Friday, August 19, 2022

Q&A with Martin Ott




Martin Ott is the author of the new novel Dream State. His other books include The Interrogator's Notebook. He is based in Los Angeles.


Q: What inspired you to write Dream State?


A: In childhood, I was drawn to books like Watership Down and Lord of the Flies, which I read many times. As an adult, I was drawn to drama, thrillers, and horror films/series that focused on the internal state of its characters and how they reacted to impossible situations. Both of these things had impact, I think. 


My experience with insomnia was also an influence. A friend of my ex-wife also stayed up for a week once from drug use and her nightmarish experience and hallucinations always stayed with me. 


When I came up with the idea for Dream State, I had just read Blindness by José Saramago and Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. The book draws inspiration from both and early readers have attributed no fewer than four genres to it: science fiction, thriller, survivor horror, and literary.


Q: The author Richard Thomas said of the book, “Dream State is a story of survival, blending Lord of the Flies with Yellowjackets, and adding a dash of Fantasy Island just for fun.”  What do you think of that description?


A: I think it's apt in how the first two references are thematically exploring what you are willing to do in order to survive in an enclosed environment. The Fantasy Island reference captures the surrealism of how lack of sleep causes reality to blur, then to shift completely into fantastical realms, through the lenses of unreliable narrators.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I wrote this book with a half-dozen plot points in mind, but allowed the character interactions and conflicts to drive much of the story. I settled on the ending approximately halfway through writing the book. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: The border between humanity and inhumanity is thin. We know this from history, of course, but we can easily forget how quickly we can turn into something barely recognizable. We can learn about ourselves by meditating on our worst and best natures in these moments. 


I wanted the novel to also serve as a crucible for the deepest fears of the protagonists magnified to an impossible degree. Each of them muddle through nightmarish internal and external conflicts, even though some readers find them to be imperfect and often unlikeable as they do so. Hope is still a glimmer, a flicker, to be pursued at all cost.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A sci-fi novel with the working name of Future 2.0. I’m working closely with my literary agent on a draft and it involves concepts such as prescience and the dangers of saving the world at any cost. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I often have characters appear in multiple books as they advocate to keep their stories alive in my psyche. Heidi is a minor side character in my novel Shadow Dance, coming out on Regal House Publishing, fall 2023. Website:


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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