All of you are invited to join in the fun of the Massive Autumn Book Launch Event (#MABLE) organised by my publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing. All the books in the event are hugely discounted, so a great opportunity to try some new and exciting fiction. It began on 17th September and runs to 31st October. And you can sign up to join in the fun here.
I’m posting interviews with the authors here during the event. This is with Simon Marett & Ramon Marett:
Did some specific event trigger the creation of The Star Protocol or, alternatively, was this a project you’d been considering for some time?
S: I had been thinking about this story for a long time. Ancient mythology and how it all ties into the ancient astronaut/ancient aliens’ theory is fascinating, and there are some great or I might say crazy ideas that just make for some fun stories to tell. One theory, which didn’t make it into the book, is that Jonah, from the Bible, was not in fact swallowed by a whale, but instead he was swallowed by an alien submarine; many cultures have similar stories, this story in also retold in the Quran. These are interesting theories on their own but also perfect little nuggets for narrative starting points.
R. Minor spoiler, some theories suggest aliens performed genetic experiments, creating the hybrid mythical beasts such as Medusa the half human half snake from Greek mythology. We say, okay that happened, now why did it happen and how does it affect our story and our characters.
Most works of fiction have themes either at their heart or subtly roving beneath the surface for the more analytical reader; what were your themes here, and why do they matter to you?
S: We do deal with the ‘humans are a violent species’ theme, read and seen in so much science fiction these days. But we turn it on its head …
R: …we offer another opinion.
S: Yeah, another opinion; the universe is a bitch, it’s a tough life, human lifespan is fleeting, it’s no small wonder humans fight well, they fight to survive.
R: We deal with friendship, family, working as a team.
Is The Star Protocol your first created book or do you have others both published and/or awaiting publication?
R: My first published work (if you don’t count the TV commercials, I write for my day job) is a short story called The Easy Way Out included in the Elite Dangerous Anthology book, Tales from the Frontier. It’s about a captain of small cargo ship which has broken down and is drifting in space, all he has is life support, a bottle of very rare, very expensive brandy and a gun with one bullet.
S: What about your drabble?
R: Not sure if this counts, but it was ‘published’ in a Frontier Developments newsletter, so maybe a 100 word drabble was my first published works. It acts a taster for my short story really. You can find a copy of it here: The Cult of Me: Elite: Dangerous Newsletter Drabbles (100 Word Stories)
When did you start writing and what prompted you to choose words as your creative medium?
S: Growing up in the 70s and early 80s, Dungeons and Dragons played a huge part for me. I was always writing adventures – still do in fact. Seeing the stories played out, and my friends gripped, excited to play each week. The power of words, the ability to write something that can then form a vivid picture in someone’s mind … it’s why writing is my preferred choice.
R: If any Hollywood executives are reading this mind you, the film rights are up for negotiation.
To what extent does genre guide your treatment of story/subject?
R: We had fun with the genre, we embraced it. On the surface it’s a 1950s b-movie set in the modern day, but we added every sci-fi trope we could squeeze in. Why? Because it makes an enjoyable, familiar story.
S: If you’re into ancient alien theory, flying saucers, human history and myths and legends there is a lot in the book you’ll love. And if you’re not, we hope you’ll have a big grin on your face from the first to last page too.
R: It’s a space opera which loves the genre.
How do you feel about ‘experimental’ literature? Have you ever employed an approach that might be seen as experimental?
S: Not sure if this is classed as experimental, but how we wrote a part of our story, did risk losing our readers. We have an alien species in the story called The Grey. They can go in and read the mind of person, disabling them at the same time. It’s disorientating for our protagonists; they don’t know what’s happening at first until they are slowly brought back to reality. So, we tried the same tactic on our reader, we want them to double check they haven’t missed a bit. You’re thrown back in time with no warning it’s odd, disconcerting to read, you have that ‘huh? What’s going on,’ moment. Keep reading though and you’re slowly brought back into the story, just as our protagonists are. At least, that’s what we were going for.
Do you plot, or are you a ‘pantster’ writing without a definite plan, and why do you use this method of construction?
R: Simon plotted the story, with some rough story beats. Consider it scaffolding. We found it useful and I would always prefer writing that way.
S: We worked as a pair throughout though; I would write a chunk and Ray would re-write it. I’d re-write the re-writes.
R: Or we’d get a text at 1am with more pages to review. One part that was ‘pantsterry’ in a way was the dialogue between the two main protagonists, Dash and Will. The words are me and Simon talking to each other, we’re writing it and we’re talking to each other and that’s what you read.
S: We do get positive comments about Dash and Will’s conversations, people appear to enjoy reading their exchanges.
What, if any, input did you have in the design of the book cover, and is such collaboration important to you?
S: We commissioned a piece of art by legendary sci-fi artist Bob Layzell, and it looked great and provided a great source of inspiration. Unfortunately, once the story had passed through a few drafts the art wasn’t a good fit for the cover, it wouldn’t have made sense as the description of the space crafts involved had changed. My brother happens to be pretty good with a paint brush as well.
R: I put my advertising head on. I wanted an image that had bright, bold colours, the target reader is young adults, so I wanted a bit of Fortnite vibe, or that cool concept art look. A little controversially, I didn’t want the cover to be a scene set in space, I was afraid it could get lost on the shelf when there are so many other sci-fi stories a reader can buy. We did need a flying saucer on the cover so potential readers could know what to. You aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but people do, especially when the authors are unknown.
English is a temperamental language; how important is it for an author to understand its rules?
R: Our book is primarily aimed at young adults and so for us, we think it’s very important to understand the rules and write to those rules. We don’t want young adults to pick up bad habits, they are still learning when they read. You can play with language, but keep it simple, focus on plot and character development.
Finally, bearing in mind the wide choice of self-publishing platforms now available, what made you choose Fantastic Books Publishing as your route to the reading public?
R: We did our research, there are excellent self-publishing options available, but for us it was …
S: … I think we wanted to prove to ourselves that a publisher would take it on.
R: Yes, it’s nice to get the professional recognition. Fantastic Books Publishing had already published my short story, but that was no guarantee they would pick up The Star Protocol.
S: Can I add here that there is a trailer for the book online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWe_PELmm0A and also feel free to follow my brother’s Instagram account, I know he’ll appreciate the plug: https://www.instagram.com/rgmarett/