I’ve had people tell me they are between books, looking for something new to read; a new author, a new genre. There are more writers than ever before: More good writers, more not so good writers. The choices of things to read are enormous. The purpose of interviewing a writer is to give you, the reader, a chance to hear from the writer directly, to hear the writer’s own voice. Mark David Major has written for academia, professional journals, poetry magazines, and newspapers for more than 20 years. Born and raised in St. Louis, he is a graduate of Clemson University and the University of London.
What is your philosophy or writing?
Writers have to recognize there are usually two audiences that need to be addressed. The first audience is, of course, the writers themselves. If you don’t love what you are writing, then how can you expect anyone else to love it, too? And if you don’t love what you are writing and the story you are telling, then really, what is the point? This is universal for all types of writing. The second audience is, of course, the reader. For certain types of writing, addressing this audience is easy whereas for others it is more difficult and fluid. In writing academic, professional or newspaper articles, it is relatively straightforward to understand the audience because you are writing for readers who have a certain level of experience and/or education that can be anticipated or easily augmented by references and so on. By contrast, for poetry there is an audience of only one. Poets can only write for themselves and hope that others will find beauty and meaning in the words that are relevant to them. I’m always amused by poetry magazine submission guidelines that ask you to read the magazine to find out what there are looking for. This has very little to do with good poetry and much more do with selling magazines. In Chicago, they call that ‘pay to play’. Pay to play only leads to the worse kind of homogenized, bland kind of ‘corporate’ poetry. For fiction, a writer has to look at the kind of books and stories that have withstood the test of time. In today’s world of publishing, what is ‘popular’ is too often the result of focus groups and marketing studies. To be a good writer, one has to look to what has been proven over time to be good, what has endured, and not necessarily what is merely popular. The publishing industry is always trying to capitalize on the next-to-before-last big thing. Write for yourself and the ages, and the rest will take care of itself.
What’s the name and genre of you book?
The book is Mars Rising, a Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Who is the audience for this book?
Any readers who enjoy “old school” character-driven, science fiction/fantasy narratives in the vein of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Frank Herbert’s Dune series, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and some of Piers Anthony’s books. Mars Rising is story tailored for a now grown-up generation who read Harry Potter and Twilight as teens but are looking for adult, cerebral themes in their fantasy fiction.
Is this book part of a series? If so is it a sequel or a prequel?
Mars Rising is the first book in a planned five-book series. There is a preview chapter of the second book, Mars Ascending, available at the end of Mars Rising. The titles of the five books are: Mars Rising, Mars Ascending, Mars Zenith, Mars Descending, and Mars Falling. When I originally planned the story, I anticipated writing a trilogy. However, after completing a rough draft of Mars Rising, I realized there are no way I could complete the sprawling story in only three books. This is why the titles of the first and last pair of books are synonyms. Of course, my mother was the first person to point out this ‘anomaly’! I think of it as the sun rises over the horizon in the morning and then ascends into the sky to reach its zenith, and vice versa. Because I am aware of the story, I know the subtle differences in meaning are entirely appropriate, which will become clear to the reader over time.
Describe your protagonist (hero) and antagonist (villain), physically and emotionally and describe the challenges the protagonist and antagonist need to overcome and the motivation for overcoming them.
The protagonist and antagonist in the story is left entirely to the reader’s interpretation and sensibilities. At the center of the story are two characters: i’Cade Loudas and u’Pophis Ran. Ran is a brilliant Martian military commander and a father figure to Loudas. Loudas is a trusted confidant of Ran and the son of his former lover, a’Isobel. Loudas motivations are driven by living in the shadow of a great man and his unusually close bond with an intelligent, beautiful and scheming mother. Loudas needs to overcome the emotional conflict he feels between duty to his mother and the Sovereignty with that of the parental figure of Ran to eventually rationalize his actions. The motivations for Ran are purposefully left opaque to the reader because I wanted to create a ‘mythical’ figure at the origin of the larger story. Certainly, the strengths and flaws of Ran are on display in Mars Rising but their psychological origins are left unclear. This is accentuated by the central conceit of the story, which is this narrative is told by an historian many years after the events occurred. And, even though these two characters form the central figures in Mars Rising, the action of the story is ultimately driven by the principal female characters in the book including a’Isobel.
Can you quote a passage from your book that you love?
