MS - Do you find yourself often reworking story elements to maintain
consistency? Do you catch yourself in the middle or wait until the
JM - I edit constantly. No story is ever finished. I
tweak material years later; it's one of the benefits inherent with web
publishing, in my opinion.
On the other hand, I'm fortunate in that I have a fairly accurate
internal Okudapedia. I don't find myself thinking, "Oh, crap.
This doesn't work because this."
In addition, the fact that I
don't write chronologically allows me to insert ideas and pieces wherever they
MS - When you started making decisions about your early
series, what drew your attention to the character traits you imposed on your new
JM - I set out to write a series about "the best of the best"---a crew
in many ways the near equal of, equivalent (and in some
cases superior) to, Picard's. I respect the various
Enterprise crews (with the possible exception of Archer's), but my
characters in no way bow to them. I could certainly see Enterprise
charging to Liberty's rescue... but I could just as easily see, and
convincingly write, the reverse. After all, she's a Sovereign-class
starship, one of only three in the fleet as of 2374 or so. They don't people
these types of vessels with the hoi polloi.
MS - Did you try to
balance the talents of your crew?
JM - Not really. They're individuals, and their abilities overlap
somewhat, as do those of real-world officers and crew. Sera MacLeod can do just
about anything, of course. Starfleet officers really aren't
specialists, for the most part. They're, instead, incredibly well rounded. In
some ways, Mantovanni himself is the least capable officer: he's a
tactical badass---as he might put it, a "break glass in case of
he's no scientist.
MS - What was the inspiration for the
Liberty name? The names of the crew?
JM - I recall reading one of Diane Carey's
novels (either Dreadnought or Battlestations) some
years ago; the vessel in which her protagonist, Piper, took the
Kobayashi Maru test was named Liberty. For some reason, it
stuck with me; I love the name. I also have some associations with (and the
unofficial endorsement of) a few former crew from the real world USS
Liberty (AGTR-5), an American intelligence ship unjustly attacked by
Israeli air and sea forces in 1967. It has nothing to do with
Chakotay's Liberty, I assure you.
I'm blessed with a good sense for naming characters, it
One can see the name "Manno" embedded in "Mantovanni,"
of course. Though he's not my Trek analog, certainly he takes
elements of my personality as his own---especially that ferocious pride in his
Sicilian heritage. Sera MacLeod's name finds its origins in my wife's love of
Vulcans and her Scottish heritage. T'Vaar, Parihn, King, most of the
others... no extraordinarily arcane process. I simply fiddled until I liked
what I had.
MS - Several of your crewmembers could be descibed as 'extraordinary.' What other
qualities did you choose to portray that keep your characters from becoming
JM - I concentrate on storytelling. It's not as if we haven't see amazing
characters in Trek before. Picard, for example, is the
ultimate Renaissance man: I challenge you to name something he's
not good at. I think amazing abilities lend themselves to more
extraordinary problems and pressures; so long as that's conveyed, you're on
Parihn's a character who was supposed to be of little
significance---there to provided background color, if you'll pardon
the pun---but the
adorable little imp clamored for my attention. Who was I to deny her?
Slowly, she told me about herself... and I realized that she might well be
Liberty's most "extraordinary" person. Yet she's one of my readers'
favorite characters, precisely because she's overcome so much in her pursuit of
life and happiness.
MS - Over time you have developed a significant
body of work; do you have any special tricks that you use to keep track of
sheets, character timelines?
JM - These people are real to me, in some sense... but they evolve in my mind.
Since nothing is graven in stone, if a change is vitally necessary for the
purpose of better storytelling, I make it. Agonizing over whether someone's
43 or 46 just isn't my style---not when I can alter it with the stroke of a
MS - You prefer to write out of sequence. How has this helped
or hampered your abiltiy to tell the stories you want to tell?
JM - Helped, immeasurably. It gives you the leisure to tell more stories...
and in my opinion, better ones. You simply find the period in which the story
will fit, and go to town. Huge advantage over chronological
MS - You've opened your series to outside writers,
drabbles, and your annual contest. How has this impacted your own writing, or
how you view
your series and crew? Have you found yourself inspired or
annoyed by the direction other writers chose to take?
JM - Both... but I think that's the nature of the beast, if Parihn will
pardon me. If you don't want other authors contributing their vision, then
don't hold an annual writing contest. It really doesn't affect my vision of the
characters, though. I see them with a certain clarity, and that's not wavered
much for some time.
MS - Your most recent work is based on the canon
The Next Generation characters. Do you have a particular set of
episodes that you reference
to define those characters core personalities?
Any recommended viewing for other TNG fan ficition writers?
