Everyone, please give a warm welcome to science fiction writer Dylan James Quarles. We chat about what is cringe-worthy, a fantasy author dinner, South Korean English classes, ancient Khmer art, and plenty more. I’ve really enjoyed Dylan’s The Ruins of Mars trilogy, which is currently available not only as Kindle ebooks, but also in the Kindle Unlimited program. Enjoy!
If you could be an extra on a TV series or a movie, what would it be?
One word—Hannibal. In case you missed it while it was out, Hannibal was a cerebral retelling—slash—reimagining of Thomas Harris’s famous Hannibal Lecter series. Though the show only got 3 seasons, I can say without hesitation that those 39 episodes are among the best to have ever graced the airways. If I could go back in time and audition for a role as one of Hannibal’s “dinner guests”, I would. I’m totally a Fannibal!
What makes you cringe?
Hmmm…how much time do you have? I kid, but no really—I’m a very cringey person. Today I’m feeling cringey about soda, high fantasy, Xbox, Sushi with mayonnaise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, British beer, Kraft Singles, sloppy exposition in serialized TV shows, and my senior yearbook photo. Tomorrow, who knows?
Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?
Reality in fiction is tricky. Fiction is a form of escapism, or at least that’s how I treat it. Personally, I write to entertain. Things like bathroom breaks, though necessary in real life, can be glossed over in a book without making it seem somehow unrealistic to the reader. We’re all well aware of what goes on in the bathroom. Not much new ground to cover there!
That said, sometimes a big part of the entertainment factor in a story is the realism. With, The Ruins of Mars Trilogy, I purposely set the story in the not-too-distant-future so that I could draw from the themes and challenges of our current ‘reality’. Sure I pushed the boundaries of realism pretty far, but I always made sure to keep from breaking them all-together. Realism can be great for building tension and atmosphere. Again though, unless someone invents a new and interesting way to take a pee, not much use in lengthy bathroom scenes.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
My most difficult job was teaching English in South Korea. I lived in a small city, called Mokpo. I’d done a bit of traveling in Europe and Southeast Asia before moving to Korea, but nothing really prepares you for the shock of total immersion. At the time, I think Mokpo had fewer than 200 foreigners, in a city of 300,000 people.
Still, the actual teaching was the hardest part about living there. Many South Korean students attend regular school in the day, then head to private English academies in the afternoon and evening. These poor kids were in school all day, five days a week, for like twelve to fourteen hours at a stretch.
Moreover, ‘teacher sticks’ for punishing students were still a thing when I was there. On my first day of work, my boss proudly issued me my very own teacher stick, and told me to use it as often as I pleased. That fucking thing went straight in my bottom desk drawer and never saw the light of day again.
I still keep in contact with a couple of my old students, and despite the insanity they went through as kids, they’ve all grown up to be happy and engaged members of the global community. I couldn’t be prouder of them. In fact, without naming names, one of my former students makes an appearance in the first Ruins of Mars book as the creator of Remus and Romulus!
Just one piece? I’m a big fan of art, I really am. It influences my writing, my mood, my whole outlook on the world. Art decorates my home from wall to wall—it covers every surface.
While my overall favorite style of art is probably classical Renaissance, I simply adore ancient Khmer architecture from Southeast Asia. I think my favorite piece of artwork is actually a full-on temple located in Cambodia. Its name is Bayon, and among its many wondrous flares are something like 30 tall pillars with giant faces carved into every side!
Maybe if I were Carmen Sandiego I would steal it for my own collection. Since I’m not though, I think it’s best to share the wonder of a place like Bayon with the rest of the world.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?
If I had a warning label, it would say: Caution, even so much as mentioning Rome will result in an immediate explosion of anecdotal information and personal opinion.
This is what my wife likes to call, ‘Rome blasting.’ I am OBSESSED with all things Rome, and have been ever since I was a kid. I can remember when I was six years old, and my family rented a house in the south of France. My grandmother would take me to see the aqueducts and ruined amphitheaters that peppered the landscape nearby, and I would spend all day playing among them.
