Michael A. Ventrella writes witty adventures and edits two major anthologies: TALES OF FORTANNIS and BAKER STREET IRREGULARS (co-edited with NY Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry). His short stories have appeared in various collections as well. At his website’s blog (www.michaelaventrella.com) he interviews other authors, editors, agents and publishers to get advice for the starting author. In his spare time, he is a lawyer.
Tell us about your new alternate reality Sherlock Holmes anthology that just came out on March 21st, BAKER STREET IRREGULARS.
What if Sherlock Holmes was born in a different body in a different time? That was the original concept. We have thirteen wonderful authors who have a lot of fun with this. Among them are:
David Gerrold, best known for writing the classic Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” but also for his work on all of the various other Star Trek series. He also wrote for Babylon 5, Twilight Zone, and other TV shows, and has won Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards. His novel The Martian Child was recently made into a movie;
Jonathan Maberry, who is a multiple Bram-Stoker Award winner whose novel Rot and Ruin has just been optioned for a movie. He is a New York Times Bestselling author who has also written for Marvel Comics;
Keith R.A. DeCandido, who has over fifty novels to his name, including writing many genre tie-ins in the world of Star Trek, Farscape, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Marvel universe;
Jody Lynn Nye, best known for the Mythology 101 series and her collaboration with Robert Asprin on the Myth Adventures series;
Heidi McLaughlin, New York Times Bestselling Author best known for her wonderful romance novels;
Ryk Spoor, best known for his space opera series Grand Central Arena and his urban fantasy series Digital Knight;
…as well as other great writers Hildy Silverman, Austin Farmer, Mike Strauss, Martin Rose, Beth Patterson, and Jim Avelli.
In the book, you have Sherlock as an alien, as a vampire, as a medieval monk, as a young child, as an android, as a reality show host, and as a parrot (just to name a few of the stories).
Where did the idea for this book come from?
I wrote a story called “Knowledge” for an anthology called Dance Like a Monkey that involved futuristic London with a woman who claimed to be Sherlock Holmes’ relative and had his personality. Afterwards I said, “You know, doing a whole bunch of stories of Sherlock in different places would be fun.” I then contacted Jonathan Maberry who said he’d love to participate, and soon I had all these big name authors wanting to join in.
The second book is almost finished and will be out in 2018, and I honestly think it’s even better than the first!
You co-created one of the most popular Live Action Role Playing games in North America. How did that come out? How many people are a part of it?
Way back in 1989, a bunch of us decided we wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons live, instead of around a table. So we made up some rules and started playing and soon we had hundreds of people joining us. We had no idea what a LARP was back then and had nothing to base our game on, so we made a lot of mistakes.
Now there are hundreds of fantasy LARPs all over the place, most of which can be traced back to our original game.
Ours is called Alliance LARP (www.AllianceLARP.com) and we have chapters all over the US and Canada, so you can create a character and have that character travel from one game to the other. Our Rule Book is free to download from that site, where you can also watch the Discovery Channel documentary they did on the game.
The RandomChatter Network has a heavy Star Wars emphasis. What’s your favorite SW movie?
Probably The Empire Strikes Back. While there are parts of all of the original trilogy I love, I think Empire holds up the best overall. On the other hand, the feeling of seeing the original Star Wars in the theater cannot be overemphasized. I’m an old guy, you know – I saw it in the original release!
I gather you’re not the greatest fan of the Prequels, so I’m going to challenge you: what did you LIKE about them?
As far as movies go, they’re okay. I mean, if they weren’t Star Wars films, I’d say they were enjoyable enough, although not worth watching a second time. My objection to them has more to do with the way they ruined the original trilogy’s plotlines and just didn’t feel like Star Wars movies. Plus too much reliance on obvious CGI.
I know you’re a big animation fan. Did you ever watch the Clone Wars or Rebels series?
Back when I got into animation, we had crappy Hanna Barbera cartoons and such on the three channels available and that was about it. Maybe Disney came out with a new film every three years. So it was easy to basically see everything. That’s impossible now with so many channels and so many options – but that’s a good thing.
Honestly, I hardly even watch TV any more. I have a busy job, and then I try to spend my nights writing. I also run that LARP and when I need to relax, I prefer to play a computer game or read a book than to watch TV. So no, I haven’t seen them, but the few times I’ve caught scenes, it looked pretty good.
What ultimately makes good animation is the same thing that makes good live action: A good script, good acting, and good direction. The worst animation (South Park, for instance) can still make a great movie.
What did you think of The Force Awakens and Rogue One?
Now those are what the prequels should have been. Good scripts, good acting, good direction, and not a lot of reliance on CGI (which was another big objection to Lucas’ prequels). I absolutely enjoyed them and don’t have any serious complaints.
What do you think about the forthcoming Young Han Solo movie?
I have no objection to the concept – the character is an engaging one and there is so much you can do with him. That doesn’t mean they’ll make a good movie, though, but I’m hopeful. I’m looking forward to it, and given what they’ve done already, I’m optimistic.
What kind of genre TV shows are you currently watching?
Hardly anything, as I said above. I’ll look forward to seeing Doctor Who again, and I do like the Sherlock series of course but it doesn’t look like there will be any more of them.
Our network has a dedicated podcast for The Expanse which is getting a lot of critical acclaim. Are you watching it? Have you read the books?
What sci-fi and fantasy books would you recommend to our readers?
Oh my goodness, too many to name! I love Neil Gaiman and Robert Sawyer and John Scalzi … and Jonathan Maberry, of course…
What future projects are you working on now?
I just sent my 4th novel off to my agent. It’s an alternative history steampunk adventure with Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, steam-powered weapons, clockwork men, and, of course, zeppelin fights. It’s called “Big Stick.” (Of course, that may change. You know editors and publishers…)
I’m also putting finishing touches on a non-fiction book about the music of the Monkees that is being cowritten with pop culture historian Mark Arnold. Details are here: https://monkees.wordpress.com/
And then there’s the second Baker Street Anthology, which should be completed within a month, and the next Fortannis Anthology, which should be done by the summer.
Then it’s time to start working on the 5th novel.
I’ve been keeping busy. You can see why I don’t watch a lot of TV.
Thanks Michael. You can check out his bibliography at https://michaelaventrella.com/bibliography/ . I’d recommend Arch Enemies, the first book in the Fortannis series, or Bloodsuckers, an urban fantasy one-off about a vampire running for president. They’re both very entertaining and require no prior knowledge whatsoever.