Jeno, your professional background is engineering, a very technical occupation, yet you’re artistic. What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve been artistic, specifically in drawing department, ever since I could hold pencils. I’ve been creating worlds and creatures for my own fun, but during the time I avidly started reading fiction (which was somewhere in middle school, the time I could buy whatever book I wanted), I realized that I should try putting my musings into written form. My mother introduced me to science fiction and my family had a huge library, but what interested me wasn’t classic lit. I devoured non-fiction about expeditions, adventures, world myths and ancient literature, geographical memoirs, popular science books, and anything in between. As a younger teen I was fascinated with magazines like Science and Life [Наука и Жизнь], Planet’s Echo [Эхо Планеты], Around the World [Вокруг Света] – I’m referring to this one http://www.vokrugsveta.ru/, and even gardening magazines. We had large gardens during that time, too. Fast forward past school graduation and I’m in the tech university, computer science and electronics engineering faculty [yes, math and physics aplenty!]. I’d say programming and engineering helped me to become a better writer. I’m a person of structure, so it comes naturally to me in everything I do. I never had issues with structuring my work. I can easily imagine the whole and its separate parts and how everything will fit together and what methods I should use. Character arcs, scenes, narrative arcs, theme exploration – I don’t plan those. They arise on their own once I know the story I want to tell. And that comes from the worlds I imagine, in great detail.
I know that you read graphic novels and watch anime, how does this influence your writing?
What do both these things have in common? Storyboarding. Clear visual structure. (Not to mention unique and lovely stories you won’t find anywhere else.) To some point movies and TV series are technically the same, but I watch these rarely now. I was in cinematic club in high school, I’ve watched, discussed, and written about a fair share of films—think Nosferatu, Seven Samurai, Psycho, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—and stopped watching movies with the advent of heavy CG era. I have to say I adore 2D animation (particularly Japanese and European, but not so much American) as much as I detest overbearing CG and 3D pseudohumans (the latter especially on book covers.) I’m a very visual person and if there was one thing I’ve learned from the abovementioned mediums, it is how to do scenes without delving into theory what a scene is. It’s not a good thing for a writer to say, but I’m not very savvy in the lit theory, and I don’t want to go there, I’m not really interested. All those scholarly definitions confuse me. I want to see what those are, not read about them. Graphic novels and animation allow me to observe stories in visual form and make my own conclusions. Reverse engineering, of a sort. I find it interesting to do. This habit didn’t come without a cost—I developed a writing style that resembles visual form storytelling. It might feel unusual, reserved and episodic to some readers, but on the whole the stories themselves are far from episodic.
People are important, they drive the story. Anything else stems out of that.
Your epic science fiction trilogy Falaha’s Journey is set in space and features an alien as a main protagonist. How did you come up with this idea for the Universe and the central character?
I find it interesting that people call my story ‘epic’. If you define an epic as a long narrative which concentrates on the fortunes of a great hero, who is normally often a king or a leader, or perhaps a great civilization and the interactions of this hero and his civilization with the gods; stresses heroes’ relationship with their fathers; has some form of nostalgia and glorification of bygone eras, then yes, the story definitely has the characteristics of an epic, unintentionally so. Other than that, Falaha’s Journey is a family story and a story about self-discovery. In space. If by the setting you mean alien cultures, then yes, these are important. Space as the physical setting arises naturally from the scales of my fictional cultures. I write character-driven fiction. People are important, they drive the story. Anything else stems out of that.
This Universe (called OS Universe, as in Operating System Universe) is an old idea, I’ve been developing it since 2001. The central character in this particular story appeared somewhere after I’ve been working with disabled children at the special needs daycare and medical center for over 9 months. I’m disabled myself, so this work was a bit unrelated to my tech background. This critical part of my life became a very valuable experience that subconsciously inspired the story’s main character. The world for her was already created for a different novel, Rjg, (still in the works), so the character appeared spontaneously while I’ve been reading Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials by Michael A.G. Michaud. This book wasn’t anything special, but it made me think what if an alien kid would one day reply to our random messages to the stars. And WHAM! You have Falaha.
With Falaha books now out of the way, what are your current and future writing plans? Are you going to base more stories in the same Universe?
Falaha’s life story is not really over. Falaha’s Journey opens to a bigger trouble/adventure in the end, which could take a novel or ten. I’m not going to write those yet. I’m going to work full time on the Rjg novel, set in the same Universe much earlier in time and related to Falaha’s story. Maybe I will write something else entirely in between its chapters, after I’m done with Falaha’s book 3.5, a collection of short erotic romance specials (I want to finish the third and possibly final story for it this year.)
