Interview- Seven Questions with Author Jeff Mariotte

What’s news?

Sci-fi/horror writer/blogger Julie Jansen left the following kind comments at Amazon in review of my novel, The Imaginings:

“I read this in an afternoon. The demon is like a horrific version of the baggage we all carry through life. I liked how the author made the demon emerge like a surge of emotion we’ve all experienced at one point or other. The book is well done and an enjoyable read.”

Thanks, Julie.  Wish I could say that I wrote it in an afternoon 🙂

For the rest of you, I would hope you pay a visit to Julie’s blog when you get a chance.  Click here.

What does the future hold?

Next Friday, my post will be entitled, “End of the World Stories We Hate to Love.”  (perhaps Part I of II.  We’ll see how long I ramble.)  There are a handful that popped into mind when I was trying to think of why we love apocalyptic stories so much, but I look forward to hearing your input, as well.

But without further ado…

I originally met Jeff Mariotte through BookBlogs, but it was one of those Seven Degrees moments when I learned that Jeff was also friends with Nancy Holder, author and my instructor at a Maui Writer’s Retreat from several years ago.

Since then, it’s been a pleasure getting to know him better.  Last week I posted a review of Jeff’s The Slab (“Of Mushrooms, RVs, and Ancient Evil”), and today we are fortunate to get hear from the author.

And NOW without ado…

Seven Questions with Author Jeff Mariotte

1- As far as writing is concerned: a- your favorite hobby, b- your fiery passion, c- your full-time profession, or d- a combination of the above. Feel free to expand.

For me it’s definitely d., a combination of the above. For several years, it was my full-time profession. Before and after that stretch, my full-time profession was editing. Since 1980, I haven’t had a job that didn’t revolve around words and stories and books—I worked in a bookstore, then managed one, then became a co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy, a specialty mystery/sf/fantasy/horror bookstore that now has locations in San Diego and Redondo Beach, CA.

I also worked in publishing, eventually as VP of Marketing for WildStorm Productions/Image Comics, then Senior Editor for WildStorm Productions/DC Comics, Editor-in-Chief of IDW Publishing, before leaving that field to go freelance.

[PDD: That’s quite the resume.  And would being an English teacher count as revolving around words and stories and books? I love talking story with the students.  If only I didn’t have to teach grammar and essays… and freshmen.]

2- What was the last book you finished reading? What are you currently reading? If it doesn’t seem obvious by title, what are the genres? Do either of these fall under your favorite genre (you know, the book you pick out when you’re going on vacation)?

The last book I finished was Stephen King’s 11/22/63, which was brilliant. I’m now closing in on the middle of John Connolly’s The Burning Soul. The King isn’t as purely supernatural horror as some of his, particularly his earlier works—in fact, the explanation provided for the fact that there’s a doorway through time involves theoretical physics—but it’s relentlessly suspenseful.

Connolly does what I often do, combines elements of thriller/suspense fiction with the supernatural—sometimes only hinting at the latter, and sometimes going all out. I most often read suspense and/or horror, but also mix it up with lots of other things.

[PDD: Have been hearing really good things about 11/22/63.  I remember several years ago when King said he was retiring (and maybe giving the rest of us a chance 🙂 ), but I guess once a writer, always a writer.] 

3- What is the TV guide synopsis of your most recently completed project… or whatever project you’d like to talk about today? (I’ve heard several people say you should be able to hook someone in 25 words or less, but I’m not offering to represent your work professionally, so 30 words will be accepted).

Let’s talk about something people can actually read now, rather than about something that might not be on sale for a year or more. My most recently released book is the teen horror book Dark Vengeance, published by Simon & Schuster, which is actually four full-length novels published in two volumes. Volume 1 came out in 2011, and Volume 2 will be along in May 2012. That’s the background, so, in 30 words or less:

Kerry Profitt’s summer is thrown for a loop when the gorgeous stranger she meets involves her in a centuries-long war between witches.

4- Okay, now your book jacket version (200 words or less).

Here’s the actual book jacket version, from the paperback edition of Dark Vengeance, Volume 1:

“When a gorgeous stranger seeks refuge at Kerry’s summer-share house, she knows her life is about to change. Daniel Blessing is mysterious and charismatic—and on the run from a powerful witch named Season. Kerry and her friends don’t believe in witches and spells, but Kerry can’t help believing Daniel…and falling for him.

“But falling for Daniel pulls her into a feud his family has been waging for generations. A dark feud of passion, magic, and revenge. Which means all of their lives are in serious danger. Because now Season wants Kerry and her friends dead, too.”

[PDD: Sounds fun.  I have Nine Frights waiting in my queue, but in the meantime, I’ll be sure to recommend this one to my students.  Maybe I can talk my librarian into getting it.]

5- What is one of the biggest obstacles you have to (or have had to) overcome in regards to writing? Could be about content, your process, or any other way you interpret the question.

To me, the two biggest obstacles are so interlinked that they can’t be separated: time and money.

Let me explain: one of the bits of advice I commonly give to writers and would-be writers is to think of writing as a muscle. As with any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets, and the more likely it is to be there when you need it. You’ve got to keep it exercised.

