Interview with Ari Marmell, Author, ‘Darksiders: The Abomination Vault’


Ari Marmell is the author of numerous novels, the most recent of which is Darksiders: The Abomination Vault:

Ride with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse as they seek to unearth a plot that could plunge all of Creation into chaos!

Ages before the events of Darksiders and Darksiders II, two of the feared Horsemen—Death and War—are tasked with stopping a group of renegades from locating the Abomination Vault: a hoard containing weapons of ultimate power and malice, capable of bringing an end to the uneasy truce between Heaven and Hell . . . but only by unleashing total destruction.

Created in close collaboration with the Darksiders II teams at Vigil and THQ, Darksiders: The Abomination Vault gives an exciting look at the history and world of the Horsemen, shining a new light on the unbreakable bond between War and Death.

Tell me about your gaming experience. People know you very well for your tabletop gaming products, so I assume you play those, but are you an electronic gamer as well? Are you a PC guy? Console? What’s your favorite game?

To be entirely candid, I don’t do a lot of electronic gaming. I discovered long ago that–due to both the mild tendonitis in my fingers and my tendency to get seriously obsessed–I have to choose between computer games or writing. For what I’d hope are pretty obvious reasons, I tend to choose the latter.

As such, my favorite game is actually not a modern one. It’s actually the first of the Gabriel Knight series, from back in the 90s.

What kind of things were important to you when you wrote the book? What kind of stylistic elements did you think were important to write a convincing story in the Darksiders universe?

As with any tie-in, it really has to feel like it’s part of that world. It needs to be accurate–not just in terms of visual details and characters, but overall feel and theme. The best book in the world isn’t a good tie-in novel if it doesn’t capture those aspects of the property.

In this case, that included both a certain mythic feel to the overall aesthetic (even with those elements that were created for the book, and not based on myth). It had to be grand in scale. It had to capture Death’s and War’s personalities. And the action had to feel right. Darksiders has a very specific, super-human, almost anime-level style of action; if the book didn’t capture that, it wasn’t going to work.

You write spin-off fiction and your own stuff. What’s the major differences between these two tasks as a writer?

It’s mostly in the thought processes. In both cases, you have to be faithful to the tone/feel of the setting and characters–but with tie-in, it’s setting and character that you didn’t personally create. It means be willing to put yourself in someone else’s head, and to abide by rules/restrictions that you didn’t come up with, and wouldn’t necessarily have chosen.

Truth is, while they’re of course very similar, it’s a slightly different skill set.

With the new Darksiders game coming out well after the book did you feel any additional pressure to get things right?

I don’t know if I’d say additional pressure–getting things right is, as I said before, part of the tie-in writer’s job. Plus, on the original schedule, they were coming out much closer together.

That said, it’s certainly something that I (and the rest of the people involved) had in mind, and were aware of, throughout the entire process.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to transition from fan fiction to spin-off or franchise fiction?

Yes: Write your own, original stuff.

I’m not putting down fan fic or tie-in fiction when I say that. But it’s very rare–not impossible, but rare–for someone to go straight from fan fic to official tie-in. You need to do something to get publishers’/agents’/editors’ attention as a writer, not just a fan. And in most cases, unless there’s a particular promotion or contest running, you can’t just go and submit a tie-in work to your favorite property. So write your own stuff, get your name out there as a writer, and then see about contacting the owners of the IP you want to work with.