Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Interview JC Marino

Welcome to another interview on Reading on the Dark Side! Today, I´d like to welcome JC Marino, author of Dante's Journey.

Here´s the blurb for Dante´s Journey:
A flash of light and Detective Joe Dante steps through. No longer on the cobblestone streets of 1961 Boston, Joe finds himself in a horrifying new world-Hell itself. Joe was in hot pursuit of his family's killer, drug lord Filippo Argenti, when both were killed, and isn't about to let a little thing like death slow him down. So, with a healthy dose of New England stubbornness and the help of a mysterious guide, Virgil DiMini, Joe must evade angry demons, and search ever-lower through the rings of the original Dante's Inferno in hopes of finding justice for his wife and children. However, Joe will soon discover that behind every sin lies a secret and each secret revealed could land Joe in an eternity of hot water... VERY hot.

And now, please give it up for JC who very patiently waited for my questions (once again, sorry that it took me so long!)

Can you describe Dante´s Journey in your own words?

I like to compare Dante’s Journey to the original Inferno as the TV show Smallville is to the original Superboy.

In Smallville, all the characters are the same but with a modernized twist. For example, you still see Lana Lang, the Green Arrow, Lex Luthor, etc, but definitely NOT the way you would from the original.

In Dante’s Journey, you still see Beatrice, Virgil, Hector, Socrates, etc, but most are with a modern twist.

For example, in the original, Dante is a righteous man in Hell with his guide, Virgil, a poet Dante had respected in life. In his travels, he comes to Filippo Argenti, Dante’s mortal enemy.

In Dante’s Journey, Joe Dante is a Boston Detective in Hell and comes to find Virgil, his guide, someone who Joe doesn’t know or trust. Joe’s goal is to find the drug dealer who murdered his family (including his wife Beatrice). The drug dealer is Filippo Argenti.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to know the original Inferno in order to read Dante’s Journey.

Is it a stand alone book or are there more planned?

I wanted Dante’s Journey to be self contained enough that, if I didn’t continue, it would be okay. But I wanted to leave it at a point that, if I wanted to continue, it would be at a great point to do so.

The original Divine Comedy is a trilogy.

The second part of the trilogy is Dante climbing up the mountain of Purgatory. And the third story is Dante traveling through the plains of Paradise. As the Inferno, both the mountain and the plains are 9 layers.

I don’t want to give anything away, but there are several set-ups in Dante’s Journey that will be paid-off in the second book (if I choose to go that way).

As for now, I’m not working on any sequel for Dante’s Journey.

Can you share something about your current work?

I am working on my third novel now. My second one is titled “Everything but the Face” and is about a woman who’s attacked and left with a rare condition known as Prosopagnosia (or Face-blindness).

To her, everyone has the same horrific empty, expressionless face. In other words, everyone looks the same.

She has to solve the murder of her boyfriend, stay one step ahead of the killer, keep her paranoia of the suspicious police at bay, and confront her inner demons.

As “Dante’s Journey”, the story is told in the first person (through the eyes of the protagonist). It was necessary in order to get the reader to feel what it’s like to have this disorienting condition.

Who is she talking to in any given chapter? We don’t know. We only know who they say they are. So, who can a woman with trust-issues trust when everyone looks exactly the same?

It’s being edited now. You can read the first (unedited) chapter on my website, at

Dante's Journey is based off of the classic, Divine Comedy. How did you come up with the idea for this book? Did the story evolve from something different or did it just kind of hit you?

The original idea behind the story was more for a Bruce Willis “Die Hard” type.

At that time, all the characters were made up and based on your typical archetypes.

I can’t say exactly when it happened, but I eventually thought to make the name of the main character a variation of Dante Alighieri… thus his name ended up as Joe Dante.

That’s about when I had the revelation to give most of the character names some variation as the character names in the original work.

Then, I thought… why not actually base the characters themselves on the characters of the original?

So… Dante Alighieri is Joe Dante, Boston PD; Hector (the reluctant warrior from the Trojan War) is a Hippie draft dodger with the heart of a fighter; Beatrice (the original Dante’s true love) is Joe’s wife; Filippo Argenti (Dante Alighieri’s mortal enemy) is Argenti the drug dealer who had Joe’s family killed; Socrates is, well… Socrates. But you get the idea.

Then I went back to storytelling 101… conflict, conflict, conflict…

So, the dynamic relationships and motivations became more mysterious and conflicted.

In the original, Virgil was Dante’s tour guide because Dante loved and respected Virgil’s work in life (Virgil was a poet).

But in Dante’s Journey, Joe and Virgil don’t even like each other at first. They’re forced to work together. Joe wants to find “justice” for his family’s murder. And Virgil needs to get Joe out of Hell for mysterious reasons… or does he?

Would you say that your degree I creative writing actually help you in finishing your book? Did the other degrees you have?


My background had definitely helped me out in the research. I’m originally from Boston (as is my protagonist) and I have a security and law enforcement background (my protagonist is a Boston Detective).

I’ve been watching some TV shows where the writer so obviously must have had experience in that field. If not, they must have done enough research to become an expert.

I’m thinking primarily of Bones and Dexter. Bone forensics and blood splatter interpretation are not easy sciences to master.

I hope my book shows the same amount of consistency and research.

I´ve read that it took you about ten years to finish this book. It must be a really personal and life changing experience then? Would you say the different stages of your life have influenced your book?

Very intelligent question.

And, yes.

As I said in a previous answer, the original story was a Die Hard, Bruce Willis-type, high octane action adventure with a smart-alec protagonist.

But, as I got older, the idea of the story become more and more pensive and thought provoking.

Issues like the concept of sin, Hell, the nature of man, etc, come more and more to the foreground.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Music, books, TV shows or real life?

All of the above and more.

I would say that the top of the list would be TV and movies.

Growing up, I was more of a movie buff than a reader. I would watch anything listed as science fiction. Two movies I loved were “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “The Thing” (the originals – not the remakes).

TV show-wise, “Outer Limits” and “The Twilight Zone” were big with me (again, the originals – not the remakes). It wasn’t until I got hooked on “Combat!” that I realized it wasn’t so much the scifi aspect that I found fascinating, but the human condition.

Outsmarting Nazis in WWII or outsmarting aliens on Mars… there’s really not much of a difference, writing-wise. That’s just setting. It’s the human reactions and interactions where the real writing comes in.

A question that I am always curious about (but could be kind of personal) is: are your characters based on people you really know or maybe even a little bit about yourself or are they all purely fictional?

I think most writers try and draw from real people for their characters. If not “real” people, then they may draw from fictional people who were “real” to them.

And, of course, the best characters are those composed of several.

For example, Joe Dante (the protagonist for Dante’s Journey) is a combination of Paul Newman (as Rocky Graziano in Somebody up There Likes Me), Frank Sinatra as Tony Rome, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, and my father (a tough Italian Bostonian WWII vet).

I wanted Joe to be smart, but stubborn… not super-educated, but street-wise… and a little too gutsy for his own good. Sometimes he’s his own worst enemy and his stubbornness makes him do really dumb things.

Trust me… I’ve known people like this.

How did you choose the names of the characters in your book? Do they have a special meaning?

Yes, I’d say about 90% of the character names are some variation of the characters found in the original Dante’s Inferno.

For example, the original Alexander the Great from Inferno is Lt. Alexander in Dante’s Journey… a Viet Nam officer who fragged his captain and ended up in the circle of the violent (where the original was).

Hector, the Trojan reluctant warrior in the original, is now a hippie who was killed in the 1970s for refusing to fight. But this hippie also has the heart of a warrior.

What do you like most about being an author? And what annoys you

I love the creativity. I love the freedom of creating a whole new world and deciding how the characters act and interact.

What annoys me? No steady income.

It’s sad, but I think that’s a major annoyance for all unknown artists… or should I say… arteeeeest?

Did you ever have a writer´s block? If so, what did you do to deal with it?

So far, no, I’ve never had a bout with writer’s block.

I’m on my third novel and have many other stories I want to write after.

My biggest enemies are laziness… and sore forearms.

Tell us something about your favourites:
Favourite authors?

