Marshall Ryan Maresca Talks Worldbuilding and Intrigue

marshall-ryan-marescaWelcome back! It’s been a while, I admit — I’ve had more paying gigs and day-job drama that have taken up most of my time.

But what better way to reopen the blog than with a visit from Marshall Ryan Maresca?

I’ve been a fan since his debut early last year with The Thorn of Dentonhill, a comic book-inspired adventure about a teenage magical vigilante protecting the slums of the sprawling city of Maradaine from drug dealers. A sequel, The Alchemy of Chaos, came out earlier this year.

He has also started building Maradaine into a sandbox of stories, filling in the city’s rich history with a diverse cast of distinct characters throughout its numerous boroughs, like Minox and Satrine, a pair of outcast detectives with mysterious backgrounds. The two star in Maresca’s “Maradaine Constabulary” series, which started last Fall with A Murder of Mages.

intrigueMaresca is currently on a blog tour promoting the second “Constabulary” novel, An Import of Intrigue. The novel, which hits shelves on Tuesday, Nov. 1, follows Minox and Satrine as they investigate a murder with global diplomatic implications in the “Little East” section of Maradaine.

Maresca graciously agreed to stop by to chat about the new novel and share some thoughts on worldbuilding.

So first off, where did you get your idea for Maradaine from? Did it start as something other than a setting for your novels (like a game setting or such?)

I started with the world, which did have its origins as a game setting, but the more I built it the more I wanted to write in it. So I started with the world, and then found the stories within it.

While the two series have been unrelated, you’ve started laying the groundwork for the series’ to weave together, will there be a full “crossover” story, to use a comic term? I guess I’m kind of picturing a sort of”MCU” with interlocking stories and cameos throughout.

Yes. Without going into details — keep your eye out for The Imposters of Aventil in 2017.

alchemyThe two series seem aimed at different audiences, but they both hit respective nostalgic spots for me. The “Thorn” books appeal to the comic-book kid in me, while the “Constabulary” books remind me of the Randall Garrett’s “Lord Darcy” stories. Who were some of your inspirations/influences?

Comics are a huge influence, of course. I spent the late eighties and early nineties buying most everything with an X in the title. I also was a big fan of David Eddings, who, even though he was writing this grand epic tale, made everything very grounded and human at the same time.

Coming from a theater background, how did you get started in writing fantasy?

Just about everyone in theatre is, at their heart, a fantasist. It’s all about making magic and mystery happen. Heck, several of Shakespeare’s classics are straight-up fantasies. Macbeth has witches, prophecies, sword fights and an epic plot to save the throne from an usurper. Hamlet has a ghost show up and say, “Hey, I was murdered, avenge me.” Our genre has deep theatre roots.

You recently announced a third Maradaine series as well. What can you tell us about it?

The first “Streets of Maradaine” book is The Holver Alley Crew, which comes out March of 2017. It focuses on two brothers who used to be thieves who are now trying to live a straight life… until a fire burns down everything they own, so they have to go back to their old life to cover their debts. And along the way, they learn that the fire wasn’t an accident, so they decide they need to do something about that…

Any plans for more beyond that?

Beyond that, I do have a fourth Maradaine series planned, but it’s still being worked on. I don’t have a name for that whole series yet, but the first book is tentatively The Way of the Shield. And that one is very different from the others, as it focuses on the politics and upper classes of Maradaine.

What else do you have in the works?

I’ve got a space opera novel that’s still very much in the rough draft stage. I’ve also started planning a couple novellas set in and around Maradaine. Plus in 2018 there are two more Maradaine books coming out: the second Streets novel, Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe and the third Constabulary novel A Parliament of Bodies.

Any recent books you’d like to recommend?

I’m a big fan of Stina Leicht’s Malorum Gates books—Cold Iron is the first one so far. I really enjoyed Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

Thanks again, I’m looking forward to more Maradaine and your guest post!

Thank you for having me!

Marshall Ryan Maresca on Worldbuilding

thorn of dentonhillWorldbuilding is a major part of any genre writer’s task in crafting a believable setting for their work. Even if the setting is “modern day Chicago, but with vampires”, there is worldbuilding work to be done. Worldbuilding can go from the cosmic scope of gods and galaxies, or down as small as the details of one family’s history.

I have a potentially bad habit when I’m worldbuilding, in that I have hard time not filling in all the corners. What’s over that next hill? Who are those people over there? And what’s on the other side of them?

This created a problem when I first tried writing novels. I had done all this worldbuilding, and thus my instinct in writing was to share all of it. So I have two trunked manuscripts that will never see the light of day, and both of them have that fundamental problem: they were all about showing the world, and not about telling an interesting story.

My problem boiled down to this: I wanted to tell a single story that showed the whole world, but the world I had built wasn’t designed to tell a single story. There are plenty of worlds that are built to tell a single story, of course, and there is nothing wrong with that. The worldbuilding is done in service of the story being told.

But what I had realized—what I needed to embrace—was that my worldbuilding work was a sandbox to play in. So I needed to play in it in different ways.

It’s fascinating how these should-be-obvious insights feel revelatory.

So I looked at the world, and specifically the city of Maradaine, to see what kinds of stories could be told there. I turned on the worldbuilding engine again, this time putting all that energy into the city itself, to make the city as real and complex and vibrant as any metropolis.

murder of magesThe main decision I made—and again, this is another should-be-obvious thing that felt like a revelation—was to name and define everything. Neighborhoods, streets, shops. I had to shatter my preconceptions of what a “fantasy city” was. I needed to know Maradaine like I was born there. I had to think about, on a grand and personal level, the history of the city.

