Monday, December 19, 2011

Exmortis by Todd Maternowski - Interview: Featured Author

A group of battle-weary knights from the ancient monastic fortress of Exmortus Abbey have unearthed something... unholy.

A new star hangs low in the horizon, directly over the hellhole where half the Abbey's knights lost their lives, a star that some of the men claim is following them...And back at Exmortus, Ash Xavier, an impatient young knight-in-training, is beginning to unearth ages-old secrets beneath the Abbey's vaults, oblivious to the horrors hurtling at him through space...
Exmortus, Book I: Towers of Dawn  is a work of dark fantasy in the mold of George R.R. Martin or Gene Wolfe, in which every standard fantasy cliche is skewered and boiled alive, and where the heroes and villains are not what they seem.

Available on Amazon Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and everywhere else eBooks are sold

How did you start your writing career?
In December 2010, after a decade of my friend's nagging I finally started reading Game of Thrones. I hadn't read any fantasy since I was in high school, and very little sci-fi, so I was pretty reluctant. But 15 or so pages in, I was hooked. George R.R. Martin's prologue absolutely hooked me, and I started ravenously devouring every dark fantasy book I could find.
I was used to Tolkien, but high fantasy just wasn't very interesting to me. This, however, was different. After reading some other recommended authors, I knew I could do this. I took a Dungeons and Dragons campaign world I'd been working on diligently for the last three years, set some characters in it and went to school.

Now, I'm no stranger to writing. I've had well over a thousand published articles on music, hockey, film, business, etc over the past five years. But fiction was a whole new ballgame. My first draft was pretty craptastic, but seven revisions later I had something I was immensely proud of, Exmortus, the first book of a trilogy that encompasses everything I've always wanted to read but never really got from any other authors. I'm hoping, of course, that readers feel the same way.

Tell us about your current release.
Exmortus: Towers of Dawn is a quest story at its heart. A self-absorbed, religiously devout teenager is thrust into life-threatening situations, chances upon a mysterious artifact, and has to overcome internal and external challenges. His faith is put to the test repeatedly, as is his (normal teenager's) narrow view of the world. He is joined by three companions who eventually become very close, all with wildly divergent personalities that hinder rather than help his personal goals. And at the end of Book One, the hero --an exile and fugitive now despite his best intentions-- is faced with a choice that might determine the fate of the entire empire.

If this all sounds familiar, it's because it should be: these are all standard fantasy themes. The details, however, are unlike any other book out there. I know a lot of authors claim that, but I've made it a point specifically to accomplish that. I hate derivative and unoriginal works, and am not going to waste my time or my reader's valuable time with machine-made fiction.  Exmortus may have its faults, as all books do, but unoriginality is not one of them.

Tell us about your next release.
Exmortus: Temples of Men has the hero dealing with a very-much-alive ghost from his past as he tries to fulfill the object of his desire. It's far darker and more closed-in, and I'm frankly afraid that the primary villain is going to take over the entire book in a Vader or Kurtz sort of way. I'm halfway through the first draft, and turning my earlier mistakes into literary triumphs. At least according to my wife, who's read the first eight chapters.

Who is your favorite author?
It used to be Dostoevsky. Then it was Robert Anton Wilson. Now it's Gene Wolfe. The man can create truly stunning, unforgettable moments. It's an insult to say this, but Exmortus owes more to his Shadow and Claw series than any other source of inspiration. He's not as popular as he should be, but ask any fantasy writer worth their stuff and they'll all say the same thing: Wolfe is a literary genius that transcends genre fiction.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Silencing the critic in my head. I'm dirt-poor and raising a family on fumes, so I can't afford (a) a copyeditor and (b) to make mistakes. I'm an editor myself, and my harshest critic, but that makes the revision process very time-consuming and unpleasant. I have a network of beta readers, but they heap more praise than scorn, which feels nice but doesn't help. Or it does, but not as much as constructive criticism I'd get from a professional editor. The internal critic is a powerful force for getting nothing done --every cynic is secretly just a jaded perfectionist. Creativity requires flow, fearlessness and aggression. If you can't attack the page, you can't succeed.

Does your significant other read your stuff?
My wife is my first, second and third beta reader, and never wants to hear me talk about my work before she reads it because it's mostly mystery- and tension- based. It does make for awkward writing in the sex scenes, however. I put just two sex scenes in the first book, both of them completely over-the-top, and both of which led to some pretty interesting discussions with the wife. Hey, it's a fantasy!

What do you think makes a good story?
Desire that leads to conflict, with an unexpected resolution that leads to more.



Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Todd studied Ancient Near Eastern religion and early Judeo-Christianity at the University of Chicago before heading into the real world. He has since worked as a ballroom dance instructor, bass player, mediator, credit specialist, art preparator, janitor, journalist, copy editor, armored car money counter, mambo dancer and satirist. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his hyper-creative wife and baby girl.

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1 comment:

Landon said...

Great interview. I'm always interested in other authors' backgrounds, what makes them tick.

My writing isn't very paranormal, but there's a little. Maybe you can review my book in the spring. I'm calling it a "golf adventure" with the main character a professional golfer who turns into a sort of Indiana Jones off the course. Lots of creepy Temple of Doom type stuff.

I'll keep in touch!

Nice site, too.