Monday, June 7, 2010

Ari Marmell Interview


Writing is portrayed in movies and television shows as an exhilarating a highly coveted career in America. Yet, in reality, it requires hard work, constant scrutinizing by editors, and most importantly an amazing idea. Local Austinite, Ari Marmell, had that idea, put in the hard work, and after ten hard years of rewriting, published his first wholly original book, "The Conqueror’s Shadow". Whatchamacallit Reviews sat down with Marmell and got a glimpse of what it took to write "The Conqueror’s Shadow", how he got started, and what’s next for the up and coming Austin writer.

BL31: How did you first decide to become a writer?

Ari Marmell: I made the decision in my second year in college. I’d been writing things informally, mostly characters from “Dungeons and Dragons”, and that sort of thing. But I decided it was something I liked doing, and more to the point there was nothing else I didn’t hate the idea of doing more. So as a sophomore in college I changed my major to creative writing, which thrilled my parents to no end.

BL31: I’m sure they loved that.

AM: Don’t get me wrong they were incredibly supportive of what I do, they were just a little scared I wouldn’t be able to make a go out of it. Since most people can’t. But that was a pretty long time ago now.

BL31: Now what inspired you to write “The Conqueror’s Shadow”?

AM: It was one of those things, you know writers always talk about things hitting them out of the blue, and this was one of them.

In retrospect I know part of included a lot of my interests at the time, the more informal writing style, a sarcastic tone, and dark or conflicted characters.

But the idea actually first came to me while I was having lunch with my wife back in 99’ or 00’. It started out as the idea of a retired warlord coming back into the public eye to deal with someone who was even worse than he was. And everything else just sprang from that one idea. So there wasn’t one specific thing that caused it.

BL31: Wow, so how long did the whole process take to write the book?

AM: The first draft of the book took about two and half to three months, but there’s been so much rewriting done on it, that I think I spent a total of six or seven months writing on it over the course of years. In fact the very first draft of the book was written over 10 years ago. But it’s really changed so much since then, through everything from my writing improving, to my ideas changing, to the editorial feedback.

BL31: What was one of the hardest parts in the editorial process for you?

AM: Letting go of certain scenes or certain details. You know there’s an old cliché to authors “be ready to kill your babies”. I don’t’ mind editorial feedback, but every so often they’d point out a particular scene or detail that I really liked doesn’t actually serve the narrative, and forcing myself to cut those parts was always really difficult.

BL31: Can you tell me a little about the sequel to “The Conqueror’s Shadow”?

AM: It’s called “The Warlords Legacy”, but it used to be entitled “The Warlords Lament”, but we changed that. It's coming out in January and it takes place roughly six years after “The Conqueror’s Shadow”, and I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who hasn’t read either book, but it’s fairly obvious that what Corvis thought he was achieving at the end of “The Conqueror’s Shadow” actually has not worked out at all the way he thought it would.

BL31: Really?

AM: Yeah, he’s actually in a worse place personally, emotionally, relationship wise at the start of “Warlords Legacy” than he was at the end of “The Conqueror’s Shadow”.

BL31: Will we get to see any of the other supporting characters in “The Warlords Legacy”?

AM: Absolutely! Some more than others, Davro the ogre makes only a brief appearance for instance, but some of the characters that were only minor supporting characters in the first book are actually quite important in the second. If you remember Corvis's brother-in-law, Baron Jassion, he actually has a much larger part, and while he’s still pretty much pure anger and frustration he has quite a bit of character growth.

BL31: Did you have a favorite character while writing “The Conqueror’s Shadow”?

AM: Yeah, I have to say at least being the most fun to write, I have to go with Khanda. It will come as a surprise to no one that I’m a fairly sarcastic person in real life, but I’m usually fairly polite about it. Just being able to cut loose and be able to be vicious and nasty while still being sarcastic and funny just made Kanda a blast to write. There are characters with similar traits, hopefully not to similar, in “The Warlords Legacy”, that hopefully readers will enjoy.

BL31: Going back a little, how did you originally get an agent?

AM: Well getting an agent is kind of one of those weird stories that’s different for everyone. I tried for quite some time to get one through the traditional routs and applied to a number of agencies, and was rejected. Probably rightfully so as my writing wasn’t what it needed to be at the time. But I actually got my agent in a backwards sort of way. What happened was Wizards of the Coast was going to do a line of non-gaming related fiction, and I’d originally done “The Conqueror’s Shadow” for them. An agent who was handling both novels and studio rights saw it in one of their catalogs and came to me to see if I had management. And it was while I was talking to him that Wizards of the Coast ended up canceling that line, so “The Conqueror’s Shadow” reverted back to me. From there he turned around and sold it to Random House and the rest is history.

BL31: You live in Austin correct? Has Austin impacted your writing?

AM: I don’t know if there’s been a huge amount of impact, as when I’m writing I tend to be some what of a hermit. But that being said I certainly like the city and have some great friends here that I bounce ideas off of.

BL31: What can we expect from you in the future?

AM: I just finished what is supposed to be the final draft of “The Conqueror’s Legacy”. I have two books with the editor at Pyre books that are expected to be out in the next year or so, and I expect to be doing editing for those soon. As well as a new urban fantasy book that I’m working on. And then after that some of the books have sequel potential but really it depends on what each publisher likes.

BL31: So where can we find you online?

AM: You can find me at, but you can also find me by typing in Ari Marmell on Google.

BL31: Well thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

AM: No thank you! Thanks for the time and thanks for reading the book.

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