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Talking Thrillers with Author Matthew Betley: The Neighborhood

Matthew Betley
Author biography: 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, although he learned that enemy rocket and mortar fire don’t discriminate between billet types.

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Betley: We live in a nice middle-class community, and every year in early December, the local fire trucks arrive and collect presents for the local toy drive. A few years ago, like a good thriller writer, as I was standing and waiting for Santa, I thought to myself, What if these were bad guys dressed as firefighters trying to take over our community? What would we do? What would I do?  Voila. The idea for THE NEIGHBORHOOD was born. To quote the great John McClane, "Ho-ho-ho. Now I have an idea." Thanks, Santa. As for the plot, it's about a gated community 40 miles west of Washington DC that comes under siege in the middle of the night by an assault force looking for something. It's got a suburban dad and a female high school track star, among others, as protagonists who have to figure out how to thwart the bad guys, survive the night, and save their neighbors.

TFx: How do recent events in the country line-up with the fiction of your thriller - how did you approach that?

Betley: I truly believe in today's day and age, as a result of political divisiveness, as a result of a relentless 24/7 media cycle, and as a result of the dangers of social media, there are no safe spaces in America. You can try to insulate yourself from the world, but one way or another, the way life finds a way in JURASSIC PARK, chaos finds a way in real life. The trick is accepting it and preparing yourself for it as much as possible for when it comes.

TFx: What is the significance of the title? How did you land on 'The Neighborhood' - early on, from the moment you started writing, or did it solidify later?

Betley: I had the title before I even started writing the story. It conveys everything in those two worlds - community, people, closeness, conflict - things you see everyday in a typical neighborhood in suburban America.

TFx: Do you believe you should never judge a book by its cover?

Betley: Depends on the cover. A lot of readers will buy a book based on the cover. If it doesn't speak to the story, then it's not doing its job. For THE NEIGHBORHOOD, you have the comfort and safety of a bedroom, complete with a teddy bear, juxtaposed against the violence and chaos happening outside. It's perfect.

TFx: What was the last book you read that had a plot twist you totally didn't see coming?

Betley: After writing thrillers for this long, it's hard to fool me. I usually see things coming because you fundamentally know there's going to be a plot twist or two in certain stories. I love injecting them myself. The last book that had one that kind of got me was written by my good friend, Chris Hauty, who has a doozy at the end of his debut thriller, DEEP STATE. I figured out half of it, for which I patted myself on the back.

TFx: What was the hardest scene to write in this book?

Betley: For this one, there wasn't one hard scene, but the biggest thing was keeping all of the moving pieces - and there are a lot - in order. I'm not one to use a lot of notes. I keep it all straight in my head. This one just took a little extra mental gymnastics.

TFx: Had you always wanted to be a writer?

Betley: Not at all. Like with many things in my life, I got upset and motivated, and it led to this career. Most of my readers know I'm a recovering alcoholic thirteen and a half years sober. I was six months sober at the time on vacation, and I was reading an "international best-selling spy novel" recommended by Stephen King in an Entertainment Weekly. The protagonist was so tactically inept that he should've died in the one gunfight in the entire book. It made me so physically angry that I turned to my now-wife and said, "I could write a better book." I obsessed on it for more than a year, and then I sat down and started writing OVERWATCH, my debut thriller. And here we are.

TFx: How important is research when it comes to your writing?

Betley: Depends on the book. First and foremost, I write to entertain. I'm not looking to tell you how to build a nuclear weapon, but I'll happily tell you all the bad things that can happen with one. My point is that research is critical but will only get you so far. For me, getting locational details and specifics, especially in my Logan West series, is key. It's why I've visited a lot of the settings for those books, and for the places I couldn't go, say Venezuela for RULES OF WAR, I researched locations for hours. It's amazing what people will post - videos from vacation, pictures, details. The internet can be a treasure trove for background research.

TFx: What are you working on now?

Betley: I'm extremely fortunate in that THE NEIGHBORHOOD is already in development to be a major motion picture. We've got a rising-star female action director (who's assembled an A-team), an A-list producer, and a screenplay adaptation that I wrote myself and is the one being used going forward. I always wanted to be a screenwriter, and it looks like I'm getting that chance. It's kind of surreal. As a result, I'm in the middle of final draft script revisions with both the director and the producer.

TFx: Tell us something fun about you that readers might be surprised to know?

Betley: I'm a pretty transparent person, especially on Twitter, which is my social media drug of choice. I don't know if it's fun or not, but if people want my daily thoughts, rants, and contemplations on movies, sports, video games, and pop culture, they should follow me there. But be warned - Twitter is the Wild West of social media, but I've always been a fan, even when I'm complaining about it. The last thing I'd like to say is that I hope readers enjoy THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Just don't forget to buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Get Matthew Betley’s latest release, The Neigborhood, out now on Amazon

The Neighborhood

It was supposed to be just another ordinary night …

What happens when your neighborhood harbors a secret so destructive that dangerous men are willing to kill for it?

Welcome to Hidden Refuge, a normal American subdivision full of normal American suburbanites. At least that’s what the citizens thought before men impersonating police officers show up on their doorsteps in the middle of the night. Once the entire community is under siege, so begins a long, dark night that will prove to be anything but ordinary.

But Zack Chambers, suburban family man and programmer by trade, has his own secret. One he had dearly hoped that he’d never need to use again. The deadly ex–CIA agent and trained operative plots to take back the night, doing whatever it takes to protect his neighborhood.

In the face of a small army of trained killers, he’s got his wits, his babysitter, his equally lethal brother, and a ragtag group of neighbors willing to help.

Action-packed and relentless with twists and turns and old scores to be settled, this propulsive and brilliantly plotted can’t-miss thriller brings a shocking end you won’t see coming. Fans of Matthew Betley’s trademark blend of gritty realism and edge-of-your-seat action will be delighted.

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