Friday, December 8, 2023

Q&A with Martin Ott




Martin Ott is the author of the new novel Shadow Dance. His other books include the novel Dream State. He is based in Los Angeles.


Q: What inspired you to write Shadow Dance, and how did you create your character West?


A: One thing that has stayed with me after I left the military is how many soldiers joined because they were running from poverty (like myself), from awful family and relationships, from trouble with the law, from drugs, from a centrifugal force pulling them to the bottom.


In the novel, I explore the trauma to West from his role as a military prison guard as well as repressed trauma from a horrific childhood accident that leaves him barely able to function.


An older West was a character from an abandoned novel that I got to know and he resurfaced in my mind enough until I was compelled to write a story from his younger days.


Q: The author Mark Wish said the book “demonstrates compellingly the tough truth that, whether you're enlisted in Afghanistan, home in Louisiana, or trying to do right in Los Angeles, war never ends.” What do you think of that description?


A: I think it is apt and a reflection that life, for many, is a battle. West hails from a family on the wrong side of the tracks and often the wrong side of the law. Conflict and trauma surround him even as he moves from place to place, trying to find a path to get ahead, to discover who he is.


The United States, in its War on Terror, found itself mired in a conflict with no easy resolution. The war in Afghanistan lasted for nearly 20 years, an entire generation, and should not be easily swept under the carpet.

Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Shadow Dance refers to West’s family curse and the shadow of a childhood traumatic event that follows him. He goes AWOL from the military and heads underground, trying to find happiness in the nooks and crannies of underground LA. West doesn’t give up; he stays in motion. This is the heart of the novel.


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


A: To have empathy for veterans, in particular, and people, in general, who have PTSD and circumstances that cause them to slide into the cracks of society and to wind up in a place as dangerous and soul-sucking as the gentleman’s club run by mobster Big Z Pourali.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Future 2.0 is a speculative novel that I am finalizing a draft of with my agent. It is part mystery, part apocalyptic coming-of-age story. It explores current topics such as artificial intelligence, global warming, blockchain technology, and the eternal conflict between the head and the heart. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Norman Kross, the interrogator from my first novel, The Interrogator’s Notebook, shares a scene from that novel with West in Shadow Dance, only from a different POV as their tales temporarily overlap.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Martin Ott.

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