The following is an interview with Christopher Mari (The Beachhead) and Jeremy K. Brown (Calling Off Christmas), authors of the recently released book, Ocean of Storms. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Mari and Brown about the inspiration behind the book, their approach to scientific research (and their love of all-things space), the appeal of the science fiction genre, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your book, Ocean of Storms! What inspired you tell to this story, and what do you hope that readers will take away from it?
Christopher Mari: We had a number of inspirations. I think one of the primary ones was just the challenge of trying to write a good science fiction story, with compelling characters and a page-turning, but meaningful, plot. Another was obviously the space race of the 1960s between the United States and the Soviet Union—trying to recapture some of those thrills by having the United States and China compete in order to get back to the Moon. Finally, I think Jeremy and I also wanted to compete with each other, to see who could come up with the craziest developments as we alternated writing our first-draft chapters.
Jeremy K. Brown: The story was really fueled by our love of the space program, particularly the Apollo missions that first took men to the moon in the late ’60s and early ’70s. There was something about that era that was so inspiring, the way the country came together to achieve this impossible task and how, during those landings, the world was united. We wanted to create that sense of humanity coming together and achieving something amazing. Plus, we wanted to tell a big, epic, globe-trotting story that blended together all of the things we loved as both readers and lovers of pop culture. Everything from Arthur C. Clarke to Indiana Jones, we threw it in there! Those are the elements that we hope readers take away. The sense of fun, adventure, and the idea that we are all in this together and, if we stand united, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
BD: As the reader, we follow a team of highly skilled astronauts and archaeologists as they traverse an epic adventure of space and time. How do you feel that readers will most strongly connect with these characters given their extraordinary circumstances?
Mari: The main characters may have atypical jobs, but we tried our best to make them very real people, who have strengths but also flaws and baggage, as well as issues of mistrust between the various members of the team. I hope that readers will connect with them on an emotional level, understanding their relationships and the challenges they face, but I also hope that the characters might be a little inspirational too—that any of us can overcome our flaws and weaknesses if faced with a challenge far greater than our own individual concerns.
Brown: In spite of the fantastical events of the novel, we tried to ground the characters in reality. They’re not perfect people. They bicker, they disagree, they have baggage. We drew from people in our lives as well as ourselves to infuse the characters with as much humanity and realism as possible.
BD: As NASA and space enthusiasts, what source material do you find that you most often turn to when researching the more scientific aspects of your storytelling?
Mari: Man, we had a lot of source materials. The NASA website was an enormous help. But I think the books that were most influential on the scientific aspects were, among others, A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin (the best book on the Apollo program out there!), Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, and Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by former astronaut James Lovell and reporter Jeffrey Kluger. I’d mention a few others, but I’m afraid revealing them would give some key plot twists away!
Brown: As Chris noted, we read a lot of books on space and the space program, but also a lot of movies and TV series. Apollo 13, the amazing HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, even movies like John Sturges’s Marooned and Peter Hyams’ criminally underrated 2010. I also will admit that, when I was working on my pass of the first chapter, I was thinking of the opening of Independence Day, which I always thought did a great job of introducing a host of unconnected characters before bringing them together as the plot unfolds.
BD: What appeals to you about the science fiction genre, and do you feel that it offers specific storytelling tools to you as writers more so than other genres?
Mari: I think science fiction has the ability, maybe more than other genres of fiction, to ask big philosophical questions about the world we’re living in. Our novel takes place in the very near future, in a world not very different from our own, so it explores a lot of challenges we’re facing here in the early 21st century. But even when science fiction explores other times and realms and realities, it often works as a mirror, reflecting our own concerns about our society back at us. Just think of some of the best science fiction TV shows: Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Are they really tales of fantastical times and places? Or are they really about us and the struggles we’re facing here and now?
Brown: When I first discovered science fiction, it was through Star Wars (which I know is more science fantasy than true sci-fi, but it still blew me away) and Star Trek. At the time, I was drawn to the action, the ships, the creatures, and the far-off worlds. When I got older, I realized that these stories, as well as books by authors like Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Richard Matheson and Philip K. Dick, could also address real-life issues and ideas. Clarke’s Odyssey books, for example, are profound examinations of our place in the universe and how we may actually be infinitesimal parts of a larger plan. But they’re also just great reads!
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
Mari: My next novel, The Beachhead, is coming out very soon in March 2017. You can read more about it here.
I’m at work on a new novel now. I’m reluctant to say much about it—only because I’m worried I’m going to screw it up by talking about it too much. I will say it takes place in the aftermath of a real-life significant event that makes my main character question the nature of reality itself.
Brown: I’m currently working on my next book, Zero Limit, which will be out soon. More info as it becomes available!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about Ocean of Storms?
Mari: Check out its page on Amazon—read the opening chapter, editorial and customer reviews, the works!
Brown: Like us on Facebook! We’ll update you on any news about the book, as well as the projects that we’re working on. And, if you leave us a friendly comment, we might even answer you back!