Frater Nick Martell knew from a young age that he wanted to be a writer. At 23, he has realized this goal far more quickly than most who share the dream of authorship. Growing up in a family of avid readers, Nick found himself steeped in the art of the narrative. From his dad’s comic books to his mom’s horror novels or his grandparents’ home—filled with shelves of books that lined nearly every wall—Nick read.
“My parents always had the rule: if you want a book, we’ll get it for you; but if you want a video game or something, you had to work for it,” Nick recalls. “Books were readily available in my house, and I just kept reading.”
His dedication to become a writer was cemented early on by his father. He shared, “At one point, when I was thinking about seriously trying to become a writer, my dad sat me down and said, ‘If you do this, you have to do this all the way. You can’t just make this a hobby. You have to go for this and treat it like a career.’ ”
This was a conversation that has stuck with him over the years and motivated him to keep at it until he got a publishing deal. It turned out he would not have long to wait.
The first book in his epic fantasy series, “The Kingdom of Liars,” was acquired by Joe Monti of Saga Press in a three-book deal. Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky Literary is Martell’s agent and arranged the deal. He has also secured an audio deal (Recorded Books), a UK deal (Gollancz), and a German deal (Blanvalet).
The series is set in “a city where magic costs memories—following a disgraced noble’s son who must risk his own memories and deceive all around him to determine whether his father truly murdered the child prince.”
Nick was born in Guelph, Ontario, later moving to Long Island, New York, at age 8. He attended Susquehanna University where, among many activities such as joining the swim team and working as an RA and eventually an HR, he joined the Iota-Beta chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon. Unsurprisingly, he would go on to serve two terms as Grammateus.
“I was drawn to TKE because I joined the swim team, and I would say at least 50 percent of the team were members of TKE. I rushed. I knew the motto, and all the philanthropy they were doing, and I wanted to see what it was about. And it was one of the best decisions I made.”
Writing has always been a part of Martell’s life, but at times, it couldn’t be the foremost part. After graduating, he worked on a farm in Ireland through a volunteer program known as WWOOFing for a period of time, then in quality assurance for Kenzan Media.
“My job was essentially to break things and then tell someone that they are broken,” Nick laughed. “It’s not a bad gig. You’re not really responsible for fixing anything—you just have to document the mistakes. I like to think I was decent at it, but I very quickly learned it wasn’t what I wanted to do in the long run.”
“When I was 16, I got the opportunity to write for a literary anthology where the topic was ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’ ” Nick recalled the first time he realized he had a shot at his dream.
“It got published ... that was probably the first thing I ever wrote that was recognized as alright, I can be good.” That was eight years ago.
Nick’s gratitude for that experience still holds, remem-bering that he was “lucky enough to have the opportunity to write for it” and that it was the thing that sent him on his way.
“I thought, alright; clearly someone else thinks I am at least somewhat good,” chuckled Nick.
At the time he submitted that work, he had already been working on novels. By his recollection, he was working on his third or fourth around that time.
“I was writing a novel every two years since fifth grade,” said Nick. After finishing that novel, and on the heels of his anthology publication, Nick decided to send it out—to see if he could get it published as well. Everyone rejected it.
“I quickly realized that when you debut as an author, you want it to be incredibly strong. So I decided to make sure that the next time I submitted, my book would be really, really, good.”
He would spend the next seven years working on it.
Nick’s process is not so simple as to write and rewrite the same novel, though. In those seven years, he would write story after story, only to scrap each, in turn keeping only the best ideas from the narrative to carry on into his next tale.
Nick related, “I was lucky enough that I had the resources to support myself and put so much time into writing it. But there were also nights where I would stay up working on my book until like 2 a.m. and then get up and go to work. I would be reading on the train commuting and then writing on the train. I had to make time for writing.”
As he continued to improve his story, he also improved himself. During this time, he attended school for creative writing and learned both in the classroom and out.
“I learned anything I could, read anything I could. I just kept pushing myself. Eventually, I found an agent who fell in love with my book,” says Nick.
That agent would go on to land him a deal that places his name alongside many of the authors who inspired him.
“I grew up reading fantasy and I was lucky enough that when a lot of these big names you are hearing about were really gaining popularity—Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb—all these people who are huge in the industry were the people that I grew up reading.”
The way that these authors were playing with the tropes of the industry showed Martell where the industry was heading.
“Probably the single most interesting thing in my book is that in my world, magic costs memories. So, you have characters that may not remember things they should. It creates a give or take relationship between the reader and the characters,” he explains. “Is this character lying to me, are they intentionally trying to deceive me, or are they deceiving themselves because they can’t remember?”
Nick explains that from the very first page you read, you know that all of the characters are unreliable in their own ways. Trying to figure out which ways they are unreliable is what keeps this story interesting.
The first installation of “The Kingdom of Liars” is due out in fall 2019 from U.S. publisher Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It will later be published in the U.K. by Gollancz, Germany by Blanvalet and in audio format by Recorded Books.
Stay up to date on Martell’s writing at @macmartell on Twitter and nickmartellofficial on Instagram.
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Founded on January 10, 1899, Tau Kappa Epsilon is one of the largest collegiate men’s social fraternities in North America with over 288,000 initiated members and 234 active chapters and colonies. TKE’s mission is to aid men in their mental, moral and social development for life. With nearly 12,000 collegiate members, Tau Kappa Epsilon contributes to the advancement of society through the personal growth of our members, and service to others. TKE builds Better Men for a Better World.
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