Today, my guest is Damnation Press author, Mark Hall, talking about Apocalypse Island and The Holocaust Opera.Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself?
What genre do you write in and why? I write mostly in the horror genre, because that’s just the way my mind works. But I also write thrillers. My upcoming novel, Apocalypse Island, is a thriller with only mild supernatural elements. It’s one of those that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.
My current book, due out in March, is entitled The Holocaust Opera. It is a supernatural thriller about the power of music. A young woman named Roxanne moves to New York seeking stardom and begins working with a gifted young composer named Jeremiah, who is writing a body of music that deals with the holocaust. His parents, now dead, were survivors of the holocaust and he has been drawn into their dark story in ways that he cannot understand. It is soon evident that there is something wrong with the compositions but he refuses to see it. When the evil begins to take over their lives Roxanne forces Jeremiah to see the truth that nearly destroys them. The story goes back and forth between Modern day New York and WWII Auschwitz, Poland were everything began. It is a fast-paced, no-holds-barred supernatural wild ride.
How long have you been writing?
A long time. I came to this a little later in life than most writers do. Not that I haven’t always been a writer. I started out as a song writer and wrote poetry and short stories when I was young. I still run into old friends who remember me telling them spooky tales and ask me if I’m still telling those horror stories? And I say, yup, only now I write them down. When I was eighteen I started writing a novel at my older sister’s kitchen table. I was determined to make it work. We were from a small town with lots of sinister little secrets. At least in our minds. The novel was going to be a blend of Peyton Place with some macabre elements thrown in for shock value. It never got finished and when I went in the army the manuscript got lost.
But I never lost the yearning to write novels. Years later when my wife and I settled in Richmond, Maine I decided to get on with it. I began the epic supernatural thriller, The Lost Village. It took me five years to write, working on it part time while I worked a full time job and played in my rock band on weekends. Because of its length I couldn’t get a single publisher to read it. So I published it myself. It was subsequently recommended for a Bram Stoker award and nominated for a tombstone award. It got me a lot of attention, and I began selling my short stories to magazines and anthologies. Damnation Books picked up The Lost Village and re-issued it last September.
Since then I’ve written seven more novels, four of which have been published and two or maybe even three new ones coming this year.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
My grandmother got me interested in writing. She was a medium, a fortune teller and a great story teller, although, as far as I know, she never wrote any of them down. Her stories were always about spooky things, especially ghosts, and I loved them. I was the only grandchild who would listen so I was her audience. My first book, The Lost Village, was inspired by the town I grew up in. I always felt on some visceral level that there was something dark and dreadful at the heart of that town. I never saw any evidence of that so I made it up.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
I never outline. To me that’s too restrictive. I like to let the story and characters live and grow on the pages. I like to be surprised, and with an outline there are too few surprises. I just start with an idea, usually a simple one, like a question, such as ‘what if?’ and it grows from there. The process unfolds as I go. I have no idea how a story will turn out when I start it, but I have faith that things will come together in the end and they usually do.
What comes first: the plot or the characters?
Just the basic idea, and then I think the characters and plot develop simultaneously.
Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
I fear, Travis Boone, the antagonist serial killer in The Lost Village because he has no soul, and a man without a soul has no conscience, so there are no limits to what he might do. I pity, Sam Cabot, the protagonist in The Haunting of Sam Cabot, because he is unaware of the chasm of insanity that he is steadily slipping into. I love both Sarah Landry, the protagonist in The Lost Village and Roxanne Templeton the protagonist in The Holocaust Opera because of their tremendous courage in the face of overwhelming odds. I don’t think I hate any of my characters. They are all fallible human beings and I have only empathy for them. Monsters populate some of my stories, but one cannot hate monsters for the things they do. They’re monsters.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
For me, the hardest part of writing any book is writing a good enough story and doing it in a rhythm of language that engages the reader.
Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?
The Holocaust Opera did require quite a lot of research. I went into it not really knowing much about the atrocities of the holocaust and I came away with an education. I try to make sure that the facts are straight in all my books. Fiction, of course, is the truth in the lies. And someone once said: “non-fiction doesn’t have to make sense, fiction does.” The length of time it takes me to write a book varies according to the size of the book and the complexity of the story I want to tell. Average about a year.
Describe your writing space.
A desk cluttered with papers and CDs and pens and pencils, a dictionary, a monitor and keyboard, an address book, a cup of coffee in the morning, a glass of wine in the evening.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Drink coffee and wine.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?
Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Anne Rice, the Bronte’s, Arthur Conan Doyle, Frank Herbert, Dan Simmons, Robert McCammon. A million more.
What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
I see e-books dominating the book market within five to ten years. And unlike a lot of people I think it’s a good thing. Dead tree books will never go away but e-books are the future. E-books are forever. They’ve been very good to me.
What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up for release?
Current books: The Haunting of Sam Cabot, The Lost Village, Servants of Darkness, The Fear, The Breath of Life, The Holocaust Opera. New books coming this year: Apocalypse Island, Soul Thief, and possibly: On the Night Wind which is not finished but close.
What is your marketing plan?
Doing interviews, like this one. I haunt the blogs and message boards like Kindle Boards. I use twitter and facebook and myspace, and Goodreads and every other social network available to me. My publisher also promotes my work on their site and at conventions and we advertise in magazines such as Dark Discoveries and Morpheus Tales.
What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Don’t quit. If you want it bad enough you stay with it. There are no failures in writing but there are a lot of quitters.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Here are some links: