I met Mark West on Facebook. Not sure how, or who introduced us, or did I just introduced myself?? If I did, I’m glad I did. Mark is a great friend, and great author. Funny, kind, witty, an all around great guy. 🙂 Family man, he’s always talking about his son “Dude”. Such pride in his words and stories about him. Cute kid too … like father, like son.
Mark talks about his books that he has available in his interview, so I will touch lightly on them. I have only read 1 of Mark’s books. (sorry Mark) I’m just past the halfway spot on DRIVE. It’s quite the adrenaline rush for sure! I’m really enjoying it and can’t wait to find out what happens next. If I counted right, looks like Mark has roughly 20 books available, some are just by him, some are multi-author books. Give his Amazon.com author page a look. Can’t go wrong with his books.
DRIVE is currently only $0.99 for Kindle! Less than a cup of coffee! And it will get your heart pumping!! Buy it! Read it! Review it!
Mark has a day job …. I don’t know how he finds the time to write! Maybe he will tell us his secret one day?
Mark’s newest release is a multi-author anthology titled EASTER EGGS and BUNNY BOILERS: A Horror Anthology. Looks and sounds pretty awesome. It is currently available for Pre-Order on Amazon at the great price of $0.99. It will be released just in time for Easter, on March 27, 2016
Mark can be found on facebook and Twitter @MarkEWest
Mark took time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer a few (LOL) interview questions. THANKS Mark. 🙂
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I realised that I could make up stories about what happened to the characters after my book/TV show or film had finished.
2. Did you start young? What was your first story about?
I started writing when I was about eight, in the late 70s. Around then, I was a huge fan of “The Six Million Dollar Man” and in those days – unlike now – kids annuals had both comic strips and prose stories in them, which I loved and tried to emulate. I remember writing about a policeman called Detective West, who drove a computer car, though some of that may have come from Steve Austin too. Then “Star Wars” came out and me and my friends loved it – we played it a lot and I wanted to keep the adventures going, so I wrote stories which incorporated us as the characters. I somehow ended up as Chewie West.
3. What do you love most about being a writer?
I love the ability to have a random thought, connect it with another and create something that didn’t exist before. I love the art of writing (though not the act so much, especially when the story grinds itself along and nothing works how you want it to), I love the editing process to tighten things up and make them sing and I love it when the piece of work connects enough with a reader that they get in touch and tell you.
4. Do you have a favorite place to write?
No, the only stipulation I have is that it needs to be at a keyboard. I have been working in finance for a long time and, as happens with most people in that field, my handwriting has got progressively worse as the years have gone by. I keep a daily diary and I sometimes flick back a couple of weeks and can’t even read the entries! But in general, given a laptop, I can write in most places.
5. How many books do you have available?
I’ve been very lucky in having a lot of short stories published, in a range of anthologies and most of those are available – check my website for more details on them. As for solo books, I have two novels, “In The Rain With The Dead” and “Conjure” – three novellas, “The Mill”, “Drive” and “The Lost Film” (in “The Lost Film”, a double-collection of novellas by Steve Bacon and myself) – a collection, “Strange Tales” – and a chapbook, “What Gets Left Behind”. I also have two novellas coming out this year – one from Hersham Horror Books, which doesn’t have a title yet (I haven’t started writing it, either) but is an action-packed horror shocker and the other, “Polly”, which is due out soon from Stormblade Productions. It’s a slightly different direction for me, a dark thriller about a woman on her own in Paris.
6. If your life was a book, what would be the title?
Decent bloke, trying not to mess up.
7. What does a day of writing look like?
I would love to have one – I sometimes see people post Facebook updates saying “up early, all day writing at the desk – bliss!” and I think “you lucky bugger”. My day is either taken up with work (not complaining about that) or, if I’m at home, Dude often wanders in or wants to do something or needs help (and I’m certainly not complaining about that, especially now that he’s getting older). So a writing day for me is a strong idea, an urge to write and then taking the time – snatched moments during my lunch break or at home once he’s in bed – to get cracking. Luckily I’m a quick typist.
8. If you weren’t an author, what would you be doing?
I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. I’ve always been creative, thinking up ideas and writing or designing stuff, so the concept of not being able to do that doesn’t compute for me. Maybe if I’d never been that way, I wouldn’t miss it – if it was taken away from me now, I think I’d probably end up going slowly mad.
9. How long does it take for you to write a book?
It depends on several different factors, with question 7 being part of it and my almost-legendary powers of procrastination also accounting for a big chunk. Thankfully, as I keep a lot of records, I can answer with examples (I’m not really anally retentive, honest!). The first draft of “In The Rain With The Dead”, which came in at 126k words, took me 250 days but as well as having a full-time job, I was also studying in the evenings (three nights a week, three hours a session) for my professional exams. The first draft of “Polly”, which came in at 22k words, took me exactly a month. Short stories usually take me about a week to get the first draft down though some, if I’m not happy with them, take much longer.
