|Matthew Kadish, Author|
EARTHMAN JACK VS THE SECRET ARMY
Matthew Kadish’s hero, Earthman Jack, continues a “rollicking good time” in the second book of this “space adventure” in EARTHMAN JACK VS THE SECRET ARMY touted by reviewers as “one of the best young adult science fiction series.” Kadish, who set out to “create an epic setting,” integrates humor, entertaining characters, heroes “who do the right thing” with villains who make it difficult for them, and respect for the readers’ intelligence. He believes that a writer of fiction is obligated to be entertaining first and that messages should be “shown” not “delivered.” And although he writes his books for the youth reader, he takes the “Pixar” approach—adults will enjoy them as well, just like Pixar animated movies.
Kadish has a lineup of “lots of stuff” he’s writing, including the third book in the Earthman Jack series, and mysteries, romances, and SciFi stories. He currently lives in Las Vegas and likes to go for walks on the beach (in Las Vegas???), and watch videos of puppies on YouTube.
Don't miss the excerpt following his interview.
Don't miss the excerpt following his interview.
Q: Why did you decide to write EARTHMAN JACK VS. THE SECRET ARMY, a book reviewers tout as the “perfect pop SciFi adventure”? Are you a SciFi fan?
Matthew Kadish: Judging from the dating life I had in high school, I can definitively say that yes, I am indeed a SciFi fan. I decided to write EARTHMAN JACK VS. THE SECRET ARMY because there was still a lot more story left to tell from the first book, EARTHMAN JACK VS. THE GHOST PLANET. That, and all the death threats I got from readers if I didn’t continue the series. Ha ha.
Q: When building your “imaginative and exciting universe” for a space adventure, did you create the world first and then the characters? Or vice versa? How do you envision a whole new universe? Are there rules or guidelines?
Matthew Kadish: With me, it always starts with characters. I come up with characters I find entertaining, and then I try to figure out their backstories, and the world-building stems from that. Sometimes you take a macro-perspective to the world building, where you create the environment/setting first and then pull characters and situations from that, but mostly it stems from the individual characters and what would be fun scenarios to put them in.
I knew I wanted to create an epic setting for this story, and it’s a difficult task because it’s not a “fantasy land” confined to a single continent on one planet where you can place limits on what you’re creating. With my universe, I’m creating multiple instances of entire planets, with many races on each planet, complete with long histories, each with their own culture, technology, etc. It can get a bit overwhelming at times. I’m always sure to keep an encyclopedia of the world I’m creating handy, which I’ll add to and edit as necessary, just so I can keep track of everything and keep it all straight.
As far as I know, there are no rules to this sort of thing. I kinda wish there were. It would make my job much easier!
Q: Your protagonist is described as a hero. What are the characteristics of a hero? And what makes an effective villain?
Matthew Kadish: I really like heroes who want to do the right thing, but always have to work really, really, really hard to do that. To me, a good hero is someone that nothing comes easy for, and they fight tooth and nail to achieve what it is they want, despite the odds being stacked against them. Whether that entails getting a date with a pretty girl or saving an entire planet from an army of aliens, it doesn’t matter. As long as they are willing to kill themselves to overcome any obstacle and achieve what it is they want, that’s what makes them worth following. I always dislike it when things come easy for heroes, so I try and make life for mine as difficult as possible.
And part of that is having a good villain. I think effective villains are the ones that are smarter and more capable than the hero, so that they are able to create obstacles to the hero’s goals in a way that actually makes it extremely hard for the hero to persevere. Not all villains have to be evil, they just have to have goals counter to that of the hero and be willing to work really hard to achieve their goals at the expense of the protagonist.
I always like to say that the measure of a hero is judged based off how good the villain he faces is. The better the villain, the better the hero must be to defeat him. So both aspects are important in crafting a good story.
Q: Your book has been described as “one of best YA science fiction series.” Did you target young adults? Or will “old” adults also enjoy the series, ala Harry Potter?
Matthew Kadish: Yeah, I kinda take a “Pixar” position on YA literature, and by that I mean that even though the story is geared toward a younger audience, adults can also enjoy it, because the story is ageless. That’s something Pixar does really well with its movies. Kids will love them, but adults will also love them, because the stories and themes transcend age.
