Today I have the opportunity to talk with Mark Love, another author at Black Rose Writing. After the interview, I urge you to check out his many titles available on Amazon.
IDI – Welcome Mark. You are the fourth or fifth Black Rose author I have interviewed in the past few weeks. It seems they have a lot going on there.
We’ll talk about your previous works in a minute, but first, what are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our taste buds?
ML – I’m working on the sequel to “Why 319?” about the detectives who solved the mystery of the serial killer. This one is about an entrepreneur who gets killed at a paintball battle. Here’s an excerpt:
It didn’t look like the type of morning for someone to die. The mist burning off with the rising sun revealed a gregarious crowd, struggling for some semblance of order. Green and brown camouflage fatigues, plastic goggles and leather boots adorned many of the participants. Some were clothed in sneakers, jeans and sweatshirts, mostly black or dark in color. From a distance it looked like a raiding party from Selfridge ANG base.
Up close was another story. These were not the lean, mean physiques of true military men and women, but the various shapes of weekend warriors, seeking a little fun and games. Much of the clothing was worn and mismatched, probably from an army surplus supplier. The group was quickly separated into four divisions, designated by colored armbands. An elaborate version of capture the flag was about to begin. But one participant was after much higher stakes.
The sun was quickly warming the grounds when the target was spotted. It took him a while, since he didn’t want to get too close and risk being recognized. Surprise was going to be a major part of his game.
The second round of games was about to begin. On the far side of the staging area he saw his man, a large blotch of yellow paint adorning his neck and right shoulder. His eyes never left the target. The man was slumped on the ground, breathing heavily, with his back braced against a tree. Sweat beaded his face. He pulled off his hat, wiping his face with his bare hands. The camouflage shirt and pants were also darkened with sweat.
As the battle began, the target got to his feet and wandered away from the others. He ducked into a cluster of willow trees. The hunter trailed behind. He made his way slowly through the low hanging branches. The game went on around him. His eyes remained narrowed and focused. Nostrils flaring, he was searching for the scent of his prey. His ears were attuned for the slightest clue of his target. He checked each area cautiously before moving on.
The target was making this too easy. He had isolated himself from the group. The target had straddled a fallen log and was holding his head in his hands. The hunter moved closer, still cautiously checking his surroundings before taking even a single step. He was less than ten feet away when the target looked up.
“Go away. I don’t want to play today.”
“Sorry, pigeon. This game’s for real.” He brought the gun up and extended it toward his quarry.
“Okay, shoot me and get it over with. I feel like shit anyway.”
“When I get done, you won’t feel a thing.”
At that moment the target looked up and studied the weapon drawn on him. This looked different from the paint ball guns everyone used in the game. This was a revolver, with a large dark tube attached to the muzzle.
“What kind of paint gun is that?”
“I don’t play with paint, Morrissey. I use the real thing.”
Morrissey raised the goggles from his face and squinted at the hunter in the sun-dappled shadows. Recognition finally registered. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m taking care of business.” With that he lined up the sites on the victim’s chest and nonchalantly squeezed the trigger. What sound the suppressor did not muffle, the willow branches did. He watched the body jerk spasmodically as Morrissey slid off the log onto the ground. Stepping closer, he fired an insurance round directly into the heart. Then just because, he placed the barrel against the victim’s forehead and squeezed the trigger again. He lifted Morrissey’s weapon and fired a red paint pellet at his own left leg. The killer jumped in surprise at the pain of the impact at such close range. The paint was a brighter shade than the stain spreading on the ground below the body. Satisfied, he turned from the log and began working his way through the willows toward the neutral zone.
IDI – I like the way you end it. ‘Game over’ is short and sweet, reminiscent of ‘Make my day,’ or ‘I’ll be back.’
When did you know you were a writer?
ML – I’ve always been a storyteller even back when I was in grade school. But it wasn’t until I took a creative writing class in college that I knew being a writer was a part of who I am. I guess those nuns in the sixth grade were right!
IDI – Funny how sometimes others can see things in us that we don’t see ourselves until much later.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing? How has this helped you as a writer?
ML – Never stop writing. There have been situations where my time to write has been limited (the demands of work, school and family) but to write is to live. Sometimes it’s a matter of reviewing the last thing I wrote, going back and editing a bit, getting into the rhythm of the story, but it only takes a heartbeat or two to reawaken the urge to write. Then it feels like my muse is perched on my shoulder, thwacking my ear with her fingertip, asking ‘why do you stay away?’
IDI – What works for you? Give us a rundown of your ‘writing processes’ from beginning to finished product.