I have noticed that you pay a great attention to the setting in your stories, which is very important for science fiction. What are, in your opinion, major basic components of world building?
I can’t speak for all worldbuilders out there, but personally I’m fascinated with creating fictional [planetary] systems from scratch and then imagine how life would evolve there, how the biomes would look like, and so on. My novel Rjg will feature all of these things and it’s quite a challenge. I use numeric models for my creations. While technical part (models and code) is easy for me, I have a lot to learn about the sciences behind these models, so there’s plenty of paper reading and studying. Space and earth sciences, biology, all fascinating. These are basic components in my worldbuilding, of course. I’m less interested in artificial space habitats beyond what I’ve created so far in my fiction, though. But that’s probably because I don’t have humans in these stories and I haven’t been dealing with ‘classic’ engineering concepts beyond basic reading on the topic. I’ll get to those someday.
Why did you choose to self-publish? What is the most rewarding part of being an independently published writer for you?
The only rewarding thing in self-publishing for me so far is that I have no deadlines. I work in relaxed manner that is physically sparing. The other reward is that no publisher would put a pseudohuman on my book cover. In all seriousness, I don’t want to be trad published (even with small press) for sole reason of obligatory things I will have to do. Contracts are binding and that is not want I see myself doing. International contracts are even more troublesome for me.
I know you design your own covers, which requires both skills and good taste. What are, in your opinion, important criteria for a good book cover to interest readers?
I can’s say my covers are perfect, but I like them. People like them, so I’m doing something right. They are not the best of the indie world, yet it is what I can currently afford. I had some experience in design and illustration, so I use whatever skills I have. Though sometimes it takes toll on my health. I have to work in moderation, or I’ll be spending a week in pain after a day of enthusiastic artistry.
If I could name one thing that makes a good book cover, that would be well-crafted symbiosis between a professional illustration and font(s) used. These are the covers that make you look at them savoring the richness of the world the illustrator presented and enjoying the simple yet effective use of typography. Like a good wine, that’s a winner. Of course, readers should read what the blurb says and see what’s inside the book. While mediocre cover can be forgiven if the story is great, no one likes deceptively alluring wrapping on a badly written book.
You compose music as well, how do you define your genre and what themes you explore in your compositions? Whose music has made an impact on you over the years?
I’ve listened to so much music that I can say all of it impacted me in one way or another. My preferences shift all the time. Today it’s death metal, tomorrow it’s opera, the day after it is new retro wave, ethnic beats, new age music… I usually write while listening to the music. There’s much inspiration to draw from sound. My own music doesn’t have a definite genre besides being story scores. My latest musical WIP is tied to my novel in progress. In that score I’m trying to imagine ethnic (folk) music of an alien culture, of course. I’ve made only two tracks so far, because I don’t have computing resources to produce more for now. I will return to music-making after I have a better machine.
Apart from writing and composing, you beta-read and review other people’s work. What stories grab your attention and what genres you’d never consider to read?
To be clear, I don’t review books – I can write a review on Goodreads or my blog if I want to do it. I don’t do reviews per requests. I do some beta-reading, however. I don’t shun genres as a whole, I prefer to pick stories according the description. Maybe said work is something that would interest me in a genre I would otherwise avoid. What grabs me depends on my mood, but I will read whatever I promised to read (my standard turnaround is 2 weeks.) Also, I don’t have issues with having all ages represented in fiction as well-rounded characters, yet I can honestly say that everything labeled YA or NA I would discard even without looking.
And finally, tell us about your presence online, where can readers find your blog, your stories, music and artwork.
I write under the pen name, Jeno Marz. Readers can find my blog/website visiting jenomarz.com. I have all my stories and links where to find them listed in the books section on my website. My stories are available in stores like Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and so on.
The very first track I’ve written was The Morning Song.
As for my artwork, I have it either on my book covers, or what little I have created in the past years and put to use in my store.
Jeno Marz is a writer from Latvia, EU, with background in electronics engineering and computer science. She writes science fiction incorporating military, high-tech, science, horror, romance, and family relationships themes. All her fiction is aimed at an adult audience. Jeno also discusses fiction world building on her blog.
Amazon.com profile: http://www.amazon.com/author/jenomarz
Smashwords profile: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JenoMarz