Interview with Peter Tieryas, Author of Mecha Samurai Empire

This interview was written by staff writer, Michael Worthan.


Mecha Samurai Empire author, Peter Tieryas. (Photo credit: Angela Xu)

First I would like to say how much fun I had reading “Mecha Samurai Empire” and how much it took me to my happy place. I have always been a fan of Mechas, giant Robot forming into other robots ala Power Rangers and Voltron, as well as a fan of great writing and imagination.
Within this book I experienced everything I love and am very happy and honored to be able to interview you for

Okay so First question and beyond:

What brought you to writing this novel, aside from it being within the same universe as “United States of Japan?” What was the driving factor in expanding this universe?

My own curiosity was a big factor. I wanted to know more about the world. With USJ being more of thriller/mystery, there was an accelerated pace to it and any time I tried to diverge and just take a few minutes to explore the world, it felt out of place with the narrative structure. In Mecha, I wanted to look around the nooks and corners of the United States of Japan, see what people eat, what they do for leisure, as well as what school life is like. And of course, I really wanted to know, what does it actually mean to be a mecha pilot. How do you train for it? How do you drive a mecha? It was a joy trying to find answers for those questions.

What inspires you to write? What shows/books/cartoons/movies etc. helped you create the Universe we see in “United States of Japan” and “Mecha Samurai Empire?”

There’s so many inspirations. The obvious ones are The Man in the High Castle and the Persona games. One of the biggest also is the Metal Gear series as well as Zone of the Enders because while they have lots of action, both of them focus on the human conflict, exploring the political ramifications of technology and how they affect society as a whole. There are a lot of easter eggs within Mecha and I hope readers enjoy finding all the nods to my favorite works. I also read a lot of history books as well as jet and tank manuals to try to make the mecha sequences as authentic as possible. In general, when I’m actually writing, I try to avoid books/movies/cartoons that are similar in nature to what I’m doing as I don’t want to be subconsciously influenced. But it’s hard because there’s so much great stuff out there. It’s really a golden age for content and I’m continually struggling to balance time so I can watch my favorite films and TV shows, read new books, play games I’m excited about, and then squeeze in some writing in-between.

In “Mecha Samurai Empire” you take us on a brilliant journey with Makoto and we as the reader get to see him grow. Within him though always seems a twinge of doubt, but at the same time confidence and strength. Was it hard to balance out his character?

Surprisingly, this was one of the “easiest” characters to write for me as it’s largely based on my own experiences. I put “easiest” in quotes because it’s always a challenge. But I had a lot of fun writing Makoto and his fellow cadets, which made the process flow more smoothly than any other book I’ve written before. On the reverse, I struggled to write Ben and Akiko from USJ. The great part was once that was done, their story arcs were complete. So it felt refreshing to jump back into the universe, just this time with a completely new perspective. As for balancing, my editor at Ace, Anne Sowards, was really wonderful in giving me a good gauge on what was working, what needed development, and what just needed to be cut. It’s always a big seesaw in terms of getting the characters to the place we want them to be. The relationship with an editor is key and it was wonderful knowing she got Mac so I could trust her to help guide me.

When I first received the book it was listed as “Man in the High Castle” meets “Pacific Rim” and, to me at least, it did match that description, but also was very unique in what it was trying to do. Everyone knows the “America” loses kind of world as well as the Mecha warrior storylines. To mesh those two as eloquently as you did and to be unique at the same time as well as have an interesting cast that I truly found myself caring about, well that was a feat unto itself. Do you feel you accomplished what you wanted to with this novels universe or will we see more about Mac?

Thank you very much! Mac’s story is far from complete, but my time with him is done. The next book will be about two completely different characters and focus on a different part of the universe, the same way Mecha stands alone from USJ. One of the things I was most happiest about was that I felt USJ was an homage to many of my favorite works, esp. THMITHC but Mecha felt like I’d found my own voice and told the story I wanted to tell. I don’t know if I accomplished all my goals, but overall, this is the happiest I’ve been with a book. But you’ll have to ask me in a year how I feel as I always end up having regrets about all my writing.  

Okay a little bit to get to know you:

When you are stumped or at an impasse while writing what usually helps you break through and get back on track?

I take breaks, play games, hang out with friends, try out weird new foods, visit strange places, talk to friends I haven’t spoken to in years, read books way out of my comfort zone, and try not to think about my literary constipation. That’s usually the best way to loosen up the bowels and let the narrative juices flow.

Okay I always ask this question when interviewing an author I have not interviewed before:

What Advice do you have for the younger generation of writers?

Have fun, travel a lot, and persist! Mac is in many ways an allegory for everyone who pursues their dreams and faces adversity. He succeeds, not because he’s specially gifted or is a better pilot than anyone else. He overcomes sheerly through his constant doggedness and persistence that happens to open up opportunities for him. Keep at it and believe in your story. No one else can tell it the way you can and you’ll get your chance.

Again thank you very much for taking the time.

Thank you!

You can pick up Mecha Samurai Empire now. Here are just some of the places you can get it from:

About Peter Tieryas:

Peter Tieryas is the author of Mecha Samurai Empire and United States of Japan, which won Japan's top SF award, the Seiun. He's written for Kotaku, S-F Magazine,, and ZYZZYVA. He's also been a technical writer for LucasArts, a VFX artist at Sony, and currently works in feature animation.