Excalibur Author Interview – Cody L Martin: “Hope in a Stressful and Turbulent Time”?

An exclusive interview with Science Fiction and Fantasy author –

Cody L. Martin!

As a general introduction, could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Sure. I’m an American expat living in Yamaguchi prefecture. I write mostly science fiction and fantasy novels, but I hope to branch out and try a few other genres as well. I’ve written articles about Star Trek and science fiction for various web sites. I started out writing screenplays while in high school, intending to enter them into contests. After learning about self-publishing in 2012, when it was starting to take off, I decided to turn my first screenplay, Adventure Hunters, into a novel. I liked writing novels and the control that self-publishing gave me, so I switched gears from screenwriting to prose. But a lot of what I learned about screenwriting, like story structure and more, I have carried over to my novels and short stories.

Could you tell us about Hina Takamachi, and the world of “Zero Sum Game”.

Zero Sum Game is a science fiction novel with superheroine tones. I’m trying to combine two of my favorite genres. Hina is a junior high school girl whose school uniform is actually an alien battle suit that gives her superpowers. I’m hoping to use Hina to explore most of my science fiction ideas, in the same way I’ll be using the world of Adventure Hunters to explore fantasy. Hina may get a spaceship later on, so I can write stories that don’t take place on Earth. There is a lot of world-building left to do in the series, not the least of which is figuring out how powerful to make Hina. I don’t want her to be as strong ‘as the plot needs her to be,’ which is common with many superheroes. I want to make it a concrete limit. I don’t want her to be a low level super-heroine in terms of strength, but I also need to make sure she isn’t overpowered and causes the story to have no stakes in terms of danger. It’s an interesting balancing act.

Tell us about “A Beast in Hiroshima”, and how it’s related to “Zero Sum Game”.

“A Beast in Hiroshima” is a quick story that takes place one week after the events of Zero Sum Game. It was my attempt to write a fun little kaiju story, although I admit the beast isn’t as big as the normally depicted kaiju. I thought that the entire incident is because of a little intergalactic zookeeper that isn’t good at his job was a fun and interesting way to introduce the situation. I may end up writing several short stories with Hina, just fun ideas that I feel don’t lend themselves to being a full novel.

You wrote a scathing piece on the world situation in “The Phantom Games.” One year on from that, how do you feel about the world right now?

That essay! Even my mom called me up to talk about it! Haha. Having reread that essay just now, my viewpoints largely still stand. I’m not as angry as I was back then, but I’m still not hopeful for the future. Trump’s circus of a presidency and the pandemic will have long lasting effects. It isn’t just political or global effects either; friends and family have been personally affected by political beliefs and social tensions. I know of many people who have had to block friends and family on social media because their viewpoints were so vastly different and they are just now discovering that. I recently found out that a lifelong friend is a big Trump supporter and has bought the lie about election fraud. That bothers me a lot, and I’m surprised at how much it bothers me. So many events and situations have come to a head over the last four years; there is so much social tension now, and I feel America as a country and Americans as individuals will have to take a long hard look at themselves. It’s such an uneasy, almost scary, time to be alive now.

What’s your opinion on the Tokyo Olympics being held, despite all the problems facing it?

I can’t see it as anything more than a short-term financial gain. I understand that so much money has been lost with ticket refunds, hotel cancellations, and more. I know hosting the Olympics can be a financial burden for any country, but I don’t believe the International Olympic Committee or the Japanese government had no alternative to not cancelling the Games. The health and safety of the athletes and the support staff that have to help them seems to be second to saving face and trying to get back a little of the money they spent on the costs of hosting. I’m strongly opposed to these Olympics, but I’m also very curious how history will view them years from now. Will they be seen as a political and financial act of desperation or an attempt at hope in a stressful and turbulent time? Who knows.

Tell us about your first novel, “Adventure Hunters: Similitude”.

It was originally written as a screenplay. But once I learned about indie publishing, I decided to turn it into a book. I intend to write a trilogy, with each book focused on one of the three adventurers: Artorius, Regina, and Lisa. It’s a low fantasy story, but now I’m wishing I had gone in the direction of science fantasy in terms of worldbuilding.

ABOVE: Artorius, Regina and Lisa – drawn by acclaimed artist John Stinsman.

What genres do you work in, and why do they appeal to you?