10. How do you think the classics inspire?
They led the way and continue to show us the path. Within horror, you can go back as far as you want and elements of “The Monk”, “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” are still being used today. I grew up with him but, I suppose, since he’s been publishing for over 40 years, Stephen King can also be classed as a ‘classic’ and he continues to forge new ground and inspire. These writers, these works, helped define the genre that we love, they opened the doors, took us by the hand to show us new sights and they provide the shoulders for those of us writing now to stand upon.
11. What do you look for in books that you read?
Good writing, a decent plot, characters I can get behind (I don’t necessarily have to like them, but I need to believe they’re real) and pace. I love reading and I generally average at least one a week over the course of a year, though some of the them are Snoopy collections or Calvin & Hobbes anthologies which are much quicker reads. It used to be that once I’d started a book I couldn’t leave it unfinished but after a couple of bad experiences (a horror novel and a non-fiction ‘memoir’ by a film director) where the very act of reading became a grind, I decided against it. There are too many books in the world – hell, there are too many books in my library at home – that I’ll probably never get round to for me to waste time on books that I can’t stand.
12. Do you listen to music as you write? If yes, what do you typically listen to?
Not generally. When I wrote my novel “In The Rain With The Dead”, I knew that it would have two very distinct threads – the baddie, Magellan and the goodies, Jim & Nadia. I didn’t specifically write their parts all together so instead, to try and keep the voice straight in my head, I assigned them playlists. Magellan was a demon and a nasty piece of work and I needed there to be a certain level of anger with all of his parts so I always listened to Eminem. Around the time I was writing, I loved “Stan” and bought the album and it’s a very angry piece of work and that fed perfectly into Magellan. In fact, I listened to it so much that I haven’t been able to play it since. Jim & Nadia, on the other hand, got music that I’d been listening to for years – INXS, Donna Summer, soul. Thankfully I can still listen to them.
13. Who are your writing influences?
As I mentioned before, I grew up reading Stephen King – in the early eighties, I went into a secondhand bookshop with my Dad and picked up “Salem’s Lot” and that led me into the great mans work and his non-fiction book, “Danse Macabre”, was my map into the genre. Through him I discovered Clive Barker just after the “Books Of Blood” were published, I discovered Dennis Etchison and Splatterpunk and Harlan Ellison and many more. So King has definitely been an influence – it probably took me a while to work out the kinks of American-isms that were in my earlier short horror stories – and Barker was too, in those early stories. Much later, I discovered Robert B. Parker and fell in love with his clipped style and brisk characterisation and I’ve picked up on that too. I’m also very lucky to be writing and publishing in a vibrant small press and count a lot of terrific writers as friends – reading their work, critiquing on occasion, talking to them at Cons or on social media, is inspiring and great fun.
14. Did you read a lot growing up?
I did, I was a regular little bookworm (in fact, I belonged to a club at my junior school called The Bookworm Club and that’s where I picked up three books that were very important to me – Peter Haining’s “The Restless Bones”, H J Press’ masterful “The Black Hand Gang” and Douglas Hill’s “Galactic Warlord”). I read boys comics of the time – Bullet, Warlord, The Crunch, 2000AD – and when I was in junior school, I discovered The Three Investigator series.
15. Did you have a favorite book growing up? Favorite author?
As I mentioned in the last question, sometime in 1978 during a wet playtime at school, I found “The Secret Of Skeleton Island” on a bookshelf. Intrigued by the title and cover art (it was the hardback edition), I picked it up and read it and began a lifelong passion for the Three Investigators series. There were thirty books before Alfred Hitchcock died (the series went on but I only think of books 1 – 30 as being part of the proper series) and I read them all. In fact, I still read them – sometimes one or two a year, sometimes more and for the 50th anniversary in 2014 I had a very enjoyable time trying to pick my all-time-top-10 (and my blog posts about them were among the most popular I’ve had). Robert Arthur created the series, William Arden and M V Carey wrote the bulk of the titles after book 11 and I thought they were fantastic.
16. How do you like to spend your free time?
From the time I get home from work until he goes to bed, my time is Dude-Time. My boy is 10 now and we have a wonderful relationship (though he’s doing more of his own thing now) and I thoroughly enjoy it and want to take advantage while he still thinks his old man is relatively cool. Beyond that, I like time at home with my wife, I like to read and watch films, I enjoy socialising with friends, going to the cinema, going for walks, the regular stuff.
17. If you could live in a book for a day, which book would it be?
What a terrific question! Aside from a Three Investigator book (I’d love to get involved in a mystery and I love Christmas, so spending time at Paseo Place with the boys from “The Mystery Of The Invisible Dog” would be ideal), probably the seaside and timeline of “The Year Of The Ladybird”, a truly wonderful novel by the late, great Graham Joyce.