Harry Potter was definitely an influence on my story in the respect that I wanted to tell a tale that parents and their kids could read and enjoy, and a young reader could grow up reading these books and enjoy them just as much as an adult as they could in their youth. I have no idea if I accomplished that, but the emails I’ve gotten from readers seem to point in that direction.
Q: How do you create credibility in your make-believe worlds? How relevant is back-story? What kind of inconsistency or “blooper” will cause readers to stop reading?
Matthew Kadish: I think credibility for a “made up” world really comes from respecting the intelligence of the people you’re writing for. You need to establish rules and laws for your make-believe universe and stick to them. They can be crazy rules and laws, but as long as you don’t break them for the sake of convenience, the reader will go along with it.
For instance, you can’t establish that your fantasy land is as big as Asia, and then have your hero travel across it on horseback over the course of a day. Unless it’s a super-fast magic horse. Then it’s okay! But barring that, once you’ve established how something works, you have to stick to it. It’s when there are no established rules and laws, and anything goes, that readers will get upset and stop reading, because they feel like they’re being disrespected.
Readers hate it when it seems like the author is making things up as they go, so consistency is also key. Once the writer establishes something, they can’t go back and change it for convenience sake. They have to stick to it. I see this a lot with magic. Most authors will just make it up as they go, and as a reader, I’ll be like “Wait, if they can do something this powerful now, why didn’t they just do it at the beginning and save them all some trouble?” But if the author establishes clear rules as to how magic works, then the author must figure out how magic is properly used in their narrative, and it prevents readers from getting distracted by inconsistencies because the author is forced to tailor the narrative to the rules they have established.
I think backstory is important to the author, because sometimes it’s necessary for authors to know more about their fictional worlds than the readers. It just helps the writer add more detail and realism to their writing. However, that being said, there is a fine-line between establishing backstory and boring the reader. I once read a novel where the writer would point out small details in scenes and then launch into paragraphs of backstory about those details – like when a character sees her mother drinking coffee from a mug, and we flash back to her vacation at Disneyland with her father when she was a child and they bought that mug. This flashback lasts for three excruciating paragraphs. This backstory had nothing to do with the main storyline, they were just asides that were important to the author because she had written out this backstory. But as a reader, it was just boring and distracting, and didn’t need to be there.
I often find myself removing backstory from my novels, because sometimes I put in more than the reader needs to know. Backstory only really needs to be established if it’s important for a character arc or the main narrative. Other than that, it should be used like seasoning while cooking – sprinkled in to give just enough flavor, but not overwhelm. If a writer really feels the full backstory should be made available to the reader, they can put it in an appendix. That’s what those things are for.
Q: Reviewers enjoy the humor with the adventure and describe reading your book as having “a rollicking good time.” How helpful is humor to create your characters and tell your story?
Humor is always important, because if you can make someone laugh, they will be entertained and associate positive feelings toward your work. Humor is also a device which helps to endear characters. One of the big “tricks” to making a character likable is to make him funny. This is why you’ll often see sidekicks or “comic relief” characters become so popular, because audiences enjoy them more than the main characters, who often are relegated to more serious roles.
Humor can also be used as a tool to help carry the reader along through the narrative. A story that is all dour and serious can become tedious to read. But if you sprinkle in moments of humor and levity, there is some relief from the serious nature of the story, and that can compel the reader to continue on. Humor can also highlight the severity of a situation. This is why you see “one liners” in action movies all the time. When something intense happens, adding humor to give the audience a release can really heighten the excitement and enjoyment of the moment.
But at the end of the day, I think it’s important to remember that fiction is a form of entertainment, and entertainment should be fun. So when I’m writing, I try not to take things too seriously and have fun while writing my story, in the hopes that the reader will have just as much fun reading the finished product. If a book becomes boring or hard to read, something is wrong. But if a book is fun, it flies by and readers are surprised when it’s over, because they just couldn’t put it down.
Lots of authors find humor can be hard to write, but I think humor isn’t really about jokes, it’s more about how interesting and unexpected something is. I spend the bulk of my time re-writing a scene by saying “Okay, how can I make this something I haven’t seen before?” And eventually, I’ll come up with something so unexpected, it feels fresh, new, and fun to me, so I’ll put it in. I think readers appreciate that type of thing, because it makes the story more enjoyable when they experience something different from what they are used to or expecting.
