Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Interview with MCA Hogarth

The Worth of a ShellMy novel, The Five Elements, is part of StoryBundle’s current Fantasy Bundle. Much like the fantasy genre itself, the bundle features a wonderfully diverse group of authors and books. One of those authors is M.C.A. Hogarth, author of The Worth of a Shell. The bundle’s curator, Blair MacGregor, had this to say about M.C.A and her novel:

I became acquainted with Maggie through her strong and well-thought-out advocacy of indie writers and diverse publishing options, and soon discovered her fabulous talent as a writer and an artist. The first novel of hers I read pulled me into a non-human world alive with distinct cultures, sensory depth, and the harsh consequences of daring to want life outside society's limitations. That novel, The Worth of A Shell, is in this bundle so you can make that the same discovery I did. – Blair MacGregor

I had the opportunity to interview M.C.A. Here are her thoughts.

1. Tell us a little about The Worth of a Shell. What was the motivation behind the story and characters?

I've always liked stories about aliens, and am forever making them; they're an eternal lens into questions about the human condition, and give people a way to look at those questions without bringing along the baggage of society and culture that we all drag around everywhere. If I try to write about gender with human characters, I engage all the reader's history with gender in their own life. If I give them a horse-tailed, dinosaur-browed, jack-legged neuter creature, they can leave all that at home. Or at least, that's the hope. When I'm writing about things that are especially fraught for us, I often turn to aliens to explore repercussions that would hit too close to home if written about humans.

The Jokka of the Shell universe are a lens to examine multiple issues--not just gender, which is the obvious one, but also questions about dementia and loss.

Also, I write aliens because it's fun.

2. Your body of work has a definite anthropomorphic quality. Where does that come from?

I think the anthropomorphic quality is literal. I find human qualities in things that are not human, so that we can look at what being human means. My interest is catholic: I like robots, talking spaceships, sentient tree people, were-creatures, aliens, the whole kit and caboodle. If you put it forth believably, I will be entertained! I am fascinated by diversity in experience and outlook. Science fiction/fantasy is a fantastic place to roll around in all that. As a genre, we have a long history of loving our anthropomorphic characters, from Anne McCaffrey's dragons to Asimov's robots to the million talking cat stories (from Niven's Kzinti to Diane Duane's feline wizards to Cherryh's kif from the Chanur novels). We love our non-humanoids!

3. It looks like you waited almost a decade to write Book 2 and 3 of this trilogy. What happened there?

Wow, well, all right--so I set up this big problem in Shell, knowing that I would have to resolve it somehow. And according to the rules of epic fantasy, huge societal problems can't be resolved quietly or slowly. It's gotta be nuclear, usually in the form of enormous wars. You have an unjust society, it needs to be overthrown and replaced with something more fair, right? That's how it works, how I grew up thinking it should work, and how, once I started writing, I thought I would have to make it work if I didn't want my readers to feel cheated. There should be banners and cavalry and carpets of armies facing off beneath a cloudy sky, with cold winds blowing everyone's mane heroically from their brows! There should be bloodshed and sacrifice and monuments at the end!
And... I couldn't do that with this universe. My first problem being that I'm writing a marginal society: it has so few people surviving in it that a war on the scale of something out of epic fantasy would wipe away the unjust society by rendering the species extinct. Talk about babies thrown out with bathwater! You begin to think of war as a luxury of societies with a lot of either manpower or technology, neither situation of which obtains to the Jokka.

My second problem was that I got fixated on having to follow the Chosen One through the entire narrative. It took me a long time to figure out that there was no chosen one, not really... and that the story had to be carried through other people's voices in the subsequent books, because that's where the action was. I'd been wanting to cling to Thenet all the way to the end of the trilogy, but it's not Thenet who gets us through the next important events.

Once I let go of those two things, I was shocked how quickly Books 2 and 3 came together. But I'm also glad I waited, because I think the resulting story is a lot stronger--and more unexpected--than the one I would have written had I been bludgeoning myself into writing to the imaginary rules of epic fantasy.

4. What's next? Any current projects or upcoming releases you'd like to share?

I just released a high fantasy romance novel, Thief of Songs, which is getting enough good feedback that I think I'll write a second book in that universe. It shares some commonalities with Shell, in that there are multiple genders (in this case, human ones: hermaphrodite and neuter as well as male and female), but it's a much more pastoral setting. In addition, I'm finishing up an epic fantasy trilogy wherein I once again fail to follow the epic fantasy rules--unavoidably, maybe, since I've made a cluster of philosophy students the main characters, and now they want to talk, research, and discuss their way into solutions of problems rather than do the epic stirring battle thing.

I hope I eventually do get to write an epic stirring battle! But that year is apparently not this year!

Make sure to check out the full selection of StoryBundle Fantasy Author Interviews!

Kindle Fantasy Authors Interview

It looks like Kindle Fantasy Authors is gone—BlogSpot account is no more and Twitter handle has vanished. That kind of creates a problem given that I was going to reference my recent interview with them for some follow-up posts here. Fortunately, I saved the interview Q&A, so here it is in its entirety.

