Mark Robson interview

Discussion in 'Interviews' started by Brian Turner, Jul 31, 2005.

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    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Time we all grilled Mark Robson now about his work and writings. :)

    I know there's an older thread on the board, but I'd like to engage in something a little more up to date... :)


    Anyway, I'd like to make a couple of suggestions:


    1. Like a large number of people, you chose a self-publishing route for your novels. However, you've gone from strength to strength with that and now have national distribution via WHSmiths and Waterstones, and because of your success you've now landed a traditional print publishing contract with major house Simon & Schuster.

    What have you done different from other self-published authors - how much is done to your writing quality, and how much is down to sheer hard work? Has lucked played any significant part?
     
  2.  
    rune

    rune rune

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    2. Where do you get your inspiration from to write books. And where did you get your ideas from for your new series?
     
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    Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    3. Do you have a favorite place for writing ?
     
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    Lacedaemonian

    Lacedaemonian A Plume of Smoke

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    4. Would you ever consider writing mature Fantasy or do you enjoy writing for young adults too much?
     
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    Alia

    Alia Young at Heart

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    5. Why have you chosen to write young adult fiction rather than children or adult fantasy?
     
  6.  
    dwndrgn

    dwndrgn Fierce Vowelless One Staff Member

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    6. As a fan of your work, I've read the Darkweaver Legacy series and am anticipating the release of your new work, Imperial Spy. What made you switch from a male protagonist to a female one?


    7. Knowing your military background, it is easy to see some influence there in your writing, especially that of the military recruits. How much of that training sequence in The Forging of the Sword is based on real-life experiences?


    8. Relating to question number 6, you've moved away from the magic element into more of an espionage tale. Was there a specific reason for the switch or did the character of Femke just interest you enough to delve into her experiences more?


    9. I know you are terribly busy with the re-release of your first series and the impending release of the first of your next - in addition to your busy home life; however, I feel the need to ask when we can see the story of the Dawn Dragon? (sorry, had to ask :D )
     
  7.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    I'll take these one person at a time, or this will be the post to end all posts!

    Firstly, Brian, I would say that I didn't so much choose self-publishing, as it chose me! I only sent my first book 'The Forging of the Sword' to a couple of publishers and a handful of Literary Agents. It got straight rejections, but some of the responses from Literary Agents seemed to indicate that I had not made a complete idiot of myself by submitting it. I didn't leap straight in to self-publishing at that point; it was two years later that I was convinced to take the plunge by one of an increasing number of friends and acquaintances who had read the manuscript and liked the story.

    Perhaps the greatest difference between how I have approached self-publishing, and the vast majority of others has been my attitude and self-belief. I did not begin self-publishing with the idea that it would make me rich, and I wasn't wrong! I began with the attitude that it would be a hobby. People spend money on hobbies, so I wasn't too worried about making money as such. However, as with any successful project, I did set goals and targets which made me very focused about the end results - selling the book I had taken such pains to produce. This target-setting mentality, together with my tenacity has resulted in virtually exponential growth.

    I am under no illusions that The Forging of the Sword should have been accepted by a traditional publishing company. Looking at the early part of the manuscript even now, I can see many reasons for them to reject it. If I had known then what I know now, then I could have made it good enough, but nobody in the publishing business seems to have time to sit down and explain why they reject scripts - you just have to learn through feedback from any sources you can get and network, network, network!

    My storylines and characterisations have always been my strength. My technical writing abilities were not so hot to begin with, but I'm constantly working to improve this, with obvious results.

    Luck will always play a certain part in getting published unless your talent is so prodigious that it cannot be ignored. I know there are many writers out there with more talent than I possess who will never be published. Why? Because they didn't meet the right person, or the editor who would have loved their script was on maternity leave and the cover editor didn't like their style, or any one of a million other freak chances of fate that can prevent someone being discovered. However, there are ways of producing your own luck. My pure bloody-mindedness being a good case in point!
     
  8.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    My initial inspiration was boredom - not a great source, I admit. I was bored whilst on detachment in the Falkland Islands and I became very irritible. My navigator uttered the immortal words "For goodness sake do something useful! Go write a book or something."

