An Interview and International
with Scott Mariani
Today it is my privilege and pleasure to welcome and introduce you all to the popular UK author, Scott Mariani. Scott grew up in Scotland and now lives in the wilds of Wales. His latest novel, ‘The Lost Relic’, is the sixth book in the bestselling series featuring ex-SAS hero and former theology scholar Ben Hope, translated into over twenty languages worldwide.
TSW: A very warm welcome to you Scott, and very big thank-you from us all at ‘The Secret Writer’, for taking some time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today. At the time of this interview your sixth Ben Hope adventure, ‘The Lost Relic’, is just about to be released. Can fans expect a typical Mariani-style plot filled with twists, turns and intrigues?
SM: In a word, yes! I think this one is possibly the twistiest plot yet. With each successive book, especially when you’re following the same character through the various episodes of his life, it becomes increasingly important to keep things fresh and surprising. You can’t afford to repeat yourself or fall back on a formula, and so to some extent it gets harder as you go on. But I enjoyed writing The Lost Relic, and hope readers will enjoy it too! Then in February it’s the publication of my vampire novel Uprising in the USA, under the pseudonym Sean McCabe. And in March The Mozart Conspiracy will be out in the States as well. So it’s a busy first quarter to 2011...
TSW: What sort of books did you enjoy reading during your childhood?
SM: I was reading by the age of four, and I remember that among all the usual kids’ stuff I read, I also nicked adult paperbacks from my mother, such as Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws, which was a big bestseller at that time. The colourful language I picked up from that one – I had no idea what the naughty words meant, of course – got me into some trouble at primary school! I won’t say what I called the teacher, as it’s unprintable here. But the books I remember re-reading most were The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland, Richmal Crompton’s ‘William’ books and Hergé’s classic Tintin series. Aside from that, I devoured a lot of non-fiction, historical knights-in-armour stuff, or about animals. I was animal mad. I read Born Free until it fell apart. By my teens I’d got into reading a range of literary authors, from the Brontës to Gorky to Maupassant to Hardy. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was a milestone for me at age 15, and made me see things quite differently!
TSW: Do you think the books that you read during your early years influenced your writing in any way?
SM: I’m sure they did, among other formative experiences that kids absorb and which are bound to affect their future way of thinking. The conspiracy element and general political worldview of the Ben Hope books can almost certainly be traced back, at least in part, to that early exposure to the ideas of Aldous Huxley. He predicted with staggering accuracy, more insightfully than George Orwell in my opinion, that modern society would become increasingly, unknowingly, enslaved to a very cunning totalitarian new world order. That’s a large part of what the second Ben Hope book, The Mozart Conspiracy, is about, and it’s a theme which is set to develop further in future books. I also think that being immersed as a child in the marvellous globetrotting adventures of Tintin, which are amazingly tightly-told little stories, taught me a lot about storytelling. Then there’s my early interest in history, which has never left me.
TSW: Did you always want to become a writer?
SM: Not consciously, not for a long time. Like most kids, I’d dabbled around with stories in one form or another, writing little baby novels and plays or drawing cartoon strips, and of course I was in love with film from a very early age. But it wasn’t until a good bit later in life, after having explored various other paths, that it started occurring to me that you could actually make a career out of creating stories and characters!
TSW: Where do you do your writing best?
SM: I know there are authors who will whip out a notebook or a laptop just about anywhere – trains, cafes, hotel rooms, beaches and windy hillsides – but I’m not one of them. I generally write in my study, which is a very quiet room at the top of my house overlooking nothing but fields and woodland as far as you can see. No phone, no email, no noise or distractions.
TSW: What made you decide to focus your stories around the character Ben Hope?
SM: Ben came to me quite out of the blue one day when I was out walking. I often get ideas that way, when writing is the very last thing on my mind. I realised early on that this character, who pretty much popped into my head fully-formed, as you see him in the books, had enough depth and the right archetypal qualities to carry a thriller series that would be exciting, entertaining and yet a little different from the usual action-adventure fare. I feel I know him very well, almost as if he were a real person.
SM: When you’re producing two books a year, as I’ve been doing for a while now, you need to have a reasonably strict routine. I usually manage to have the basic idea for a story more or less worked out by the time I’ve finished the previous one. As one book ends, sometimes even before I’m done with it, I’m straight into the process of researching the next. For a Ben Hope book, that involves reading up on the historical background while trying to figure out more of the detail of the storyline: how does the historical element relate to the modern day, how does Ben become involved, how does it all pan out and where does it leave our hero at the end? I would say that phase is the toughest and most challenging part of the job, especially with a thriller which must have enough twists and turns and surprises to keep the reader constantly engaged. I don’t start the actual writing until fairly late on in the process, when I know where I’m going with it and have a good sense of the shape and structure of the story – I usually have about 4 months to do it in, so every working day has to be as productive as possible. I’m quite set in my routine during this phase. Some days you might feel inspired, some days less so; but the show must go on!
SM: That’s such a hard question to answer, because it changes all the time, like your favourite food, or favourite movie. Every time you think of a favourite, another immediately comes to mind that you enjoyed just as much and it feels unfair to give it second-best status. ‘No, wait... that’s my favourite. No, wait...’ Last week my favourite book was a very handsomely illustrated companion volume to Patrick O’ Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series of naval adventures; the week before that it was a handy little guide to medieval longsword fighting. Does this mean I’m fickle?
TSW: Are you currently reading a book at the moment, and if so what is it?
SM: I find myself reading less and less fiction, especially modern fiction, these days. The bulk of my reading is research-related, but outside of work the book I’m currently dipping into is a very interesting historical account by Ehsan Masood of the Islamic scientific revolution of 700-1500 AD, called Science and Islam.
TSW: Have you any another series of books in the making at the moment?
SM: Yes, aside from the Ben Hope series I’m working on the second part of my Vampire Federation series. Part one is titled Uprising, and this one is called The Cross. As soon as I finish it, I’ll be zapping straight on with Ben Hope 7. I’m kind of alternating back and forth between the two series, which involves switching to a completely different mindset, as they are not really alike at all. The fantasy world of the vampire books allows me to indulge myself a bit more, let my hair down and go a bit crazier, inject a bit more humour and open satire, while the action element can afford to be more flamboyant than in the Ben books. Readers find them a lot of fun, which pleases me immensely. Looking to the future, I also have a crime series on the back burner, but I’m not saying too much yet...
TSW: Scott, I would like to thank-you again for taking the time to speak to us today and also to yourself and your publisher Avon Harper Collins, in supporting us with our book giveaway! For further information about Scott and his work you can visit his website at: www.scottmariani.com
SM: It’s been a pleasure, and thanks for having me!
Avon Harper Collins has very kindly provided three copies of ‘The Lost Relic’ for our International Book Giveaway! With the release of ‘The Lost Relic’ Avon Harper Collins is also running a competition which is detailed on a sticker on all copies of ‘The Lost Relic ‘, where the prize is a chance to win an annual film pass with Apollo Cinemas!
So, we have three copy of Scott Mariani's novel 'The Lost Relic' to give away in an International draw with this post!! All you have to do to enter the draw to win for one of these three copies of 'The Lost Relic' is: