Thursday, March 6, 2014

An Interview With The Author

I'm under a bit of a crunch today, so I'm reposting an interview I did with my agent when Thorn and Murder of Mages was first announced.  Feel free to hit me with follow-up questions.

Q: So who is this Marshall Ryan Maresca fellow?A: Marshall Ryan Maresca is a fantasy and sci-fi writer living in the Austin area.  And he's just sold two fantasy novels to DAW!

Q: What are a few books that made you fall in love with fantasy and science fiction?A: A few early favorites are David Eddings's The Belgariad, Asimov's Caves of Steel, Richard Adams's Watership Down, and Zilpha Keatly Snyder's Below the Root.

Q: What makes you laugh?A: What specifically?  Hard to say.  It doesn't take much, I can tell you that.  I'm pretty easy.

Q: What's the hardest lesson you have learned about writing?A: It took me a while to figure out that enthusiasm alone for my settings or ideas wasn't enough to truly make a story.  I had to push through a phase where I wasn't really writing, I was essentially being a fandom of one for a thing that was only in my head.  I had to sit down and really figure out how to outline and structure a story with a driven center. 

Q: What's the most difficult thing you've learned about publishing?
A: Patience.  Still working on that.

Q: With the explosion of self-publication what made you seek an agent and traditional publisher?A: Frankly, self-publication is too easy.  I couldn't see the value in taking that route.  There's a bit in A League of Their Own that I like to bring up, where Geena Davis says that the game "got too hard", and Tom Hanks replies, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great."  That sums it up quite nicely. 

Q: What was the process in getting your agent like?
A: I first became aware of him quite a few years ago, when he did a public challenge of pounding through as many slush entries he could in a single day.  I sent something to him that, in retrospect, had very little business being shopped around.  But I had to learn that.  He-- quite rightfully-- passed on that one.  But he stayed on my radar, and when I was querying for Thorn of Dentonhill, he was at the top of my list. 
Now, here's where it gets interesting.  That draft of Thorn was, for all intents, unsellable: a 70,000 word manuscript in a genre that really demands at least 90K.  I can only imagine that a number of agents passed on it without blinking when they saw that statistic at the top of the query.  But Mike read the whole damn thing and came back with, "This is great, BUT it's far too short.  Fix that and get back to me."  Up until that point, I had been clueless about the fundamental flaw in the work.  So I got back in there and figured out how to make it longer without causing fundamental damage to it. On top of that, there were plenty more queries, sending partials and fulls upon request, and a lot of form rejection letters.  Seriously.  A lot.

Q: When you went agent hunting how long did it take you to land the aforementioned scoundrel?A: Well, that's a complicated question.  I started the query process for Thorn in 2009, and I heard from Mike there in October.  It took me a few months to rework it, and then send it back to him.  And then the process of further querying brought more drafts, and in early 2011 I sent him a even more revised version, which he accepted in May.  So: two years, give or take, where the manuscript went through a lot of evolution in the process.

Q: NightWing and Hawkeye get into a battle to the death; who wins?A: First of all, both those guys operate on a No Killing code, so I don't know how this battle to the death came about.  But, accepting the premise, I've got to put my money on Hawkeye.  He's a crafty bastard that everyone underestimates.  Plus: he beat Death itself and saved the universe from complete destruction using nothing but a carny trick. 

Q: Who are your three favourite superhero's?
A: If my answer above didn't already clue you in, I'm a sucker for archers: Green Arrow and Hawkeye.  Some people will mock them for being, you know, just a guy with a bow, while next to them are the likes of Iron Man or Superman or such.  But you've got to flip the script on it: they're just guys with a bow... who are good enough to be standing next to Iron Man or Superman.  For a third, I've got to go with Nightcrawler: pure panache and style. 

Q: What form does your writing procrastination take? A: Maps and worldbuilding for other things.  My space opera setting has grown quite literally exponentially while not writing various projects.

Q: Your bio says you do some acting, would you want to play any of your characters in an adaptation? If so who?
A: Oh, absolutely.  Probably one of the minor bad guys in Thorn-- Nevin or Bell-- or Captain Cinellan in A Murder of Mages. But just about anyone would be fun, because... well, I write with the perspective of a guy who's played "Citizen #4" in Julius Caesar.  You've got to make even the most minor character dynamic.

Q: What movie have you seen the most times?
A: This is the hardest question here.  I've seen many movies many, many, many times.  And quite a few of them were really not worth the repeated viewing.  I don't know if I've seen it more than any other, but the movie I can always pop in and be utterly engaged in is Die Hard.  And like I said above, that's a movie that makes even the most minor character dynamic. 

Q: What can you tell us about the books you sold?
A: Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages are street-level fantasy novels set in the same city.  In Thorn, Veranix Calbert is a magic student at the University who spends his nights slipping off campus to wage a one-man war on the drug dealers in the adjoining neighborhood, and their boss Willem Fenmere.  Using his magic skills in his fight, Veranix draws the attention of Fenmere, mystical circles and street gangs, and they all want a piece of “The Thorn.” With professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might fall apart, and the assassins and mages after him could end it completely.  In Mages, Satrine Rainey is a working mother and an ex-spy who fakes her way into a Inspector position in the Maradaine Constabulary.  She gets partnered with Minox Welling, an eccentric genius and an untrained mage.  Together, they have to solve a series of gruesome murders, in which all the victims are mages.  Both books stand on their own, but as they take place in the same city, there are little hints and connections tying them together.

Q: When they build a statue to you, how will you be posed?
A: Slumped in front of computer, writing.

Q: Where on the internet can we find you? (List all social networks that are publicly you, website, blog and whatever)
A: My webpage is, and my blog can be found at  I'm also on Twitter ( and Facebook.


Robert L. Slater said...

[my apologies, I think I may have called you Ryan in my last post.]

You stated above, "Frankly, self-publication is too easy." In our continuing exploration of the differences, I would say, "It's only easy if you're doing it wrong."

I have worked harder in the last 18 months on my writing, marketing and publishing than I've ever worked on anything in my entire life. And I took 14 months to publish, building followers, blogging, networking, editing, rewriting, studying and reading: blogs, non-fiction sales books, novels, etc.


Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

"Easy to do badly", I should say. That would be more accurate.

Robert L. Slater said...

I checked out your website and like the sounds of both books. Are they both standalones, or are you considering series? From what you say about your world building propensities, it seems that series would be good! ;-)

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Both books are the starts of series, but they are in the same setting, so there are tendrils of interconnection between them.

Robert L. Slater said...

Cool. I look forward to reading them.