am currently active duty, and I’m stationed in Japan at the moment. I’d say being in the Air Force certainly influences my work. My preferred genre of reading is military science fiction, and I’ll admit I cringe a bit when the ‘military’ aspect of those novels is as unrealistic as some of the aliens the space marines are fighting. Which is why I take great care to keep the military side of my writing accurate…well as accurate as possible without getting boring. I don’t think all the forms, schedules, regulations, and required signatures going on behind the scenes in order to launch space fighters off a battlecruiser would really keep the reader’s attention. If you want to talk about how the military has physically influenced my writing; the majority of Scorpion: the Rae Wars was actually written while I was deployed to Afghanistan.
T: You’ve been around quite a bit. I’m sure that helps to kind of instill this idea that the universe is bigger than we think it is. While you’ve been traveling, was there anything that you’ve seen that sort of worked its way into your work at all?
KM: Absolutely. In my time in the Air Force I’ve been all over the United States; I’ve been to Germany, Qatar, Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, Guam and a few others. I’ve seen incredible and sometimes terrifying sights. I’ve worked with multi-million dollar aircraft, weapons, and equipment. But the most interesting aspect of my travels are the people I’ve met. So yes, I have worked the deserts of Afghanistan, and the cities of Korea into my stories. But I’ve also worked in aspects from the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Truth is often stranger than fiction, and I wouldn’t have the developed characters I do if not for the awesome people I’ve met.
T: You can have a lot of life grounded in these tales, but there are some ways that these things can end up feeling so new and foreign. How do you write something like that—a character or even a race that doesn’t think quite the way we do?
KM: My process for making up a character or race from scratch usually starts by building them to fit a need in the story. Once I write the basic premise for that character, or race, or faction, and give them the one or two qualities they need to fit their role, they tend to take on a personality of their own. I liken it to meeting a new person. Generally, the setting in which you meet them tends to help you form your initial opinion of them. But as you get to know them they reveal more of themselves to you. Their personality, their background, their intelligence, their sense of humor, and soon the character you know now could be nothing like the person you initially thought they were. I put a character with a name on paper in a spot where they are needed, and then they start to form and develop as much as any real person would.
T: The Scorpion Universe is pretty robust, with a huge capacity for ongoing change. How’d you come up with the concept, and how do you keep track of it all?
KM: I came up with the concept for the Scorpion Universe almost by accident. I went through a phase while I was deployed where I only wrote short stories of exactly five pages. I would make up a prompt, or a set of rules, and write a story within the boundaries. One short story I wrote had the prompt of creating a world that is a combination of all my favorite things; video games, books, movies, comics, history, and so on, and then putting a story in that world that a picky reader like myself would want to read. I called it Scorpion. I sent it out to my beta-readers.
Every single one of them asked where the rest was. So, a five-page short story turned into a whole series of books.
As to how I keep track of everything, I can honestly say a lot of it is memory, I have a tendency to easily memorize things I am passionate about. Which might be why I can speak entirely through movie quotes and song lyrics. That said, I do have an excel spreadsheet of reference material, as well as three white boards around my house covered in all sorts of ideas and short hand to help me remember things. Coming up with clever names is one thing, remembering how to spell them, is another.
T: Each of your characters has interesting qualities that make them easy to root for. How did you come up with them? Which of them is your favorite?
KM: The four main characters are sort of the embodiment of the Shakespeare quote “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” As for which are which, you’ll have to figure that out on your own because that’s half the fun. With that quote as a starting ground I guess you could say I took aspects of other fictional characters I like and poured those aspects into mine. A prime example would be the desire to defend the defenseless, no matter the consequences, that can be found in Robert E. Howard’s Soloman Kane, can be found in the cover character, Karr.
You want me to pick a favorite character? That’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child! There are some that I truly dislike, but that’s the point, what are heroes without villains? And not all villains are enemies. There are some that I really enjoy writing because they are so fun and unique. But I can’t tell you a favorite, there are several and I don’t know, I feel like if I tell you my favorites it’ll spoil things somehow.