    The initial story was born out of a conglomeration of ideas from different fantasy stories I had read over the years, combined with my own knowledge of the military and various other related skills. I was influenced a lot by Tolkien, Eddings, McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon. Less so by Gemmell, Julian May and a host of others. The Darkweaver Legacy is very much a fantasy in the tradition established by Tolkien, but my new series, despite being set in the same world, is definitely not.

    Inspiration to write comes from everywhere when you are in the habit of writing. Conversations, television, walks in the countryside, reading other books all contribute to ideas and the urge to commit pen to paper. My biggest single inspiration to sit at my laptop is the feedback from readers who have enjoyed my work and taken the time to tell me. Happily this happens on an almost daily basis now, so I'm not lacking in motivation.

    The idea for my new series was generated by two things:

    1 - A challenge by a feisty born-again christian lady in a bookshop where I was signing. She asked me why all these fantasy books had to focus on magic and magicians? I patiently explained to her the attraction that people felt to stories with this theme was not because they were all devil-worshippers, but she was clearly very anti the whole idea of magic in stories. It was interesting to note (I'm a bit mean sometimes) that when I asked her what she thought of CS Lewis's Narnia series, she thought this was fine because it had been written by a Christian and was an allegorical story. Pointing out that there was magic in this story didn't go down well - one of my less tactful moments! It's still fantasy in my book, and a darned good one too. However, the whole conversation, whilst awkward, did get me thinking about how one would go about writing a fantasy with no magic.

    2 - The huge recent success of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz demonstrated the demand for spy stories amongst adolescent boys. I saw the potential to draw in an audience of young people who like spy stories whilst keeping my fantasy readers. It made a lot of sense. I also had a ready made heroine in Femke, who had been a favourite minor character from my first series.
     
  9.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    LOL! I haven't had the opportunity to develop one, Alexa! I wrote my first book almost exclusively in the Falkland Islands on scraps of paper. I wrote my second book mainly in the dining room of my house - 3 houses ago! The third book was written wherever and whenever I happened to be at the time. I was accused a few times of writing whilst flying, but that isn't true ... I did make notes though! :eek: My fourth book was written in Saudi Arabia in the run up to Gulf War 2 and my latest book, Imperial Spy, was mainly written sat in an armchair in the anteroom of the Officers' Mess at RAF Northolt after everyone else had gone to bed.

    I'm really hoping that now I have a study in my new house I will be able to develop a good feeling about writing in the same place consistently.
     
  10.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    I'll take these together, as they are very interlinked.

    I didn't really choose to write for young adult. I chose to write fantasy that could be enjoyed by all ages. This is also my reading material of choice at the moment. I guess I'm a bit of a lazy reader, as I've always enjoyed fast moving stories with plenty of action, but that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy the more hefty reads every now and then. Part of it is a time factor. I rarely have enough time to tackle some of the weightier tomes that dominate the fantasy shelves these days.

    It appears that many other people fall into this category, which has led to the rise in popularity of young adult authors with the adult readers. It has subsequently made sense to market my work as young adult, as that's the hot potato at the moment. If I were to brand my work by relating it to other authors, then I would place it in the same vein/readability as the early works of David Eddings (Belgariad) and Anne McCaffrey, either of which could easily have been marketed as young adult fiction, but weren't.

    I will inevitably attempt more complex and detailed fantasies in due course, but for the time being I'm having fun writing action stories that are of a more dynamic nature. I do love reading more complex fantasies when I have the time, and am in awe of some of the writers out there (including Kelpie, for whom I have the utmost respect) who can devise such completely developed worlds with a wealth of depth and history. At the moment, I don't feel ready to tackle this sort of undertaking, but I will attempt it eventually.
     
  11.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    *Shouts* A FAN! DID YOU HEAR THAT EVERYONE? I HAVE A FAN! :D

    As you will know from The Darkweaver Legacy, this is not the first time I've used a female character for the lead role in a story. Trail of the Huntress was my personal favourite story from that series and I think Jenna made a good heroine. Several people have told me that I write well from the female perspective. I'm not sure what that tells me about myself, but I do like the challenge of seeing things from a female POV.

