Creator Q&A - Michael Marpaung
The writer/publisher behind Germanicus Publishing answers a few questions for us
I’m pleased to share this Q&A with Michael Marpaung, the writer behind the Germanicus Publishing Substack. Michael took the time to answer my questions (patiently waiting through a couple of delays on my end) and I can tell he put a lot of thought into his answers so I hope you enjoy reading them.
Michael is passionate about his writing and he shares a few thoughts with us.
When you were a kid what did you want to become when you grew up?
As a young kid I wanted to become a church minister. I grew up in an evangelical Protestant background and my parents were (and are) very active in the church that I grew up in. Our church pastor is a very passionate person, and his sermons were equally passionate. Looking back, those sermons had left an impression on me. Furthermore, I have always been interested in Biblical stories, particularly the Old Testament. To this day, the Book of Genesis is one of my favorite books of the Bible.
When I became a little older, being a scientist (biologist, to be more specific) became my dream job. I have always been interested in dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. I also love marine animals in general. I watched shows like Walking with Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Park, and I ended up wanting to have my own dinosaur like in Jurassic Park (but with a better result).
Of course, I’m a Catholic now; and I changed my major from Biology to History and Political Science in college. So neither one of those avenues are available to me now even if I want to pursue them.
Could you elaborate a bit further about your decision to convert to Catholicism? Was there any one thing that was the deciding factor for you?
Unlike a lot of protestants, I have never been hostile against Catholicism. Perhaps this is because I went to a Catholic school from kindergarten to sixth grade. Also, the pastor of my church was not anti-Catholic either. I remember one time he quoted the Pope (I think it was Benedict XVI, but I don’t remember for sure).
When I was young, I was very defensive (for lack of a better word) about Christian history. On the internet, I read atheists slandering people of the Middle Ages (for example) as a superstitious bunch of barbarians and murderers. Usually, the answer from a lot of Christians is that “they don’t live up to Jesus’ teaching”. While there’s some truth to that (fallen human nature being what it is), I was never satisfied with that answer. It felt like a cop out and I knew deep down that we were conceding too much.
At some point, I discovered people who defended the Medievals and other pre-modern folks. To use a modern-day term, I was “red-pilled” on the Enlightenment.
My point of this story is that though I found myself defending the Catholic Church as a protestant, I was honestly more concerned about defending Christianity. And that’s the point, when people talk about Christianity, they don’t usually talk about the Baptists or the Lutherans or even the Eastern Orthodox – they talk about the Roman Catholics.
The Catholic Church is visible. That is honestly what drew me to Catholicism (and the fact that the Pope is the successor to St. Peter). I was pushed over the line intellectually when I learned about the existence of Eastern Catholic Churches. Before this, I had a provincial view of Christianity where Catholics should claim the West, the Orthodox the East, and so on. This was a comfortable setup for me since my family had been Protestant for generations. But the presence of Eastern rites under the authority of the Pope shattered that paradigm for me.
Afterwards, everything else falls into place.
That being said, my actual conversion to Catholicism was a long process. It took some time after I was intellectually convinced for me to walk into a Catholic Church, let alone get confirmed. It was my brother who helped me take that step (we live in the same house to this day). Together, we went into the local Latin Mass. About a year later, we were both confirmed at a parish in Washington, DC.
You gave up the desire to pursue the ministry in the Protestant religions... were you ever tempted to try to become a Catholic priest?
Yes, definitely. I’m honestly not sure if I have discerned my vocation just yet. But at the moment, I believe I’m called to marriage instead of celibacy.
What led you to start writing the series "Inquisitor's Promise"?
Believe it or not, this is a very long story. In fact, it goes back for years.
I have always been interested in writing science fiction. As a kid who grew up on Star Wars, Halo, Warhammer 40k, and many other science fiction series, there was always that drive to write my own space opera story.
I even wrote a novel about eight years ago called Imperial Alliance. I managed to get about 90,000 words in, but I never finished. It was a good thing that I didn’t because it wasn’t good at all. Even the setting itself was basically Mass Effect with the serial numbers filed off. I wouldn’t let my worst enemy read it.
Later on, I ended up envisioning my own space opera universe that I named the Holy League. The Holy League universe took place in the far future at around 16,000 to 18,000 AD. Around this time, the Church had risen from the ashes of the Dark Age of Technology and Christendom now encompassed the Earth and beyond. The heroes of my stories are Inquisitors, agents of the Church who fight to uphold the social order.
I made it sound simpler than it actually is. In reality, it took a while for me to get that particular universe. Over the years, I tinkered with the setting. I wrote down the notes and the synopses of these various stories. In time, I got my own “deep lore”. What would later be reworked as Inquisitor’s Promise wasn’t actually the first story I’ve envisioned. In fact, it was the fifth.
What finally led me to write down an actual book was two things: I finished Graduate School and I discovered ‘writing Twitter’. Though I’ve finished the last class for my program, I still had a few months to go before my graduation at the time. This left me with a lot of free time on my hands. Meanwhile, I’ve discovered authors on Twitter talking about their works. To make a long story short, I decided to write a book about one of the stories that I’ve envisioned in the old Holy League universe.
