Learn more about the world of NYXIA from author Scott Reintgen!
If you’re a fan of space, adventure, and competition, you’ve probably already noticed the hype for Scott Reintgen‘s upcoming debut, Nyxia, which follows teens chosen by a secretive corporation for a mission to a new planet as they battle with training, new abilities, and each other for the chance to be financially set for life.
Scott wrote a guest post about inspirations and writing your own story for The Fandom recently. Now, he’s answering some of our burning (spoiler-free!) questions about crafting the world, creating relatable characters, and what’s to come. Take a look!
What are some of the inspirations behind The Nyxia Triad’s universe?
One of my biggest influences at the time was Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy. I wanted the high stakes and the gritty fight scenes and the lovable cast of characters. I’d definitely give a head nod to Ender’s Game for setting a really high bar on in-flight space competitions. The biggest inspiration really came from my classroom. I had all these brilliant students who represented a wide range of backgrounds, identities, and personalities. All the science and action in the book is a lot of fun, but the characters are the centerpiece in these novels, and they’re definitely inspired by my students.
How has your work as a teacher informed your work as an author?
In my first few years as a teacher, I taught a lot of Foundation Level classes. The students in those classes were often identified by their reading levels. In some cases, I had students reading at a 5th grade level in the 9th grade. Here’s the thing: there are some really complex books that are still accessible for struggling readers. It was such a joy as a teacher to find the right books for those students. Books that still challenged them and made them think about life, but also books they could successfully tackle at a sentence level. I made the same considerations when I wrote Nyxia. I wanted something accessible for the kids in my classroom, but something that would still make them ask questions about what it means to be human. I’m pretty pleased with how it worked out.
What inspired the different parts of the Babel Corporation’s competition? Which was your favorite?
All it took was a little thinking outside of the box. My favorite one is probably the Rabbit Room. I was trying to envision how Babel would physically prepare the contestants, and how they’d train them for any potential encounters in a hostile environment. My first effort had them on individual treadmills running through virtual reality landscapes. But that’s about a 7 on the cool scale. I decided to dial things up to 11. Why not make the entire room a treadmill? And what if we have them running as a team through a three-dimensional landscape that’s coming to life. Sometimes, the room’s even chasing them. All of that sounded way more fun to me.
One thing we especially loved about Emmett is that he’s not naturally spectacular at anything and really has to fight throughout the competition. Was this an intentional response to “the chosen one” trope or did it just kind of work out that way?
I really feel like Emmett’s journey is closer to our lived experience. Are there gifted people who start off brilliant at things? Of course there are, but more often, it takes an incredible amount of hard work to grow into our ability. Book one highlights the highs and lows of Emmett’s pursuit of glory. I wanted him to struggle. I wanted him to rise up and crush folks sometimes. I wanted him to make as many alliances as he made mistakes. Emmett experiences a little bit of everything, because that’s how life goes.
It seems characters can do pretty much anything with nyxia– the element– other than create organic matter. Were there any fun uses you came up with but couldn’t fit into the story?
This is a great question that I’m going to leave somewhat unanswered. There are some limitations to what the contestants—who are just learning to use nyxia—can do with the substance. I did pull back some really fun manipulations and placed them in the rightful hands of the people who’ve been using nyxia for centuries—the Adamites. Let’s just say that book two will shed a lot more light on what nyxia is and who really knows how to wield it in powerful ways.
What were your writing habits like as you worked on this book? Did you write at home or somewhere out and about? Did you listen to music while you wrote (if so, what)?
I was teaching at the time, so all my writing happened right after school. I’d race to the nearest coffee shop and write from 3-5pm every single day. I do tend to listen to music. Mostly I rely on indie compilations by Alex Rainbird Music. The selections are totally my style, but usually songs I haven’t heard yet. So I get the right sound in my head, but I can focus on my words. The only time I changed up my strategy was when I wrote fight scenes. Imagine Dragons got me through pretty much every intense action scene in the book.
Do you know exactly where the rest of the trilogy will go or are you more of a “pantser”?
Book two is pretty much set in stone at this point, and let me just say, it’s such a glorious sequel. I had a lot of fun writing these characters into a new world with new dangers around every corner. I do have a “final scene” in mind for book three. I think I know how it ends, but let’s be honest, characters surprise me all the time. Pierce Brown told me that one of the beloved characters he killed off in Red Rising was chosen out of a hat. Out of a hat! I’m not quite that free-wheeling, but I definitely leave room for the story to surprise even me.
What are some of your favorite stories set in space?
Do… do I have to choose? Some that come to mind: Red Rising, Illuminae, Across the Universe, Ender’s Game, Binti, The Darwin Elevator, Seveneves, and The Martian. That really doesn’t do justice to all the books I’ve read and loved over the years, though. Emmett’s clearly following a grand tradition by launching into space.
Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.
Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.
But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.