Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Ari Marmell Answers Questions Five

Ari Marmell is best known the world of Dungeons & Dragons where he is a freelance writer and has published several tie-in novels. The Conqueror’s Shadow (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) is his first non-tie-in novel and was released to the world last month (I enjoyed it quite a bit). He lives in Austin, TX and has several more non-tie-in novels are in the works. After reading his snarky style in The Conqueror’s Shadow I knew he’d make a good fit for a Questions Five interview.

Thanks again to Ari and enjoy…

Ari, as a Texan (well someone who lives in a Texas anyway – it’s hard to imagine someone with the name of Ari actually being Texan), I can only assume that along side your expertise in cowboy boots, horseback riding and BBQ, that you can let the world know the proper way to prepare armadillo. How do you prefer your armadillo?

AM: It’s a very specific process. You have to start with the “flat” variety—the one you find alongside every highway in Texas. (Armadillos are actually born that way in parts of the state.) The tire tread marks are really good for catching spices and flavoring. But first you have to take the flat armadillo, hang it, and beat it like a piñata, so as to shake out all the bits of broken shell, gravel, burnt rubber, and bugs. Then it’s just a question of tossing it on the grill and rubbing in whatever spices and sauces you prefer. Me, I tend to go with a mixture of jalapeno and honey mustard dressing if it was hit by a Ford or Chevy, or teriyaki if it was hit by a Honda or Toyota.

D&D had a huge impact on your childhood and you found a way to make it pay the bills in adulthood. Has your love of D&D ever spilled out into real life in a way that is less than flattering? Do tell…

AM: Well, I could mention that I proposed to my wife at a D&D game… But then, since she was already a gamer, and we surrounded by gamers, that hardly qualifies as “real life,” does it?

I got some weird looks from teachers in middle school when I chose certain project topics based on my love of D&D. I did a presentation on demons in various religions that made use of pictures copied from the first edition Monster Manual (including a rather under-dressed succubus) that got some raised eyebrows. And my father and I built an entire suit of plate armor out of poster board for a history project. (And yes, I wore it during the presentation.) But again, while perhaps geeky in the extreme, those were deliberate.

It’s actually difficult to find places where D&D “spilled out” into real life, because D&D has always been a larger part of my life than was probably good for me. An enormous number of characters and adventure ideas found their genesis during the hours, and using the brainpower, that should have been devoted to homework. It’s hard for anything to spill into areas where I’d already deliberately and liberally poured it.

If The Conqueror’s Shadow were a fortune cookie, what would its fortune be?

AM: “You will soon discover an old suit still fits better than you expected.” (Trust me, if you read the book, this actually makes a whole lot of sense.)

How would you interpret this fortune if it were your own?

AM: Well, I would hope it would mean that I’m finally going to succeed in losing some damn weight, but then I’d have to ask how likely that is considering that I’d just eaten a fortune cookie.

Why should The Conqueror’s Shadow be the next thing that everyone reads?

AM: Assuming you want an answer with a little more broad-based appeal than “So I can eat something other than Ramen for the next eight months”…

The Conqueror’s Shadow is a perfect example of what I try to do with a great deal of my fiction writing. First, I enjoy starting with some of the traditional fantasy tropes, so that people have an easy and comfortable gateway into the book and are almost certain to find stuff they enjoy—but then taking at least a few of those tropes and turning them around, or taking a sharp left turn. Basically, playing with them in ways that are far less common than the tropes themselves. I think it’s something that most fantasy fans can enjoy.

And that leads quite nicely into my other point, which is that The Conqueror’s Shadow is a fun read. It’s fast-paced, it’s very funny in some scenes while very dark in others—all of which, I certainly hope, makes it an exciting story. Different fantasy novels are written with different goals in mind; the most important, to me, is to create an overall enjoyable experience. Obviously, I’d like to make the reader think about certain concepts, or feel certain things at certain points—but at the end of the day, if the reader doesn’t want to put the book down until s/he’s read “Just one more chapter”… If the reader had a lot of fun getting to the end… That’s when I feel I’ve successfully done my job. And while I’m hardly an unbiased source, I feel like The Conqueror’s Shadow provides exactly that.

Bonus question for inclusion in The SFF Literary Pub Crawl:

Please recommend a favorite pub or similar establishment – it doesn’t have to be local to you, but that is encouraged and if you can’t limit to just one, recommend more, but try to keep it to 3 or less. And don’t forget to say why it’s so great.

AM: This is a surprisingly tricky question for me, because I’m actually not a drinker. I’ve been to a few clubs in Austin for various shows, but never actually for the sake of just hanging around and having a few drinks. (I’m more of a coffee shop guy for that sort of thing.)

So as far as a pub/club, I’d say Prague is the coolest one I’ve been to in Austin, if only because of the ambiance; it’s got a really nifty feel and aesthetic to the place.

And if I may stretch the definition to include the aforementioned coffee shop, I’ve never found any better than
It’s a Grind. It’s local to Austin, and it’s absolutely fantastic. Wonderful ambiance and people, and their blended mochas are what the gods drink when they want a special treat in place of their usual ambrosia.


Neth said...

I figure I should mention that I feel that I have special privilage to rag on Texas since I was born in Dallas and raised in Austing. And I suppose it's no surprise that neither place that Ari mentions for drinks was in Austin when I last lived there (of course I haven't lived there in this century).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Funny interview - Ari has a wicked sense of humor. And he's right about finding a flat armadillo on every Texas road. Not sure I'm brave enough to try the recipe though.
And D&D isn't 'real life?'


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