Since then, I’ve been to the Eternal City twice, and have plans to return again as soon as time and money will permit. Additionally, I’ve read works by Pliny, Suetonius, Lucretius, Tacitus, Virgil, Cicero, Julius Caesar, Petronius, Marcus Aurelius, and Plutarch, as well as numerous contemporary historical works and fiction. Like I said, I’m obsessed. Even The Ruins of Mars has a bit of ‘Rome blasting’ in it—the AIs Remus, Romulus, and Ilia are all taken from Roman mythology.
If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?
My fantasy dead-author dinner party would include the likes of Homer, Petronius, Edith Hamilton, Joseph Campbell, and Oscar Wilde. Homer and Petronius would probably want to eat something weird like peacock tongues or roasted dormice. As for Edith, Joe, and Oscar, I imagine that like me, as long as the wine kept flowing, they’d be up for just about anything!
Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?
Unfortunately, I have yet to meet either of my two favorite, living authors. Nevertheless, if by some miracle I were to cross paths with Carlos Ruiz Zafon, or Philip Pullman, I would most likely ‘fanboy’ like a mother-effer, and kiss both of them on the mouth…with tongue.
Well, I’m a huge movie buff with a film degree to boot. Nerdy arguments sort of go with the territory! It usually doesn’t take much to goad me into a fight though. All you have to say is something like, “Prometheus was actually pretty good,” or “Jesse Isenberg should be in more movies.”
Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?
Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on a genre-bending mythological thriller called, The Man from Rome. Although I’m most well known for writing scifi, this novel is a bit of a departure from The Ruins of Mars. I wanted to show people that I am a storyteller first and foremost, and not limited to one genre. Besides, as I mentioned above, I love all things Rome. It was only a matter of time until that love turned into a project!
Set in modern-day Rome, the novel tells the story of a bloody vendetta between two ancient Immortals. However, as was the case with The Ruins of Mars Trilogy, it isn’t long until this outwardly simple premise begins to mutate and take the story in unexpected directions. Also in keeping with my style, I shift the narrative from character to character, giving the reader an ensemble experience.
To create the depth and authenticity the story needed, I pulled extensively from Greco-Roman mythology, history, and lore. At the same time, I put a distinctly scifi twist on it by avoiding fallbacks like ‘magic’.
Sure, certain characters can do amazing, seemingly superhuman things, but that is only because they are literally superior to humans in the evolutionary hierarchy. To me, this is a more compelling idea than out right divinity as it speaks to the nature of power and its corrupting influence on the ego.
Really though, The Man from Rome is a slick, kinetic thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep any reader engaged. I wanted to repeat my success with The Ruins of Mars by writing something that anyone could enjoy, not just fans of the genre. It has a well-rounded cast of characters, vivid descriptions of Roman architecture and cuisine, and action sequences that any Ruins of Mars fan will instantly recognize as distinctly Dylan-esque!
I hope you will consider it for your future reading list. But be warned, if I did my job right, you’ll be booking a ticket to Rome by the end of the third chapter!
Places to Find Dylan James Quarles
Set against the turbulent backdrop of the near future, The Ruins of Mars opens on the discovery of an ancient city buried under the sands of the red planet. Images captured by twin sentient satellites show massive domes, imposing walls, and a grid work of buildings situated directly on the rim of Mars’ Grand Canyon, the Valles Marineris. With the resources of Earth draining away under the weight of human expansion, a plan is hatched to reclaim Mars from the cold grasp of death. A small band of explorers, astronauts, and scientists are sent to the red world in mankind’s first interplanetary starship to begin construction on a human colony. Among them is a young archaeologist, named Harrison Raheem Assad, who is tasked with uncovering the secrets of the Martian ruins and their relation to the human race. Aided by the nearly boundless mind of a god-like artificial intelligence; the explorers battle space travel, harsh Martian weather, and the deepening mystery of the forgotten alien civilization. Begin the epic journey in Book One of the Ruins of Mars Trilogy.