18. Do you keep anything handy in case a story idea hits, and you can write it down?
You know, this is where I stand up and say something and everyone gets to shout “you dummy!” when I’m finished. I don’t, I know I should and I keep telling myself I should, but I don’t. If a really strong idea comes along and clips me round the ear then I’ll try and note it down but – oddly – I’ve found sometimes that the very act of that diminishes what was there. Most of the time, if I get an idea, I let it sit in my head for a while, gathering some moss as it rolls down the slope of creativity (I should never be allowed to make my own metaphors) and getting bigger. I have ideas in my head for things (longer works, generally) that have been there a while and are just waiting for the right project.
The thing is, when I suffered my writers block, I only realised it was happening because I was making notes and not actually getting anywhere – one project, which I have never got around to writing, has over 17k words of notes attached to it. Busy fool, you see.
19. Name 1 thing we would be surprised to know about you.
I’m not a fan of zombies – I don’t get them as a monster (I think they’ve been terribly overdone) though the sheer claustrophobia of them (they’re only really effective where there’s a load of them) makes me uncomfortable.
20. Between Indie authors and Main Stream, Do you think one is more popular than the other?
It all depends what you’re looking for and the genre you’re reading in. Certainly, indie authors (and I’m taking this to mean self-published folks) are getting more traction nowadays, with a lot of the people out there exercising incredible quality control and dashing away all of those “wrote it this morning, published it this afternoon” idiots who muddied the waters. I see that in horror, certainly and I know it’s also true of romantic fiction, going on what my friends in that genre say. But, to the average person on the street who picks up his or her books from Waterstones or W H Smiths or the library, then they probably wouldn’t know any Indie authors. So, big chunk of writing there to say that it all depends!
21. Ever had writer’s block? How did you deal with it?
As I mentioned briefly back in question 18, I did suffer with a really bad block that began about the time my son was born and lasted for the best part of two years. It was horrible, I could make notes for new projects, I could get ideas for new projects but any writing I managed to do was just horribly flat and lifeless. What pulled me out of it was Gary McMahon asking me to write him a story for an anthology (which didn’t, at that time, exist). I didn’t want to let him down and I worked hard and the end result was “The Mill”. And as he says in the introduction to “We Fade To Grey” (the anthology he edited for Pendragon Press which ended up being nominated for best anthology in the BFS awards), once he had that then he had to create the anthology!
22. How do you come up with Titles, and character’s names for your books?
Titles are an odd beast, I find – I either get them straight away (sometimes along with the initial idea), which is good or I can’t think of anything other than the working title (“Conjure”, for example, was “The Mystery Of The Witch’s Curse” for ages) and then that gets ingrained so it makes it all the harder to come up with something. I have a short story about to be published called “The Goblin Glass”, in the anthology “Thou Shalt Not”. I like the title, I like the story, I’m excited about the anthology and it all came together fairly quickly. I got the idea and over the course of two or three of my evening walks, I had the story mapped out. Realising I could reference the wonderful M. V. Carey and her Three Investigator book “The Secret Of The Haunted Mirror”, I lifted her name “The Goblin Glass” to use – it’s a nice homage, it means a lot to me and it works perfectly for the story.
With character names, they often seem to come for me as part of the package with the original idea or the characters themselves. I sometimes use friends (though having written over 90 short stories, I’ve used most of them), I used to use the phone list at the last place I worked at and sometimes I homage the names from something I enjoy. As an example of the latter, the novella I mentioned earlier – “Polly” – is about a woman alone in Paris. I had the lead characters name almost as soon as the idea hit me, along with her husband while the American woman she meets in a café is named for a friend of mine who works for the US Head Office of my company. For everyone else (plus the hotel) I decided to tap into one of my favourite films, “The 400 Blows”, which is not only excellent but it’s also set in Paris. The hotel Polly stays in is l’Hotel Truffaut (after Francois, the director) and all of the names come from either the actors or the characters in the film. Except for the club where Polly meets a Frenchman – another favourite film of mine is “Pauline a la Plage”, directed by Eric Rohmer, so he lent his name to Club Eric.
23. Any advice for future writers out there?
Assuming that you’re serious about your craft – and not one of those merchants who wants to write the piece in the morning, design the cover art in the afternoon and have it published by night-time – the best piece of advice is to believe in yourself. Believe in your ability whilst working tirelessly to improve it, with each and every story. Believe in your story and your characters, because you will hit that period in every project when you think it’s the worst thing ever written – we all get it, try and work through it. Read it aloud – either to yourself or a willing friend or spouse – to make sure the rhythm and dialogue work. Never rush, always give yourself the time to make sure the story is the best that you can make it. Revise it, revise it and revise it again. Read it, then revise it again and send it out. Then move on to the next!
3,077 words – sorry about that! (LOL not to worry Mark. I loved every single word)
Thanks again Mark for doing this and allowing me to interview you. I’m truly looking forward to reading more of your work! I’m so engrossed in DRIVE… will hate to see it end.
Happy Reading my dear followers! Remember, if you read it! Be sure to review it!