When I was writing full-time, that was not an issue. I was writing a lot. Even before that, when I was working, I had a short commute and often had 3-day weekends in which to write. But with the economic crunch of the past few years, combined with the rise in e-books and self-publishing (which the big publishers haven’t quite figured out how to successfully monetize), lines were cut, editors laid off, advances slashed, and landing book contracts—particularly ones that pay a living wage—became much more difficult.

As a result, I had to take a day job again. But this one comes with a 3-hour round-trip commute. As a result, writing time is much harder to come by. I have also been trying out that new world of e-books (check out thriller The Devil’s Bait, and short horror fiction collection Nine Frights, in addition to The Slab), but that requires more time spent doing promotion, which also cuts into the writing time.

I think I’m still a good writer—but I’m not improving my skills as fast as I might be if I were still writing full-time. Fortunately, I have several projects going now, which will keep me working hard and fast.

[PDD: Wow, we may be in a different church, but you are preachin’ to the choir, my brother.  The days of just being able to write seem to be slipping past for most writers.  I know your time is valuable, so I appreciate you taking the time for this interview.]

6- What is something that your readers might be surprised to find out about you?

Some people think that because I’ve written a bunch of tie-in novels, that I remain a big fan of all the shows I’ve written fiction about (that list includes CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Charmed, Supernatural, Andromeda, Las Vegas, Star Trek, and possibly one or two that I’ve forgotten about). But the fact is, when you’ve spent so much time immersed in somebody else’s fictional world, you can become tired of it. Generally, once I’ve written a few novels in one of those universes, the last thing I want to do for fun is to watch the show.

[PDD: The tie-in novel phenomenon is fascinating to me.  And again, that’s some list.  I probably would’ve guessed that you would still be a fan as well, but that makes sense.]

7- In The Slab, you talk about a whole community of people who have essentially gone “off the grid.” Given the opportunity, would you follow suit? Why or why not? And if so, where would it be? 

I didn’t quite go off the grid when I bought a little ranch property and moved to rural Arizona six-and-a-half years ago, but partly. We’re on a private well and septic tank, internet and TV are satellite, but we still get power from the grid. We have friends and neighbors who are completely off the grid, and wouldn’t mind making that last step one of these days. In this area, a combination of solar and wind seems to work well.

That said, many of the folks in The Slab are off the grid in a different way—they not only want to be self-sufficient, but to leave society entirely behind, to make their own rules and only obey the laws they want to observe. We are not like that—we accept that society offers advantages, that human contact is a valuable thing, and though we like living way out of town, we also like to be able to go into town and see friends and fellow humans.

Although most of what I write is horror and suspense, and often involves people being really, really bad to other people, I think at the core what makes my work interesting and worthwhile is that there are characters who are fully human, who care about others, and even when there’s terror it’s magnified because readers come to care about the characters who are in trouble. It’s always about the people—and I don’t think all of those Slab-dwellers in the novel would agree with that!

[PDD: Some good points here.  I met a few of my own Slab-esque type folks when I lived in Montana.  Currently, I live in a pretty isolated spot as well, and I think it’s mostly my wife that keeps me from being more of your latter definition of “off the grid.”  Well, that and my need for Facebook, I guess.

Much thanks, Jeff.  Look forward to seeing more from you and hopefully crossing paths with you at Mysterious Galaxy one of these days.]

What do I want from you?

First, any comments for Jeff?  Or just want to say “hi”?

Next, if you are a horror/supernatural thriller fan and missed my review last week of Jeff’s aforementioned The Slab, you can do that by clicking here.

You can find all other things Jeff Mariotte (including a link to his blog—a mix of the art of writing and the craft of politics) at his website.  Click here.

Finally don’t forget to check back next Friday for “End of the World Stories We Love to Hate.”

Please subscribe to this blog to receive posts via email or RSS feed (on the right hand column).  NO SPAM, I promise.

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18 responses to “Interview- Seven Questions with Author Jeff Mariotte

  1. Fun interview! It’s a smallish world, for sure.

    Why does it always seem like we don’t have enough time to write? My husband is always reminding me that I’ll have more time after we make a few lifestyle changes, but that impatience to get there is such a nagging ache. When it does happen, I’m going to have to train myself to write for longer intervals. Then I wonder what my gripe will be. 😉

    Nice job, Paul & Jeff! Off to reshare.

    • Hey Red, good to see you. I think I saw that you reviewed The Slab as well, but I haven’t had a chance to check it out. Will do soon.

      And yes, it always seems like “when [insert any number of events] happens, things will change.” I’m waiting on one or two of those changes myself. I’ve come to terms with my current schedule, but every time NaNoWriMo comes around, I wish I had more time.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.

  2. What a fabulous interview! I am so happy I stopped by this morning and it caught my attention. I was particularly amazed at your mention of the Slabs since my brother and his wife live there (my brother for years-off and on) and his new wife is a transplant from Canada. I’ve seen the “golf course” there…..LOL I’m more than happy to stay here in East Texas. Also, The Slabs in summer is brutal.
    Laurie

    • Laurie, that’s awesome. I’m so curious about them. I’m hoping Jeff stops by and sees your comment.

