Sunday, February 08, 2015

Please Welcome Novelist Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Jeffrey J. Mariotte
with Jeffrey J. Mariotte

We are delighted to welcome author Jeffrey J. Mariotte to Omnimystery News today.

Jeff introduces crime savant Krebbs and obsessive comic book fan Robey in Empty Rooms (WordFire Press; February 2015 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we asked him tell us a little more about his path as an author; he titles his guest post for us today, "Stories Have Arcs. So Do Careers. Sometimes They Arc the Same Way."

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Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Photo provided courtesy of
Jeffrey J. Mariotte

The Morton house squatted on the edge of its corner lot, as if it had tiptoed over while nobody was watching and waited there, trying to decide which way to spring. When Richie Krebbs first saw it he said to his wife, "That place looks haunted."

Wendy didn't even glance his way, just stared out the side window of the borrowed red pickup, its bed piled high with their belongings. Checking out their new neighborhood. "Babe, this is Detroit," she said. "Every third house looks haunted."

So begins my newest novel, Empty Rooms. That "haunted" bit is an intentional nod to what I am best known for as a writer, which are supernatural thrillers. The point of a supernatural thriller — at least, as far as I'm concerned — is to blend elements of supernatural horror novels with elements of mainstream thrillers to build high-level, scary suspense. Mine have been about high desert sheriffs, spies, big-city cops, and the like.

But Empty Rooms, despite the "haunted" opening, has nothing supernatural in it. It does have evil. It does have terror. But those stem from the things human beings do to each other, without prompting from any supernatural sources. The book explores what I consider one of the worst crimes anyone can commit (although there are a lot of contenders jammed up near the top of that awful list), through the eyes of Richie and the Detroit detective he partners up with, Frank Robey.

As much as it's about the search for the perpetrator, though, it's about those two men and their efforts to maintain some semblance of humanity while they're neck deep in the horrific acts of the villain. Richie is an ex-cop who chafed against bureaucracy and was fired from the job, but is a walking encyclopedia of crime and criminals. Frank was an FBI agent who became obsessed with the case of a missing child named Angela Morton, and when the Bureau wanted to transfer him out of Detroit, he quit and joined the DPD so he could stay close. They meet in the house from which Angela disappeared — one of Detroit's many vacants — discover their common interest in the case and their complementary skills, and team up to finally solve it.

On its surface, the book appears to be about a highly sensitive, triggery topic: predators who prey on children. And it is, by design. I couldn't address the main issue — how the people who have to deal with human horror on a daily basis can cope with the things they see and learn — without setting them against something horrible. It was a fine line to walk, and a real challenge to me as a writer. I tried to write it in a way that was authentic but not exploitive, terrifying but not triggery, and I'm told, by people who would know, that I pulled it off.

The book's genesis was in a nonfiction book I wrote, Criminal Minds: Sociopaths, Serial Killers & Other Deviants. CBS TV had recommended me to the publisher as the best person to write a book that described the real story of every criminal mentioned on the first five seasons of the FBI profiler series Criminal Minds, and some who weren't mentioned but whose crimes inspired episodes. That book took massive amounts of research, so for months and months I — like Richie and Frank — was up to my eyeballs in humanity's worst examples. Unlike real detectives, though, I could set it aside at the end of the workday and watch a comedy movie, read a light novel, something. And nobody's life depended on me working through the night, or figuring out who the real bad guy was.

So after that book was done, I started researching in a different vein. I talked to cops, I read about them, I studied everything I could about how they coped. And out of that research, Frank and Richie were born.

That's how this writing gig works sometimes. You write a book. For that book, you have to research some obscure fact. You invariably find out more about whatever it is than you can possibly use in that book. But it sticks in your head, and sooner or later it intersects there with some other fact, or some story idea that's been kicking around up there. When two or three or four of those connections happen, you have the makings of another book. When that happens a few times, you wind up with a career.

In this case, writing a true crime book led me to discover Frank and Richie, two characters I want to write much more about. I've never been a series guy, but now it looks like I'm becoming one. Which I guess is the moral of all this. Some writers seem to know from the start what they want to do, how they want the arc of their career to go. And some of us don't. We fly by the seat of our pants, and when something grips us hard enough — like the case of Angela Morton does Richie and Frank — no matter what else is on our plates, we have to see it through.

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Jeff Mariotte was born in Park Forest, Illinois. He moved away from there at the age of six, when his father, a civilian working for the Department of Defense, was transferred to Paris, France. Since then he's lived in Arlington and Reston, Virginia, Worms and Schriesheim, Germany, San Jose, San Diego, and Arizona.

He graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film. He has worked delivering the Washington Post, in a comic book store and a fast food restaurant, selling encyclopedias door-to-door, and as maintenance supervisor for a large regional shopping center. He was the manager of Hunter's Books, La Jolla when his first fiction was published. He has been VP of Marketing and Senior Editor for comic book publisher WildStorm Productions, Editor-in-Chief for IDW Publishing, a co-owner of independent specialty bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and a freelance writer and editor.

He is passionate about — among other things — reading, the deserts and mountains and forests of the American West, modern and historical, politics, photography, independent bookstores, and whatever else strikes his fancy at any given moment.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at JeffMariotte.com and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Empty Rooms by Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Empty Rooms
Jeffrey J. Mariotte
A Krebbs and Robey Casefiles Novel

Richie Krebbs is an ex-cop, a walking encyclopedia of crime and criminals who chafes at bureaucracy. Frank Robey quit the FBI and joined the Detroit PD, obsessed with the case of a missing child and unwilling to leave the city before she was found. When Richie unearths a possible clue in one of Detroit's many abandoned homes, it puts him on a collision course with Frank — and with depths of depravity that neither man could have imagined.

How do people who dwell in the darkest places — by profession or predilection — maintain their connection to the world of light and humanity? Richie and Frank will need every coping mechanism at their disposal to survive their descent into darkness and emerge unbroken on the other side.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  Kobo eBook Format

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