The story that would later become Inquisitor’s Promise was originally called Inquisitor’s Choice. There were a lot of changes that I made to the setting, the story, and the characters. In fact, the main character Aeneas was almost a completely different person. In any case, I finally wrote that series in earnest.
When writing, do you have a preference between pen and paper writing vs. computer and keyboard?
Definitely computer and keyboard. Typing is almost second hand to me. I can do it with my eyes closed (in fact, I wrote that very sentence with my eyes closed just to prove my point).
Furthermore, I am very particular with the computer I use. Whenever I get a new computer or type on a different keyboard, I am often annoyed because my muscle memory would lead me to type wrong things.
That being said, I am not against pen and paper writing. I found that hand-written notes are generally more helpful when it comes to writing a story because I don’t have to scroll through different apps.
Do you do any writing exercises to help sharpen your skills?
Not really. I just keep writing. I have heard from various different writers that the first one million words you write will be terrible. We can quibble over that number, but the point is that the only way to get better at writing is to keep writing.
To that end, I’ve been writing other stories in addition to Inquisitor’s Promise. One particular challenge I am undergoing right now is Erica Drayton’s ‘100 Word Stories” challenge; the challenge is to write a 100-word story within twenty-four hours three days a week. You’ll be surprised with how much you call tell with so little words.
What led you to using Substack as a publishing platform? Have you used other platforms in the past?
It wasn’t actually fiction that led me to Substack, it was politics. To be more specific, it was that particular incident that happened around 2020 which still has some lingering effects today. Though thanks be to God, that seems to be disappearing as we speak. I am also thankful for Subtack for not silencing those voices that had been suppressed elsewhere; this is a feather in their cap. I will not lie, that infamous event really angers me. In fact, simply the mention of that word is still enough to annoy me at an instinctive level. Thus, I will say no more about this.
As for what led me to use Substack as a platform for fiction, I will give credit to science fiction author Isaac Young for this. I follow him on Twitter and at some point, I read some of his short stories in his Substack, ‘Trantor Publishing’.
As a side note, I got the idea for the name of my Substack, ‘Germanicus Publishing’, from Mr. Young’s.
When I began writing Inquisitor’s Promise, I wasn’t really sure how I would go about publishing it (if at all). The only thing that I was sure of was that I wanted to get it out sooner rather than later. It was around this time that I learned of people who serialized their novels at Substack. The first one that I was truly aware of was Joseph W. Knowles who serialized his alternate history novels in his Substack, ‘The Tidewater Papers’. But there are others. And that’s how I ended up publishing Inquisitor’s Promise as a serial in Substack.
As for other platforms, I have attempted to blog long before I write at Substack. In fact, I have two blogs in Blogger that died very quickly. I then made a third attempt very recently called ‘Indonesian in America’. That one was going better, though I ended up moving that blog to Substack as my secondary newsletter.
I guess Blogger is just a cursed place for me.
Do you have any general thoughts about social media that you'd like to share? Good, bad, indifferent?
Honestly, I used to be anti-social media. Like most millennials, I used to have the usual accounts (like Facebook), though I stopped caring once the novelty wore off. But my antipathy was on full blast when Twitter (and others) censored people, seemingly proving that free speech as we know it was a mirage.
But looking back, I think I was being a little too harsh. After Elon Musk took over Twitter, I actually decided to seriously tweet (before this, I was only lurking there). This was more because I’ve gotten into “writing Twitter”. Honestly, they’re the reason why I decided to seriously write. So social media can’t be all bad.
My best experience with social media thus far is Substack Notes (if that counts). I’ve met so many cool people there. I also like the “writer’s guild" atmosphere of the place. There are the usual social media-associated pitfalls, of course. Also, I had to block/mute some people to get my desired environment. However, I’m liking it right now.
Thus, social media is generally bad. But it could be good with some proper gatekeeping.
Who are your favorite authors and/or the writers who have influenced you the most?
This is a tough one, I have a lot. Let me narrow it down to five:
Robert A. Heinlein. This one’s funny because I’ve only read one of his books, Starship Troopers. But it’s the first science fiction novel I’ve finished reading and I’m convinced that a lot of my writings are influenced by it in some subtle ways.
G.K. Chesterton. I’ve read a bunch of his books from Heretics to Orthodoxy to his biography of both Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi. Also, his book The Catholic Church and Conversion helped me go through a difficult part of my life that I had soon after I converted to Catholicism.
C.S. Lewis. Like most people I was initially familiar with his apologetic works. But my favorite works of his were The Screwtape Letters and his Space Trilogy novels.
Robert Sungenis. I’ve read and enjoyed his works on religion and apologetics but his biggest influence on me was his works on cosmology. I made use of the geocentric cosmological system that he popularized for my sci-fi novel.
Moses, the Biblical author of Genesis. Out of all the books of the Bible, Genesis is my second favorite (after the deuterocanonical Tobit) and I keep coming back to it.
Pretend you wake up one morning and you learn that the Internet has been destroyed. What's the first thing that you do?
Not going to lie, I’d be really pissed off. After all, both my work and my writings relied on the Internet. I also have a book collection on Kindle. If the Internet were to disappear, I’d lose a lot of things.
But once I get my bearings straight, I guess I’ll take a walk. It’ll help me cool down a bit.
Thanks to Michael for agreeing to this Q&A session!
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