Rod Serling
favourite paranormal creature?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (though she’s not a creature).
favourite all time hero/heroine?
William Wallace from Braveheart.
favourite all time villain?
Col Jessup from A Few Good Men (because any bad guy who can make you think he’s right is aces with me).
Which one do you prefer, book or e-reader?
BOOK! I’m against e-books.
favourite distraction?
Chocolate Chip cookies. (What a delicious distraction. :) Come to think of it... should get me some cookies. Or chocolate...)

Is there a book you love above all? One that had a great influence on you or your life?

I’m going to go with the Bible. Probably followed by Dante’s Inferno.

But, there are a few books on 2012 that are starting to make me think.

Was being an author something you´ve always wanted or did it just happen?

I actually wanted to be a screenwriter.

I first started out writing screenplays on spec. After writing over a dozen or so screenplays, pitching to wanna-be agents and producers, I realized that I was more suited for novels.

Screenplays limit the writer to the movie-going experience. Plus, the writer is only part of an ensemble (which includes director, actors, producer, etc). All these people have a say in what you write, and rightfully so, as all these people are looking at different aspects of the movie (not the screenplay).

In novels, the writer has more of a say in what happens in the story and what happens to/with the characters.

So, I switched to novels and found the publishing industry just as tough to get noticed.

I’ve discovered one thing in my time as a screenwriter. In order to get noticed, you basically have to show the world that you’re determined to do it with or without them.

I did some research and found smaller, independent publishers who could help me in accomplishing my publishing goals. I picked about five publishers out of about sixty, asked many, many questions, and selected the one whose answers were best for what I needed (ex, contract, how to handle book returns, etc).

I found Star Publish LLC and am very happy with my choice, as happy as I hope Star is for having me.

Is there any question you always wanted to be asked? And if so, what would be the answer?

This is a tough one.

I’m going to wimp out and say no.

A question that is inspired by another interview I did with an author and seems to really fit in the context of your book: If you would be Superman, what would be your kryptonite?

If I get to pick my superpower, I’d rather not have ANY form of kryptonite.

I know… not a real answer.

With superheroes, their Achilles’ Heal is in direct opposition to their superpower. Even someone you wouldn’t think of as a superhero. For example, look at Mr. Spock from Star Trek. His “super” power is his allegiance to logic. What’s his weakness? What’s on the other side of that logic coin? Emotion.

We all have a weakness. And I’m sure, no matter what my superpower was, my weakness would include keeping those close to me out of danger.

What are you reading at the moment/planning to read/waiting for to be released?

I wish I was more of a reader than I am.

I really, really want to read both the Dexter series and the True Blood series. I love both TV shows and I would love to read the books to see how the characters are different and how they’ve evolved.

At the moment, though, if I have time to read, I normally pick up a “writing” book rather than a “reading” book… like “How to Write a Damn Good Thriller” (which is currently on my list).

And finally: Is there anything you want to say to your/my readers?

I think anyone who read/liked the original Dante’s Inferno would love Dante’s Journey. It will be fun for them to see the updated characters.

And those who haven’t read it, but are interested in religion (the concept of Hell… the nature of sin… etc) and/or fantasy will also enjoy it.

The novel is written in layers and Hell is separated by levels.

Similarly, different types of people will enjoy the novel for different reasons.

I think it’s a very unique book as it doesn’t rely on swords, sorcery or magic, but rather the human condition within the extraordinary situation of one man finding himself in Hell.

I think the reader will see certain aspects of him/her-self in Joe (or even some of the other characters) and question their own place in the world, as well as their possible place in this particular afterlife.

I want the reader to look at the inferno and say “Heck, I could end up in THAT ring.”

Plus, it’s a fun book. It’s light enough to keep the reader smiling, yet heavy enough to keep them thinking, guessing, and even philosophizing.

Here are some links that may be of interest.

Dante’s Journey Book Trailer:
Dante’s Journey Book Reviews:
Latest Review from Prinkipria Magazine:

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and answering my questions! It´s been both a great pleasure and honor for me!


Beverly said...

Thanks for the review - this looks like such a good read!