10 Questions with Nick Marone
Nick Marone is a science fiction writer based in Australia. He is the author of Fire Over Troubled Water, one of the eight Drowned Earth Novellas. His humorous novella, Space Trip, will be released in early 2021, and a sequel is in progress. His short fiction has appeared in Aurealis, Journeys: Aussie Speculative Fiction: Volume 2, and on his own website. As well as writing short stories and novellas, he is steadily editing a military science fiction novel. He also works for Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, where he enjoys discovering new writers and promoting Australian speculative fiction to the world.
When not writing science fiction, Nick can be found reading his chosen genre as well as historical fiction, true crime, and historical nonfiction. He also plays golf and dabbles in woodworking.
You can find him at nickmarone.com.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself! Where do you call home and what do you write?
I live in regional New South Wales and I write science fiction in all story lengths. I generally write soft SF, military SF, humorous SF, and space opera, though I have dabbled in portal fantasy and cyberpunk/tech noir. I’d love to explore the other -punk genres, especially steampunk and dieselpunk.
2. What drew you to that particular genre/age group/format/POV?
I love science fiction because it lets me create worlds almost from scratch. I love designing whole fictional universes and seeing everything fit together like one giant puzzle. I started writing historical fiction when I was younger—a lot of Middle Ages and Napoleonic stuff—and while I still enjoy that genre, science fiction appealed to me more as a writer because of its deeper creative freedom. However, many of my stories take history as inspiration, so I’d say I get the best of both worlds.
Perhaps my interest in history lent itself to an interest in military science fiction and space opera. I described the first novel I wrote as a “geopolitical military science fiction epic”, as I tend to enjoy working with such scope. That novel is archived, but my second one—the one I’m focusing on—is still military science fiction, though nowhere near as epic in scale as the first.
As for humorous science fiction, well, I believe we could all use a laugh, and I wanted to challenge myself, so I wrote a story, which has now become a series (the first book, Space Trip, will be released sometime in 2021). Also, I’m planning to write some detective cyberpunk because I actually have a degree in criminology that I haven’t used yet, so I might as well put that knowledge to good use.
I stick to the adult age group. I’ve never had an interest in writing young adult science fiction, and I have read perhaps only one or two works for that audience. Now and then I toy with the idea of writing a science fiction-themed children’s book, but it’s just the concept of it that sounds interesting to me. I haven’t yet conjured up a story I’d like to tell.
In terms of format, I have completed (at the time of writing) two novel manuscripts, two novellas, twelve short stories, and one flash fiction piece. Both novels are military science fiction, though the first was what I call my “training novel”. I might return to it at some point and brush it up, but for now I am focusing on editing the second novel, which will soon be ready to send to agents. One of my novellas, Fire Over Troubled Water, is a post-apocalyptic story set in Australia, and the other, Space Trip, is a humorous SF story. My short stories are mostly soft science fiction, though I do have one portal fantasy, one cyberpunk, one mundane SF, and some humorous stories.
I generally write in limited third-person POV, with quite introspective characters. I like large casts of characters and getting both sides of the story, especially the grey areas of the plot that shines a complex light on both protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) and their associated goals. Some of my shorter works are in first-person POV, which I would like to explore more.
3. What’s your best known work?
It’s a fight between Fire Over Troubled Water (which was one of the Drowned Earth Novellas published by Deadset Press) and Space Trip, which is due for an early-2021 release but has been heavily advertised already.
At the time of writing, I am editing my novel, titled Act of Grace, writing Space Trip II, and writing two short stories, “Soup Sandwich at Hill 402” (military SF) and “One Way Ride” (soft SF).
4. What inspired you to write it?
Fire Over Troubled Water was written in response to a pitch call from the Aussie Speculative Fiction Facebook group. They were planning a series of novellas on the theme of a heavily flooded Australia (and, by extension, world), and I was one of the eight authors chosen to write in the series. You can find out more about my story and the others on my website.
My inspiration for Space Trip came about as a personal challenge. I had just finished reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series and I thought, “I reckon I could write comedy.” I had always thought it would be hard to produce effective comedy in literary form, but seeing Douglas Adams’ methods encouraged me to have a go. The result was a novella that all my beta readers have described as “hilarious”. You can find out more about Space Trip and read an excerpt on my website.
5. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter, panster or somewhere in between? How do you research?
I am definitely a plotter. I find that outlining a story beforehand helps me get a good idea on the direction I want to go, especially for longer works with multiple characters. Sometimes it’s just a chapter outline, but if there are critical scenes within the chapter, then those scenes will have their own outline too. Some stories are not outlined the whole way through, but I generally have a rough idea in my head on how a story will end even without a full outline.
I mainly research online, and the source material varies. I use mostly written sources, but sometimes I use videos and images to help me understand something complex, such as scientific principles, or situations I have not experienced, such as war. Most of my stories require some form of research in the outline stage, plus while writing. I feel that for my writing to be immersive, somewhat relatable, and to elicit the proper emotional response from the reader, effective research is important.
6. What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?
I wrote a cyberpunk story called “Just Deserts” that examines the link between music and the brain. The research in that was enlightening, and lent itself to a wonderful in-world concept that I won’t spoil ... sorry.
7. What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?
My as-yet unpublished short story “The Lonely Old Man”, for reasons which I will keep to myself.
8. Who are your literary influences? In what way?
So many! I like Kevin J. Anderson for his ability to write sprawling epics that are internally cohesive. Timothy Zahn also impresses me with his page-turning style. Orson Scott Card, from what I have read, writes great prose. A relatively new author named Michael Mammay is just awesome—his first person novels are brilliant and engrossing. I also love Bernard Cornwell for the ease at which he can pull me into his historical worlds and paint such a realistic story. I devoured C. S. Forester’s Hornblower Series like a little boy who loves adventure. Finally, but certainly not least, Karl Marlantes’ Matterhorn was so effectively written that it stuck with me the night I finished it and woke me up in tears. That’s powerful stuff!
I hazard to mention David Weber. I used to say I enjoyed his works, and while I still read his books and love his story ideas and what he has done for the field of military science fiction, I have learnt valuable lessons from his writing style: don’t bog the reader down with pages upon pages of information, keep good pacing, and edit extraneous scenes.
9. What books are on your bedside table right now?
As I write this, C. Robert Cargill's Sea of Rust, and an anthologyand an anthology called Rebuilding Tomorrow, edited by Tsana Dolichva, which imagines disabled and chronically ill protagonists rebuilding in post-apocalyptic worlds.
10. Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?
Most links can be found on my website, nickmarone.com, where I also have some free fiction and a free short story for signing up to my newsletter. To read my short story “The House of Time”, you will have to purchase a copy of Aurealis #133. Be sure to check out the Space Trip excerpt on my website!
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