Sunday, May 27, 2012

Interview with Metallic Dreams author Mark Rice

  If  my character Sasha Jackson were real, and if Mark's character Spark MacDubh were real, I'm quite certain Sasha and Spark would me deep in the throes of a hot n' heavy romance!

Here's a bit more about Mark and Spark...

1.       It’s obvious that two of your passions are music and books.  If you had to give up the ability to see or the ability to hear, which would you choose and why?

If I had to lose one, it’d be the ability to hear (but I’m in no way tempting fate).  It would be horrific to deal with the loss of sounds I love: music, wind, the sea, laughter.  My mother had a deaf colleague who went to heavy metal concerts.  When music was loud enough he could feel its vibrations and experience it in that way.  I’d use that tactic and also extend it to other locations such as car and house; I’ve a pair of 100W Celestion speakers which can kick out monumental volume and bass.  The neighbours might not like it, but the Metal Gods would.  As far as blindness goes, it’d have a more detrimental effect on independence.  I’d have to give up many of the pursuits I enjoy: climbing, mountain biking, driving, reading, archery and Muay Thai, to name a few.  Deafness would cause less of a complete lifestyle overhaul.  Strangely enough, when I started listening to LOUD music at 10, my mother would often burst into my room shouting, “Turn that down or you’ll be deaf before you’re 20!”  When I turned 20, she had to revise her warning to, “Turn that down or you’ll be deaf before you’re 30!”  By the time I was 30, I had my own home.  Regardless, when my Mum was visiting and the music was loud, she’d shout, “Turn that down or you’ll be deaf before you’re 40!”  Sometimes, to wind her up, I’d boom, “WHAT?  YOU’LL HAVE TO SHOUT LOUDER, MA!  I THINK ALL THIS HEAVY METAL HAS MADE ME DEAF!”  She fell into the trap every time, replying, “I told you!  I warned you that would happen!”  Then she’d see me laughing and say, “You’re not funny, ya eejit!”

2.       What can you tell me about your current work in progress?  Will readers be seeing another Spark MacDubh (mis)adventure?

I’ve a few projects in the pipeline.  Spark and his gang of lovable degenerates will be back for sure.  I hadn’t planned on making Metallic Dreams a series, as the first book ties up all the loose ends.  When the characters started doing things in my mind again, though, I had to either document their actions or be driven crazy by them.  I chose the former.  Additionally, I’m half way through a novel that has nothing to do with Metallic Dreams.  Set on the remote Scottish island of Lewis, it’s a mystery which fuses science, religion, mythology and Scandinavian black-metal excess.  I’m also working on a shortish story (around 20,000 words) which revolves around the witch trials in Scotland.  As research for the story, I immersed myself in the University of Edinburgh’s database of Scottish witch trials.  While there, I discovered that four ancestors on my mother’s side had been tried for witchcraft.  I wasn’t able to go back in time and right those wrongs, but in my story I have no such restraints.  The plot is veering into some very dark places.  I’ve just launched my short story Revelation Was Wrong on Kindle.  It’s the tale of a drunken Scottish prophet who has never predicted anything correctly...until he prophesies the Apocalypse and things begin to unfold exactly as described.  The Kindle edition of A Blended Bouquet - a Writers Inc anthology which I compiled, edited and contributed to - will be launched any day now.  I put together the text, then Deena Rae Harrison Schoenfeldt, my superheroine at eBookBuilders, turned it into an e-book with gorgeous aesthetics.

3.       Clearly Douglas Adams was an early favourite, an early influence.  What other writers have had an impact on you?  What writers do you wish to emulate?

There aren’t any writers whom I want to emulate.  The more I write, the stronger my own voice becomes.  For me, that’s the point of everything: being true to oneself and carving as original a path as possible.  The work of Douglas Adams stimulated an epiphany in me (that writing can be profound, preposterous, clever and creative all at once).  Many other authors have affected the way I view the craft.  Key among them are Salman Rushdie, Robert Burns, Norman MacCaig, James Robertson, Umberto Eco, Markus Zusak, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Irvine Welsh, James Herbert, Stephen King, Ben Elton, Christopher Brookmyre, Bill Drummond, Mark Manning (aka Zodiac Mindwarp) and my father, Peter Rice, who had no interest in getting published, yet was as eloquent a poet as ever walked the planet.

