Today, Mark L Fowler joins us on the blog to talk writing. Thanks to Mark for taking the time to get involved.
How and when did you start writing?
I started writing towards the end of my school days, mainly poetry and the occasional attempt at a story. I became more public with my writing when I formed a band and wrote songs. Later on I began writing short stories, screenplays, including sitcoms, and eventually I found my home in the novel.
What was the first novel that you actually wrote?
The first novel I wrote was Coffin Maker, a gothic horror fantasy, with Death as the main character. One day Death is sent two apprentices. He doesn’t know why, but it may be related to rumours that the devil is entering the world. I began writing it on October 1st, 1994. I sent it out to agents and publishers, gathered the rejection slips, rewrote, send it again, and so on. Then I began my next novel, repeating the process, now with two books to send out, then three, and so on. I built up quite a body of work, while endlessly revising and editing my previous books. I could have decorated my house and next door’s too with all the rejection slips! Then, a couple of years ago, I realised that it was 20 years since I started writing Coffin Maker, and I decided to mark the anniversary by self-publishing it. A year later, I self-published The Man Upstairs, the first of a series of Frank Miller mystery novels featuring a private detective who discovers that he is a character in a series of mystery books. Very meta-fictional and, like Coffin Maker, philosophical too, though hopefully in an entertaining way. There’s certainly a lot of humour in both books, despite the dark themes.
Tell me about your most recently published novel.
A few weeks ago, Bloodhound Books published the first of my psychological thrillers, Silver. Best-selling novelist, Joy Haversham, is killed, leaving behind an unfinished, uncharacteristic and disturbing manuscript: Silver. The book has become the Holy Grail of the publishing world, yet Joy’s family refuse to publish. Her killer is due out of prison on what would have been Joy’s silver wedding anniversary. The main protagonist in Silver is Nick Slater, the journalist who reported on the case. Nick has since published a novel bearing uncanny resemblances to Joy’s unpublished manuscript, which he could not possibly have read. Joy’s daughter, Grace, wants him to read Silver, and to visit her mother’s killer before he is released, believing that Nick can uncover the dark secret that lies behind her mother’s death.
What inspired you to write Silver?
I’ve always loved the idea of books within books, and the creative process for me is often generated by a title and a strong opening. The idea of Silver as an unfinished, mysterious manuscript that bears dark secrets, really grabbed me. And the idea of writers being killed in a fashion that resembles the plots of their own books, felt strong and compelling, offering a lot of room for development. And I went from there.
What can readers expect from Silver?
I hope that readers will be intrigued by the mystery surrounding Joy Haversham’s unfinished manuscript, and by Nick Slater’s attempts to unravel the secrets buried within it. Nick is a complex character, a journalist and writer who has suffered grief in his own life, and who became deeply affected by the Haversham case. He has his own agenda, yet at the same time he develops genuine feelings for the grieving family, and particularly Grace.
Most useful piece of writing advice? Who was it from?
Show don’t tell. I’ve heard this advice from so many writers, and I don’t think that the importance of it can be over-stated. It operates on so many levels.
Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
Write your own book. Write what interests you, and intrigues you. Write from the heart, developing your own unique voice, and keep faith with your writing despite the inevitable rejections and hard knocks along the way.
What do you like and dislike about writing?
I enjoy making up stories, thinking up ‘what if’ scenarios. I particularly like creating characters, placing them in interesting, challenging situations and seeing what they do, and how things develop. I am fascinated by the psychology of human behaviour, the conflicts between people, which can often generate interesting story ideas. It can be fascinating discovering what motivates people to act in certain ways. I find it very difficult to plot a book cold. The fear of the blank page, of trying to come up with a great plot before I begin writing, stifles the creative process. If I try to over-think an idea too early on, it kills it for me. I prefer to find a strong opening situation, something intriguing and that can generate conflict and tension, and let it develop organically.
Are you writing anything at the moment?
I’ve recently completed another psychological thriller, and I’m currently working on a follow up to Silver, again featuring Nick Slater.