Author Marshall Ryan Maresca Shares Writing Advice and Desert Island Reads


I’m an unabashed fan of’s fantasy community, a place that you’ll find me lurking quite a bit during the day. There’s a lot to like about this little literary clubhouse—friendly redditors and great book suggestions among them—but one of my favorites is its ongoing “AMA” interviews. The subreddit has hosted both up-and-coming writers and living legends alike for AMAs, and you can always count on the fans there to ask some good questions.

Marshall Ryan Maresca, author of The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages dropped in to Reddit today to answer a few questions about his books and career, and gave what I thought were really great answers to two questions in particular.

The first, about his “desert island” book selections, was particularly interesting to me. He picked out a surprising title as his first of three Watership Down. It’s one of my favorite fantasy novels, but I don’t see may people namecheck it anymore. If you’ve not read it, then i suggest you do so. It features some of the best worldbuilding I’ve ever seen. I mean, the rabbits have their own language and culture and everything. It’s mindblowing. The other thing I liked about his answer was that he admitted to being tempted to name books he’s been told were great but never read. Who doesn’t know that feeling?

The second question was a request for writing advice. Giving advice of any kind is very difficult, and maybe doubly so when it comes to the arts. While there are some standard things that hold true for every writer, advice about the creative process in general is tricky. Everyone has their way of doing something. Maresca acknowledged that in his response, and I think it’s worth reading

I’ve both questions and answers below, but you should definitely go back and read the rest of the AMA. There’s a lot more there to enjoy.

“You’re trapped on a deserted island with three books. Knowing that you will be reading them over and over and over again, what three do you bring?” – MikeOfThePalace

Thanks for having me.

First one is Watership Down. Thats my biggest go-to re-read book. There’s probably no book that I’ve read as many times as that one.

Beyond that, it’s tough. I’m tempted to name books that I’ve been told are great and I should read them, but I just never had (or kept bouncing off the beginning), since in that situation I would have to read them.

But instead I’ll have to go with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (but, you know, the omnibus edition with all the books collected), because I’ll need to have some bleak humor in that situation.

Third, I’d go with The Belgariad, since that was the formative fantasy epic of my youth. And I’ve already re-read that one many, many times as well.

“What tips do you have for new writers?” – 0_fox_are_given

Take time to learn how you write. Don’t be all, “I’ve got to put out This Many Words per day” or “I have to do extensive outlines/I must eschew all outlines and write free form” because that’s how you heard This Writer Did It. Play around and figure out what works for you. Be willing to embrace that your initial presumptions were wrong.

But, for example– something like NaNoWriMo. I don’t think doing NaNo will (typically) yield a viable novel, but I think it’s a great way to learn how you will write a novel.

There’s tons of advice out there, and the best advice I can give is sort through it to find the best stuff to go into your toolbox.