      And the “golf course,” eh? Just putting them in quotes makes me wonder.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.

  3. I never played golf in Slab City, but I have a lot of acreage out here, and I do play wilderness golf sometimes. Much more challenging than those courses with cut grass and raked sand. They miss out on the joys of digging your ball out of the center of a mesquite with two-inch thorns, or arguing with a rattlesnake over who owns it…

    Thanks for doing the interview, Paul! And for the review!

    • This sounds like when we invented frisbee golf in the early nineties (loosely using the word “invented”). We would go on a hike with a frisbee. “Par three to that tree (or rock, or squirrel, etc…).” Now they’re all fancy with their “disks” and “goals.” 🙂

      It was my pleasure, Jeff. Liked your answers.

      • Exactly the same idea, Paul. For wilderness golf, I usually tee off in the backyard, aiming at the abandoned truck that sits in the mysterious crop circle where nothing grows. From there, it’s just a matter of picking the next target and trying for that…

  4. Hi Paul, I visited the site which was amazing but the link did not take me directly to your interview…’the demon emerges like a surge of emotion’ really caught my attention , congrats! You should copy the interview and post it on the Brag and Show Off group at Book Blogs, I’d love to read it!
    Thanks for sharing and all the best success in the world to you in 2012 and always!
    Catalina

    • Hey Catalina,

      Julie actually just did a review for me on Amazon. She didn’t do an interview. The link is just to her site to get some folks to go visit her, as well.

      Thanks for stopping by again. Hope all is going well in your writing endeavors also.

  5. Wonderful interview! I particularly liked the statement about getting away from a show you’ve invested time in. Perhaps if I had written all the episodes it might be different to a degree, but as a writer, I would hate to see my words twisted around.

    Your form of golf would be much more interesting than most. I get bored being stuck behind old people. Wait: I am old myself. Damn!

    Blaze

    • The secret for golf for me has been to not keep score. Just drink beer. Much more enjoyable that way.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you are having a good weekend.

  6. Paul, wonderful interview. What an accomplished writer. I have known people “off the grid” and really admired their independence. They were all a little off their rocker as well and I suspect their own social awkwardness propelled them to live isolated from ostracism and intolerance. Just my opinion based on observing a friend who thought the government had listening devices in his light fixtures.

    • You mean they don’t actually have listening devices in light fixtures? I just always assumed.

      This was my big laugh with the whole Patriot Act hub-bub. I certainly wasn’t thrilled about it, but while so many people were fretting that we would lose our privacy, the paranoid delusional in me thought, “Really? Did you ever really think the government couldn’t keep an eye (or ear) on you if they wanted to?”

      But an interesting point that some people who chose to isolate themselves do so because they don’t want to risk someone else ostracizing them.

      Thanks for stopping by. Thinking about you and hope you’re doing well. Maybe dinner at our place next Saturday after you get off work?

  7. Nice interview, Paul!
    I wish authors like Jeff could remain fulltime writers. I really enjoyed Witch’s Canyon (Supernatural tie-in) and River Runs Red.

    • Much thanks, Glen. Glad you liked the interview. Most of the kudos would go to Jeff, I would say. I can’t really speak as a seasoned veteran, but I’d like to think for someone like Jeff, in this new age of e-publishing and a sudden boom in competition, the system will eventually right itself as the wheat rises above the chaff. And while it may never mean a complete return to life of Thoreau, maybe talented writers will find a more comfortable balance between craft and self-promotion.

  8. I figure mechanisms will develop that will alllow for quality indies to rise to the surface. In time, hopefully, this will happen.
    I’m trying to figure out ways to promote without being a complete ass. I enjoy talking with readers and discussing writing, so I’m shifting more and more of my efforts in that direction. Also, just expanding my virtual shelf space seems to help quite a lot.

  9. Jeff, hi –

    Three hour commute! That’s terrible! I hope you are at least driving long distances and not sitting in gridlock!

    I’m intrigued by The Slab. I have a friend who lives outside of Austin and just bought a chunk of land to prep for her own off-the-grid life. She only has the internet when she goes into town on Sunday. I would say I can’t imagine that, but given that I’m old enough to predate the internet and therefore can remember a time when it didn’t even exist, I can imagine being internet-less! Come to think of it, I got a lot more fiction reading done back then… but I couldn’t have read this post or ‘met’ you (or Paul, for that matter), so I’m cool with the trade-off.

    -aniko

    PS Paul, Julie Jansen’s comments are spectacular & really on the spot when it comes to getting to the heart of The Imaginings – cool!!

    • Hey Aniko, thanks for stopping by. And yes, I would hope the same for Jeff as well. My wife and I have an hour commute each way to work, but it’s driving long distances. Much better than spending an hour to go fifteen miles.

      And I also remember the first pre-internet world. There are days when I wish I wasn’t so attached to it, but such is the business of being a writer it would seem these days. And of course, also glad to have met some amazing people through the blogosphere (yourself included 🙂 ).

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