An interview with Scott Marlowe, author of The Five Elements

KFA: Hello, Scott, and welcome to Kindle Fantasy Authors! Please tell us about The Five Elements. I see it’s subtitled The Alchemancer. What is an alchemancer anyway?

Scott Marlowe: Thanks!

The Five Elements is a character-driven blend of fantasy, alchemy, and pseudoscience. The two main characters, while best of friends, ultimately find themselves on different sides of this thing called the Fifth Element. Along the way, there's plenty of intrigue, mystery, chases, soul-searching, logic problems, airships and other machines, and, of course, action. At its core, it's about flawed characters trying to do their best with the hand they've been dealt, which I think readers can relate to because that's pretty much what we're all trying to do.

As for what an alchemancer is… From a literal perspective it's the combination of an "alchemist" and a "-mancer" (someone who practices divination). This would make an alchemancer someone who practices divination by way of alchemy. However, in the context of my book, it's much more than that. Think of an alchemancer as part alchemist, mathematician, and scientist. The word 'alchemancer' never comes up in The Five Elements as it's part of a greater, over-arching storyline that will come to light in future novels.

KFA: I assume we will see some of these characters again?

Scott Marlowe: Absolutely. I'm currently working on the sequel to The Five Elements, called The Incandescent Engine. It picks up right where The Five Elements ends. So far, it's been a lot of fun taking these characters on another ride.

KFA: If you could put yourself into the book, which character would you be?

Scott Marlowe: Oh, boy… That's a tough one. In some ways, there's a bit of me in every character. But if I had to choose, I'd have to go with two of them: Aaron, because he's smart, responsible, and always trying to do the right thing, and Ensel Rhe, because he's pretty good with a sword (of which I'm not, by the way).

KFA: What is the best writing advice you’ve received?

Scott Marlowe: It sounds overused, but keep writing. Not only does it ultimately lead to more material for your readers to read, but it also makes you a better writer.

KFA: Whom do you see as your ideal reader?

Scott Marlowe: Someone who enjoys imperfect characters thrust into unlikely, fantastic circumstances who then have to dig deep to overcome the odds.

KFA: Which authors or novels are we most likely to find you reading when you’re not writing?

Scott Marlowe: I'm a Bernard Cornwell junkie. His Sharpe series is fantastic. Also, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Dave Duncan (check out his Alchemist's Apprentice series; good stuff), Michael Moorcock, and I've been enjoying Mark Hodder's ongoing Burton & Swinburne series of mystery/steampunk novels.

KFA: What inspired you to take on the challenges of writing a novel?

Scott Marlowe: I've been reading fantasy since I was a kid. I think even way back then the allure of creating my own fantastic worlds and characters was strong. Also, I think many of us read something and think to ourselves, "That doesn't look that hard. I can do this." Of course, the reality is that it is, at times, very hard. You spend a lot of time by yourself, living in an imaginary world with imaginary characters, and there's always this feeling of guilt hanging over you if you haven't met your word count for the day. On the other hand, there's a lot of satisfaction in it as well, the pinnacle of which is having someone read and enjoy the finished product. That's really what it's all about.

KFA: Please tell us about your writing process.

Scott Marlowe: I'm an engineer by day, so it will probably come as no surprise that I'm a diehard outliner. The outline for the next novel in The Alchemancer series, which is now complete (thankfully), is 50 pages long and took 2-3 months to complete. I lay a lot of groundwork in my outlines, and while nothing is ever set in stone, it gives me a good roadmap to follow as I'm writing along. The outline itself contains detailed information on characters, places, and, of course, a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the novel.

In terms of actual writing, I'm usually out of bed and in my study at home by 6am. That gives me about 2-2 ½ hours to write before heading off to the office for the day. Then maybe I'll do some more when I get home depending on the demands of my wife and two dogs.

KFA: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Scott Marlowe: When working on a rough draft, don't get hung up on perfecting each chapter or scene. Always keep moving forward until your first draft is done. Then go back and add the layering and other details and fix things. You'll never finish if you don't keep moving forward.

KFA: Where do you do your best writing?

Scott Marlowe: My study in the morning when I'm not answering lengthy interview questions. Kidding, kidding…

KFA: Do you have a website or blog where our readers can find out more about you and The Five Elements?

Scott Marlowe: Sure do. Go to There's info about my novels, some free short stories, and plenty of blog posts which they may or may not find of any use.

I'm also on Twitter and Goodreads.

KFA: Where can our readers find a copy of your novel?

Scott Marlowe: The easiest way is to go to my Amazon Author Page or visit my site.

KFA: And finally, as an author, what question have you never been asked, but would like to answer?

Scott Marlowe: "Where do you get your ideas?" Ha, ha. Just kidding. I think you stumped me. I got nothing.

KFA: Thanks for talking to us. Good luck with your writing.

Scott Marlowe: Thank you. Appreciate the opportunity.