If you’ve read Buffy, Supernatural, CSI or Angel books, you’ve likely come across the work of Jeff Mariotte. A skilled writer, Mariotte focuses on strong characterization and capturing established franchises just right. Mariotte is also a writer of his own original works and comics, such as the Dark Vengeance quartet and Desperadoes. He took time out of his busy writing and convention schedule to talk to FangirlNation.com.
FGN: The list of written works under your belt is massive. What got you started writing and when did you begin the process?
Jeff Mariotte: I’ve pretty much always written stories, at least as far back as I can remember. When I was a little kid I used to read Hardy Boys novels, then write (very imitative) stories about brother detectives; that urge has never gone away. My first professional work, a science fiction story called “The Last Rainmaking Song,” wasn’t published until I was in my thirties, so that was a long stretch in which I was writing just for myself.
FGN: What has been your favorite book to write?
Jeff Mariotte: Every book is a grind–and a joy–all at the same time. You get involved in the lives of your characters and you like spending time with them, but you also have to work hard to get the story right, the voices right, the words right. That said, I think the Dark Vengeance teen horror quartet (originally published as the Witch Season quartet) might have been the most fun. I had a good, solid outline, so I knew where I was going. I sold the four-book series on the basis of the outline, so I wasn’t writing something that I knew I’d have to struggle to sell–I had already been paid a big chunk of the money. I was writing about places I knew and/or places that were interesting to me. And I had a group of characters to hang out with who were all interesting and enjoyable.
FGN: Which Fandom have you enjoyed writing for the most (Buffy, Angel, Charmed, Supernatural,etc)?
Jeff Mariotte: Again, not so easy to pick. I liked writing Angel, because the combination of private detective and vampire/horror elements was right up my alley, and Cordelia Chase is one of the most fun characters I’ve ever written–she’ll say just about anything to anybody. But I also really like crime/mystery/thriller novels, so the CSI books were great. They taught me things I didn’t know, and the folks at CSI treated me like family. But if I had to pick just one, I guess I’d have to go with Conan the Barbarian. I grew up on Conan, and a lot of my early stories were sword & sorcery tales along those lines, so getting to actually contribute to the fictional Hyborian world was a dream come true.
FGN:You have also done work in the comic book industry. What has been your favorite project?
Jeff Mariotte: That one’s easier. I created a western/horror series called Desperadoes. I’ve written different story arcs about those characters, traveling around the old west and battling all kinds of supernatural bad things, and I’ve been able to work with some amazing artists. It’s been a pleasure every time out, and I love writing those guys.
Then again, I wrote a pure horror story called Fade to Black, which was published in five issues and will soon be released as a beautiful book. The artist on that series was an award-winning Italian artist named Daniele Serra, and he really captured what I was going for. I read it again recently, in the process of putting the book together, and it hold up really well.
So yeah, once again, I can’t choose just one.
FGN: Do you prefer working on novels or comic books? How does the writing process differ for you?
Jeff Mariotte: I like both because they’re very different challenges. When I’m writing a comic book, I never know quite how the finished product is going to look. I’m basically writing in the dark, describing the action and writing the dialogue, but then an artist is going to take that script and interpret it in his or her own way, and it might not look like what was in my head when I wrote it–but it usually looks way better than I could have imagined.
A novel, on the other hand, is all me (or me and a collaborator, sometimes; lately, I’ve been working with my writing partner Marsheila Rockwell, a super-talented poet and fiction writer). But in general, everything the reader “sees” while reading the book is what I, or we, put down on the page. So it’s a much more personal vision.
FGN: What do you think is it about genre fiction that is so alluring?
Jeff Mariotte: I’ve always loved genre fiction, and just as I write westerns and thrillers and horror and science fiction and fantasy, etc., I love reading in all the different genres, too. There is no story that can’t be told within genre fiction (which means people who dismiss it all as garbage don’t know what they’re talking about). But there is one important difference between genre fiction and “mainstream” fiction–reading genre fiction, we get to live inside the skins of characters who are much more different than us. Mainstream fiction usually tries to reflect the real world, whereas in genre fiction we can live in the far future or the ancient past, we can be cowboys or cops or werewolves or Vikings or just about anything else. Combine limitless story potential with limitless settings and characters, and you get a literary experience that can’t be beat.
FGN: What are you currently working on? What can our readers look forward to in the next year?
Jeff Mariotte: I’m currently working with Marsheila (Marcy) on a short story set in Jonathan Maberry’s V-Wars world–scary vampires and lots of action. Marcy and I are also in the early stages of a fantasy novel starring characters who appeared in our first collaboration, “A Soul in the Hand,” which appeared in an anthology called Neverland’s Library. We’re also working on a horror/thriller novel that will also spin off into other sorts of products, which we’re excited about. Things that I’ve already written that will be published sometime in the next year or so include Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising, a big novel set in the world of the western/horror/steampunk RPG Deadlands. That was a blast to write. And sometime soon we’ll also see what I think is my best novel: a very dark thriller that introduces Richie (Maynard) Krebbs and Frank Robey, two characters I’d like to do much more with. This one explores people who have to, by virtue of their profession, live in some very dark spaces, and how they try to maintain their humanity in those circumstances.
FGN: Do you have any advice for new writers?
Jeff Mariotte: My best advice for writers is to write. That sounds simplistic, but it’s true. Think of writing as a muscle. If you use it a lot, it’s there when you need it. If you don’t, if you let it atrophy, then it’s going to be harder to get it to cooperate when you sit down at the keyboard. It’s good to write what you want to write–fiction, if you want to be a fiction writer, or poetry, or screenplays, or whatever–but writing anything at all is going to help keep that muscle strong.
You May follow Jeff’s latest works on his website, www.jeffmariotte.com
Editor’s Note: At the age of 15, Victoria Irwin attended a discussion of writing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the Newport Beach Public Library in Southern California. Writers Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte were there speaking about their work on the Sunnydale High School Year Book. With love and praise, Jeff and Nancy encouraged a young Victoria to keep writing and not give up, even as she was being tormented by peers her own age. Victoria wanted to make sure Jeff knows she owes him a serious debt of gratitude.