    I'm not sure if I've said this before, but Imperial Spy was never intended to be a series. I wrote the original story as a 'one off' novel with the idea of taking a break from the pressure of writing a series. Once you embark on writing a series, there is the constant pressure from readers to complete it as fast as possible. I loved Femke as a minor character in The Darkweaver Legacy and thought her more than worthy of a story of her own, so I decided to write a story about her that was not a traditional fantasy. I guess the idea backfired a little, as now I have the pressure of writing a series along a path I had neither foreseen, nor intended to walk.

    Speaking from a purely commercial angle for a moment, having a female lead is also good for sales. As more girls read than boys, it is always good to have a hook to draw them into a story. There aren't many spy stories out there where the lead character is a girl. Interestingly, boys who read fantasy don't tend to mind what sex the lead character is.

    I should say that Femke will not keep the lead for the entire series. In the second book, a young man called Reynik will take the lead, with Femke playing more of a supporting role.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2005
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    dwndrgn

    dwndrgn Fierce Vowelless One Staff Member

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    Be careful, your head may swell :D
     
  13.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    LOL! Any pretences I might have had were put into perspective over the last 5 days at Worldcon. One look at the lines of people queuing for some of the big name signings showed me what I have to aspire to.

    Let me carry on and tackle a few more of your questions, Dwndrgn.

    I think it's fair to say that I drew very heavily on my real-life experiences for the training sequences in The Forging of the Sword. I have often been told that it is good to write about what you know. There is no doubt those sequences were the ones written with the most passion in that early
    work, however, the only character who was based on a real person was Sergeant Brett. He was based on my old training Flight Sergeant, whom I knew had retired and I thought I would never meet again. As I thought it highly unlikely that he would ever even hear of my work, I didn't think it would matter if I used him as a model.

    Anyone who says God doesn't have a sense of humour is sadly mistaken. I was signing at an airshow about 3 years ago, when I was embarrassed to find that the Flight Sergeant in question was running the charity stand next to mine! I had to make a very red faced confession when he bought a book. :eek:

    I more or less answered this in my reply to Rune, but I will add that Femke did come alive as I wrote The Chosen One. It's strange how some characters do that. I cannot deny that I felt strangely compelled by her character to give her more of a role and that led to the desire to give her a story of her own.

    LOL! My plan is to write Dragon Pact between Imperial Assassin and Imperial Traitor. You will be pleased to hear that the Senior Editorial Director of Gollanz appeared very interested in the story when I mentioned it to her at Worldcon. I hope to finish the draft by about March/April next year, maybe earlier if I get on a roll. It's difficult to know how fast I will write now that I'm full time. The story details have filled in a lot over the last few weeks and I now have a strong desire to write the story, which is always a good sign that I'll write it quickly. However, I still have just over a half of Imperial Assassin to finish first.
     
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    Balinor

    Balinor Why thank ye good sirs

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    10. what other books are you planning to write. it would be cool to learn more about the 4 warder's pasts and if there are other major lands/races other then thrandor, terachim and shandese
     
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    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    This is projecting ahead a way, Balinor, but yes, I do intend to fill in some of the Warders' pasts. I have plans to write Derrigan Darkweaver's story in a trilogy that will tell of his rise to power, his forging of the amulet and his eventual downfall. I also eventually intend to write a further trilogy about Calvyn and company set 3 years after the events of the Darkweaver Legacy. I have a lot of writing to do before that, though!
     
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    dwndrgn

    dwndrgn Fierce Vowelless One Staff Member

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    Mark, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! I wish you many good words and thoughts during your writing of Imperial Assassin and other things you might work in between...
     
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    dwndrgn

    dwndrgn Fierce Vowelless One Staff Member

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    I wanted to bump this up so our many newer members can find out more about you.
     
  18.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    AmazingAmanda253

    AmazingAmanda253 New Member

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    What did you do during the run up to Gulf War 2?
     
  20.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    I was a 'Situation Mission Expert' in air-to-air refuelling. Which basically meant that I was the troubleshooter for this speciality. I answered questions about airborne refuelling to the hierarchy, and did hard sums ... well, the sums were not really that hard, but there was no tolerance for error.
     

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