Jeff MariotteBy Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at November 13, 2003 - 1:34 AM GMT
Jeff Mariotte wears several hats. Formerly the Vice President of Marketing and Senior Editor for comic book publisher Wildstorm Productions, Mariotte is now the Editor-in-Chief for IDW Publishing. He is also noted for writing the hit comic book series Desperadoes and numerous other graphic novels.
Mariotte is a Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Award-nominated author of more than a dozen novels, including some set in the universes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Charmed and Star Trek. In addition to everything else in his busy life Mariotte and his wife Maryelizabeth Hart and partner Terry Gilman are the owners of Mysterious Galaxy, an independent bookstore in San Diego, California that specializes in the mystery, science fiction, fantasy and horror genres.
His first full-length Star Trek novel Deny Thy Father, the fifth title in the Lost Era mini-series, is set to be released later this month. Deny Thy Father tackles the back-story of William Riker by examining his relationship with his father Kyle. Almost a prequel to the TNG episode "The Icarus Factor", the novel spans the years 2355 to 2357 covering Riker's last two years at Starfleet Academy and his first year of duty on the U.S.S. Pegasus.
Mr. Mariotte generously shared a little of his precious time with the Trek Nation to answer a few questions about his numerous writing projects.
Trek Nation: Was working as senior editor at Wildstorm your first experience with dabbling in the Star Trek universe?
Jeff Mariotte: If you don't count watching the shows, yes. Editing the Star Trek comics was a terrific learning experience, and it exposed me to the wonderful wealth of reference material that's available out there. There is almost certainly no other TV show, or series of shows, about which so many words have been written and so many images captured.
Trek Nation: You've been quite successful working in media tie in fiction and Angel and Buffy fans are perhaps the most familiar with your work. What lead to your first Star Trek fiction, the Starfleet Corps of Engineers story "No Surrender"?
Jeff Mariotte: Keith DeCandido asked me if I'd like to take part. He's been my editor in the past, having edited my first novel, co-written with Christopher Golden, called Gen13: Netherwar. And I've been his editor, on his Star Trek comic book miniseries. So we have some experience working together. "No Surrender" turned out to be a lot of fun to do, so I'm deeply grateful to Keith for approaching me.
Trek Nation: Was the invitation to pitch a story for the Lost Era series a result of having gotten your foot in the door, so to speak, with "No Surrender"?
Jeff Mariotte: Yes, definitely. Marco Palmieri liked the story enough to ask me to join in on the Lost Era series, which sounded like a great time.
Trek Nation: Why a Riker story? Did Marco ask for one or was that just the story you want to tell?
Jeff Mariotte: Marco didn't ask for anything specific — part of the pleasure of the Lost Era series was that there were so many potential stories to be told, so he just asked me to pick something that interested me. I've always enjoyed the character of Will Riker and his interactions with other people, particularly women. And I was struck, in thinking about him, by how much like his father he really was, in spite of the fact that they hadn't seen each other in many, many years, and the fact that Kyle had abandoned Will before he was fully mature. So I wondered what in their common background might have made them the men they were, and if other Rikers had similar natures.
Trek Nation: What type of research did you have to do while writing Deny Thy Father?
Jeff Mariotte: I kept boxes of reference materials by the desk the whole time. Because I'm not as steeped in Star Trek lore as some writers, and I knew I wanted to have cameo appearances by other actors, as well as staying faithful to the established "facts", I had to look up a lot. I was constantly consulting timelines, to make sure I didn't bring in anyone or anything that just wasn't around at that time. I tried to find out, or deduce, the relationships between people we know a lot about, like Kathryn Janeway and Admiral Paris, and ones we only know a little about, like Will Riker and Paul Rice. And of course, I had to know how to pilot a starship.
Trek Nation: I know there was a real collaborative effort among the Lost Era authors to make sure there was continuity between the various novels. Your novel is set quite a bit after the first four however so was it as much of an issue for your story?
Jeff Mariotte: No, not in terms of strict timeline continuity. I did get to see what Mike Martin and Andy Mangels had come up with about the Tholians [in the Lost Era novel The Sundered], since they're a big part of Kyle Riker's back-story, and we wanted internal consistency between the books. But otherwise, Deny Thy Father is pretty self-contained.
Trek Nation: The vast majority of your comic and novel writing credits are all in the horror genre. What do you find are the major differences when writing science fiction verse horror?
Jeff Mariotte: I tend to think along horrific lines more than science fictional lines, I think — when constructing a story I look for what will build suspense, what will unnerve the reader, more than I think about how I might extrapolate known science into something new and different. So horror comes more naturally for me, and SF is more of an effort, or a challenge. One that I enjoy, and I think helps stretch me. But you could probably read Deny Thy Father and spot the moments where the horror writer in me comes out — certainly in the description of Kyle's experience with the Tholians, and some other spots.
