Thursday, September 20, 2018

Interview with 'Mortal Foe' Marty Roppelt @martyroppelt

Marty Roppelt was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. His original profession was acting on stage, in local commercials and training films and in film. This means that he has experienced life through a wide variety of day and night jobs, from barista to waiter and bartender to security guard, amongst many others. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Becky, and their eccentric cat, Fritz. Mortal Foe is his debut novel.




A picture is worth a thousand words… But what if that image can only be seen through the lens of one camera? What is the snapshot can only be seen by a select few? What if the photo has its origins in the pit of Hell? What is
that face belongs to an enemy bent on destruction? This is Buddy Cullen's fate when he first dreams of his grandfather's death and then inherits his grandfather's antique camera and captures an image that haunts him and seeks his death. Can Buddy survive the curse that he sarcastically dubs "Popcorn"—a curse that no one wants to believe exists and stalks the city of Cleveland, beginning with its baseball team—a mortal foe?



Thanks for this interview, Marty.  Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?

Thanks for having me! I suppose it was inevitable that I would be drawn to the paranormal / horror genre. I'm a Christian. The two might seem dichotomous, Christianity and the paranormal. But what could be more horrifying than piles of dried bones re-connecting and coming to life? Or a living mist that kills tens of thousands of sleeping soldiers in one night? The Bible is a treasure trove of the paranormal. Then there is my family history. My parents immigrated from Transylvania, Rumania—yes, for those who don't know, there is such a place. A simple and deeply superstitious people live there. And a real man known as Dracula did exist, but he did things far worse than anything Bram Stoker dreamed of in his worst nightmares. My mother read to us some nights from Grimm's Fairy Tales when we were very young. Again, for the uninitiated, that stuff wasn't cutesy. Growing up, my mom always borrowed the latest horror from our local library, novels from James Herbert, Steven King, T. E. D. Klein, several others. I had easy access to a lot of great work that shaped me as a writer, though I tend more toward the paranormal aspects than to outright horror. I have always loved reading thanks to my mother, who took me often to our library. That love of reading fed my desire to write.

When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?

I most love to quietly hang out with my wife, Becky, and our cat, Fritz, and watch crime shows. She calls them Justice In One Hour shows. I also enjoy creating videos. I studied film making in Atlanta in the '90's, and still exercise those creative muscles when I can.

Congratulations on your new book! Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside?

My eyes snap open wide.
A shadow faces me from beyond the foot of my bed. I shiver, holding my breath. The tall, bulky intruder seems oblivious. My sleep-hazy mind tells me to lie still. I'll make myself smaller that way, so the invader won't see me.
I'm making myself small…
My brain stirs slowly. A minute passes, then a few more. My eyes take their time adjusting to the darkness. Across the room, the sinister hulk takes the shape of my antique cherry-wood armoire.
My girlfriend, Kelly, lies next to me, undisturbed. She faces away. Her chest rises and falls with each breath, her body radiating warmth.
I don't move. Dread still freezes me in place. A voice in my head, my own voice, whispers a warning to me. The warning is so primal it would wear a bearskin if it had a life of its own.
Don't show the darkness any fear, any weakness.
A familiar neon green beacon, my alarm clock, demands my attention. A quarter past midnight. The glow helps me shake off the drowsy panic. My eyes scan familiar, dark shapes around me—the armoire, the dresser, the doors to my closet and to the hallway, the rumpled down comforter covering my girlfriend.
Despite the need for rest, my eyes won't stay closed. This irritates me. The frustration of not being able to sleep keeps me awake even longer. I can deal with the frustration. But I can't shake this sense of dread.
A dream. Just a weird, stupid dream.
The clock's digits change without remorse, mocking and exasperating me. Twelve forty-seven, eight, nine… Tomorrow won't be good. I risk coming off like a yawning zombie. Twelve fifty-five… I consider pummeling my pillow. My legs swing out of bed instead. The cold of the hardwood floor against my bare feet chases away the last of my drowsiness.

Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing?  Can you tell us about your journey?

It has been quite a journey for Mortal Foe. I took a couple of courses with the Long Ridge Writers Group in the mid '00's. Mortal Foe began as a short story I'd written as an assignment, a piece called Popcorn, in which a man and his son run into a paranormal entity at a baseball game. My mentor, author Anne Underwood Grant, suggested it should become a novel. I finished the first draft a year or so later, and spent several months editing. I submitted the manuscript to a few agents and publishers, but the effort was admittedly half-hearted. I wasn't comfortable with the book. Then I posted the novel one chapter at a time at The Next Big Writer, a writer's forum. Author Janet Taylor-Perry read and critiqued every chapter. In 2017, she started her own independent publishing company, Dragon Breath Press. We had stayed in touch after TNBW, and she said she remembered Mortal Foe. I submitted a portion to her, and she said she was interested in publishing the book. And, here we are.

If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?

A young journalism professor tracks a paranormal entity, and veers onto an unexpected and harrowing path.

What makes your book stand out from the rest?

I once describe Foe as Christian Baseball Horror. I suppose I could leave it there, but that
description begs its own. I won't write anything that dishonors my Maker. So, though there is sex in the story, it's no stronger than anything in Song of Solomon—a book which, by the way, is pretty intense. And the game of baseball plays a central role, but I was careful not to go so deeply into the intricacies of the game that I would lose readers who aren't lifelong baseball fans.

If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?

Halloween would be the most appropriate holiday. Foe takes place in late October of 1995. The Cleveland Indians have just lost the World Series to the Atlanta Braves. And it's the time of year when, traditionally, people see the last living leaves wither and fall from the branches, and feel the approach of death. There is no Dead of Summer, or Dead of Spring. We don't call it the Dead of Winter for nothing.

Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?

I hadn't thought of a series when writing Foe; I assumed it would be a "one-off." But I've already begun planning a prequel.

What’s next for you?

Granted, these will be out of order, but in addition to planning Foe's prequel, I've begun writing a sequel. The son of one of Foe's major characters is a Cleveland Police officer dealing with racial tensions stoked by another paranormal entity.

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