I mostly write in science fiction and fantasy, although I want to branch out into others, like historical fiction, thriller, and more. I like SF and fantasy for the broad range you can do with them, both in the types of stories you can write and the level of world-building and SF and fantasy trappings you can include.

 What are you working on at the moment? Do you have any future projects you’d like to talk about? 

I’m currently writing on a sequel to Similitude, this one focusing on the character of Artorius. It’s been my most difficult project so far. I feel I should not have started out with fantasy as my first work. The world-building has been an incredibly difficult task that was much harder than I expected. It’s created a rabbit hole of questions I didn’t anticipate having to think about. As an example, I needed a way for my adventurers to carry their treasures, so they have a bag that can carry an object of any size as long as it fits through the opening. Sort of like Mary Poppins’s bag. Then I had to figure out why doesn’t everyone have this type of bag. Can there be a bag big enough to be used like a storage barn? And it just became a line of questions I had to think about, all because I needed my characters to carry things. In modern/realistic settings, you don’t have to think about minor details like that. Beyond that, I’d love to publish a short story collection one day. Just odds and ends that I thought were interesting but couldn’t make into a full-length novel.

Which writers inspire you?

The biggest influence, by far, is Stephen King. I absolutely idolize him, both for the stories and characters he writes and the work ethic he puts in to write his books. I read Neil Gaiman as well and he is the only writer I read not just for his stories but for the way he writes and his prose. He has a way with words that is just amazing. Other favorites include Jeffery Deaver, Christopher L. Bennett, and Stephen Baxter.

Do you have a special time to write? How is your day structured?

I don’t write nearly as often as I should. I work best when I have a regularly scheduled time to write. However, my full-time work schedule changes every week, so it’s almost impossible to write at a set time. I do my best writing on my days off, with 9am-1pm being my prime time. I need to learn to write whenever I can, but often after a full day of work, I simply don’t feel like writing afterwards. And considering I usually have to wake up at 5am, I don’t feel like waking up earlier to write. My sleep is very important to me.

Do you work to a plot outline, or do you prefer to just start writing and just see where an idea takes you?

I outline. I began by writing screenplays; structure is very important in screenplays, so outlining is almost a must. I pay a lot of attention to the three-act structure when I write. It’s helped me flesh out some of my work, because I feel I tend to rush my pacing too much and don’t spend enough time on characterization. I tend to be very plot-focused. I would like, however, to write one book without an outline, just write by the seat of my pants and see where it takes me.

What does your research process look like? 

I haven’t had to do much research, besides looking up some locations for Hiroshima, or old Roman and Greek military terms for Adventure Hunters, so it’s usually quick and dirty Google searches.

Which book or books are you reading at the moment?

I have a summer reading tradition of reading the Harry Potter series, which I’ve done four times. I’m currently reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’m a Hufflepuff and I have the entire series in the Hufflepuff house editions, in the house colors of yellow and black.

What book would you like to see turned into a movie, and who should play the leading roles? 

For my own book, I’d like to see Zero Sum Game turned into a movie. I’m not sure who the leading young actress is in Japan at the moment, so I don’t have a lead in mind. As for other books, I’d like to see Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett turned into a movie.

When you aren’t writing, what can you typically be found doing?

Besides despairing that I’m not writing and I should get off my lazy butt and do it? Just kidding. I’m fairly non-active, so I’m often watching movies, reading, or learning about cosplay.

Where is the first place you want to go to after the COVID-19 travel restrictions are fully lifted?

For an event, Tokyo Comic Con. For a place, Universal Studios Japan.

You mentioned on your blog that you bought a number of rather distinctive cookbooks recently. What tasty dish have you cooked so far? 

Yes I did. So far, the lembas bread from Lord of the Rings was tasty, as well as cauldron cakes from Harry Potter.

Tell us a strange, random fact.

I was “Tuckerized” in the Star Trek book Higher Frontier. There is a character named after me in the book, who wins a fried rice eating contest.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

They can find me at my blog Resonant Blue and my Facebook Page Cody L. Martin

You can buy “Adventure Hunters” here …

You can buy “Zero Sum Game” here …

You can buy “The Phantom Games” here!

About J P Catton

Speculative storytelling and skewed fiction: the blog and website of author John Paul Catton.
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