I feel especially privileged today to host the award-winning science fiction author, Massimo Marino. After reading DAIMONES, the first volume of his trilogy, I knew I wanted to share this author with you. Not only is his story’s premise original, but his writing is subtly compelling. He manages to draw the reader in with intrigue, rather than the violence and fast-paced action so characteristic of the genre. And while it is not unheard of for a scientist to write science fiction, Massimo manages to interweave paranormal and mythological events into his tale. I asked Mr. Marino to begin by telling us about himself.
I’m Italian, and because even in Italy that means everything and nothing at all, I should say I am Sicilian. I was born in Palermo, and as it happened with countless Sicilians, I left it, back in 1986. I lived more years abroad than in my home country, and I have changed in many and different ways than my old friends there. It is always a pleasure to go back, but it is now 6 long years since my last visit. Saudade? Maybe, a little.
I lived in Switzerland, France, and the United States. I am a scientist as a background, and have spent over 17 years in fundamental research. Most of my writing are then academic stuff, and I always wonder at how much Google is able to find about everyone. I am sure one has to Google oneself so not to forget too much…
I worked for many years at CERN—an international lab for particle physics research near Geneva, Switzerland—then in the US at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Fantastic moments and memories from those years. In 2005 I moved to the private sector, worked with Apple Inc., and then for the World Economic Forum.
I wrote since I was a kid, short stories and novellas, but never had anyone read it. It was a personal thing. Then, work and life took their toll and I stopped. Slightly over a year ago, for various reasons, I started again with some burning inside that needed to come out. On the first weekend I got over 15000 words, then subscribed to critters.org for peer review, lurked a year keeping on writing and getting feedback.
On September 2012 my debut novel, DAIMONES, saw the light. It received the 2012 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award in Science Fiction. Last February it was awarded with the Hall of Fame – Best Science Fiction by Quality Reads UK, and received over 64% of the 1600+ readers votes. To the day, DAIMONES has sold over 4,000 copies. Both novels are available as digital and printed editions.
The sequel, ONCE HUMANS, was published last July and has sold more than 1,000 copies since. I’m writing Vol.3, THE RISE OF THE PHOENIX. Its Prelude (chapters 1-4) has been published last November and readers can have a taste of what’s coming in the trilogy.
The novels have been optioned by an Independent Audiobook Publisher in the US, Sci-Fi Publishing LCC, and both DAIMONES and ONCE HUMANS are now available as audiobook, too. (From audible.com, Amazon and iTunes).
What you have told us about DAIMONES’ debut is tantalizing. Would you please detail a bit more about your path to publication?
I started as many others with query letters to agents and publishers. A good number asked for reading a few chapters. I only had two kind of replies: total silence, or personal words of appreciation for the story, my background, my voice, the “lyric of the prose”, and encouragements with the caveat that the market is looking unfortunately for something else. After a while, because the market is made of readers, I decided to verify myself if the market was looking for something else. Thus, I became the publisher of my work. I have a team supporting me, beta-readers, proofreading services, a copy editor, and a graphic professional for the covers. I’ve sold over 6000 copies of my books and critiques and readers appreciation are close to 90%.
I believe it would be the same even after 6 million copies, the sample I have is convincing enough.
I received two offers — since I published — from small publishing companies but the current standard of contracts is laughable. I said thanks but no thanks in both cases.
As I intimated at the outset of our discussion, your premise is unusual. What is the story behind the story?
The animal deaths around the world. Those intrigued me, they still happen, unexplained, targeting one single race at the time and leaving all others undisturbed. Don’t look like natural events and yet I’m not aware of any serious scientific investigation on what’s happening there. Who knows, maybe the Daimones trilogy is nothing but a premonition?
One would suspect that a scientist would write about, shall we say, down to earth matters. What made you choose science fiction?
I grew up with brother and dad buried under sci-fi novels. Dad received Astounding Stories magazine and I wasn’t allowed to read those but I looked at the pictures and fantasized. Later on, I started reading sci-fi, too.
In your own words, why is your writing different from other sci-fi authors?
Sci-fi is considered by many a minor, less valuable genre, not good for good, discerning readers, full of crazy ideas with little ground on reality, shoddy characterization and the equivalent of a B-series, low budget Hollywood movie. I think sci-fi can be of the highest literature, allowing the author to stress the boundaries of the society and the universe where the characters interact to explore any and every major high literature themes. I look after Literary Science Fiction.
I agree. Will you tell us what you are working on now?
I’m working on the launch of Vol. 3 of the trilogy: THE RISE OF THE PHOENIX. At the times of posting this interview it might be already available as ebook and paperback from major retailers and the audiobook being produced.
When you’re not marketing your work, what is your writing day like?
When I write a new book, I write every day. I aim at 2500 words. Good or bad doesn’t matter. Inspiration has to find me while I write, not while I’m attending other stuff.
Are there any awards you’ve received you haven’t mentioned above?
The novels have received the PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award in Science Fiction and Best Science Fiction Series. They have been awarded the Awesome Indies Gold Seal of Approval and the Seal of Excellency in Writing by the IndiePENdents.org association. But the greatest honor is when the stories touch the heart and soul of readers and prompt them to share their feelings with a 4 and a 5 star review.
I’ll be more direct. Aside from these, why should someone buy your books?
To spend good time reading immersive novels, to be provoked and questions beliefs and certainties, to daydream together.
Excellent answer! Let’s leave writing behind. I know you live in wonderful places in Europe—France, Switzerland and Italy. Many would consider these ideal. What is your dream location?
In a villa overlooking the Ocean in Big Sur, California.
Not a bad choice at all. In view of your marvelous career to date, what would be your dream job?
Being able to earn enough royalties from my books every month to pay for all I and family need. And writing new novels for new readers – sharing the visions and gifting them with pleasant reading times, moments of evasion and fulfillment.
Would you care to share something about your home life?
I have two furry, rascal cats who are the reasons for my pauses during a writing day, otherwise I’d forget about lunch, physiological rests, and any other task requiring my attention at any moment. When I write, I’m no more there. My cats arrive, place their paws on my hands or walk over the keyboard and stare at me. They give me the look: “Time to take a break.”
Even though your life may seem ideal to many of those visiting today, no one’s is perfect. So I have to ask, how do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?
Panting and huffing, and with the support of my family.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“’Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem to be confidences or sides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profound thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thank you. That’s a new one for me. Before we bring this interview to a close, I have a few Lightening Round questions.
The one thing I cannot do without is:
My tool for writing and doing research: my Mac Book Air
In one or two words, what is your defining trait?
Hard copy or ebook?
Both. There are moments for both.
It’s no virtue to have no vice.
The one I’m reading at the moment.
Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?
A note to readers: Sales are great, press releases, interviews, live radio guest appearances are exciting, climbing the ranks and entering the Top 100 Authors for my genre is exhilarating, but nothing beats the support of all readers and friends and fellow writers who share the thrill with me. You’re the best readers any writer could ever have. Without you giving my stories a chance, nothing would ever be possible.