Before we get started I would just like to say thank you again to Mark for taking part in my first ‘Interview with an Author’ and congratulation on your debt novel. I can’t wait to read your next book!
ETAB Hunt for the Troll – It was your debut book; How did you feel when it was finally published?
MR: It felt amazing! It was really nice to have a group of people (the editors at New Pulp Press) read the book and like it enough to publish it.
ETAB How long did it take from when you first had the basic story idea to actually publishing the first copy?
MR: It took about two years.
ETAB How did you come up with the idea for the story?
MR: It actually started out as a short story. It was going to be a funky fairytale. I’ve heard other authors say things along of the lines of: This book started out as a short story, but it just took on a life of its own. I thought they were stretching the truth. Then it actually happened to me.
ETAB How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
MR: I’m not sure that getting it published changed my writing process. But having actually completed a novel has given me confidence I can do it again. E.L. Doctorow once said: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” It is a great metaphor. And now I know that I can get to the end of the trip.
ETAB Hunt for the Troll is a very genre specific piece of work; whilst it is a mystery there is also a very quirky noir feel to the story, centered on the tech industry. Were you nervous releasing your book to the public in case it wasn’t received too well?
MR: I was a little nervous. Like you say, it is quirky and I figured some people would find it too peculiar. I’m sure some people won’t like it, but I am actually okay with that. Hopefully other people do enjoy it.
ETAB Did you base the main character on anyone you know personally or borrow traits from any prominent tech industry figures for him?
MR: The main character is not based on anyone. But some of the other characters are composites of real life people. They aren’t those people, but they share traits.
ETAB How do you select the names of your characters?
MR: I have a pet peeve: I don’t like reading books where multiple characters have names that start with the same letter. It gets confusing. So step one was avoiding that trap. Also, the main character in the book is never given a name, and he’s never described physically, so the readers are left to create their own image of him.
ETAB What was your hardest scene to write?
MR: I’d say the scene near the beginning of the book when the main character is at Whitfield’s house and he tells Whitfield about his encounter with the Troll. It feels clunky to me. Actually, the beginning of the book feels a bit clunky, but by about a third of the way through it starts to flow better.
ETAB What did you edit out of this book?
MR: When it was a short story, I wrote a lot that was never used. It took me months to figure out what I was writing. When I write anything, the two keys for me are to lock down the voice and structure. Once I get a handle on those two items, it gets a bit easier.
ETAB Did you hide any secrets in the book that only a few people will find?
MR: There is a scene in the book that was heavily influence by the movie, The Big Lebowski. As a nod, I named one of the characters in the book Roderick Jaynes, which is a pseudonym used by the directors of the movie, the Coen Brothers. That is a decidedly obscure reference, and I would be shocked if anyone picked up on it. There are a few others things, but I’ll let people try and find them themselves.
ETAB As I got to the end of the story I felt that there was definitely potential for a sequel in regards to the Troll’s plans and possibly even his background story. Can readers look forward to a continuation of this story?
MR: I’ve actually been asked that by a couple of people. I am not planning a sequel, but who knows? That could change.
ETAB Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
MR: I anticipate each book being different.
ETAB What inspired you to become a writer?
MR: Love of reading was a big part. And in both school and work, I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement and positive feedback for my writing.
ETAB What is your writing Kryptonite?
MR: Plot can be challenging. I don’t plot things out, I just write to see what happens next.
ETAB What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
MR: I didn’t do any specific research. But like you said, I think it’s a genre novel (or at least a mix of genres). So like most genre books, it is derivative, or built along a path that others have cleared for me.
ETAB How many hours a day do you write?
MR: If you mean fiction, it varies greatly. I have two little kids, ages eight and six, and they keep me busy. I also have a full time job. My job is writing—I’m a “content creator”—so I have to write every day for work. If I am working on a particularly challenging project, I find it difficult to give the mind space to both that and my fiction. But when I do have time for writing fiction, I’ll write for an hour in the morning, before work. I always feel happier when I am able to write for that hour.
ETAB Are you an avid reader yourself?
MR: Absolutely. I love to read.
ETAB What’s your favorite genre?
MR: Crime, magical realism, literary, fantasy, biographies, memoirs, horror, sci-fi, comedies, and more: really anything but romance or young adult. I tend to like books that are quirky, and where in the end not every issue has been resolved.
ETAB What’s your favorite book?
MR: That’s an impossible question to answer. There are too many to list just one.
ETAB What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
MR: That’s another tough one. Last year I read a book by Scott Phillips called Rake. It was twisted, but very fun. So I’ll say that one.
ETAB Who is your favorite writer?
MR: I don’t have just one, and the list varies over time. But recently I’ve been reading books written by these writers: Haruki Murakami, Megan Abbott, Sara Gran, Scott Phillips, Miranda July, Alix Ohlin, Andrew Sean Greer, Shirley Jackson, Margaret Atwood, Charles Bukowski, Aimee Bender, Tobias Wolff, and George Saunders
ETAB Is writing books now your full time job or do you have a 9 to 5 “day” job?
MR: No, it is definitely not my full time job. I work for a tech company in Silicon Valley. I write speeches and video scripts, message boards and copy blocks, sales guides and more. I write a lot every day, but I’m not writing books.
ETAB So if you weren’t a published author -bet that sounds great- what would be your ideal job?
MR: Centerfielder for the Chicago Cubs. #FlytheW.
ETAB How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
MR: I am actually working on a book now. I am inching closer to finishing the first draft. The working title is, The Sun Casts No Shadow.
ETAB What does literary success look like to you?
MR: I would measure success in two ways. First, I want to finish the book I am working on, find a literary agent, and get it published by one of the big five publishing houses. The other way I would measure success is simply by becoming a better writer.
ETAB As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
MR: A pelican.
ETAB Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
MR: Yes, I’ve read every review.
ETAB Do you Google yourself?
MR: Sometimes. There’s not a lot out there, though.
ETAB Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
ETAB What advice would you give my readers on starting their first book?
MR: I like this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert: “As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness.”
ETAB Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
MR: I think writers can come in all shapes and sizes.
ETAB What are the most important magazines / blogs for writers to subscribe to?
MR: The important thing is to read, read, read. What is read will vary by person. But you can’t be a writer if you’re not also a reader.
ETAB What’s the best way to market your books?
MR: Good question. I’m hoping Stephen King sends out a tweet letting his followers know how much he loved the book, but so far that has not happened.
ETAB And finally… some would say it’s all about the money – What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
MR: The day my book was published I shared a bottle of champagne with my wife. That was nice.
By a copy of Hunt for the Troll on Amazon
You can also check out more about Mark and other works at markrichardsonauthor.com