Q: Do you believe that science fiction is a superior genre to reach young adults? Why?
I don’t know if I’d call it a superior genre. Reading is such a subjective thing. I remember when I was a kid in school and I used to hate reading because all I’d ever be assigned to read was boring old books written long ago in a style I found hard to read when all I really wanted to read was comic books. I’d devour a graphic novel like The Dark Knight Returns, but struggle to make it through two chapters of A Tale Of Two Cities. I do think it’s easier to tackle controversial themes in science fiction, but I believe every reader has their own taste in fiction, so the best way to reach across those boundaries are to just tell a good story, and tell it in a way that’s accessible to as many readers as possible.
Even people who don’t like science fiction will read it if the story is intriguing, good, and well-written. And anything that captures the imagination and gets readers excited will reach a wider audience. At least, that’s my philosophy.
Q: Did you write EARTHMAN JACK VS THE SECRET ARMY to entertain readers, or did you hide a few messages in the story to help educate them?
It’s mostly to entertain, but yeah, I think stories are better when they can entertain and yet communicate deeper themes and messages without preaching about them. Some authors can be really on-the-nose about what they’re trying to communicate, and that can really turn some readers off. The biggest example of this I can think of is Atlas Shrugged from Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged is a great story, and I even agree with Rand’s politics, but at certain points in that novel I was just like “Jeez Louise, lady. I get it! Move on already!”
Unless you’re writing a textbook, I think authors have a responsibility to entertain readers first, and educate them second, so the educational aspect should never overwhelm the entertainment aspect. And that’s not to take anything away from educating readers, because people tend to learn better when they are indeed entertained!
My Earthman Jack books are meant to be science fiction fantasy adventures, but I also address a ton of serious topics in them. I talk about quantum physics, about fate and destiny, about the importance of being self-reliant, about spirituality and the nature of the universe, about relationships between men and women, about life lessons for those who are still coming of age, and a bevy of other things. But I try to do them in a subtle way that never distracts from the main narrative. I don’t stop in the middle of a scene and say “drugs are bad, m’kayyy?” Instead, I’ll write about a character trying a drug and show the negative effects that drug has on him, and then explore his thoughts about having done the drug. That’s what’s called “showing, not telling.”
I also think the best books are the ones that leave room for readers to assign their own interpretations to the themes being explored. A writer can certainly say “my book is about X, Y, and Z.” But the books people never get tired of are the ones where the author says instead: “What do you think my book is about?”
This is important because as an author, I understand that once my book is published, it’s no longer mine anymore. It belongs to the readers. And if it is to have a life of its own, that book must be able to withstand scrutiny and offer up multiple options for readers to explore within it. As an author, I want my books to foster debate and discussion, and have different people see different things within it. To me, that’s the mark of great literature – when a story becomes something unique and special to every individual who reads it.
Q: What’s next?
On the writing front? Lots of stuff. I’ve got a laundry list of stories I’m working on right now. Got a couple of mystery novels in the queue, a couple romance stories, and a ton of sci-fi stuff I want to get cracking on. I’m working on the outlines right now, because for me, once an outline is finished the writing goes pretty quickly. So the more outlines I can complete, the faster I can get a book out.
My next big project will be the third book for the Earthman Jack series. The second book just came out and I’m already getting emails from fans saying “When can I read book 3?” And I’m like “Give me a break! I literally just released the second book!” Ha ha ha.
I’ve also got a graphic novel in the works, and I’m interested in doing some video stuff as well. My roots are in filmmaking and technology has now made it so easy to make videos and get them seen by other people, that I’d like to delve back into that arena. I also have plans to make audio versions of my books, so that’s on my table as well.
In short: Tons of stuff!
Q: Tell us about Matthew Kadish. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I like to go for long walks on the beach, watch videos of cute puppies on Youtube, and go on adventures which usually involve saving the President of the United States. If anyone would like to know more about my writing, they can check out my website, and get a free copy of my book Earthman Jack vs. The Ghost Planet at www.EarthmanJack.com.
