I am here to introduce to you Matthew Landis, the author of the book League of American Traitors. I am so lucky to have him interviewed via this blog tour from the Fantastic Flying Book Club and his book will be released this August 8. It’s such a great honor to have him here.
So without further chit chat, here is Matthew Landis!
I love history, but not in the old, awful, kill-me-now-please kind of way. My passion is convincing my students that the past is actually hilarious, shocking, tragic, disturbing, and altogether UN-boring. While getting my graduate degree in History at Villanova, I realized that there was yet one more way to do this: write contemporary young adult books laced with history to convince my students that past isn’t as awful as they think. That’s a huge reason why I wrote The Judas Society.
Some other stuff: I love poetry but don’t understand it; I want Gordon Ramsay to give me a fatherly hug at some point; I tend toward the unapologetically dramatic; and (to my great shame) I didn’t read the Harry Potter series until last year. I’m also really good at covering up patent insecurities with self-deprecating humor (like this joke).
1. First of all, tell us about your upcoming novel, League of American Traitors.
So this book is about a seventeen-year-old kid named Jasper who finds out that he’s the last remaining direct descendant of Benedict Arnold in the modern day. No big deal, right? Wrong. Turns out the offspring of the Revolution’s heroic generation—Washingtons, Jeffersons, Reeds—still have an ax to grind with anyone whose ancestor stood in the way of Revolution. If Jasper can’t pick up the research trail his dead father left and somehow prove Arnold innocent of treason, he’s going to face a duel when he turns eighteen.
2. If you were born to be a super hero villain, who would you like to become and why?
I’ve always thought Magneto was a cool dude who is easy to empathize with (or maybe that’s just cause Michael Fastbender is an epic actor). If you watch those movies, you totally get his angle: mutants are being wiped out, and he’s not gonna stand for it. Of course violence only leads to more violence, but Magneto’s motivation allows us to empathize with him. Author Brad Thor talks about this in writing villains: You gotta make them human, because they’re actually real people, and easier to understand. You don’t have to like them, and they can still be evil, but they shouldn’t be caricatures. I think the X-Men writers nailed that with Magneto, and I totally identify with it. Back off my mutants.
3. Writing can be a little bit draining sometimes. Describe League of American Traitors as a snack.
A gourmet taco with enough punch to bring you back for seconds.
4. If you are given a chance to travel back in time, when and where do you want to travel and why?
I spent a lot of grad classes studying Antiquity; it’s hard to not be drawn to Rome. I would love to go back around 380 AD when the transitioning from western to eastern empires was almost done, and see Constantinople as the new capitol—maybe scale those Theodosian walls before the Huns took a crack at them. I’d also like to meet Attila the Hun. I read a cool account by this Roman guy named Priscus who spent some time with the Huns, and found that viewpoint pretty fascinating.
5. In some countries, like here in mine, American history is not that much tackled in class compared to European and Asian history. What do you think is the most important part of your history that the world should know?
Man. Tough one. I guess I’d want the world (and my students) to see that the Independence movement and war was distinct from the forming of a new nation under the Constitution in 1787. Both were super protracted consensus wise, and are usually blurred into one movement like, “Oh yeah, Patriots wanted to leave England so they did and then beat the British and created an epic new government called the Constitution” when it was really like “A ton of Americans weren’t crazy about the idea, but the Patriots won, and their new government sort of sucked and the new nation was actually falling apart, so they redid the whole thing.” I think separating that narrative matters because it highlights that history is incredibly complex, with competing motives that don’t fit into neat narratives.
6. Aside from American history, what other histories would you love to put your hands on in the future?
China, for sure. I had to write this canal paper in grad school (excuse the nerding here) where I compared various canal projects across history, and the Grand Canal featured heavily. It’s just blows my mind that a country like China has thousands of years of history, compared to my own nation of not even three-hundred. That seems immensely cool and totally daunting. I’d love to dig into that.
7. Book hangovers can be harsh. What books would you recommend the readers who loved your novel, League of American Traitors.
Aside from shamelessly pushing my second novel, THE NOT-SO-BORING LETTERS OF PRIVATE NOBODY, which releases in March 2018 from Dial/Penguin, I’d say you absolutely have to read THE MAZE RUNNER. That book is so good—action packed, weird, great characters, and the story goes on. Unbeatable combo. Other recs: A MONSTER CALLS, which is my favorite Middle Grade book of the last five years. Brilliant. Do it, now. And finally…if you haven’t read M.T. Anderson’s FEED, that’s a lock. Incredible voice, and great examination of how our technology obsession can be problematic.
National Treasure meets Hamilton in a breathless history-based thriller from an outstanding new voice.
Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. . . .
When seventeen year-old Jasper is approached at the funeral of his deadbeat father by a man claiming to be an associate of his deceased parents, he’s thrust into a world of secrets tied to America’s history—and he’s right at the heart of it.
First, Jasper finds out he is the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold, the most notorious traitor in American history. Then he learns that his father’s death was no accident. Jasper is at the center of a war that has been going on for centuries, in which the descendants of the heroes and traitors of the American Revolution still duel to the death for the sake of their honor.
His only hope to escape his dangerous fate on his eighteenth birthday? Take up the research his father was pursuing at the time of his death, to clear Arnold’s name.
Whisked off to a boarding school populated by other descendants of notorious American traitors, it’s a race to discover the truth. But if Jasper doesn’t find a way to uncover the evidence his father was hunting for, he may end up paying for the sins of his forefathers with his own life.
Like a mash-up of National Treasure and Hamilton, Matthew Landis’s debut spins the what-ifs of American history into a heart-pounding thriller steeped in conspiracy, clue hunting, and danger.