Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Gal's 2017 Halloween Frivolities Day 14: Among the Stacks with Martin Berman-Gorvine


Martin is truly one of my favorite people.  We may not always see eye-to-eye (or we do, but are too busy arguing our points to actually see that haha), but I love having conversations with him about anything and everything.  He also cracks me up.


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Martin.  Welcome welcome.  It's been awhile since we sat down together.  What's been going on since last we spoke?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Monsters of Venus, a young adult science fiction novel that is a sequel to my 2013 novel Seven Against Mars, came out in May of this year, and Day of Vengeance, which is Book 2 of my "Days of Ascension" horror series, officially makes its debut on November 13.  (It is already available on Kindle, and the paperback can be preordered.)
            I've already sent the publisher the text of Book 3, Day of Atonement, and I've made a good start on the final book, Judgment Day.  Not content with these, I'm also about halfway done writing an as-yet-untitled revenge fantasy in which the ghost of a teenage girl who has been bullied into committing suicide takes revenge on her tormentors, a pack of mean girls who call themselves the Golden Circle and their hangers-on.  I've prepared the ground for a Dan Brown-type metaphysical blockbuster by establishing mystical correspondences between the Psalms and Shakespeare's sonnets, and I've written four new, mildly blasphemous pastiche Psalms, in Biblical Hebrew.  And I just thought up a completely new and different paranormal romance-type idea for NaNoWriMo.  You should see me when I've had my coffee!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Who are you outside of writing?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Apparently I lacked sufficient excitement in my family life because I have added a third teenage boy to my collection, through adoption. I am on my second marriage and we have four cats and a dog, all rescues.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
The fact that I write horror freaks out my family and nonplusses my friends. Most of them abstain from reading it. You cannot imagine the creative freedom this gives me because, Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Horror Authors? (Cue The Shadow laughing evilly.)


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
For me, it has always been at the center of my being. I was even able to escape my abusive first marriage because my ex resented that I still wrote in secret and she couldn’t control it. Writing for me always means freedom and control over my destiny. Yet I also flay myself when I don’t write enough on any given day. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, there is no end to the making of books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
It influences everything, including the shape of my imagination. That’s what Mark Twain was getting at, I think, when he famously insisted that writers can write only about what they know. But of course we seek to transcend the limits of real life by transforming actual experience into a nearly unrecognizable form. The “Days of Ascension” novels, for instance, are set in “Chatham’s Forge,” a nightmare version of the Philadelphia suburb I grew up in. I was always fascinated by flowing water as a child, and Brandywine Creek plays such a major role in the first three novels that it almost deserves to be called a character.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
The etiology and progression of poisoning by amanita “death cap” mushrooms, for Day of Atonement. I was walking around with printouts of medical journal articles about that for months. It would have looked a little odd if anyone had gone through my papers.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
I definitely have the most trouble with endings. On those occasions when I outline, it’s to figure out how the story turns out.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you outline?  Do you start with characters or plot?  Do you just sit down and start writing?  What works best for you?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
As implied in my previous answer, I don’t always outline. Generally, it depends how clear the general shape of the plot is in my own mind. If it’s reasonably clear I don’t usually outline, I just sit down and start writing. A current exception is the final book of the “Days of Ascension” series, where I made myself write out a plot synopsis because there are a lot of old and new characters and a number of loose ends I want to tie up. Unfortunately I’ve already deviated from that outline in a major way, barely 10,000 words in, but the good news is that the exercise yielded a powerful ending that I do think I will continue to aim toward. Well… that ending isn’t exactly good news for SOME of the characters (cue evil laughter from The Shadow).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you do when characters don't follow the outline/plan?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Cue evil laughter from… No, seriously, I’m delighted when they do that. Feeling that the future is as uncertain as in life itself is exciting and wonderful. It makes writing as much of an adventure as reading another author’s work. When the character’s voice really takes over and sublimates my own awkward consciousness, that’s when I feel my writing really soars.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Usually I’ll start writing in midafternoon when I begin to neurotically worry that the whole day will have passed without my “getting any writing done.” Of course it’s much better when I’m really on a tear and I just sit down and start gleefully typing away.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you an avid reader?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Ever since I was a toddler.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Science fiction and history have been a steady diet for me since childhood. That helps explain why alternate history is such a major theme in my writing (for example, the Days of Ascension books are set in a world where the Cuban Missile Crisis turned into a civilization-ending thermonuclear world war). I have always admired Stephen King’s fiction, but he was the only horror writer I read until I started writing the stuff myself. Now I’m sampling a range of current horror writers.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How do you feel about movies based on books?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Depends on the novel, depends on the book. They are very different art forms. Movies have to speak in a visual language and novels are obviously much freer to present characters’ inner worlds in ways that are difficult to pull off in a novel. One recent movie that I thought was definitely an improvement on the novel was The Fifth Wave, because the movie totally avoided what I saw as an extremely annoying logical flaw in the novel. (Like, dude, if your aliens are incorporeal, what the fuck do they need to invade the Earth for?)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Have you ever killed a main character?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
It always bothers me.  I cried the first time I was writing such an ending.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Only the ones who deserve it. The lawyers in my head are warning me not to say that these are sometimes based closely on real people, but oops, I guess I just said it. Never piss off a writer (cue evil Shadow laughter…)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the weirdest character concept that you've ever come up with?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Back in 2004, I started a novel of a very bleak near future in which an Islamist Caliphate had spread itself over the Middle East, and one of its high-ranking officials, who was known as the “Sultan,” held dozens of women captives in sexual slavery. Due to the vagaries of my personal life and the publisher, 36 didn’t appear in print until 2012, which made the prophecy a bit less impressive, but still. I want out of the prophecy business. Being Cassandra sucks eggs.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the best piece of feedback you've ever received?  What's the worst?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
My editor at Wildside Press put me through two or three grueling, major rewrites of Monsters of Venus, and I am very pleased with the final text. I burned the worst feedback I ever received, which were form rejection letters, in a ceremony in my backyard. Because, you know, the rejection just didn’t meet my needs at that time. Poor-quality video is available on YouTube.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do your fans mean to you?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Fans? I want groupies like Neil Gaiman has. No, seriously, it’s enthusiasm from my readers that keeps me going. Otherwise you’re just shouting into an empty, tiled room and hearing your own echo come back at you.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time. This remains not just my favorite young adult novel, but one of my favorite books of all. The idea that there is a universal struggle between good and evil that could depend at any moment on anyone, even a super-bright, socially awkward, angry young teenage girl, is intoxicating. It resonates with mystical Hasidic Jewish beliefs that any mitzvah, any commandment from God that you perform, could tip the balance of the world for the better. Mutatis mutandis, this is the same world view that informs 36 and much of my other fiction, and I totally identify with Meg Murry, as much now as when I first read the book as a child.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
I wrote the first few pages of a sequel to 1984. Winston Smith’s son was looking for him, in the collapsed ruins of the totalitarian superstate. The revolution was very bloody and it resulted in a world that was only partly free. I was having great fun with it, but I’m not sure I have the stomach for a copyright battle.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
My favorite current science fiction author is Robert Charles Wilson. I love that he creates complicated adult characters with believable motivations and sees how they react in situations of profound moral and metaphysical stress. I’d love to collaborate with him on anything apocalyptic or time travel-themed.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Look for Day of Atonement and Judgment Day, I hope, in 2018. My horror and science fiction will continue to proliferate, inshallah.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview or the last?

