The Sparky by Marek Moran
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Hello, Reader! I’m here because my first novel, The Sparky, has just come out, and the kind people at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words have let me give you a bit of idea about what it’s like via some questions they’ve posed.
How much of yourself goes into a character?
As this is my first novel, it’s only one data point so far. But, as I imagine is pretty typical for first novels, the answer would be “quite a bit”. There were a couple of times in the editing process where the editor would say “Would your characters really do X?”, and my answer was that that was something that had actually happened in my own life.
Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?
I’ve always thought that something that makes for a full Mary Sue or Gary Stu is that (in Wikipedia’s words) they’re “an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character” in addition to being an author surrogate. The experiences of my own that I use to create a character certainly aren’t only the positive, glowing ones! Among other things, I think my essential nerdiness comes through pretty strongly. (You’ll see this in the excerpt.)
Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?
Probably research—in my day job I am an academic, after all. I can spend days going down the rabbit hole of links and citations and references. But as a kid I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, and I enjoyed making up worlds and cultures in tandem with that. Tolkien really got me imagining worlds at a fine level of detail. But the world-creating authors I especially like do an awful lot of research to make their worlds plausible—right now I’m rereading Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and there’s a lot of anthropology research that went into that—so I think maybe research and making up worlds aren’t totally separate.
Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?
Not really. Or maybe the answer is, Not yet. As I mentioned, I mostly used to read fantasy and sci-fi (and still read it now, although my book diet is more balanced), but I also used to read some romance—I’d borrow the latest Mills and Boon from one of my (female) friends, although I wouldn’t tell my other friends about it, it not being the conventional teenage boy thing. So I’m not sure why I ended up writing contemporary romance, except that it’s obviously more natural to write out of real life experience, and I’ve had more relationships with guys than with elves or aliens. And in a sense the story had a life of its own and just wanted to be born that way. (Cue Lady Gaga soundtrack.)
Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?
I do, although I also read a lot of history, some fantasy and sci-fi, some mystery / thrillers, and what the other members of my bookclub refer to as Serious Literature. In romance, it’s a pretty mixed bag of authors I read. I like old work like Jane Austen, George Eliot, E. M. Forster and Georgette Heyer, but also some newer romance, both straight and gay.
What’s next for you as an author?
I am writing another novel, although it’s still in the early stages: I’ve just hit 10K words. It’s also contemporary romance, but otherwise quite different from The Sparky. There’s a bit of a thriller element to it, and a bit of politics as well—that’s how it is in my head and in my notes file at the moment, anyway. Who knows how it will turn out …
Aaron’s been living in what his friend Howie calls a sexual desert. But an oasis appears on the horizon when Paul, a divorced electrician with a five-year-old daughter named Sam, moves in next door. He’s a country boy from northern Australia, and although he’s never been with a guy before, he has an impression that anything goes in the city. They find that the ordinary things in life—books, footie in the park, looking after Sam—lead them into an unlikely relationship.
But as their relationship slowly deepens, with Aaron spending time on Paul’s family’s cattle station, it becomes clear that Paul might have a harder time leaving the country behind. To him, happiness means a conventional life—including a mother for Sam. Being with his old friends convinces him he’s on the wrong path with Aaron, and he starts a relationship with a girl from his hometown. If he cannot find the courage to go after what he truly needs, he and Aaron will become nothing more than awkward neighbours.
Purchase The Sparky at
[BACKGROUND: Noone knows Aaron and Paul are going out. At this point in the novel, Aaron’s visiting his sister Deelie just before Christmas, playing paintball with her and her friends. It’s one of those occasions when he’d really like to talk about Paul, but can’t.]
After that we go through the training and the warnings about face masks, goggles, neck and throat protection, dangerous shots, dangerous behaviour. Even as I’m walking out onto the ground, I’m not sure how I’ll bring myself to shoot teenage girls. Then I think about Mean Girls—that’ll help me see them as vicious threats. I manage to shoot one crouching in a wooden fort, and then another inexpertly hidden behind a tree, but then I’m hit. Deelie survives until the end.
As I drive us home in a rental car, I look over at her. She has a bruise forming on her right arm. I don’t know what from. “Heh, warrior princess.”
“You don’t still watch that, do you?”
“Maybe. There’s a kid next door up in Sydney and I’ve watched some episodes with her.”
I can’t talk about Paul with anyone, although sometimes it wants to bubble up out of me; this is the next best thing. Just touching on it, skirting the edges of it without actually giving anything away.
“Oh my God.”
“She’s pretty fierce, this kid.”
Last week on a visit through the back gate, Sam told me what she’d been up to at vacation care. As well as doing craft and going on an excursion to the park, she updated me on her playground relationships.
“Finn’s my frenemy,” she told me.
I wasn’t even aware that five-year-olds knew the word “frenemy.”
“Do you know what a frenemy is?”
“Someone who’s kind of a friend and kind of an enemy.”
So apparently they do know.
“Why are you frenemies?” I asked.
“We were playing Xena, and he was a baddie, and when I kicked him by accident, he hit me back on purpose.”
“Did you say sorry?”
“It was an accident.”
“You should still say sorry, though. Xena would if it was an accident.” That’s probably not in the canon, but I’m happy to make this up.
I tell Deelie a bit more about Sam as I’m driving.
About the Author
Marek Moran is, in his day job, a computer science professor. If you want to know about shortest path graph algorithms, he’s your man. However, that’s probably not why you’re reading this. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia, and has previously lived in France, Germany and the US, enjoying travelling around and listening to people talk: he’s learnt to respond to enquiries after his wellbeing with a ça va merci, sehr gut danke or copacetic, thanks.
The only member of his book club to like George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, he’s discovered that he enjoys writing romance as well as reading it; the other members of his book club don’t yet know this. He plays piano, squash, and his cards close to his chest. The Sparky is his first novel.