4.       Satan Satan Satan.  The poor old Devil is forever maligned and vilified in literature and the arts.  What was fun-interesting-challenging about writing Beelzebub? 

For some reason, I find the Devil an easy character to write.  Effortless, in fact.  That probably says more about me than it does about the Horned One.  The fun part was opening myself up and channelling His Infernal Majesty onto the page.  Finding original ways of expressing and portraying Auld Nick was interesting and challenging.  I had a blast turning old Devil-related myths on their heads and creating my own dark folklore.

5.       You say you began scribbling stories at age five – wow!  You must have a drawer full of stories, synopses, and who knows what else.  What old, unfinished, or abandoned writing project would you like to finish someday?

My mother has most of those early stories.  A few are up in my loft.  Those early works are all complete, as I stuck with each project until it was finished.  One horror story I wrote in secondary school, at age 14, had a rushed ending.  I’d like to get my hands on that and give it an upgrade.  My English teacher was so badly affected by it that she contacted my parents and said, “I think your son has a disturbed mind.  If you’re in agreement, perhaps we should bring in a professional.”  My Dad’s response was, “Don’t talk gibberish, woman!  We’ve always encouraged him to let his imagination run wild.  And he has been reading a lot of James Herbert recently.”

6.       Social media – it’s how we “met”, so I have to bring it up.  How effective do you find social media in terms of book sales or reviews?  How much time do you spend on it?  What else do you have to say about social media for authors?

Social media is invaluable to authors.  I’ve met some talented writers, yourself included, through those channels.  I’ve also met some voracious readers who went on to enjoy my writing, review it and share with me the reactions it stirred up in them.  Some of these readers also took the time to write reviews.  It’s impossible to quantify the relationship between reviews and sales, but a glowing review certainly shouldn’t do any harm.  When something I’ve written provokes emotional and/or cerebral responses in a reader, inspiring him/her to contact me through social media channels, it’d be criminal to ruin that reader’s elation by being aloof and pretentious.  Those traits aren’t in my nature anyway, but solitude is; social media has guided me away from self-imposed marathons of creative solitude, as I don’t want readers and fellow writers to feel as though I’m neglecting them.  That’s the best thing and the worst thing about social media: it forces writers to be more social, which, generally speaking, doesn’t come naturally to folk who gravitate towards writing.  The most serious writers I know are reclusive by nature.  Those who refuse to become involved with social media are shooting themselves in the foot by limiting the potential audience they can reach.  True, they have fewer distractions and can focus fully on writing, but they also have a diminished accessibility to readers.  And what use is a literary masterpiece without readers?  If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?  Sometimes I spend too long on social media sites, logging on with the intention of saying hello, then getting involved in conversation and, before I know it, hours have flown past.  Perhaps the most successful strategy is to allocate specific times for writing and other times for being sociable.  When I announced on Twitter that Metallic Dreams was free on Kindle for one weekend, retweets went crazy, as did downloads.  The e-book hit #1 in two categories on Amazon UK and one category on Amazon US.  The knock-on effect was substantial, with the e-book staying at #1 on Amazon UK for over a week.  Twitter, facebook and goodreads had an impact on those figures.  You could say I’m a semi-reformed recluse.  I used to shut myself away for up to three weeks at a time, disappearing into an inner Universe which I spilled onto the page.  Now I don’t let a day pass without checking social media sites.  They have been good to me and I appreciate the platform they provide.

7.       If an aspiring author asked you for some advice, what is the one thing you would tell him or her?

Always be learning.  Never stop trying to master your craft.  Technically, that’s two things, but they’re very much intertwined.

8.       What is the most surprising thing about being a writer (and here I am referring specifically to since Metallic Dreams came out)?