Martin Berman-Gorvine:
Who's watching those damn watchmen?  Juvenal wants to know, and so do I.  Something has gone terribly wrong here.


About the author:
Martin Berman-Gorvine is the perpetrator of the four-book "Days of Ascension" horror novel series.  All Souls Day was published by Silver Leaf Books in February 2016, and Days of Vengeance is scheduled for release November 15, 2017.  In 2018,  Silver Leaf Books is inexplicably planning on inflicting the third and fourth books of the series, Day of Atonement and Judgment Day, on an unsuspecting world.
            Martin is also the author of seven science fiction novels, including the Sidewise Award-winning The Severed Wing (as Martin Gidron) (Livingston Press, 2002); 36 (Livingston Press, 2012); Seven Against Mars (Wildside Press, 2013); Save the Dragons! (Wildside Press, 2013), which was a finalist for the Prometheus Award; Ziona: A Novel of Alternate History (as Marty Armon), an expansion of the short story "Palestina," published in Interzone Magazine, May/June 2006 (Amazon/CreateSpace, 2014); Heroes of Earth (Wildside Press, 2015); and Monsters of Venus (Wildside Press, 2017).  He is a contributor to the 2015 feminist science fiction anthology Brave New Girls.
            Martin lives in Maryland with his wife and the youngest of three sons, four cats, and a sort of Muppet dog.

About the books:
If a demon and its servants ruled your ordinary town, demanding an annual virgin sacrifice, would you have the courage to stop them?  And at what price?  This question confronts Amos Ross, Suzie Mitchell, and Vickie Riordan, high school seniors in the new horror novel, All Souls Day.
            In an alternate reality of the 1980's, twenty years after the Cuban Missile Crisis triggered World War III and left the United States a devastated wasteland, the ancient, demonic god Moloch, whose worship was forbidden by the Old Testament, exercises absolute control over the Philadelphia suburb of Chatham's Forge.  The town is an oasis of prosperity that the nuclear war hardly touched, but its comfort comes at a fearful cost: at the high school prom every year, the prettiest and most popular senior girl is chosen by Moloch and his servant, the evil Pastor Justin Bello, to be spirited away to a former National Guard armory known as the Castle, where she is imprisoned alone for five months only to be beheaded and eaten alive by the demon on All Souls Day, the second of November, the anniversary of the war.  And this year, 1985, it's Suzie's turn...

What if you escaped being sacrificed to the evil god Moloch and banished him from your town at a terrible price in blood and destruction... only to become prey to gods more powerful and ruthless still?
            Teenage friends Suzie Mitchell, Amos Ross, and Vickie Riordan are plunged into this terrifying dilemma in the ruins of their hometown, Chatham's Forge, in a world devastated by nuclear war.  Stumbling through the wreckage, they must confront the physically living but soul-dead remains of their friends and family, the vengeful victims of the old order in the Forge, the ascent of the powerful and seductive goddess Asherah, and worst of all... the deeds they themselves are tempted to commit in their rage and grief.

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