Trek Nation: Your first original novel The Slab was just published this September. What was your inspiration for The Slab?
Jeff Mariotte: The Slab had multiple inspirations, which I guess only makes sense because there are multiple story lines that all thread together. The initial one was visiting an uncle who is getting up in years, but still loves to go dove hunting. At the same time, I was dealing with my own feelings about my father's Alzheimer's disease, which he had been suffering for several years until he passed away last year.
I merged these two ideas into a storyline about a man with Alzheimer's who had been a regular participant in a special kind of "dove hunt", but now could no longer be trusted out in the wilderness with a gun. At the same time, in this "dove hunt", the "dove" was a woman, so what the hunters were doing was illegal, and the group had to wonder if the old man would remember that he wasn't supposed to talk about what he had been up to on their annual excursions.
Added to this was a story idea I had about three people, veterans of different wars, whose lives had been saved during those wars by magical interference-magic that had come back from time to time, guiding them to a specific place and time. And the overall inspiration that ties it all together is a real place called Slab City, out in the California desert, near the Salton Sea, where people live in RVs or shacks, pay no rent or taxes, and live off the land as much as they can. It's the ultimate squatter's paradise, if you can stand 115-degree heat in summer and no public services of any kind.
Trek Nation: Do you think being a bookstore owner yourself gives you any special insight into what readers are looking for in a story?
Jeff Mariotte: I wish it did, but I'm not sure that it does. I think the benefit it gives me is a passing familiarity with a lot of books — even books that I don't have time to read myself. I'm in the store, I read all the reviews our staff members do, I hear authors talk about their own books, so I have a pretty good sense of what's being published, what sorts of things have been done, that it would be hard to have otherwise. I do get to hear lots of author horror stories, though, and have an appreciative audience for my own.
Trek Nation: In addition to Deny Thy Father you have a new Angel novel also being released this December — what can you tell us about Solitary Man?
Jeff Mariotte: One of the things I like about writing Angel novels is getting to play with aspects of the detective story. It's kind of been left behind by the show now, but originally Angel had a detective agency called Angel Investigations, and I've been able to use that as a starting point for various novels, including Hollywood Noir, which involved the ghost of a long-dead tough guy Hollywood PI from the late 50s, kind of a Mickey Spillane-ish character named Mike Slade.
For Solitary Man I mined a different mystery novel type — the Jessica Fletcher-ish old lady sleuth. A 71-year-old woman named Mildred Finster, having read all the Agatha Christie books, decides it would be interesting to become a detective. Having found a business card for Angel Investigations somewhere — and because she likes angels as well as mysteries — she decides that's where she should apprentice. They are less than welcoming, since their agency is not exactly the kind of place she thinks it is, but Mildred doesn’t take rejection easily, and she decides to follow them, to prove that she's worth their consideration by solving their next case before they do. Their next case turns out to be about a haunted California mission, and things get messy from there.
Trek Nation: Now that you are over at IDW publishing you've been heavily involved in getting the new line of CSI comics underway. In addition to editing those comics will you be doing any writing for them?
Jeff Mariotte: I've done two of the CSI comics-two one-shots, more or less graphic novellas, one called CSI: Thicker Than Blood, and one called CSI: Miami-Smoking Gun. Both were lots of fun, and presented very interesting challenges, especially in terms of making the forensic science accurate and germane to the stories. But our regular CSI comics are written by Max Allan Collins, who is also writing the CSI novels and video games, as well as having written the original graphic novel of Road to Perdition, and many other books and comics. I'm comfortable having him do the bulk of our CSI work.
I am, however, writing a comic book miniseries based on the award-winning FX TV show The Shield, which is a great show and which I'm having a terrific time doing. The characters on that show walk a fine line — for the most part, they are not honest cops but they are effective cops. It makes for some interesting moral dilemmas.
Trek Nation: Will you be writing more Star Trek in the future?
Jeff Mariotte: That's largely up to Marco and Keith, of course. I haven't pitched them anything, because I'm very busy — I'm working now on the second book of my original young adult horror series Witch Season, which debuts next July, and I have a Charmed novel and another Angel novel due right after that. Then early next year I'll have the third Witch Season and another science fiction project, in addition to comics, the day job at IDW, the bookstore and my family to attend to. So while I wouldn't rule out more Star Trek, at this moment that's not anything that I'm pursuing.
Many thanks to Jeff Mariotte for answering our questions! You can learn more about his work at his official web site.
Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.