The most surprising thing has been the openness and generosity of other authors, readers, musicians and people in the publishing industry.  This interview with you, Jill, is an example of that phenomenon.  Fellow writers RJ McDonnell, Maria Savva, Darcia Helle, Martin Treanor, Stuart Haddon, Jeff Dawson, Charity Parkerson, Mark Hegarty and the inimitable James Pettigrew voluntarily took time out of their busy schedules to read Metallic Dreams and write praise-filled reviews, as did metal blogger extraordinaire Jimmy McCarthy, Helle SØe Gade (a Danish woman who balanced out her glowing review by threatening to castrate me when, for fun, I mistranslated the Gaelic phrase oidhche mhath as ‘bitches in Denmark are easy’ {it actually means ‘goodnight to you’}) and other readers, many whose identities I don’t know.  I’m happy that the story resonated with them and I appreciate their reviews.  A sense of community exists among indie authors.  Charity Parkerson and Melissa Craig have me on their podcast regularly, even though the material I write is different to theirs.  We have a laugh on the show and everyone wins.  The energy I’ve received, and still receive, from Deena Rae Harrison Schoenfeldt would sound far-fetched if I described it in a work of fiction, yet it’s real.

9.       Which is easier/more fun to write: dialogue or description?

I have more fun with dialogue.  Mastering the phonetics of different accents adds authenticity to a story.  I enjoy playing around with regional dialogue, especially my own brand of Scottishness, and using it to infuse stories with warmth, passion and humour.

10    The last question is kind of a freebie: What is the one question you wish I had asked you, but didn’t?  Now go ahead and ask and answer that question.

Jill: When is the movie version of Metallic Dreams coming out?

Me: Do you hear that, Hollywood?  Jill Edmondson wants to see Metallic Dreams on the big screen.  Are you going to let her down?  No?  Well get your act together, fly me to the States and let’s make that movie.
Thank you for the interview, Jill.  Excellent questions.  Slàinte mhath to you and Sasha Jackson.

For more on Mark:

Metallic Dreams on AMAZON

Follow Mark on Twitter @Metallic_Dreams

Born in Glasgow, Scotland. Grew up in the new town of East Kilbride. Began scribbling stories at the age of five. At ten, discovered heavy metal and Douglas Adams. Never looked back. Rumours that he sold his soul to the Devil at a Scottish crossroads in exchange for literary flair may have been exaggerated. Then again, Robert Burns saw Satan in Scotland's Old Alloway Kirk...

Long-haired Scottish rock singer Spark MacDubh drops dead on a snow-covered street of his native Bronzehall, only to be jolted back to life by what he calls lightning from Heaven. Following Spark's resurrection, his sanity is stretched thin: during waking hours, he receives instructions from deities known as the Metal Gods; at night he is haunted by visions of a Devil who wields ultimate power over the music industry. Employing behaviour that swings between messianic and infernal, Spark gets his old band back together with a view to steering them towards greatness. The Devil, however, only grants success in exchange for souls. Unwilling to use his band's eternal souls as bargaining tools, MacDubh comes up with a preferable route to stardom: put the Devil out of commission for good. A simple idea but questionable in terms of practicality. For starters, it requires a trip to Hell, and only the right music can open the gateway to that dimension. Catch-22? More like Catch-666. 


  1. Great interview and we love Mark and the spark he has brought into our life.

  2. Great interview and we love Mark and the spark he has brought into our life.

  3. Yes I threatened to take an axe to his gonads, but I have forgiven him now, he's to charming not to. Awesome interview:)

  4. Fantastic one who reads Marks writing has any doubt he is a fantastic writer. He's a triple threat, intelligent, imaginative and thought provoking.

  5. Great interview. I absolutely love Mark's writing, and agree that Hollywood should take notice lol. I had to laugh, Mark, about your childhood experience and the 'disturbed mind' incident. I had a similar thing happen when I was in primary school and used to pretend there were ghosts haunting the school. So many of the other children believed it and I ended up being brought into the welfare ladies' office and had to explain myself lol. Looking forward to MDII of course, but also the story about witch trials as I am also interested in that type of thing. Thanks, as always for the kind mention, Mark :)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Thank you all for your lovely comments. Your support is hugely appreciated, as always. And it's a relief to know that my gonads are off the chopping block...

    1. for now...tomorrow could be another story completely.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Even a temporary reprieve will let me sleep soundly tonight.

  8. Great interview, Mark and Jill!

    Mark, your 'mistranslation' made me laugh. That's quite a leap in meaning!

    “I think your son has a disturbed mind." LOL! Your teacher was right, of course, but that's what makes you such a great writer. I loved your Dad's response.

    Thank you for the mention!

    Now I'm off to buy 'Revelation Was Wrong'. Why hadn't I seen this, yet? I'm so behind... Must go read now. :)