- What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Mark David Major. I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri but I have lived for the last decade in Jacksonville, Florida in the United States.
- Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be?
I always wanted to be a writer but my career has been diverse because so many things fascinate me: architecture and urban planning, history and politics, academia and business, etc. The common thread running throughout my career has been my ability to write. Besides, at any early age, I realized disappointment was likely if I chose a career as an astronaut, baseball player, or President of the United States because: 1) I get motion sickness; 2) I can’t hit a fastball; and, 3) no sane person would ever want to be President of the United States in today’s world.
- When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
When I was in high school and started writing science fiction stories. However, I do not think the title “writer” officially applied until my play, The Persistence of Memory, was performed for a short 1992 run in the St. Louis area. At that point, the label could not be avoided.
- Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
I did not publish my first book, Mars Rising, until 2011. Before this, I was published multiple times in different venues including poetry magazines and anthologies, academic and professional journals, and newspapers. Mar Rising is only the second book I have written. When I was in my early 20s, I completed an unpublished spy novel entitled Flowers Are Not Requested. I still have the draft and might revisit the material sometime in the future but it’s not a priority right now.
- Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I am the Business Director of Starr Sanford Design. I am currently collaborating on an architecture book about the design philosophy of Julia Starr Sanford, which should be available in Spring 2012. People can get a sneak preview by visiting her firm’s website, www.starrsanforddesign.com, which I also designed.
- What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Mars Rising is my debut novel. I have a succinct three-word pitch: Romans in space.
- Who is your publisher? Or do you self publish?
I decided to self-publish using CreateSpace as ‘An Imprint of Carousel Productions’, which is my multi-media publishing and production company. The print version is available from CreateSpace and other online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million (List Price: $11.99). The NOOK Book version is also available from Barnes & Noble. Finally, Kindle eBook version is available from Amazon in North America, Germany, France and the United Kingdom (List Price: 0.99¢, subject to currency fluctuations).
- How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
It took only five months for me to write a complete draft of Mars Rising from start to finish. I originally had the idea for the story some 10 years before I actually started writing, so I had a lot of time to think about it before getting to work.
- Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
Mars Rising was infinitely easier to write than the unpublished Flowers Are Not Requested, if only because I wrote the latter on a typewriter! Writing is a much more enjoyable experience today thanks to Steve Jobs.
- What can we expect from you in the future? i.e. More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I am working on several book projects. We have nearly completed a draft of Julia Starr Sanford’s architecture book and it should be available in Spring 2012. I wrote the Introduction and several sections of the book, for which I am credited as co-author, in addition to doing all of the production/layout work. I am also working on a book entitled The Persistence of Memory and Other Plays, which should also be available in Spring 2012. It bring together for the first time in print three plays I wrote in the early 90s (The Persistence of Memory, The Truth of Glances, and Song of My Childhood). The book will include a new Introduction explaining the creative origins, literary influences, 1992 production of the title play (with production photos), and revisions/updates of all 3 plays. It will also include prefaces from the male and female leads of the 1992 production of The Persistence of Memory. All of these plays are dramas. I will also continue to publish poetry, as opportunities present themselves.
- Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Mars Rising is the first in a planned five-book series. I will start writing the sequel, Mars Ascending, in Spring 2012. I have begun discussions with an artist about collaborating on a graphic novel version of Mars Rising. I anticipate working simultaneously on the Mars Rising graphic novel and Mars Ascending so that they are both published around the same time, which is planned for early-to-mid 2013. I also plan to publish a revised version of Mars Rising in late 2012, adding a dozen illustrations by the graphic novel artist, correcting a few grammatical errors, and adding an omitted detail. This detail will not affect the story or characterizations in any way but would become somewhat glaring (at least, to me) upon publication of the graphical novel.
- What genre would you place your books into?
Mars Rising is science fiction/fantasy. The Persistence of Memory and Other Plays is stage drama.
- Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?