T: Scorpion: The Rae Wars is clearly only the start of things. Where do we go from here? When can readers expect an eventual follow-up?
KM: The Rae Wars is looking like it’ll be a trilogy, but the Scorpion Universe certainly won’t stop there. Technically, These Things We Do for Freedom takes place in the Scorpion Universe. There’s approximately two thousand years between TTWDFF and the Rae Wars, that’s a lot of room to play with. So, after those four, I still have plans for at least three more. But I specifically built the Scorpion Universe to allow for expansion, both forward and back. I didn’t want to tie my hands and prevent running off in various directions with different characters and storylines.
Good news! Book 2 of the Rae Wars is already in the editing phase. I finished writing the first draft while I was in Korea a few months ago, so it won’t be long until you see our heroes again.
T: You’ve done military and sci-fi books—have you thought about writing in any other genres? When you were doing your writing prompts, did you play in any other sandboxes?
KM: I think about writing a fantasy novel or series all the time. Two of my favorite things to write are sword fights and fist fights, and I think introducing magic could open a lot of doors for good stories. Two of the collaborative works I wrote back in the day were fantasy stories that took place in worlds of our own creation. Who knows, maybe they’ll come back some day? Another idea I toy with is teaming up with an illustrator and making a super hero comic. If you know any illustrators or drawers out there that want to team up, you let me know. Most of the short story prompts I messed with were either non-military science fiction or just modern day, which sounds boring when I put it that way, but if not for my focus there; Scorpion would have never been born.
T: One of the things I have to ask about is the upcoming audiobook. It’s so immersive, and even the preview makes you feel like you’re part of something instead of just reading it happening to other people. How did you end up making a move toward that?
KM: I have to give a ton of credit to my agent Evan for coming up with the audiobook idea. We listened to probably twelve auditions and, shockingly, I was picky, and kept saying no. But Andrew Scott blew us both away with his talent. Even with the audition he went above and beyond and showed that he really wanted to join our team. I am as excited as everyone else to hear the final product and I’m happy to have him lending his talents to the Scorpion Universe.
T: The Scorpion Universe is already pretty solid coming out of the gate. Where would you like to see it go in the future? Films, games, toys—anything like that?
KM: Well I mean, all of those things would be freaking awesome. I have always pictured Scorpion being a good fit for a video game. I would also love to see a Rae Wars real-time- strategy game with all the factions and ships. A movie would probably be the coolest thing to ever happen. There are a few characters that I imagine certain actors/actresses portraying. I’ll give you one; Thomas Winchester by Jensen Ackles, if you couldn’t guess by the last name. If any of my books ever get made into movies or a TV series or whatever, I just hope I get some say in the creation. I guess the simplest way of putting it is my dream is that the potential of the Scorpion Universe is recognized at the same scale Star Wars once was.
T: Without venturing too far into spoiler territory, can you hint at any of the interesting things we’ll see in the further books?
KM: I’ve already got a ton of feedback on Scorpion from not only my beta-readers, but many others as well. I can say that everything they are looking for will be in the coming books, and more. If you liked the characters and development in the first book, then you’ll get plenty more as the story progresses. You’ll see a new team develop alongside the original crew; the Green Phantoms. And you’ll see more relationships grow and strengthen. The history of the Rae has been the most frequently requested, and I assure everyone, you’ll get a lot more of it. The last hint I’ll give about the next book is that we’ll meet some new alien species.
Big thanks to Kyle Mata for joining us for this interview, and telling us more about the Scorpion Universe and Scorpion: The Rae Wars. That’s not all though. We’ve got a mini interview with the book’s audio engineer, coming soon. Look out for that next Friday!
In the meantime, go check out Mata’s awesome science-fiction novel, Scorpion: The Rae Wars on Amazon today!