Ari Marmell is an author and game designer, published with Del Rey, Titan Books, Pyr Books, Wizards of the Coast, and others. He finds talking about himself in the third person to be very weird. He’s no Bob Dole.
For what age audience do you write?
Well, not all of my books are age-specific, but those that are fall distinctly in the YA range. I’d say, oh, 13 and up. Depending on the individual, of course. I don’t include sexual imagery in my YA books, but things do get awfully bloody, and there’s some swearing, though not usually in large amounts.
Tell us about your latest YA book.
Covenant’s End is the fourth and final(?) book in the Widdershins series, following Thief’s Covenant, False Covenant, and Lost Covenant. These are fantasy stories in a setting somewhat like Renaissance-era France. Widdershins is an orphaned street thief who, in essence, has a god living in her head. Not a powerful god–she’s his only worshiper–but a god nonetheless.
Henry: Does the question mark mean we can hope for another book in the series?
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
First and foremost, enjoyment. I try to make my books exciting, engrossing, amusing. Definitely adventurous. If someone values the time they put into reading one of my books, I consider it a win.
Beyond that? I’d like my readers to share in some of the feelings that Widdershins has–or that I myself had, when writing. I’ve included stuff in Covenant’s End that made me smile, made me laugh, and, yes, made me cry. I very much hope my audience can feel some of that.
Henry: Does someone else we know have voices in their head?
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Casual description. It’s easy for me to write about an environment or what someone’s doing when it’s exciting or unusual or dramatic. Keeping the narrative flowing when people are simply talking, or when the scene is set in a relatively normal area? That’s much harder to keep interesting.
Henry: I always add more cowbell to spice up a scene.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Just how deeply a book can make readers feel. How important it is to keep in mind that you’re writing for actual people. Some who don’t understand call it “political correctness” if you make a point of including characters of various genders, races, orientations, and the like, but I’ve seen too many people left out in the cold, and I’ve seen the genuine, real-world pain it can cause.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
Not too long ago, a reader wrote to me. He told me that he was somewhat ADD and had never enjoyed reading–until he read through one of my novels over a single weekend. He’d learned that it wasn’t that he hated reading; it was just that he’d never found the right book before. I’m not sure I can explain how touched I was by that.
Henry: That’s why we write.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Well, everyone says “Don’t give up,” so I’ll skip that one. Instead, I’ll say this. Don’t let anyone tell you how to write. Some people outline; some don’t. Some people work for the same amount of time every day, some go by word count. Some people right a few hundred words a day, some write a few thousand. There’s no right or wrong. Figure out what works for you, and stick with it.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Tough choice, but I think I’d have to go with telepathy/mind control, a la Charles Xavier.
Henry: Particularly if it worked on editors.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Steven Brust, Joss Whedon, and Joe Michael Straczynski. In part because they all helped shape my writing style (along with others, such as David Eddings), and in part because it would be the single most memorable dinner since the Last Supper. (If you know any of these authors, you understand what I mean.)
Henry: You read it here first, folks. Josh Whedon is Christ.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
The honest politician.
Henry: I don’t even think those exist in fiction…
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read a great deal, I’m a die-hard gamer (tabletop role-playing, like Dungeons & Dragons, not so much computers), and I enjoy seeing how many bad puns I can subject people to before their brains combust.
Henry: Ari posts humorous out-of-context quotes from D&D sessions on social media.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“Here lies a famous author who somehow managed to live a successful and happy three-hundred years.”
Henry: Well played, sir.
Where can readers find your work?
Most online vendors (Amazon, B&N, etc.) and in many brick-and-mortar bookstores. My own site, mouseferatu.com, has links to all of them.
This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.