TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Mark: Hi Sally, and thanks for inviting me.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Mark: I started writing, painting, drawing and experimenting with music when I was very young. Though I'd forgotten about it, my mother found a short story I'd written when I was seven years old, secreted away in a cupboard at my old primary school. I dabbled with story telling as part of roleplaying when I was in high school, but did not consider taking up writing as a profession until after I attendted Clarion South, 2005. That was such a profound experience, having the chance to listen and learn from some great mentors--and fellow students--that it cemented my desire to take writing seriously. As for why? I've always been fascinated by stories, and love being swept away in the wonder of them. My childhood and teenage years formed my reading habits: tales of heroism and nobility, sacrifice and love, good, evil, morality, ethics, law and justice. Grace, and the epic falls from it, or notoriety and the reach for redemption. I love the tales of flawed, complex characters, layered stories, and rich, new worlds that I can wander through. So it wasn't a stretch to want to share stories of my own with other people, hoping they loved the escape as much as I do.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Mark: I suppose I tend to be a little obsessive compulsive, so I become oblivious to what's going on outside the story: like eating, drinking, or the front door bell ringing. I also tend to find I only ever write to music, tending towards favourite sound tracks.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Mark: Definitely a plotter!
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Mark: There are a few. I don't pretend it's an easy thing. Being able to run my consulting business, spend time with the people I love, as well as finding the time to write, means there are sacrifices that come along with it. But you have to go into this with your eyes open, and be realistic about the time it takes, as well as what the impacts are not only on yourself, but others. Thankfully I've some very understanding, tremendously generous and caring people in my life. The other thing I find challenging is to write what I want to write, rather than write what I think might be popular, or profitable. Writing is as much an art, as it is a business. Genre readers are a cluey bunch, and I think they know when a writer is being disingenuous. So the challenge is to write what you love. It's also an intensely personal thing, and somewhat challenging, to put yourself in the public domain.
TQ: Describe The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire 1) in 140 characters or less.
Mark: Hahaha. I've never Tweeted anything! Here we go: Action, magic & adventure. Love, revenge, betrayal & murder. People of action, ambition, intelligence, & conscience. Garden of Stones. Buy it!
TQ: What inspired you to write The Garden of Stones?
Mark: I wasn't seeing a lot of what I liked to read, so decided to write it myself. Readers tastes are varied, and 'Garden' won't be for everybody, but I wanted to create a rich, new world with characters that were believable, flawed, yet ultimately aware of who they are, and what they were doing.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Garden of Stones?
Mark: Am I a bad person to say, not a lot? I did some research into languages, as well as various socio-economic and political systems.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Mark: Indris was the easiest to write because he's an honest man who cares about people, and has realistic motivations that we can all relate to: duty, love, guilt, etc. And as a Sēq Scholar, he's part adventurer, part archaeologist, part inventor, part warrior, and part magi: so weaving those elements together gave me somebody who was smart, who could take care of himself, and tries to do the right thing for the people he cares for. The most difficult, though no less fun for it, was Omen. He's a man out of his time, becoming more disconnected from life, and a little insane because of it. So giving the character, in the position he was in, rational motivations and interractions was sometimes hard.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Garden of Stones?
Mark: I have a few favourites, for different reasons. Generally, I like the chapters where the three point of view characters finally accept what it is they have to do, are aware of the consequences (both good and bad), and decide to proceed regardless. Of those, the scene where Corajidin and Mari are discussing what the next few hours will mean for their Great House, and their possible futures, was the most fun to write. There's something about the inevitability of helping your family that can be quite tragic when there's doubt across the board.
TQ: What's next?
Mark: 'Garden of Stones' is part of a deal with 47North for 'The Echoes of Empire' trilogy. I've written and we've done the copy edits for the second volume, 'The Obsidian Heart', and I'm currently writing the third volume, 'The Pillars of Sand'. I've seen the concept art for the cover of 'Obsidian' and am once more humbled, and awed, by Stephan Martiniere's talent. Seeing the final art is something I'm looking forward to. There is also the audiobook work for 'Obsidian', which should land on my desk soon. 'The Obsidian Heart' is scheduled for October 2013, and 'The Pillars of Sand' for May 2014.
With regards to other projects, I've more stories to tell with some of these characters--and this world--so we'll see whether readers are also interested, and go from there. Best scenario for me is that 'Garden of Stones' is a success, and that people enjoy 'The Echoes of Empire' enough that I can write Indris's much larger story. If not, there are some stand alone novels, as well as another idea for a trilogy I'd quite happily explore. Seeing 'The Echoes of Empire' done as a graphic novel, or adapted for television, would be amazing. There are no plans for either at present, but a man can dream.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Mark: It was my pleasure, Sally. Thanks again for asking me. I hope that you and your readers enjoy 'The Garden of Stones', as much as I enjoyed writing it.
About The Garden of Stones
The Garden of Stones
Echoes of Empire 1
47North, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 506 pages
An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Avān share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.
With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shrīan into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.
Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace.
His career stuttered in finance, slid into advertising then leaped into Information Technology where he continues to manage a freelance Organizational Change consultancy. It was not until January 2005, when Mark was selected to attend the Clarion South residential short story workshop, he began to write with a view to making it more than a hobby. Since Clarion South 2005 Mark has published a small number of short stories, worked as a freelance script editor and done creative consultancy for a television series.
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