About Matthew Kadish
Matthew Kadish is an independent author and world-recognized evil genius. When he isn't writing or being evil, he enjoys relaxing at the beach and videos of puppies. Much like Scottish cuisine, most of his literary works have been based on dares. He currently lives in Las Vegas and always bets on black, because Westley Snipes has yet to steer him wrong in life. He is the most talented author ever. His mother tells him so every day.
After his heroic battle against the Deathlords on the Ghost Planet, Jack Finnegan is looking forward to arriving at Omnicron Prime, the capitol planet of the Galactic Regalus Empire - the largest and most advanced civilization in the universe.
Things are looking bright for Jack. He has his unconventional group of friends, his mystical spaceship, and the girl of his dreams - Princess Anna. Not to mention a secret mission that could save Earth and everyone he cares about.
But things get complicated when he arrives at Omnicron. Not only is Jack uncomfortable being thrust into the spotlight for his courageous actions to save the universe, but he soon finds life in the Empire isn't everything he'd dreamed it would be.
His friends abandon him to pursue their own interests. Greedy and cunning politicians conspire to steal his spaceship. Even his relationship with Anna is strained now that she's gone from being "the girl next door" to the most powerful woman in the universe.
But beneath all that lies a new and terrifying threat from the Deathlords. A threat that grows in secret, slowly spreading throughout the Regalus Empire like a plague, and it threatens to destroy from within the only thing powerful enough to stop the Deathlords and their malicious rampage throughout the galaxy - the Empire itself.
Worst of all - Jack is the only one who knows about this new threat, and no one will believe his warnings.
Suddenly, the Empire is no longer safe for Jack and his friends. Even the people they've come to rely on the most can no longer be trusted. As those he's sworn to protect turn against him, how can Jack hope to save the day?
Fighting the Deathlords was one thing. Fighting the "good guys" is quite another. Will Jack be able to find the strength to be the hero the universe needs?
Or will he finally be defeated by this Secret Army?
Excerpt: From The Introduction
Jack is now travelling to the heart of the Galactic Regalus Empire – the largest and most powerful Empire in the known universe. And this alien boy from a small town on a distant planet is in for quite the culture shock. As most children learn in their remedial history classes, at the time of Jack’s adventure, the Regalus Empire is a little over 10,000 years old and consists of roughly 100 member planets, 300 colonies, and 500 outposts and space stations, spanning close to 30,000 light-years of galactic territory. Member worlds differ in population size, ranging from a few million to roughly ten billion citizens. And, of course, the citizenry is made up of a multitude of different species and races, creating quite the melting pot of alien culture, all of which are represented on the gang’s destination – the capitol planet of Omnicron Prime.
And though one would think Jack would be safe now that he’s entering into Princess Glorianna’s realm, nothing could be further from the truth. For new threats are lurking, just waiting to strike, and some of the threats cannot be fought as easily as a Deathlord Dark Soldier. (And let’s face it, those aren’t the easiest adversaries to begin with.)
Jack will now have to deal with one of the most frustrating and insurmountable villains in the universe: bureaucrats. Our hero will suddenly be thrust into the viper’s nest of intergalactic politics, where power-players aggressively maneuver to take control of the Ancient Earthship and the secrets it contains – with or without him.
As Jack struggles to come to terms with the reality of his new life in the Empire, an even more terrifying threat lurks in the shadows – one whose goal is to destroy the Empire from within, and to wipe out any organized resistance to the Deathlords as they continue their quest to eradicate all life in the universe. It is a threat that has wormed its way into the very halls of power, making it impossible to tell friend from foe, and leaving Jack with no one he can trust to help him fight it – not even those closest to him.
After all, how does one defeat an enemy he cannot see? Who can one depend on when there’s no one left to trust? And how can Jack hope to save the day when everyone he’s trying to save turns against him?
This will be Earthman Jack’s greatest challenge yet and it will set the stage for the epic adversity he will eventually face. Our tale begins on the Ancient Earthship as it is travelling at 99% the speed of light, headed right for the capitol planet of Omnicron Prime, one month after the events of the Ghost Planet. This is the story of Jack’s first steps toward being the greatest hero the universe has ever known. This is the story of the corruption that nearly brings the most powerful Empire in history to its knees.