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Interview: From Actor to Author, J.G. Hertzler Guides Next Chapter for 'Martok' With THE LEFT HAND OF DESTINY


Posted: 07:09:58 on March 11 2003
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Number Eight
Destiny Fulfilled

Written by Jacqueline Bundy, edited by Steve Krutzler

It has been seven years since J.G. Hertzler was first cast as the warrior’s warrior, 'General Martok' on DEEP SPACE NINE. And three years since Pocket Books first approached the actor who brought the character to life about writing the story of Martok’s return to Qo’nos as Chancellor of the Klingon Empire, following the Dominion War. Despite a few hitches along the way, this two-part saga is about to see the light of day. Co-authored by Jeffrey Lang, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE: THE LEFT HAND OF DESTINY, Book One hits bookstores this April, with Book Two following in May.

It has been both an adventure and a learning experience for Hertzler to write these two novels and he was kind enough to sit down and talk with TrekWeb about the writing experience and give us a small glimpse into what readers can expect.

“The Left Hand of Destiny is such a wonderful story," Hertzler boasts. "It involves Ezri Dax in a major way but it’s really a Klingon story with Martok, Sirella and Worf. And Kahless, it involves Kahless in a big way. One of the great aspects of these novels, this extended saga, is the realization of a group of people. I hope we hear more about [them]—-the Katai.”

We asked the actor-turned author if he is pleased with how the finished novels turned out. “What I like about these books is that it is a saga with lots of action and major character development,” said Hertzler. “There is as much thematic quality, for me, as a small amount of chronological time. You get the feeling that it’s huge and epic. It’s not small; it’s not a mind game. It feels like a feature versus a television episode.”

Even against such a large backdrop, Hertzler says readers can look forward to relationships that form the crux of the story. “What I love most about it is the relationships themselves,” he explains. “The characters that are introduced and the characters that already exist from the show. Especially interesting is the relationship between Martok and his wife. It’s very, very, very important and it’s the fulcrum of the novels.” Sort of like in GLADIATOR or BRAVEHEART? “Except that Sirella is much more present where as in Gladiator she [the wife] was a motivational piece, she had no real existence. Same thing with Braveheart, we don’t really know her but she’s the motivation for the entire thing. With Sirella you definitely know who she is and she definitely has a massive impact on what happens.”

Sirella’s importance to Martok was touched upon in the DS9 episode “You Are Cordially Invited,” which inspired his description of the relationship between the strong-willed husband and wife, Hertzler replied, "That is a great monologue," Hertzler recalls from the episode. "Nobody writes like Ron Moore.

The plot of THE LEFT HAND OF DESTINY centers on family and Klingon society. The price of victory over the Dominion has been high for the Klingon Empire and when Martok returns home just after the end of the war he finds himself facing a society divided. Instead of returning home in triumph, Martok faces treachery, deceit and turmoil. Rebellion, civil war and betrayal rock the Empire in this chronicle of families torn apart by bitter conflict and a society poised precariously between redemption and dishonor. To create a new future for his people, Martok must face the demons from his own past.

The early publicity for the books has described them as "Arthurian," referencing the famous legend. John says that's an accurate description. “The one big thing about the Arthurian legend that has the most impact to me is not the macro frame of reference but the micro frame of reference and his [Arthur’s] relationship with Guinevere and Lancelot. The unwanted love triangle. The devastating love triangle. One of the things about giving the books an Arthurian slant is I said unless you have that, I’m not sure where the meat of the story would be because to me that’s the meat. But we found a way to deal with it, it involves the major villain of the piece.” That major villain is someone from Martok’s past J.G. confirmed, “It’s not unlike Darth Vader. It’s not unlike that but it’s not quite that.”

As pleased as he is with the finished product, the process of writing the novels was at times frustrating. Having plenty of screenwriting experience, John soon discovered that writing prose was an entirely different animal. Still he was surprised when Terry Erdman, on behalf of Pocket Books, suggested that he write about Martok’s return to the Empire. “I pitched a lot of episodes to them so I assume that’s why they eventually came to me to ask, ‘Would you be interested in writing a book?’ But I don’t know that for a fact. The fact that I pitched a lot of stories might have influenced them, in terms of, you know John might be interested.”