“By their very nature, civilizations must rise and fall. This is the story about the fall of the Sovereignty and the rise of an empire.”
Elaborate on the meaning of this passage.
Any society will sow the seeds of its own destruction through a multitude of individual acts, most of them unseen or forgotten. Because of this, there is a lyrical quality to the tapestry of history, which is composed of crescendos, counterpoints, ebbs, and flows. With the benefit of distance and hindsight, historians will craft these into a symphony to assign meaning to human events but, in the process, also create myths and legends of the people living during the climax of those events. This is relevant in today’s world as many of us wonder if we are witnessing the inevitable demise of Western civilization. Many of us are old enough to have witnessed the height and fall of the Soviet Union and communism. Even the rise and fall of Nazi Germany is still a living memory to many people. We are not slaves to history. We live in and always participate in history.
What surprising things did you learn while writing this book?
I was surprised by the amount of editing required to get Mars Rising to publication from start-to-finish over a two-year period. I estimate spending 25% of my time on writing and the other 75% of that time on editing. Even then, my mother found 11 grammatical/spelling mistakes in the book or about 1 mistake every 25 pages. I did so much editing on the book that, at the time of publication, I would have been content with 1 mistake every 10 pages. NOTE: I promise to fix these errors in a revised edition in the near future. The other thing that surprised me – once I realized it – was the startling contrast between the ‘traditional’ publishing industry and the self-publication routes. Thanks to the Kindle, NOOK and other venues for publishing eBooks, as well as accessible “print on demand” services such as CreateSpace, we really are at a crossroads for the publishing industry. Because of greater access to – and control of – the publication process provided by these services, I firmly believe we are on the verge of great literary flowering over the next decade. I am currently collaborating with an accomplished architect on a book about her designs and philosophy. She had the option of going the traditional route with an established architectural press. However, she decided in favor of the self-publishing route because she wanted to maintain complete creative control of the book. There is a profound message in her decision (and that of others such as myself) to the traditional publishing industry: you need to adapt now lest you become a dinosaur and go the same way as the newspaper. I hope someone is listening.
How has your upbringing influenced you writing?
My mother would tell you she filled my bedroom with books from the day I was born, hoping her love of reading would be instilled in me. It worked. My favorite children’s book growing up was The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper (“I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I KNOW I can!”). I really can’t imagine any better upbringing to become a writer than parents instilling a love of reading and learning to always know “you can”.
Where do you live and how does that influence your writing?
I’ve lived in Florida for the last ten years. So far, the Floridian influence has been more practical rather than creative. I’m a much more productive writer in the late Fall, Winter and early Spring after the temperature has dropped. I live in an historical 1934 bungalow, which leaks energy (and money). If the temperature in the house is above 76 degrees, I find that I really can’t write.
Do you prefer fermented or distilled?
Bailey’s Irish Cream on ice is my poison of choice, so I have to say fermented.
If you have a career outside of writing, how does it fit into your life as a writer?
I was educated as an architect at Clemson University and the University of London. I taught and researched at the University of London for 8 years. I am in my second decade now as an urban planner. I’ve taught at every education level from grade school to graduate school. I worked for a year as a sportswriter and in two presidential campaigns. Today, I am the Business Director for Starr Sanford Design. Writing has been the principal requirement of everything I have ever done in my career. As diverse and interesting as that career has been, the common thread running throughout all of it is writing.
Do you have a special routine you go through before you begin writing?
Copious amounts of caffeine and tobacco! Regular smoke breaks on the front porch (I won’t ever smoke in the house) provides valuable time for me to reflect of what I have just written, contemplate any immediate revisions, and decide what I want to write next.
Where can people get your books?
You can get my books on The Official Website of Mars Rising by Mark David Major at http://www.thesovereignty.com where links are provided to online retailers. The print version of Mars Rising is available directly from CreateSpace (List Price: $11.99) as well as Amazon.com and other online retailers (Google “Mars Rising by Mark David Major”). The eBook version of Mars Rising is available from the Amazon/Kindle Store in North America, United Kingdom, Germany, and France for only 0.99¢. If you wish to receive a discount code for 20% off the list price of the print version of Mars Rising from CreateSpace, then ‘like’ the Mars Rising Fan Page on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mars-Rising/228990690455278. You can follow me on Twitter @markdmajor.