Friday, December 19, 2014

Meet - Mark Healy

Pinky's is pleased to have Mark Healy on the blog today. For those of you who follow Pinky's Favorite Reads, I reviewed Mark's novel After the Winter a few weeks ago.

Sit back and see what Mark had to say ...

What inspired you to start writing, and when?
I’ve been writing since a very young age.  One of my favourite things to do as a kid was to staple together sheets of paper and write stories and accompanying illustrations which I’d sell to my mum.  The motivation back then was the same as it is now – I just love to create.  I get a real buzz out of the whole process, and I love the feeling of satisfaction when a project comes together at the end of it all.

Tell us your latest news?
I have lots of things on the boil right now!  The next book in my Silent Earth series, ‘The Seeds of New Earth’, is coming out on December 22, 2014.  I’m currently writing the third and final instalment, as well as bringing the album version of ‘After the Winter’ together for my Hibernal project.  I’m working with some voice actors right now, and I’m very excited about where that’s headed.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest work?
My latest release is a novel called ‘After the Winter’, which is the first in the Silent Earth trilogy.  This series follows the story of Brant, a synthetic human who survives the apocalypse that wipes out mankind.  Brant is on a quest to bring humanity back into the world, all the while trying to evade the cannibalistic Marauders who are seeking to use his body to prolong their own lives.  The book also deals with themes such as despair, loss and hope as Brant explores his own ideas of what it means to be human.

How long did it take you to complete?
This novel actually began its life as a short story for my Hibernal music project at the start of 2014, and was only about 2500 words in that format.  I loved the story so much that I decided to write a novel about it, and by that time I already had a very good grip on the themes and the characters I wanted to explore.  I wrote the first 90K draft in only six weeks, and then spent another month polishing and revising it based on some feedback from my beta readers.

Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?
The character of Zade is based very much on my son Hayden, who is an energetic three year old who loves pretty much anything life throws at him.  He’s always laughing and smiling – except for when he’s chucking a tantie.

Tell us about your cover. Did you design it yourself?
I’ve designed the cover for all three books in the Silent Earth series.  I’m definitely not a great artist, so the final product was the result of a lot of trial and error and experimentation.  To get the end result, I brought together a bunch of stock images and stacked them into one image, using a few blending techniques in Photoshop to make them all look like they belonged together – colour matching, using grunge textures over the top, gradients etc.  Once again, it was something I enjoyed doing so I didn’t feel the weeks I put into it were wasted.

Where did you get the inspiration for your cover?
There are a few basic principles you want to adhere to when designing a book cover: it needs to catch the eye, it needs to clearly identify the genre, and it needs to look good as a thumbnail (as most prospective buyers will first see it that size before they decided to click on it).  Keeping that in mind, I simply played around until I got something I liked.  I did go through a lot of concepts that didn’t work before arriving at the final image.  I also posted a work in progress over on Kboards where a lot of other writers hang out, and they gave me some good feedback on grunging up the font and a few other finishing touches.

Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants?
I am definitely a plotter.  The scary thing is, I have been writing novels for over twenty years and I only just realised I was a plotter when writing ‘After the Winter’.  When I was 18 years old (long before Google) I read somewhere that authors never have the whole plot fleshed out when they start writing, so I took that approach with my own work.  Unfortunately, this led me to a lot of failed projects as I became unhappy with the direction of the story, sometimes after I’d already spent months writing.

As I mentioned before, with ‘After the Winter’ I already had the plot largely outlined through the short story – I knew my characters, their motivations, the plot arcs, and everything else.  That allowed me to be very true to my vision right from the start.  After that, I felt a bit silly that I’d never figured out before that I’m a ‘plotter’.  Better late than never!

Do you have any advice for other writers starting out?
My advice to beginners would simply be to keep writing.  Like anything else, it’s a skill.  My first novel was rubbish – terrible pacing, paper-thin characters and clich├ęs all over the place.  But I learned through the process and the second novel was better, and they’ve continued to get better as I go.  I’m still improving now.  The great thing in the new world of self-publishing is that there’s nothing to stop new writers reaching an audience.  Anyone can write a story and have it published.  I would add the caveat that writers should still use some self-moderation – keep your standards high and publish only what deserves to be published.  Readers won’t respond well to poor writing, and in the end you’ll only damage your name and your brand.  Hire an editor and a proofreader to make the finished product shine.

Ok, now some fun questions….

Coffee or Tea?
Definitely coffee!  We have one of those Nespresso thingies at home and I couldn’t live without it.

White Chocolate, Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?
Usually milk chocolate, sometimes white chocolate, but rarely dark – it’s too bitter for a sweet tooth like me.

What is your favourite colour?
I’m gonna go with violet for that one.

Winter or Summer?
Given the humidity in the Brisbane summer right now, that’s an easy one – winter!!

If you could have one superpower what would it be?
Super-Patience, so I could deal with the two small super villains who live with me –Destructo Boy and SmashGirl

If you could be somebody else for a day who would you choose and why?
My wife, so that I could bask in the radiance of such a wonderful husband for a few hours.  Uh, ok, all jokes aside, maybe Adam Jones from the band Tool.  I think it would be great to play with musicians like that and experience the thrill of rocking a big crowd with some great tunes.

What are three things you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?
My pants.  I always remember those, except for the few occasions when I don’t.  I also like to carry a surly disposition around with me as it keeps people out of my way.  I also take a hankie around everywhere, which isn’t very manly, but it was a habit encouraged by my mother from an early age that I haven’t been able to shake yet.

Are you a technology buff (i.e have every electronic gadget known to man)?
I work in a very technical IT job so I have to say yes to that, but I’m also a tightwad so I’m very choosy about how many gadgets I buy.  I buy a few guitar pedals here and there, and I recently splashed out on some nice headphones and studio monitors for recording and mixing my music.

What is a movie or TV show that you watched just recently and enjoyed?
I saw a really good low budget sci-fi movie called ‘Coherence’.  It’s about a group of friends at a dinner party who experience a blackout during the passing of a comet.  When they go outside to investigate, they find that only one house in the street has its lights on – and when they go to check it out, strange things begin to happen to their own house.  It’s really well plotted and keeps you guessing and I highly recommend it.

If you want to check out my review of After the Winter, Click Here