Today I am interviewing Samuel Marolla, author of the horror, myster-thriller novel, Imago Mortis.
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DJ: Hey Samuel! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Samuel Marolla: Thank you for this opportunity! Sure! I was born and I live in Milan – Italy, I’m a speculative fiction writer and a comic book writer. Most of my works are set in Italy and contain dark and weird subjects. In Italy I’ve published with some of the most important Italian publishers, such as Mondadori (fiction) and Sergio Bonelli (comics). In 2014 I’ve co-founded Acheron Books, the only imprint in the world (wow!!!) specialized in Italian speculative fiction translated in English language (www.acheronbooks.com).
DJ: What is Imago Mortis about?
SM: “Imago Mortis” it’s a weird-noir story, based on a very gothic and dark city (the modern Milan), soaked with a lot of human problems (criminality above all) and supernatural dangers, and a private eye, Augusto Ghites, who uses the ashes of the dead as a drug: he inhales and smokes (and even injects!) the ashes, to talk with the ghosts. At the end he is a drug addicted, but his drug is the most insane and unnatural essence you can imagine. The plot is about a cold case (literally a frozen case!): a prostitute brutally killed in the Sixties, when in Italy the bordellos were legal, by a mysterious and frightening murderer called “The Inhuman”. Sniffing the ashes of the dead, Augusto Ghites investigates and discovers both human and supernatural secrets.
The title is from a Latin motto: “Homo sine pecunia est imago mortis”: “The man without money is the image of death”. This is a sad (but sometimes true) representation of our modern society.
“Imago Mortis” is also a love story. A dark, spectral, insane love story.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the story?
SM: The most important influence has been Milan itself. I love my city and also the dark side of it. Milan is an ancient and gothic city, with a lot of legends, ghosts, mysteries. A very gold mine for speculative fiction writers like me!
Then, there were personal experiences in my life – but not so destructive as for Augusto Ghites!
Last but not least, there are literary influences, of course. Most of all, the wonderful crime fiction of Giorgio Scerbanenco, the most important Italian crime writer, and James Lee Burke. Apparently, the James Lee Burke’s Louisiana is very different from Milan, but… if you dig, you can discover the same decadent, melancholy atmosphere.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about Augusto Ghites? Does he have any cool quirks or habits? Any reason why readers with sympathize with or hate him?
SM: Cool quirks? He IS an entire collection of cool and weird quirks!! First of all, is a man obsessed by the ghosts, every kind of ghosts: the ghosts of his clients, the ghost of his beloved woman, the ghost of his imaginary best friend (Mister Jimbo), the ghost of Milan, the city he loves but he understands it’s become a city of crime and perdition.
The readers usually sympathizes AND hates him at the same time, because he’s paranoid, he hates the people, he hates himself, he hates everything, but this is because he has lost his great, unique love. He’s angry with the whole world because his girlfriend has passed away very young.
In the end, Augusto Ghites, his city, his friends… they are only ashes of a lost past.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing the Imago Mortis? What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
SM: I totally loved to dig inside the human being, using the supernatural element as a magnetic catalyst of powerful emotions. A weird kind of literary psychoanalysis…
I think readers will talk about two different things. The first is the odd stuff: to sniff the ashes of the dead is actually an unusual thing! The second is the trip into the Augusto’s strange character and into “my” decadent Milan and his brutal inhabitants.
DJ: A previous short story you wrote, Black Tea, was included in Ellen Datlow’s “Honorable Mention 2013” list, and was then included in The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 4. Congratulations! How did it feel when you found out you were nominated for the award and that your story was going to be included in the anthology?
SM: I was very excited! It was like a dream realized. I love my country and his literature, but at the same time I am totally in love with the United States and I grow up with American fiction; therefore, to be appreciated also by US readers, editors and publishers, it’s an immeasurable pleasure for me.
DJ: And I believe that Black Tea also earned you a nomination for The 2013 Bram Stoker Award?
SM: Unfortunately it was not a nomination. The tale did pass the Preliminary Ballot, but it didn’t achieve the Nomination. Anyway, I am the first Italian to participate in Bram Stoker Award.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Imago Mortis that you can share with us?
SM: No doubts about it: “Death is just a communication problem”. This is, in the end, the Imago Mortis essential spirit.
DJ: Have you been reading anything good lately?
SM: Oh, yes! Ever! I am a binge-reader. Among other things, I’m enjoying the Angela Carter’s short tales, the dark novel “Night Film” by Marisha Pessl, the Goon comics by Eric Powell.
DJ: What do you have planned for 2016?
SM: Well, too much things, as usual… First of all, “Imago Mortis” is going to become a role-playing game by an international publisher, for the well-known brand “Savage Worlds”. Then, I’m working for a horror collection written by some of the most important Italian horror writers, and this will be the first collection of “Italian horror fiction” ever published in English language.
And I’m writing a new adventure of Augusto Ghites…….
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
SM: I am a disaster in social networks. Above all because I don’t have much time to follow it.
At the moment, my website is under a renovation. But I do have a Facebook page constantly updated:
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
SM: I just want to thank you very much for this interesting interview! Grazie e arrivederci!
DJ: You are so very welcome! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
*** Imago Mortis is available now!!!! ***
About the Book:
Augusto Ghites is a junkie. His drug: the ashes of the dead. His trip: reliving the lives of those whose ashes he sniffs and interacting with their ghosts.
To obtain those ashes – to get his fix – he needs money. And there’s no better job for someone who can talk to ghosts than that of a private eye.
When an old prostitute hires him to investigate the death of her colleague, Ghites thinks that it’s just an average, everyday case. But together with the King Lizard, he will discover that there are forces at play that are well beyond his capabilities to control.
Set in a decadent Milan and told in perfect noir style, this horror tale introduces a dark and self-destructive occult detective in the best hard-boiled tradition.
About the Author:
“Samuel Marolla is a speculative fiction writer and a comic book writer. He was born in Milan – Italy, where he lives. He has published with some of the most important Italian publishers, and his works are available both in Italian and English language. In 2014 he co-founded Acheron Books, an imprint specialized on Italian speculative fiction in English language.