It's publication week for the last two books in Mark Charan Newton's Legends of the Red Sun series. We therefore thought we'd ask him a few questions on an assortment of things relating to his novels and writings, so read on to find out more. You won't discover, in this interview at least, whether there's any fantasy equivalent of marmite in Mark's world but we may form up some further testing questions at some point ...
1 As Legends of the Red Sun is your first series, what's the most important thing you have learned?
There are loads of little and not so little things I’ve learned along the way - from coping with all the noise of online discussion, to understanding how cover art can influence things, all the way through to getting to grips with a bad review.
But the most important thing I’ve learned is probably patience. Learning the ability to wait calmly for something - be that for getting a new book out there, for feedback on your work, for the chance to prove yourself capable, for even changing direction. So yes, patience, in this job, does wonders for your peace of mind – which in turn helps you focus on writing. The years pass remarkably quickly when you have your head down in a book.
2 Did any authors in particular influence these books?
The interesting thing - to me at least - is that I became less obviously influenced later on in the series than I was at the start. I used to blog about the old dying earth stories from the 70s and 80s, talking about authors such as M John Harrison, to Gene Wolfe, to Jack Vance, all of which inspired me to try my own dying earth style fantasy.
But I think young writers wear their influences more obviously than older ones (yeah, I now count myself as old). The young writer seems to have so much to prove, so much to say so obviously - whereas once you’ve settled down as a writer, you start to reflect more subtly on the things that bother you enough to write about them.
Perhaps over the years writing becomes less of an outward-looking obsession and more of an inward-looking one.
3 Is there anything you plan to do differently in your next series?
All of it! I’ve gone from a third-person to first-person narrative. I’ve gone from contemporary aesthetics to classical ones. I’ve gone from a large cast of characters to a much more focussed set of characters. I’m interested in someone for whom killing others is a terrible idea, and not presented as a trendy one. I’m also interested in taking away the bells and whistles of the weirdness, partly as a challenge to myself, and partly because I think a significant proportion of readers face a strong mental barrier when presented with strange images. But to replace that there’s a locked-room mystery and more presence of emotion.
So, yeah. It’s very different. I hope that people who enjoyed my previous books will still enjoy the new books; also, I hope that those who were put off by the previous books, be it because of style or substance, will enjoy this too.
4 Which non-human protagonist was the most fun to write and why?
Probably Jeryd, one of the investigators from the first two books. I wrote him to be a bit of a fool, a deliberately not very good detective. Someone who is tired of life, yet very old (much older than a human), and yet who still - now and then - sees a flash of something more optimistic. Perhaps I was channelling my inner misery, but I liked the fact that no matter how well he did, no matter how hard he tried to get beyond his lack of obvious abilities, there was seldom any reward for him.
5 What's your favourite form of procrastination as a writer?
There are so many to choose from! The Internet is the worst time-sink, though not necessarily my favourite - and certainly not one I’m in control of when I get sucked into following various links.
I’m a proper pottering old man at home, which is probably a good way to distract myself. I tend to work in regular short bursts of writing, which means every half an hour I’m up and about, in the garden, making tea, browsing bookshelves, browsing books online, and so on. I convince myself that I’m resting my poor writerly brain for a few moments, whereas I secretly know that my old-man-ways are actually wasting time.
Find out more here about Mark's books out this week: THE BOOK OF TRANSFORMATIONS (book 3, mass market paperback) and THE BROKEN ISLES (book 4, hardback), the latter being the fabulous conclusion to this imaginative fantasy series. Plus CLICK HERE for reviews for all books so far and free extracts available HERE.