Mars Rising is definitely my favorite, which is why I plan to devote the time necessary for writing five books on the subject material.
- Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
The lead character in Mars Rising, u’Phophis Ran, is my favorite. I wanted to create a ‘mythical’ character at the origin of this five-book series so I purposefully left his motivations opaque to the reader. Ran’s story occurs within a sea of other characters whose motivations are quite explicit. However, I introduced enough about Ran so the reader can use their imagination to interpret his motivations. I expect these interpretations will vary from reader-to-reader based on their own experiences and sensibilities. Personally, I can’t wait to hear those interpretations. It is probably the writer’s equivalent of being a tease. It was fun for me to write and decide what to reveal, what to merely hint, and what should be left unsaid.
- How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I have been writing since my teens. As to who or what inspired me to be a writer, there is no succinct way to answer that question. Certainly, my mother instilled in me a love of reading from a young age, which was very important. I was also inspired by the classic science fiction writers. Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles would probably top of my list of influential books. However, I would also have to include Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings, and Frank Herbert’s Dune series. But this list would also be incredibly diverse and include such writers as J.K. Rowling, Piers Anthony, Shelby Foote’s three-volume Civil War history, James M. McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, the histories of David McCullough and Stephen Ambrose, Stephen King’s The Stand, and the novels of James Herriot.
- Where do you get your book plot ideas from?
It could be from anywhere but I have found that history is an inexhaustible source of ideas, taking historical people and events and re-imagining it in an entirely different setting. Of course, a writer can also never go wrong by stealing from William Shakespeare.
- Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?
Yes, a second set of eyes on the material is crucial. If anything, I wish more people would read my drafts before they are published. I am thick-skinned and I can handle constructive criticism. I am wise enough to know when criticism is valid and needs to be addressed. I am confident enough to know when criticism is invalid and can be safely ignored.
- Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
Yes, though it depends on where the review will be published and the expected circulation.
- Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
- What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
A reviewer of the 1992 production of The Persistence of Memory wrote, “the play was as good as some of Eugene O’Neil’s worst plays.” By the time I read the review, I was so exhausted from directing and overseeing every aspect of the production that I was happy to accept the complimentary comparison and ignore its backhanded nature. So far, all of the reviews I have read for Mars Rising have been positive (knock on wood).
- How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books? Who designed the Cover of your books?
I have degrees in Architectural Design so designing the Covers of my books is one of the things I enjoy the most. I always try to design a thought-provoking, visually powerful Cover that is somehow related to the material. For Mars Rising, the Cover is a montage of NASA photographic imagery of Mars and Earth, transformed into a painting using Abode Photoshop with the color/contrast enhanced to give the planetary detail of Mars an almost three-dimensional quality. The layout makes it appear as if Mars is rising from beneath the Cover into the foreground of the image with the Earth and a tiny ‘star’ representing Venus in the background.
- How do you market/promote your books?
I rely upon social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), blogs, and traditional methods such as press releases, interviews, and promotional flyers/business cards to market the book. I may entertained the possibility of a publicist at some point in the future if I think there is value in that approach.
- What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller?
I don’t really care. Write what you love, something you firmly believe will withstand the test of time, and the rest will take care of itself. Eventually, what you write will find an audience. I believe setting out to write a “bestseller”, or what others consider popular, is a recipe for writing garbage.
- Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I have suffered from writer’s block but it has an easy solution: do something else. If you distract or distance yourself from the problem by concentrating on something else, the solution will usually present itself, probably when you least expect it.
- What do you do to unwind and relax?
Watching TV or movies, reading, spending time with friends, playing with my dog Izzy, playing tennis or swimming.
- Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
Yes, to varying degrees. It’s easiest to write the visual descriptions of a character based on someone I know or have known. I have also used people or events from real life in my writing though the characters are always better/worse than the reality, and the drama of the real events was much less melodramatic than in the writing.
- Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
Yes, each chapter in Mars Rising is prefaced by a poetic augury, which provides clues about future events and actions in the narrative to the reader. Those clues may refer to events in Mars Rising or the subsequent books but I’m not telling. I want to hear readers debate about what they think these auguries means.
- Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and J.R.R. Tolkien would be the first names that come to mind.
- Which format of book do you prefer: ebook, hardback, or paperback?
I prefer paperback, something substantial I am hold in my hand but not so bulky that it’s inconvenient to carry around.
- What is your favourite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury has a profound effect on me as a teenager because Bradbury’s narrative possessed a lyrical quality to me. However, if the standard is reading a book more than once, than it would be The Stand by Stephen King or the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is fast moving up the number of re-reads list.
- Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst book to movie transfer?
It just depends on a variety of decisions (script, casting, director, production design, and so on). Oddly enough, the best (not necessarily my favorite) book-to-movie transfer I’ve seen was Pet Sematary. I did not find King’s novel to be scary at all and something of a dud. However, I was amazed that the film scared the crap out of me. My favorite would probably be Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy if only because, like so many people, I thought Tolkien’s books could not be credibly filmed.
- What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it? (ebook, hardback or paperback)
I have been extremely busy so I am stuck on Philip K. Dick’s The Unteleported Man (1964) in paperback. It’s not that it’s uninteresting but I can’t seem to find any time to read these days.
- Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
Yes and no: I believe most books will migrate to ebooks but many people will still want a printed version. I envision a time in the near future when printed books have become an on-demand industry. The publishers who are ready for this change will thrive and the dinosaurs holding onto the way things used to be will perish.
- Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
In the United States, I think it depends on whether it is a public or private school and even then, standards will vary from one public school to another. Having taught from every grade level from 4th grade to university (including at the University College London), the state of American public schools is extremely troubling to me.
- Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
I have tried and tried to read Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. Sometimes I have been known to bookmark a page, leave the book for weeks, months even years, and then pick it up right where I left off with no problem. I have to admit Captain Corelli's Mandolin defeated me. I just check my copy and it isn’t even bookmarked anymore. It does look like I gave up around age 120. I fully expect I will never read it.
- Is there anything in your book/books you would change now if you could and what would it be?
There is one, little descriptive detail I want to add into the text of Mars Rising that I wish I had originally included. It does not affect the story or characterizations in any way but it will bug me until I publish the revised version next year.
- What do you think about book trailers?
I love them. I designed, wrote and edited seven teaser and book trailers for Mars Rising available on the Official Sovereignty Channel on YouTube. Visit http://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialSovereignty to watch them. There are also four of my telepoems available on the same channel of YouTube. You can also view the latest book trailer on the index page of The Official Website of Mars Rising by Mark David Major at http://www.thesovereignty.com/.
- What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Read a lot, love what you are writing, and believe in yourself.
- Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
I do not currently use a pen name. I would only consider using a pen name if I felt my name had become something of a brand for a particular genre or style of writing and I wanted to do something different, completely free of the baggage associated with that ‘brand’.
Where can readers follow you?
The Mars Rising Facebook page or my Twitter account is the best source for day-to-day information and thoughts. For more detailed information, visit The Official Website of Mars Rising by Mark David Major at http://www.thesovereignty.com/. I have also started to post poetry and other writings on Write & Share at http://www.writeandshare.co.uk/members/markdavidmajor/. Finally, you can also find blogs of longer length by me on HubPages at http://markmajor.hubpages.com/.
Your blog details? http://www.thesovereignty.com/blog.html
Your web site? http://www.thesovereignty.com/
Your Facebook page? http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mars-Rising/228990690455278
Your Goodreads author page? http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/6953633-mark-david
Your Twitter details? @markdmajor
And any other information you wish to supply?
Mars Rising available from CreateSpace (List Price: $11.99) at https://www.createspace.com/3640943. Like the Mars Rising Facebook page and receive a discount code for 20% off the list price from CreateSpace.