JM - I have favorites, to be sure, but I try to consider the entire canon,
as it smolders/festers in the labyrinth of my brain. My favorite TNG
eps are "The Defector," "Yesterday's Enterprise," "Face of the Enemy,"
"Tin Man," among others. I very much like the Romulans, as you may have gleaned
from this list. That's why Nemesis was so incredibly
disappointing. What a suckfest.
MS - When you switch between writing your own series and writing
stories with canon characters, do you make a conscience effort to keep the
personalities separate, or do you prefer to let the story influence how the
JM - I've never differentiated. I simply employ the "What would
Mantovanni/Picard say/do at this point?" method of writing. It seems to have
worked thus far.
MS - What prompted you to start your
Liberty short story contest? Why did you begin accepting
JM - I wanted to read stories about these people, too... and when you're
actually writing them, it's just not the same. In addition, it's
nice to take a break, yet still have material to post. I've received
some interesting stuff over two years, and imagine this year's contest will be
even more competitive.The Sons of Liberty Project evolved out of the same
MS - As the series goes into its 5th year, are there any elements
that you wish to revisit, reinvent or retell?
JM - Liberty is in its sixth year, actually.
I'm doing some preliminary thinking about "Cataclysm,"
which will complete Tales of the 13th Fleet, before I return to
the "present" with the novel Suffer to Sing, in which a trio of old
Orions, Arellians and Magna Romans---will return. First , though, I plan on a flurry of
desperate composition to finish both the novels Belief System and
Lucifer in Starlight, both of which are currently in production.
Somewhere along the line, I'll also work on "Winning the Exchange," a
"Mantovanni at the Academy" story, and "Secrets Best Kept," the long-anticipated
MS - Out of all the stories you have written
which is your favorite? Why? Which is your least favorite? Why?
JM - I differentiate between my favorite stories (sorry, I can't narrow
it down to a single favorite) and the ones I think are best written...
but I'll not distinguish between my babies here. "All's Fair," Nature
of the Beast, "Orphans and Strays," The Reckoning's
"Jurisprudence" and "Parthian Shots," "Roman Holiday," "Tiger by the Toe,"
"Tribble in Paradise," "A Week in the Life of Sito Jaxa," and the
as-yet-unreleased "Pretty Maids All in a Row" hold special places in my heart.
Of those written in part or primarily by a guest author, I'd have to say "A Room
of Her Own" (Julie Raybon), "Pax Libertas" (Michael Gray), and
"Rules of Engagement" (Jaeih t'Radaik) lead the way.
My least favorite, and the one for which I have the
lowest literary regard, is "Draconian Measures," both because Geri Behrens
and I had a brief falling out over it, and because the result
just wasn't worth our anguish.
MS - If you had to
opportunity to 'retell' the Star Trek universe, starting from scratch,
what would you keep, lose and throw in?
JM - I would certainly have handled Enterprise better in its
initial season. I'm sorry... the ship does look more advanced than
Kirk's vessel did, and that just doesn't work, whether the Powers that
Be (or the clueless fanboys) want to admit it or not. Even Jolene Blalock thinks
Enterprise shit the bird. Roddenberry would have been
appalled. It should have had a much more retro feel than it
MS - Who is your favorite canon character? Given the fact that
forty and more writers contribute to those characters, do you feel that any
character (except Janeway, we know how you feel about her) has benefited or been
damaged from the diversity?
JM - I'd have to go with Picard---not the "action hero" Picard of the movies, but the
dignified statesman of the series. Worf runs a close third, after Spock. There
are two Worfs, you know: He's somewhat ineffectual on The Next
Generation, and a badass on Deep Space Nine. People could have
said it was an evolution---unless they saw the cinemagraphic abortion that was
Nemesis, where they exploited the character for cheap laughs.
MS - On a television show the writers are pressured to write
character driven stories centered more about the actor's pride than to drive the
story arcs. Have you felt any pressure from your own inspiration to tell
character-centered stories to balance the 'air time'?
JM - Are we talking about Patrick Stewart's growing hubris, here?
I've heard he and Spiner had gotten intolerable over screen time. Well, they've
certainly plunged the franchise into the box-office toilet with their
greed, haven't they---assuming the rumors are true, of
MS - The web is filled wih sub-quality fan fiction and you
have pointed this out on many occasions. Do you think there is a better way to
shepherd writers from their beginnings to a more mature standard? Do you feel
you short story contest is helping?
JM - I don't think the contest has helped in the least. I'm not, right now,
looking to mentor anyone; I have enough problems of my own. I appreciate that
many submissions come from experienced fanfic writers. Even one or two profic
authors have expressed interest in entering this year's contest. As to whether
there's a better way to encourage new/young writers, I agree with Stephen King,
who said something to the effect that there are two ways to improve as a writer:
Read a lot... and write a lot. I'd extend that to "Listen a lot," as well: take
what rings true to you, incorporate it, and ignore the