Marshall Ryan Maresca (he/him) is a fantasy and science-fiction writer, author of the Maradaine Saga: Four braided series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine, which includes The Thorn of Dentonhill, A Murder of Mages, The Holver Alley Crew and The Way of the Shield, as well as the dieselpunk fantasy, The Velocity of Revolution. He is also the co-host of the Hugo-nominated, Stabby-winning podcast Worldbuilding for Masochists, and has been a playwright, an actor, a delivery driver and an amateur chef. He lives in Austin, Texas with his family.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, I’m Marshall Ryan Maresca, and I’m a fantasy author and a podcaster. I’ve written 16 novels, a novella and a novelette, most of which take place in the same world. I’m also the host of Worldbuilding for Masochists, a podcast about fantasy worldbuilding in deep and considered ways.
Your stories are a intertwined group of series all taking place simultaneously in the same city. How did you come up with this interesting way of telling your tales?
So, I started the worldbuilding work of the Maradaine setting in the 90s, and I had done a lot of the entire-world, broad-brushstroke work of it all. With that, all of my early attempts to write in it tried to be these giant epics where, because I had made the whole world, I wanted to show off the whole world. When those projects didn’t work, I reconsidered my approach, deciding to narrow my focus to one city in the world, and from there, finding the stories in that city, and how they could come together to be facets of the larger story.
Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?
So, one of the ethos of Worldbuilding for Masochists is “Choose, don’t presume”, in that when you are building the world your stories are in, you want to make deliberate choices of what’s going on in your world, instead of falling back on lazy presumptions. And one of the top presumptions to push back on, for me, is heteronormativity.
Now, in the case of the Maradaine books, my intention was to show a culture in a time of social change, and part of that is shown with more visibility of LGBTQ+ characters as Maradaine goes on. One of the main ones is Jerinne, from the Maradaine Elite books. We first see her just having a crush on one of the other young women in her cohort, and then later has her first kiss with another woman, and then in later books she is starting a potentially long and serious relationship with Rian.
With The Velocity of Revolution, I made completely different choices, namely: I created a culture where pansexual polyamory was a social norm, so almost all of the characters are LGBTQ+.
There have been LGBTQ+ characters in the background of some of your stories, but recently one of the main protagonists in a series was portrayed as bisexual, why was this the time to show that aspect of them?
This is in reference to Asti Rynax in The Quarrygate Gambit. I’ve always known Asti was bisexual, but since the beginning of the series he’s also been carrying a lot of trauma, to the point he doesn’t trust himself to let his guard down at all, let alone be intimate with anyone. I’ve had readers presume he was ace because of that, actually. But Quarrygate gave me the opportunity to give him a quieter moment with Tharek Pell– another character whose queerness was strongly implied in his previous appearance in the saga, but not explicit. And in starting to write that quieter moment, it was clear to me that Asti needed intimacy, and given his traumas, Tharek– someone who you would never describe as a “safe” character, but he’s definitely capable of protecting himself– was the perfect person to have that with. That moment actually wasn’t in my outline, but when I was writing, it just made sense for both of them.
As a writer, what drew you to writing fantasy?
It’s funny, I can’t think of an exact, you know, origin story for that. It’s just a genre that’s always pulled at me, and which I’ve alwasy found the most interesting, just out of the limitless possibilities it has.
Were there any books or authors that touched you or inspired you growing up?
Two of the big ones were the Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatly Snyder and Watership Down by Richard Adams. Both are absolutely fantasy stories– though Green Sky is kind of fantasy-embedded-within-scifi — but neither of them look like “traditional” fantasy, which I think was instrumental in a lot of my mindset as I’ve been approaching the genre.
Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?
It had always held my interest, I know somewhere around middle school I made my first attempts at “writing a novel”, not that I had any idea what I was doing. I actually remember in 7th grade I was attempting to write a fantasy novel called “The Last Righon”, but I had no idea what a Righon was or why someone might be the last one. I just thought it sounded like a cool fantasy title.
How would you describe your writing process? Are there any methods you use to help better your concentration or progress?
Despite my prolific output, I actually have something of a slow-cook process. Often I will have an idea, and then outline it roughly, put it to the side to marinate, then outline it more thoroughly, put it aside again to stew, and THEN, much later, start actually drafting. Honestly, Velocity probably had the fastest turnaround from concept-to-draft in 18 months.
As far as concentration tactics, I’m a big fan of putting in earbuds and then one song on repeat so it drowns out all the “what about this shiny thing?” thoughts that pull me off track.
What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?
I still have a space opera type project stewing in one of the crockpots in the back of my head. Haven’t quite cracked it yet.
Are there any projects you are currently working on and at liberty to speak about?
Right now, I’ve been calling 2023 a “rebuilding year”, as I’m creating some new projects that aren’t Maradaine, as well as readjusting the long-term Maradaine plans. One of them is a secondary-world fantasy, sort-of gaslamp, about people trying to build a theater company in a new city, where I’m also using magic in very class-specific ways as a tool of wealth inequality. I’m enjoying drafting it, but there still are pieces that haven’t clicked into place.
Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a big fan of cooking from scratch, which I find very zen and relaxing… most of the time, at least. If you look at my instagram (https://www.instagram.com/mrmaresca/), pretty much everything that isn’t shouting about books is food porn.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
How about, “Hey, are there going to be any new audiobook versions of your books?”
YES THERE ARE. In April and May we’re getting all four of the Streets of Maradaine series in audiobook, starting with The Holver Alley Crew (https://www.audiobooks.com/promotions/promotedBook/655954/holver-alley-crew-a-streets-of-maradaine-novel?refId=64976), followed by Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe, The Fenmere Job and The Quarrygate Gambit.
Finally, what LGBTQ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
I have to plug my co-host Cass Morris, whose Aven Cycle books are very bisexual (as is she!). And I’m probably not telling your readers something they don’t already know, but I just adored CL Clark’s The Unbroken. Also Andrea Stewart’s Drowning Empire series, Victor Manibo’s The Sleepless, and Jordan Kurella’s I Never Liked You Anyway.