Mystery Scene continues its ongoing series with authors discussing their works. This time, Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown discuss their novel Ocean of Storms.
Set in the near future, Ocean of Storms begins when political tensions between the United States and China are at an all-time high. Then a catastrophic explosion on the moon cleaves a vast gash in the lunar surface. As a result, the Earth’s electrical infrastructure is obliterated. This forces the feuding nations to cooperate on a high-risk mission.
Now a diverse, highly skilled ensemble of astronauts—and a pair of maverick archaeologists plucked from the Peruvian jungle—will work together.
An epic adventure, Ocean of Storms spans space and time.
Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown discuss tension and point of view:
When we were writing our sci-fi thriller, Ocean of Storms, one of the biggest issues we faced was how to amp up the tension while at the same time releasing clues through the novel as to the nature of the mystery our protagonists face. The solution we came up with was to use multiple points of view (POVs) in which each character was to have a piece of the puzzle.
It’s a tricky thing to write multiple points of view, made harder still by the fact that two authors were writing one novel. That said, it was also a gift to have a co-author, since each of us served double duty as the other’s editor to make sure we were writing a coherent story with coherent characters in a single narrative voice.
In order to insure that we didn’t trip up—either by giving too much away or by forgetting to give key pieces of information at just the right moments—we had to create a sort of “novel bible,” in which we had outlined all of the characters’ personalities and traits, as well as their backgrounds and their motivations.
This same novel bible also had a fairly detailed outline of the plot, so that we knew when certain things would happen and what aspects of the mystery would be revealed in which chapters.
We also did considerable research and took copious notes on true-life aspects of our story: NASA history, the physics behind putting astronauts on the moon, archeological facts, political background on US-China relations—even references to other sci-fi adventures we loved and wanted to echo.
In the end, the novel that ultimately resulted from these notes was not the book that we had outlined: characters changed, motivations shifted, action was tightened, plot details were switched up or deleted entirely. Nothing surprising there; that’s the nature of writing. But what we never changed was what had been there at the beginning, that this was going to be a story told from many points of view as a way to increase the tension throughout the novel and to heighten the mystery.
And the way we did that was by always knowing exactly who knew what at whatever point, and exactly what their motivations were for either giving a piece of information or withholding it.
To us, the only way to tell this story was in such a manner, in which everyone, working together and by each adding a puzzle piece to the game, would be able to solve the mystery. Not to get too philosophical, but writing a thriller with a mystery at its core seems to us not that very different from living everyday life.
All of us all know something, and maybe then only partially, and only by sharing information and by working together can we solve the truly tough problems.
About the authors:
Christopher Mari was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and was educated at Fordham University. He has edited books on a wide variety of topics, including three on space exploration. His next novel, The Beachhead, will be published by 47North in 2017. He lives with his family in Queens, New York.
Jeremy K. Brown has written several biographies for young readers, including books on Stevie Wonder and Ursula K. Le Guin. He has also contributed articles to numerous magazines and newspapers. Brown published his first novel, Calling Off Christmas, in 2011 and is currently at work on another novel. He lives in New York with his wife and sons.
Photos: Top, Christopher Mari; photo by Ana Maria Estela
Bottom, Jeremy K. Brown; photo courtesy Jeremey K.Brown