Having spent more than five years telling tales of the city of Maradaine, writer Marshall Ryan Maresca is taking some time off for a road trip. In the following email interview, Maresca discusses The Velocity Of Revolution (paperback, Kindle), his new his motorcycle-centric dieselpunk fantasy novel.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Mead
To begin, what is The Velocity Of Revolution about, and what kind of a world is it set in?
The Velocity of Revolution is a dieselpunk fantasy about a chaotic city on the verge of revolution. Ziaparr is a city being rebuilt after being the central battleground of several wars, the capital of a ravaged nation on the verge of renewal and self-rule. Unrest foments as undercaste cycle gangs raid supply trucks, agitate the populace and vandalize the city. A revolution is brewing in the slums and shantytowns against the occupying government, led by a voice on the radio, connected through forbidden magic. Wenthi Tungét, a talented cycle rider and a loyal officer in the city patrol, is assigned to infiltrate the cycle gangs. For his mission against the insurgents, Wenthi must use their magic, connecting his mind to Nália, a recently captured rebel, using her knowledge to find his way into the heart of the rebellion.
Where did you get the idea for The Velocity Of Revolution?
So, the origins of Velocity come from a day a few years ago where I went with my son to pick up a pair of jeans from a specialty store, and there was this gorgeous vintage motorcycle in the middle of the store, and the whole place is filled with raw denim jeans and jackets, and my son offhand asked, “Why is it fantasy novels all look like Renn Faires, and not like this?” And I thought, why not write a fantasy that looks like this?
And is there a reason you have it centered around a motorcycle gang as opposed to just a regular street gang?
Because this is a group who are rebelling against an occupying government, I wanted there to be underlying reasons why they get away easily, and haven’t been easily caught. So the idea that using motorcycles for speed and nimbleness felt like a perfect fit.
The Velocity Of Revolution is not your first novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on this story but not on anything else you’ve written?
Hmmm. I’m not necessarily going to name stories as specific influences, but I think a critical part of influence on this story specifically ties into my podcast, World Building For Masochists. Over the course of making that show, I had so many epiphanies of choices I could make, choices I should make. So much thanks should be given to my co-hosts past and present, Rowenna Miller, Cass Morris, and Alexandra Rowland, for being such absolute pillars of support and fountains of good ideas. Many of the conversations we’ve had on the podcast were reflected back into the work in this book, challenging my presumptions and driving me to more interesting choices. On top of that, we had a number of great guests who all provided insight and wisdom that I tried, to the best of my ability, to apply to the work here, including and not limited to: K.A. Doore, Fonda Lee, Jenn Lyons, Tasha Suri, S.A. Chakraborty, Andrea Stewart, K. Tempest Bradford, Sarah Guan, and K.S. Villoso.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Did any of those things have a big influence on The Velocity Of Revolution?
I mean, I’m doing a story that is fundamentally about an undercover officer who gets in too close with the people he’s supposed to be infiltrating, with adrenaline-fueled action, so I can’t deny things like Point Break and The Fast And The Furious aren’t intrinsically entwined into its DNA.
You have said that The Velocity Of Revolution will be a stand-alone novel. Which is different from your other books, all of which take place in the city of Maradaine and are part of such connected series as The Maradaine Constabulary and The Streets Of Maradaine. First, why was this not a story you could set in Maradaine?
Because this is a very different world. Part of this was an exercise in starting over from scratch, to tell a story that couldn’t be told in Maradaine. And after writing twelve books in Maradaine, juggling those plot threads together, it was good to write a “palate cleanser” novel.
And then what was it about this story that made you realize it should be a stand-alone novel and not the first in a new series?
Mostly because this story came to me as a full thing on its own. Could it have a sequel someday, or more stories in this world? Certainly. But I don’t at this time have a specific plan for one.
Obviously, given your Maradaine novels, setting is important for you. In deciding how the city of Ziaparr would be in The Velocity Of Revolution, did you base it on any real cities or ones from fiction?
So, Ziaparr is a completely fictional city, of course, because I’m writing secondary world fantasy. However, when I first told my wife about what I had in mind for this book, and the city it was set in, she said, “We need to go to Guanajuato.” It’s a gorgeous city in central Mexico that really solidified the visual ideas I had about Ziaparr, with its narrow alleys, and twisting, curving roads and tunnels. My wife was 100% right.
Okay, so your son and wife were both integral to you coming up with this novel’s story. Anyone else in your family contribute? Did the cat name the characters? Did you second cousin twice removed on your mother’s side suggest a plot twist?
Short answer: no.
Longer answer: Oh, you’ve just awakened my inner genealogy nerd. A 2nd cousin, to be clear, is someone with whom you share a common great-grandparent, and a 2nd Cousin Twice Removed is someone for whom the common ancestor is a great-grandparent for one of you, and two generations of removal, so the same common ancestor is a great-great-great-grandparent for the other. So, “second cousin twice removed” can be one of two things: either the 2nd cousin of your grandparent, OR the grandchild of your 2nd cousin. Starting with the latter, I actually have a lot of second cousins on my mother’s side, as she has thirty-something first cousins, and presumably a lot of them have children. Now, those 2nd cousins of mine would all be in their 30s and 40s right now, so while it’s possible that one of them has a grandchild (and thus my 2nd-cousin-twice-removed), they would probably be just a baby, and thus it’s deeply unlikely they would offer meaningful plot contributions. In the other direction, I wondered, do I have a living 2nd cousin twice removed? This requires digging, for me, to the great-great-great-grandparent level. In my research, I found several 2nd cousins twice-removed, but none of them are still alive. So, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve not interacted with a second-cousin twice-removed, and thus, I refer you back to the short answer.
There’s been a bit of interest, but nothing I can specifically talk about at this point.
If something does come of whatever you can’t talk about, what form do you think it should take?
Certainly, I would love to see it as a live-action movie or television show. I’m very intrigued with the idea of it being done as an anime-style animation, movie or series. But I’m open to anything, honestly. Adaptation is cool.
And if that happened, who would you want them to cast as Wenthi and the other main characters?
I have absolutely no idea who should play anyone. But maybe it’s best for it to be someone somewhat unknown, so that this role becomes their defining role.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Velocity Of Revolution, they’ll probably want to explore your Maradaine novels. Which one should they start with and why that one?
There are four Maradaine subseries, and any one of the first of each series is a good entry point. Thorn Of Dentonhill if you’re interested in a magic-student-by-day, vigilante-by-night. A Murder Of Mages for a police procedural with competent partners who support each other. Holver Alley Crew for heists with found families. Way Of The Shield for political thriller with lawful good paladin-types. Honestly, whatever your fantasy tastes, there’s probably a good entry point for Maradaine.