Part of that building process meant thinking like a city planner. Maradaine needed infrastructure, and that meant a standing constabulary force, complete with its own history and hierarchy. Maradaine needed a justice system—true justice, which meant I needed constables with checks and limits on their behavior. A legal system that at least gave the appearance of fairness.

That process helped me discover the different possible stories the city held. Rather than figuring out how to make all those stories into one, grand door-stopping epic, I decided to draw out each of those stories separately.

I had a world big enough to let each of them live and breathe on their own, after all.

An Import of Intrigue is available Tuesday, Nov. 1. For more information and the latest news, visit Marshall at

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Day one at Tucson Festival… The Pain!

2015 Tucson FoB_crowdDay one of the Tucson Festival of Books is complete. I didn’t get to see exactly every panel I wanted, (sorry Beth and Yvonne, I missed the kick-ass women) but it was still a fun and productive day.

That started quite a bit earlier than I expected. For some reason the dogs decided that 5 a.m. was playtime, so I gave up on that last hour of sleep and hit the road, hopped up on Dutch Brothers.

It was around Maricopa that I realized I’d forgotten my cane. The back would be angry.

It wasn’t too bad though, and I arrived early enough to grab a quick bite and great parking. Great parking has become a prime motivator for me.

The festival is amazing. The entire length of the UA campus is lined with booths hawking everything from new age remedies to celebrating the National Park System.

And the authors!

I did a recent write-up for the New Times featuring some of the big names at the Festival, and it barely scratches the surface.
Continue reading

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Diversity Shines with Nebula Nominees

Tgrace-of-kingshe Science Fiction Writers of America announced the Nebula Award Nominees this weekend and there is a whole lot to be excited about, especially the diverse cast of nominees. Is this a backlash against the Sad Puppies campaign? Or a commentary on the flap over the Oscars’ lack of diversity? (The Nebulas are sort of Sci-Fi’s equivalent of the Academy Awards.)  I don’t really care, because it’s great to see so many women and people of color on the shortlists.

Fantasy dominated the novel nominees, from Ken Liu’s magnificent Homer-meets-the-Chu-Han-contention debut, The Grace of Kings, to Naomi Novik’s Polish fairytale rewrite,  Uprooted. But there are strong sci-fi contenders as well. uprootedAnn Leckie snared her third nomination with Ancillary Mercy, while Lawrence M. Schoen’s late-entry, Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, made a surprise showing, especially considering it was released in the late December dead zone between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s been vaulted onto the must-read ASAP list (along with N.K. Jemisin’s Fifth Season) as I prepare my Hugo ballot in the coming months. Continue reading

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Four More Harper Voyager Authors Coming to Phoenix Comicon

Harper Voyager
will have a strong presence at Phoenix Comicon this year as four more Harper authors join the guest lineup.

Bishop O'ConnellBishop O’Connell is known for his “American Faerie Tale” series, which kicked off in 2014 with The Stolen. These contemporary fantasy novels, set in a magical Boston and the mystical land of Tír na nÓg, follow a mother as she searches for her child, who has been stolen by the Fae. The fourth novel in the series, The Returned, is available on eBook in July.

God WaveNavy veteran and polymath Patrick Hemstreet’s debut novel, The God Wave, follows a neuroscientist unlocks the key to seemingly unlimited brain power and Godlike abilities. In his dystopian future, however, his benevolent intent is easily corrupted by military intervention. The novel is coming out  on May 17.

small angry planetBecky Chambers is one of the most talked about young sci-fi authors right now, thanks to her acclaimed space opera, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which Chambers funded through a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 and self-published in 2014, earning a Kitschie nomination in the process. Last year Ann Leckie sang the praises of the debut here and Harper released it as an eBook last August. The paperback comes out in July.

Joseph NassiseFinally, the Valley’s own Joe Nassise will be joining the Harper crew. A New York Times bestselling
horror author, he has earned multiple Stoker nominations and served as the president of the Horror Writers Association. Nassise is best known for the acclaimed Riverwatch, as well as the “Templar Chronicles” urban fantasy series. His latest series “The Great Undead War” is an alt-history mash-up of zombies and World War I. He also recently edited the anthology Urban Allies, which features ten collaborative urban fantasy tales by such superstars as Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden working in tandem. The collection hits shelves on July 26.

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Sci-Fridays book club at The Poisoned Pen

darker shadeI wanted to share some exciting news about a project I’ve started here in Phoenix — the Sci Fridays book club. 

I’m teaming up with Pat King from the Poisoned Pen for this group, which will meet every third Friday of the month at the Pen, starting next month on March 18. 

Something I’ve noticed is that when discussions gravitate to sci-fi, the books and authors named are invariably 30 years old or so. Now I’m a big fan of Bradbury, Zelazny, Gibson et al, those were the books I grew up reading, but there is so much great stuff coming out now that I don’t think we need to simply celebrate the past. So we’re going to focus on the best new (or newish) books.

Our first meeting will be on March 18 at 7 p.m. We will discuss V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, an intriguing and acclaimed tale of a magician and thief who are able to travel between parallel Londons. As an added bonus, Schwab will be at the Pen on March 3 promoting Darker Shade’s sequel, A Gathering of Shadows, so if you pick your copy up then, you can get it signed!

For those planning ahead, the next meeting will be on April 15, discussing Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs. May’s meeting is on the 20th, discussing Jaye Wells’ Dirty Magic.

So if you’re in town, I’d love to see you. If not, I’ve got a Facebook group in the works for online discussion as well.

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