Matt Hartle is a writer, director, designer, and VFX artist. He lives in northern Montana with his wife, two children, and a colossal Newfoundland dog, Nana.
For several decades, he has worked in theatrical advertising and visual effects, at first in Los Angeles and later remotely from Montana. As a partner in a successful visual effects company, he spends his days helping others to realize their dreams, but at night (or very early in the morning!), works to manifest his own! He has been fortunate to contribute to several of the Harry Potter films, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the Lionsgate logo, to name a few.
In Montana, he and his family ski, bike, swim, camp, hike–basically anything to be out of doors in the beautiful place they live! They also enjoy traveling, meeting new people, and seeing new places–their favorite so far being Venice, Italy.
Matt has written several screenplays and directed several short films, including the award-winning short, Agent. Of Courage and Sacrifice is Matt’s debut novel and the first in a planned trilogy.
We had a chance to catch up with Matt for an exclusive interview. This is what he shared up with us.
How did ‘Of Courage and Sacrifice’ come into existence, and more so, walk us through how it came from an idea to concept to existence?
I’d been thinking about the underlying themes of ‘Of Courage And Sacrifice’ for a long time. Disruptive technology, interconnectedness, and societies in chaos are all things I think are quite prevalent in our world today. With this book, I wanted to write something based on a world and situations that felt real and possible. I think when a reader can see themselves in a situation, the experience becomes more resonant and effecting.
Initially, I started this story as a screenplay, but during the outlining phase, I decided to try my hand at a novel instead. Scripts are like blueprints, and until you actually make the film or show, you don’t really get to build anything. I was and am craving top-to-bottom creative endeavors where I can visualize and render a complete experience–writing a book provides that.
Many of my own life experiences are projected into the story–growing up in the 80s and being around that technology, living in a small rural town, and camping in the woods. My brother and I grew up in the Boy Scouts, so themes of survival and self-reliance have always been relevant.
As my first book, the exercise was gratifying but also terrifying. I haven’t attended school for writing or taken classes (I was classically trained as an illustrator), so every step was a new challenge. Also, when you do something for the first time, you don’t have a history of knowing if you’re any good at it. Sometimes I worried the many months of work had been a waste and that I was creating something nobody would be interested in. Having people respond positively to the material has been an extraordinary relief!
When deciding on the point of view, I knew I wanted to see this world and these experiences through the eyes of young people, just out of high school and entering the world. That is a very poignant time in all our lives. We are on the cusp of adulthood and hopefully have the tools to venture into the wider world. Still, we haven’t done it yet, so there are a lot of new challenges and many times when we are deciding what kind of people, we are going to be outside of our childhood and parents’ influence. As readers, we watch the characters pass through the forage and become what they are meant to be.
Writing a novel is a long process–for me, anyway. You must sustain focus for months, even years, to ensure you don’t lose track of your characters, their story arches, and the book’s overall themes. Getting up early in the morning when the house was still and quiet provided the time I needed. Armed with a cup of coffee, a chair in front of our fireplace, and my laptop, I set to work!
Why is writing important for Matt Hartle?
Writing, for me, is an opportunity to create without constraint. I don’t worry about time restrictions or budgets, what technology I might have access to, or the project’s particular requirements. I write purely for myself and what I am engaged by. The discipline of writing, getting up early, as I mentioned before, and finding that quiet place, is meditation for me. Also, in the last year, my family has been getting into it as well. My son joins me every morning, either doing his own writing or creating on the computer, and my wife, a fantastic baker, uses the time to explore and fulfill her interests. I believe our daughter will join us soon!
Also, when you find something like this and practice it consistently, no matter what else happens, you always have this success to build on during your day.
Writing is an escape and a meditation for me, but it is also a directed effort to reach for future goals. I love telling stories in all their various forms. Sometimes, those efforts are quiet and personal, like solitary writing. Other times, I’ve found myself on a set or location, filming something I’ve written and sharing that experience with others!
So much goes into making a book a bestseller, especially when so many books are being published every year. ‘Of Courage and Sacrifice’ became a bestselling book and has maintained its momentum over the following months; what is your secret to success?
In a few words, marketing, and great collaborators! The truth is we live in a saturated landscape. As a creator, you must actively engage your audience constantly–they can’t experience your work if they don’t know about it! Developing marketing materials speaks directly to my professional background in film advertising and visual effects. Then it becomes about engaging the people who can help you get the word out and find your audience. Of course, as we constantly see in the film world, even the best and most pervasive marketing can’t make poor content sustainable. You can have a big opening day, so to speak, with a big marketing push, but to continue having success and finding an audience, you must bring them something they enjoy and can engage with. As a first-time author, I had no idea if there would be an audience for my work–I am so grateful there is!
If possible, what can readers expect from the next installment of ‘Of Courage and Sacrifice’, and when can we all expect the next book to come out.
‘Of Courage And Sacrifice’ is the first book in the Bot Trilogy. It establishes the world, the main characters, and the stakes of their story. In the next book, our characters venture beyond their original situation and begin to see how the events they’ve experienced are also playing out in the broader world. Relationships are challenged, new alliances are formed, friendships are broken, and the depth of the situation begins to reveal itself. At the end of the first book, there is a place hinted at where there are others like our characters. It will require traveling a great distance through a world devastated by the Transition (something you learn about in the first book!). The journey is fraught and dangerous and will push our characters beyond anything they have yet experienced.
Regarding timeline, I am currently finishing my next book, ‘The Magu Program.’ It’s a story set in a cyberpunk future about a man suffering from amnesia who unwittingly finds himself tasked with protecting what could be the next evolutionary step for humanity! It’s a story that has allowed me to push myself creatively and imagine an entirely new world!
I am outlining the next installment of the Bot Trilogy as I finish editing ‘The Magu Program’ and hope to begin writing within the next few months. I anticipate it taking a year to a year and a half to finish this next novel, which is consistent with my first two books. I’m happy to say each book seems to come easier–perhaps this next one will be done sooner!
‘Of Courage and Sacrifice’ has all the makings of a series or even a featured film, has there been talk surrounding this topic, or do you envision it becoming a tv series or film in the near future?
As I mentioned earlier, ‘Of Courage And Sacrifice’ began as a screenplay, so this is always something I have kept in the back of my mind. The feedback I have received has mentioned the story reads like a movie, with strong visuals and motivating characters, which has been exciting to hear!
Whether a series or a film, I feel the story would be fantastic to visualize. I worked hard to create a tactile world inhabited by real characters. It’s set in a near future, giving it a relatable grounding but pushed just enough to hopefully create a sense of wonder and discovery. I tried to create compelling characters by making them real–each is flawed, as we all are. No superheroes exist in this story world, which I think helps to create a believable experience.
I have been discussing this as a possible project with several producers in the film and television worlds. We’ll see! It’s a long journey from writing to the screen, but hopefully, if the material is compelling enough and finds resonance with the right people, it could happen. I would be thrilled to see it play out on the big screen, and based on the book’s receptions, it seems others would as well, so there might just be a chance!
Grab your copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Courage-Sacrifice-Bot-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B09KR3LR51?ref_=ast_author_mpb