It all starts with a story outline. “It took me longer than expected to get the story outline done, which was about 60 to 70 pages. It was very thorough, very detailed. And then I wrote the two manuscripts in six months,” said Hertzler. “I turned in basically two screenplays in narrative form, not screenplay form. Descriptions of scenes, descriptions of action, descriptions of characters and dialogue. Narrative form obviously takes a lot more, and this is something I didn’t know. I knew, because I was writing from Martok’s point of view that I could be inside his head at all times. But I didn’t know if I could be inside all of the characters heads in terms of point of view. So it was a bit of a task for me to try to explain what was going on with the other characters and we introduced some characters that I just adore. One new character especially, a Ferengi. And some other new characters I don’t like so much because they are the bad guys. But I certainly appreciate them. All the characters were in the two manuscripts I turned in.”

Hertzler continues, explaining his dilemma. “I was not aware how deeply I could get into the motivations, emotions and psychology of each character for the reading audiences point of view,” J.G. says. “I knew I could be there from my [Martok’s] point of view, writing what they do. Because in a screenplay the deep character is demonstrated by the actions of the character. Characterization is translated through what they say or what other people say about them. What they do is emblematic of what and who they really are. So I was concentrating on what people did and describing what people do as emblematic thinking—people are going to see it. That’s basically what a screenplay does.”

But it was harder for Hertzler to see the point of view of other characters. After discussing it with his editor, they decided to bring in a collaborator, Jeffrey Lang. “I think he’s terrific. I had read his story in THE LIVES OF DAX, and I also read ABYSS and I loved his Jem’Hadar--the way he treated the Jem’Hadar.” Lang co-authored the SECTION 31 novel ABYSS with David Weddle and is the author of the ST:TNG novel IMMORTAL COIL, proclaimed by fans to be "the" 'Data' novel.

“So Jeffrey came on, luckily,” added Hertzler, “And basically reshaped everything from the quasi screenplay format to more narrative, which was inside the heads of everybody. Jeff excels at descriptive narrative. So, everything that happens in the scenes, everything that happens throughout the duology, everything is from the original story, nothing has really changed with that. But the way it’s expressed from inside the characters is much more highly developed from Jeffrey than me. Everything that I read, everything he sent to me to take a pass at and send back to him—I said Jeffrey this is fabulous, this is terrific. There were a few little tiny things that were changed in some scenes.”

There was one scene of particular importance to John. “I had an idea that interested me. Sort of religious rhapsody, a rhapsodic event with Ezri’s life regarding Ezri and Dax. An understanding that we have these moments in life where everything becomes clear sometimes. The patterns of life suddenly become clear but maybe a half hour later you don’t remember why it was so clear. It’s as if a massive release of endorphins or something goes off in your brain and it was about that. It’s still touched on but the context is changed. I was more than happy to along with the small changes. It was fantastic stuff.”

Not surprisingly, Hertzler did not need to do too much research in order to portray Klingon culture in these novels. “It’s pretty much in my blood. I went back and re-watched some Next Gen episodes and I read Day of Honor and Kahless, a book that I just adore. But mostly a lot of Next Gen that involve Klingon cultural stuff that Worf’s involved in.”

Having invested so much time and so much of himself in THE LEFT HAND OF DESTINY, Hertzler is clearly excited about these books saying, “Martok has been a tremendous force in my life, certainly for my career, but also in life. I’m very lucky to have been able to revisit the character.”

Now that the books will finally be readily available I asked J.G. how it felt to finally hold the finished novels in his hands. “The fact is I really do like the books. I just hope others do. It is so hard to create something that other people like... all one can do is try to create something that the artist, himself or herself, likes and then hope for the best. But I am proud of the effort and the size of the saga.”

Both books will be available this April in paperback and eBook editions. You can pre-order the book from any of the following merchants to help support TrekWeb:

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-Steve Krutzler
==V/-/== Rocks

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By Bondo ( ) at 07:37:10 on March 12 2003
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I haven't touched a trek book in years (still have some that I haven't read) but this looks sweet. One of my favorite Martok moments (Heck, one of my favorite DS9/Trek moments is the Story/mini-epic about Martok's geezer Targ and Sirella, Martok's magnificent wife. Benjamin’s facial expression as Martok tells the story is dang good too.


"Since when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?"
-- Lillian Hellman

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