Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview with Author Marc Quaranta

Give us a quick introduction on yourself and your book.
Marc: I'm 24-years-old. I was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana where I still live today. I grew up playing basketball and socializing. I attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana where I studied Video Production. I loved acting and directing and working on the set of shows and movies. However, after a lot of soul searching, I'm currently headed back to school to get a teaching degree so that I can teach English or Creative Writing.

My book is titled Abilities. It is the story of two brothers that grow up with superhuman powers. One of them is powered by the sun and the other is powered by the moon. There is an old legend, "The Brothers Of The Sky," that says these two brothers will grow up to be terrible enemies and destroy the world during their battles. Their father decides to put one of the boys up for adoption hoping that they will never meet, never discover their powers, and the world will be safe.

However, 23-years-later the boys realize their gifts and the powers give them a thirst to find the other. Throughout the story, they turn to help from friends and family, including a few others with powers of their own. As they look for each other, they must also look out for the Tactical Defense Against Abilities, which is a secret government agency designed to contain these super-humans so that the normal public is unaware of their existence and the danger they can cause.
What inspired you to write your first book?

Marc: Abilities was originally a screenplay. I had taken some elements of all my favorite shows when creating Abilities. I was a big fan of Heroes. It was one of the great, although short lived, shows in the last decade. I also liked Lost and a few others and I wanted to write something with that element of science fiction and magic. I emailed a family friend of mine looking for some contacts where I could send my script to a producer or an agent, but she told me that she only dealt with literary people and not the "Hollywood" type. She told me to try writing a book if I was interested. I never thought I'd write a book, but when I sat down to give it a try, the words just really started to type themselves.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Marc: I'm sure somebody would tell you that I do, but I don't think I do. I, honestly, try to change my style in every book I write. A series that I'm working on now is called Dead Last. It is your terrifying zombie apocalypse story, but it is told from the point of views from five different characters. I try to mix it up. No matter what profession or hobby you're interested in change is important. The people that can adapt to what their bosses, family, or fans want are the ones that stick around the longest.

How did you come up with the title?
Marc: I bounced back and forth with a couple of ideas, but can't give those away in case I throw out any sequels, but ultimately decided on Abilities. It has a couple of meanings to it. In all movies or stories, people with magical powers are said to have special abilities. Also, in my book, the people with special powers are all referred to as "Abilities" so it has a nice double meaning. I liked it, though. It was a quick, one word title that has its own powerful feel when said out loud.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Marc: I didn't want any deep hidden messages in this story. I wanted to give people an adventure that kept them on the edge of their seats, but there is always something in a person's writing. While a lot of these people have special abilities, it is the relationships that get the story progressing. It is ultimately a story showing what people will go through, what they'll surrender to be with and to protect the person they love.
How much of the book is realistic?
Marc: I guess I'd say 50/50. When you look at the powers and magic that goes into Abilities, well, none of that is real. But like I said, this story is driven by the relationships. There is love, hatred, greed, respect, fear, and people that are so power hungry they don't care who they hurt. Putting the powers aside, these are all real people feeling real emotions. I think my readers can connect with any one of the characters. While you might compare to Gazet, the elder Irishman who is full of wisdom and compassion for his friends, I might compare to Michael, a young guy who feels lost and unsure of who he is but leans on his family to pick himself up. There are real people in these pages, the powers are there to really just open your eyes.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Marc: The experiences are just about all created from my imagination, but the people aren't. A lot of the characters in this book are people that I grew up with. Any author will tell you to "write what you know." I took personality traits and physical descriptions from some of the most important people in my life and sprinkled them throughout the pages. It made the characters more believable, but also is a nice way to show some of the people I've known that they all made a lasting impression with me.

What books have most influenced your life most?
Marc: I'd say Chuck Palahniuk and Michael Crichton. Both have very distinct styles of writing and the books that they put out were classics. Fight Club and Crichton's Jurassic Park, Sphere, and Congo were such exciting reads. I wanted to write fiction as great as that.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Marc: I'd have to go with Amanda Hocking. I've only been able to read one of her books, but I'm blown away by her journey. I've tried to follow in her path and seeing how hard it is gives me even more respect for her. If you don't know her story, definitely take a look at it. She self-published all of her works hoping that somebody would notice her one day and after, I think, over 35 self-published books, a publisher found her and now she is writing for a living. It's a terrific story of success.
What book are you reading now?
Marc: I'm actually stuck in the middle of a couple right now. Area 51: Nightstalkers by Bob Mayer. And also The Black List by Brad Thor. I wish I had more time to read, but as a young author trying to get started, I find myself with my nose in the pages I'm writing rather than some of the great books out there.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Marc: The great thing about being published by an independent publisher is that I am introduced to a bunch of other authors trying to get their works published. I'm seeing a lot of up and coming authors go through the same struggles and challenges that I'm going through. If you're interested in new authors, I encourage you to look up Ring of Fire Publishing or Twisted Core Press.

What are your current projects?
Marc: Too many things. Abilities isn't a "one and done" type of story. The goal is to put out five Abilities books. Number 2 is finished and will hopefully be available by the summer. I also have a series of short stories available on called Dead Last. Those are being developed into a book and I'm working on Volume 2 of Dead Last. Also, I just began the pre-pre-stages of a comic book-type of story. You can look at it as an Avengers or Justice League without the costumes.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Marc: I had a professor at Ball State who couldn't have been better for me. At that point and time in my life, he motivated me, he stuck with me, and taught me a lot. He wasn't a writing teacher, but always seemed to drop me a message at the right time that inspired me to keep writing. He taught me life lessons that I've carried into writing, as well as other areas of my life. So if I haven't said it enough, thank you, Chadwick Menning.
Do you see writing as a career?

Marc: I hope so. I'm a realist and I know that the odds are stacked against me, but when you find something you have a love and passion for, why not try to make a career out of it? I'm young and have time to keep reaching for the stars when it comes to writing. Whether I'm writing in my office full-time when I'm 35 or teaching creative writing at a high school, it won't stop me from writing. It is a love if somebody is paying me to do it or not.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Marc: I don't think I would. But that is a great thing about fiction. Anything can happen. If I get to book 4 and think, "Oh, I shouldn't have done that in book 1" I can come up with some ridiculous magic potion to change everything. In all seriousness, though, I'm happy with the way Abilities came out. For a first novel, I think others will be as well.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Marc: I had a teacher when I was 15-years-old. He taught creative writing and on the first day, he came into class dressed from head to toe as a medieval knight. He said, "In the real world, I look ridiculous, but in the world of fiction, I can do anything." I thought that was the coolest idea to be able to take the ordinary and turn it upside down. After that moment, I was always doodling story ideas or movie ideas.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Marc: To give you a quick glimpse into the world of Abilities;
Brick and the long-haired villain were closing in on each other. They were less than a hundred yards from each other. Brick started screaming at the top of his lungs. It was like a battle scene from an old war movie. The kind before there were tanks or guns. Two sides both lined by hundreds of men staring across a field into each other's eyes, and then they charge each other. Brick and this guy were charging.
When about twenty cars separated them, or so, the man whipped his shirt off, leaving it behind. The guy's legs were thickening. He was running on what looked like to be large tree trunks. His shoulder blades made popping and cracking sounds and extended outward. William sat in the car, his face scrunched up as he watched. It looked painful, but the guy didn't slow down. His skin began to change drastically. It was becoming dry and rugged like an old leather shoe. His face was changing too. It was widening and growing long and his eyes were moving to the sides of his face. After all of that, he jumped forward and before he hit the ground he had transformed into a rhinoceros. He was a giant, had to be eight-foot tall, living, breathing rhino and it happened in a matter of seconds before William's eyes.
William's hand covered his mouth and his eyes widened. This even caused Gazet to finally show some emotion. He threw both his hands on both the front seats and pulled himself closer to clear up his view. In less than three seconds, Brick was going to run into an actual Rhinoceros that used to be a man. It was coming right for him horn first. The only problem was Brick didn't react, he didn't slow down. He only lowered his shoulder and charged harder. The two had nowhere to go except straight through one another.
The rhino lowered its head and drove his horn into Brick's chest missing his body by mere inches. Then the rhino flung his head to the right, tossing Brick what had to be thirty feet in the other direction. Brick landed on the windshield of a parked car. His butt and back blasted through the glass. Every window in the car shattered from the force of the rhino's throw and from the sheer size of Brick's body.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Marc: Stepping away when I'm stuck. Writer's block is a real thing and an annoying thing at that. Just when I think I'm going somewhere, I'll get stuck. Everyone says that when writer's block comes, leave the computer and go do something far away from your writing. It is hard for me to do, though, because I always seem like I'm on the verge of something great.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Marc: It is a cliche answer, but I'd honestly have to go with William Shakespeare. I'm a big believer on looking at story over a writer's style. I'm not a fan of the language Shakespeare wrote. Reading it can give you a headache, but I think he is the greatest storyteller of all time. Rome & Juliet and Hamlet are of course classics, but stories like A Midsummer Night's Dream and 12th Night are fantastic as well. To have the amount of stories he does stand the test of time is an amazing feat. Plus, he was the only author I was assigned to read in middle school that didn't put me to sleep.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

Marc: At this point, no. I am hoping to eventually. I would love to be able to travel across America so that I can introduce myself and my writing to more readers.

Who designed the covers?

Marc: Stephen Penner. He is the founder of Ring of Fire Publishing and is the guy that gave me a chance. He also is a great writer.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Marc: Deciding on an ending. The end of Abilities changed over a dozen times. When I knew I wanted to write multiple Abilities books, I had to go back and forth with the ending. I didn't want to wrap everything up, but I didn't want to leave anybody angry. Did I accomplish that? Probably not.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Marc: It takes time. It takes a lot of time. So many people have great ideas, but lack the time and patience to put their idea to paper. Abilities took almost two years to plan and write. You can also add another six months of pushing it on publishers until Ring of Fire accepted. If you love writing but don't have the time, find it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Marc: Patience. It is only one word, but means a lot. Getting someone to publish your book means that you are probably going to get rejected 99 times before somebody says yes. I was. A lot of other authors were. Supposedly J.K. Rowling was rejected twelve times before somebody picked up Harry Potter. Just stick with it. If it is your dream to write a book, don't let anybody tell you to give it up.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Marc: Give it a chance. I know it is hard to pick up a book by an unknown writer, but it could be worth it. Abilities is an exciting story and if I can promise you anything, it is that it will leave you wanting more. Not just in the end, but chapter by chapter. If you like exciting, fresh stories, pick this up and I think you'll enjoy it.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Marc: The biggest challenge was the mind games I'd play with myself. After the first few rejections, you start to ask yourself, "Is this book good enough?" After the next dozen rejections, you start to ask, "Am I good enough?" It is hard to take a lot of rejection, but agencies and publishers mean it when they say, "This is in no way a stab at your writing." They honestly are either booked full or aren't interested in the genre. Staying confident in what you put on page is the biggest challenge as a writer. There is always going to be somebody better than you at something you enjoy doing, but my response is who cares.