Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Ari Marmell about the Mick Oberon series.
Ari Marmell is a fantasy writer with novels and short stories published through Spectra (Random House), Pyr, Wizards of the Coast, and others. He is the author of role-playing game materials for Dungeons & Dragons and the World of Darkness line, as well as the tie-in novel to the hit video game Darksiders. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, George.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ARI MARMELL ABOUT THE MICK OBERON SERIES
- You've written the Mick Oberon series, which currently consists of "Hot Lead, Cold Iron" and "Hallow Point". This series is in equal parts detective fiction and urban fantasy. What inspired you to write this kind of a cross-genre series?
ARI: Truth be told, it was the character of Mick himself. The character just sort of sprang to mind one night, when I was contemplating fairy tales because of another project I was working on. Once I had the character, there really was no question of what sort of stories I had to build around him, that they had to include both noir and fantasy elements.
- When I read "Hallow Point", I noticed that although it's a sequel to "Hot Lead, Cold Iron", it can be read as a standalone novel. Have you intentionally written both novels so that they can be read and enjoyed separately?
ARI: That was my intent, yes. While lots of the ongoing subplots and character arcs connect from book to book, I wanted the main plot, the main mystery, to be contained in a single book. That's going to get harder as the series continues, as I'm building up some major plot points with the ongoing character threads, and I do strongly recommend that people read the books in order. But I wanted at least the first few to be mostly accessible without having read what came before.
- I enjoyed reading about Mick's life and work in Hallow Point, because he was fey. Was it challenging to write about a fey detective and his work?
ARI: Writing mysteries is always tricky, since there's a balancing act to be done; you want the clues and the schemes to make sense, to be neither so easy the reader can see what's coming without effort, nor so complex that it doesn't make sense by the end. Once you toss in magic, it definitely becomes more challenging to write. What can Mick do? What can't he do? How does that impact his ability to unearth the secrets he's investigating? What are his opponents capable of? Are their goals even normal human goals? It's important, in any fantasy/mystery, to incorporate magic as a tool but not an automatic answer to everything. Like, for instance, the forensics in a modern police procedural, one must take it into account and make use of it without it being an automatic "I win" or "game over" button. Similarly, one has to make the nonhuman characters, like Mick, impressive and different, without making them infallible or unintelligible.
- In my opinion, one of the best things about "Hallow Point" is that the atmosphere feels realistic and you beautifully evoke the spirit of an age gone by when the world was different. Have you always been interested in the 1930s era?
ARI: Somewhat. I'd say I've had a passing interest, but not a fascination, until Mick. I enjoyed some period crime novels and movies, and I wrote a bit about it in some of the role-playing game material I worked on, but it wasn't until these books that I really delved into it in detail.
- It was interesting to read your prose, because you used words and phrases that were used in the 1930s. Were you already familiar with these words and phrases when you began to write this series or did you have to do any research about them?
ARI: Lots of research, including watching a number of movies--specifically those made much close to the time period--to get speech patterns down. And I put together a glossary of 1930s slang from various online sources.
- The events in this series take place in Chicago. What inspired you to use this city? Did Chicago's shady past as a mobster city play any part in your decision to use it as a setting for your series?
ARI: That was ENTIRELY the reason for using Chicago. Lots of other American cities of the time had massive organized crime influence--New York and Boston being the two most obvious--but Chicago is the one that everyone knows, the one where organized crime, and the fight against it, so utterly and completely shaped the city's culture. There was never any question in my mind that Mick had to be based there, and nowhere else.
- I enjoyed reading about the Spear of Lugh and the Wild Hunt in "Hallow Point". What inspired you to use these mythological elements?
ARI: The nature of the character and series itself call for it. A main character who's exiled Seelie nobility? A series where fae politics and maneuvering are as important as what's happening in the mortal world? It pretty much has to draw on mythology. And since the driving force behind the story in the first book was mortal intrigue (even though magic and the fae were involved), I wanted the driving force of book two to be something from the other side of things.
As far as using those elements specifically? I wanted a "Maltese Falcone"-style McGuffin, so it was a matter of looking at fae myth and finding something appropriate--hence, the Spear of Lugh. As for the Wild Hunt? I've known from the beginning I wanted to include them, and I seriously doubt their looming-but-never-front-and-center presence in book two is the last we'll see of them.
- What has been the most rewarding part of writing this series, and what has been the most challenging part of writing it?
ARI: I've had a lot of fun writing the character of Mick himself. He just has the combination of character personality traits and "I know more than I'm telling" background that I can really sink my teeth into. I also have to admit, I've very much appreciated people's reactions to the character and these books. I'm glad that readers are enjoying them as much as they are.
Most challenging? Definitely keeping the 1930s dialogue. Not just in terms of using the slang and terminology, but also in making sure that more modern phrases don't slip in.
- Will you write more novels about Mick Oberon in the near future?
ARI: Absolutely. I'm about to start book three, and I'd love to write quite a few more Mick Oberon books if these do well enough. (He said, subtly hinting.)
- How would you advertise "Hot Lead, Cold Iron" and "Hallow Point" to readers who are thinking of reading them?
ARI: Hmm. That's tricky. "Gangland fantasy noir"? "Sam Spade meets Harry Dresden"? "Raymond Chandler by way of Steven Brust"?
Let's just go with "Tales of mystery and mythology that'll take you from the underworld to the Otherworld."