(published in the News and Observer, July 15, 2018)
Ten months ago, Scott Reintgen published “Nyxia,” launching a YA science-fiction trilogy that netted him a mid-six figure advance and a lot of buzz.
His second book, “Nyxia Unleashed,” proves that it’s his writing that deserves the attention.
The former teacher’s sophomore science-fiction novel will be published July 17 and features the continuation of a story that began last year with a teen named Emmett. He’s one of 10 poor teens competing aboard a spaceship for a job with a company that mines a powerful material Reintgen calls nyxia (prounounced nix-e-ya).
In the second book, Reintgen deepens his characters and shows his gift for world-building while maintaining the suspenseful twists and turns from “Nyxia” that will leave listeners breathlessly awaiting the series finale.
In “Nyxia Unleashed,” the crew of teens who won the space competition have landed on Eden, ostensibly to mine nyxia. Emmett, the main character, now battles strange beasts, the confusion of indigenous structures and Babel’s oppressive manipulations. Internally, Emmett shifts from sole survival mode to a more cooperative “shoulder to shoulder” outlook, enriching himself and readers’ experiences.
Like many debut authors writing a second book, Reintgen said his first draft was not successful.
“My editor said, ‘I don’t like the main conflict or the side conflict or the other side conflict’ so I reworked 90 percent of the book,” said Reintgen, who taught in classrooms at Jordan and Riverside high schools in Durham as well as his most recently at Holly Springs High School.
Reintgen said he loves what “Nyxia Unleashed” became. He’s most happy that, ultimately, he didn’t suffer from what he calls “Book 2 Syndrome.”
“It can come off as a filler, but when you treat the second book like an expansion, an opportunity to widen the road and widen the characters, it’s a really fun process.”
Reintgen taught in classrooms at Jordan and Riverside high schools in Durham and most recently at Holly Springs High School. So he welcomed opportunities to present to teens. In less than a year, he has visited 51 schools in Wake County, spoken to about 15,000 students.
“When I go into schools to speak about ‘Nyxia Unleashed,’ what I’ll talk about is how to wrestle with failure,” he said. “How to fight through it and write a really good book. I told my students all the time that the measure of who you are is not in the breezy moments when everything is going well, but the measure of who you are is in the gritty moments where it seems like everything is going wrong.”
When he goes into schools he can sometimes feel echoes of recent school violence.
“Usually my visits are a reprieve from the norms of the school,” he said. “I get up on stage and I want to tell stories, and thrill my audience, and ask them questions and make them think.”
This past year’s troubles, he said, “have given me more reason to be bold in how I speak to students. I want to be someone who delivers meaningful messages every time I walk into a school.”
In addition to school talks, Reintgen has led several “How to Get an Agent” workshops at Quail Ridge Books. Attendees have been from 13 to 80.
“Being a writer is very lonely, and it’s very difficult to get published,” he said.
Reintgen, who got 170 rejection letters before getting published, hopes to show writers how they can “minimize little mistakes so you don’t get rejected without being considered and maximize who you are as a writer and let that come off on the page.”
He may have experienced some struggles as a writer, but he’s had much success. He recently sold a new middle school series to Crown. The first title, “When in Fancy,” is slated to be published in 2020.
In the past year, he has presented with other authors of note from San Diego to New York City, garnering fans and selling books across the country. He has sold more than 3,500 copies in the Triangle alone.
But success isn’t always easy.
“Instead of the person who can write in a coffee shop, you’re now the person who does school visits and festivals and is on panels and has to read books for blurbs. There’s a process of learning how to juggle time, what you can do and not do, and where your limits are.”
One more bit of chaos comes from raising his son, now 11 months old. Reintgen finds inspiration from his child and is determined to write parents into his stories as he now has a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be a parent.
Not least of his endeavors, he’s finished the third and final book in the series, “Nyxia Uprising,” currently slated to be released by Crown in April 2019. He describes it as “breathless, quick and everything is happening all at once.”
Unlike his second book, he wrote this one almost entirely in a month and his editor had no major changes.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever experience that again in my career, but I am incredibly proud of that book,” he said. “I did not think that I could pull of a trilogy. I had to wrap up all these story lines and character arcs. You enter a contract with your readers to deliver them to end.”
He thinks his diehard fans will, like him, be sad to say goodbye.
“But they’ll feel like they got the story they deserved,” he said.
For more on Scott Reintgen, go to itspronouncedrankin.com or follow him on Twitter @scott_thought. He will be at the following book events.
▪ July 17, 7 p.m. Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Cary
▪ July 21, 7 p.m. Quail Ridge Books