ML – Outlines have never worked well for me. I start out with a main character or two and a basic idea for a story. It’s important for me to get the characters right. Then I just follow along and record their actions. My characters have a tendency to take the story in a totally different direction than I may have originally had in mind. I probably changed the killer a dozen times in Why 319? until it felt right. Then it’s a matter of editing, revising, and more editing. I have a couple of friends who are Beta readers. Their input is priceless. Once I’ve gotten that back and taken their recommendations into consideration, I’m ready to send it to a publisher.
IDI – Online cafés or writers groups (aside from social networking). Do you belong to any and if so, help or harm?
ML – I’ve never tried the online version but I have been a part of several groups over the years. The best was a number of people who were serious about writing and never failed to bring something to the table. Other writers can be a great sounding board, picking up on nuances that you may not realize were missing. But everyone in the group has to be committed and feel comfortable giving constructive criticism. One woman in the group used to say ‘Oh that’s nice’ about everyone’s effort. I’m not aiming for nice. I want real reactions, real insight. Particularly if I’m writing something meant to grab you by the throat or some other part of the anatomy. (Laughs) Now that I think about it, the others voted her out after a while.
IDI – I can’t say that I’ve found writing groups beneficial. The last one I joined had a particular member who used to come in late and then ask to give/get all of her critiques out of the way because she had to leave early to go home and make dinner. After three or four meetings I realized we were there for her and her only. I imagine it would be nice if all members were there to not only take, but to give also. I think you all have to be on the same page, so to speak.
What is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing? Ideas, getting started, writer’s block, re-writing?
ML – Getting started can be the most frustrating part for me. I get ideas all the time on scenes, dialogue, conflicts and characters, so that’s not an issue. When I can block out time to write, I sometimes have to go back and read over the last segment I wrote, just to get my neurons firing. I’ll often stop writing in the middle of a scene, so that will be a spot I can easily pick up on.
IDI – How do you conduct your research?
ML – Beyond the internet, I like to connect with professionals in the field and draw from their experience. I’ve interviewed cops, forensic scientists, a fitness instructor who taught a number of different programs including pole dancing, nurses and a couple of guys who ran a shop that specialized in surveillance devices. And that was all for one book. Most people enjoy talking about their work.
IDI – How has your writing evolved from when you began as a writer to now?
ML – That’s a great question. I’ve gone back and read some of my earliest efforts for comparison. I’ve developed a better flow of the story, learned when to interject humor and how dialogue can really help carry the story. My characters are stronger now, more detailed, more complete, with their own baggage that makes them unique.
IDI – How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?
ML – I’ve always been an avid reader. I think it’s important to read the work of others, both for entertainment and for education. I’ve learned how to sharpen my dialogue, infuse moments of humor and tension into a story and surprise a reader with a twist. These are all traits I’ve gleaned from different authors over the years. No one writes a great story in a vacuum. We’re all influenced by what we read.
IDI – Who, in your opinion, was the best written character of all time, and why?
ML – I’ve got to go with Travis McGee, the protagonist of 21 mystery novels by John D. MacDonald. McGee was not your typical hero. He was a Florida beach bum who enjoyed life and only got involved when a crime was committed against a good friend or when his ‘retirement’ funds ran low. I can see parts of him and MacDonald’s influence in James W. Hall’s Thorn, Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser and a number of characters by Elmore Leonard. I liked McGee so much that I named my oldest son Travis.
IDI – What’s the best reaction you’ve ever gotten to your writing?
ML – I had a friend in college who kept bugging me to read one of my short stories. She was very interested in mysteries and mayhem, which is right up my alley. I finally gave her a story that I thought had potential. The next day I was outside of a class talking to another guy when she walked up and punched me as hard as she could. Fortunately, she was a petite girl so it was more surprising than painful. When I asked what that was for, she told me that she had nightmares after reading my story and dreamed the killer was coming after her. That was a great compliment.
IDI – Let’s jump to the future. Everyone has visions of where they see themselves in the future, be it a year or five. Where do you see yourself in five years? Where did you see yourself five years ago? Did you make it there?
ML – Five years ago I was just starting to consider e-book publishers. I had been trying diligently to get in with a traditional publisher, but couldn’t knock down the door. I found one new house that was only going to do e-books and I thought it was worth a shot. They accepted a couple of my novels but they didn’t stay in business very long. That gave me the incentive to keep looking and focus on smaller publishing companies. Within the next year or two, I’m hoping to land an agent who can help me get in with a larger house, and reach a greater audience. Time will tell.
IDI – Mark, thank you so much for chatting with me today. I loved your answers and wish you the best with your writing.
ML – Thank you for having me. I’d also like to let everyone know that on June 20th I will be signing books in Ann Arbor MI for the Ann Arbor Book Festival. Hope to see you there!
To learn more about Mark and his writing, follow the links below: