Marshall Ryan Maresca on Living with a City Inside Your Head

In the last two years, Marshall Ryan Maresca has published six novels in three interconnected series, all set in the same fantasy city, Maradaine. Naturally, we wondered how he keeps track of it all without going mad. He joins us today to discuss just that—though as he’s currently planning a fourth Maradaine series, we’re still not sure he hasn’t gone mad.

I have a city living in my head.

That’s what happens when you have three different fantasy series in the same setting (and you’re planning a fourth): a city grows in your head.

I go through my day with the city of Maradaine churning along in my skull—students going to classes, gang members working their corners, constables walking their beats, craftspeople practicing their trade. Members of Parliament debating issues, political dissidents plotting revolt. Foreign travelers coming in, secret shipments slipping out in the cover of night. It’s a living, breathing thing that is always occupying my headspace.

The Imposters of Aventil is the sixth novel set in Maradaine, the third Novel of Maradaine (following Veranix Calbert, aka The Thorn). It also crosses over with the heroes of the Maradaine Constabulary novels, as Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling come to Aventil to investigate The Thorn’s supposed attacks on local constables.

You can imagine that’s a lot to keep track of.

I have trouble even answering the question, “What are you working on?” without sounding like a madman.

(Current answer: “I just delivered my seventh book—the second Streets of Maradaine novel, Lady Hentermen’s Wardrobe. I’m finishing the draft of my eighth—A Parliament of Bodies, the third Maradaine Constabulary. And I’m waiting to hear about the ninth—the first of the planned Maradaine Elite. And beyond that…”)

After a few moments of blank stares, the next question is inevitable.

“How do you keep it all straight?”

Frankly, through a combination of spreadsheets, timelines, character summaries, and outlines, all of which combine into a Maradaine series bible. Between all those tools, I can track every who and what and when and where, across all of the different parts of the city. I don’t quite have it to the point of maintaining my own wiki of Everything Maradaine, mostly because I don’t want to go back through and reenter everything in a new format. I’d rather write more books.

But, for example, I have calendars showing exactly when each book takes place, so I know A Murder of Mages starts two days after the end of The Thorn of Dentonhill, or that since upcoming elections are mentioned in An Import of Intrigue, they’re actually happening during Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe.

Or, since both The Thorn of Dentonhill and The Alchemy of Chaos mention the Grand Tournament of High Colleges is coming to Maradaine in the summer, we have the Grand Tournament going on in the background during The Imposters of Aventil.

Keeping it straight isn’t the biggest challenge, though. For me, the biggest challenge is making sure each book is an individual, engaging, satisfying story that carries its own weight, while honoring the elements that come before it and laying the groundwork of the things to come. It’s letting the repercussions of one series echo into the others, while making it feel like an organic part of that story—a piece of the greater whole.

So, you ask me, do I need to read everything else to make sense of The Imposters of Aventil? Well, I’m a biased source, because of course I want you read every book I’ve written, and wait expectantly for the next. That said, I think if The Imposters of Aventil was the first book of mine you picked up, you could read it and get a rich and satisfying story. And then you would want to go back and read The Thorn of Dentonhill and The Alchemy of Chaos to see the stories that led up to it. Or maybe pick up A Murder of Mages so you can get to know Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling better. Or even Holver Alley Crew because, well, that just looks like fun.

Here’s my promise to you, though: Maradaine is a grand epic, told from different angles, of a city of students and sages, of constables and conspirators, of politicians and protestors and princes and mages and thieves, and a few rare champions. Each book is a piece of the greater jigsaw puzzle that is the city, yet tells a complete story in its own right.

And in Imposters of Aventil, the jigsaw starts to come together.

Find all the Maradaine novels here.

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