Writer of the Month
To celebrate the sixth year of the fantastic upcoming Alt.Fiction Festival for writers and readers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, Writing East Midlands is featuring four Alt.Fiction writers as the March Writer’s of the Month.
Alt. Fiction will bring together some of the UK’s leading talent in the genre, and present a full programme of readings, panels, workshops, podcasts and much more, giving you the chance to hear from your favourite authors, find out more about the world of publishing and learn about the writing process. Alt.Fiction will take place over the 14th and 15th of April at the Phoenix Digital Arts Centre in Leicester, and is a weekend not to be missed for book lovers and budding writers, for more information please see here.
A two-time winner of the British Fantasy Award, Mark Chadbourn is the author of fourteen novels and one non-fiction book.
CRITICS have praised Mark Chadbourn for the astonishing detail and realism he brings to his novels. The reason: the kind of research most people would go out of their way to avoid. For his first novelUnderground, set in an isolated mining community, he worked hundreds of feet beneath the earth, crawling along tunnels barely two feet high, experiencing the same kind of brutal lifestyle as his coal miner characters.
His current fantasy trilogy, The Age of Misrule (World’s End, Darkest Hour and Always Forever) has received acclaim not only for its detail, but also for its academic research. An expert on British Folklore, Mark also studied volumes of research on prehistoric Britain, including the sites of Stonehenge, Avebury and Tintagel, as well as Celtic culture and neolithic life. He spent six months on the road touring Britain, mapping out a detailed path for his characters to follow, including not only famous historical sites, but also industrial estates, pubs, cafes, shopping centres and more. It’s possible to use these three volumes as a travel guide to the UK.
Mark hails from the Midlands and a long line of miners. He now lives in the heart of a forest where he indulges his passions for environmental campaigning and magic.
Writing East Midlands caught up with Mark and chatted about his writing:
“? Can you tell me a bit about your recent project/book?
I’m writing a series of swashbuckling Elizabethan fantasies set in the shadowy spaces between real historical events. The central character is Will Swyfte, one of Queen Elizabeth’s new spies. The spy network we now know through Spooks – MI5 and MI6 – was originally set-up during Elizabethan times and this series looks at the real reason why it was established. For public consumption, the Queen’s spies are tackling foreign enemies – usually the Spanish – and religious insurgents in England, but they’re mainly engaged with a terrifying supernatural threat against the Crown. So, if you will, this is about an Elizabethan James Bond…
The new book in the series, The Devil’s Looking Glass, is out from Random House/Bantam in April in large-format paperback, and the second book, The Scar-Crow Men, is just out in the smaller paperback size. The books feature many familiar characters from the time – Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, the court magician Dr John Dee, playwright Christopher Marlowe and more – and is set around major events of the time – the Spanish Armada, the murder of Marlowe and the expeditions to the New World. A massive amount of research was involved to make the stories historically accurate so this secret history could be weaved seamlessly amongst the real events of the time.
“? Being a writer based in the East Midlands, how do you feel about writing in the region and what Alt Fiction has to offer?
I have deep roots in the region – I was born here – and though I lived and worked in London for a while it was always my intention to come back. I find the East Midlands inspirational, the long history, the countryside, the industry and the people. It speaks to me on a deep level. I think because of its industrial heritage, which dominated for a long time, the region has often had an uneasy relationship with art – it’s never truly celebrated the creative people from this area, apart from big names like D H Lawrence. But in recent years that’s started to change, and I think a lot of the establishment are starting to recognise that there’s a very, very strong link between artistic life and prosperity. This has been proved time and again in other areas.
Alt Fiction is a major event, not just for the region, but also nationally. It’s a platform for some of the UK’s most popular writers, showcasing the wealth of creativity on offer, but also allowing readers to have access to them to talk and question and learn.
“? What inspires you as a writer?
Lots of very different things. I take a great deal of inspiration from the countryside, the further away from people the better! I like wild landscapes, and the sea, moors and hills. Stone circles, ancient sites, and prehistory also give me a charge. I wrote a great deal about these things in my Age of Misrule books. Apart from that, I love film and music. Music has always been a huge part of my life, and I always listen to it when I’m writing. I have very eclectic tastes – I’ll listen to just about anything. I used to play in bands, and I once ran a company managing bands and an indie record company.
“? * What would be your Desert Island book, and why?*
Little, Big by John Crowley. It’s a whimsical fantasy about a mysterious family living in a strange house, but like that house it has lots and lots of levels and hidden rooms and the more you delve into it, the more you get out. It’s a very dreamlike book and there’s always a sense that something is taking place just in the corner of your eye. It won the World Fantasy Award.
“? Can you tell us about your writing process, are you a detailed planner, or do you like to let an idea sweep you away?
I think detailed planning tends to suck the life out of a story. You really have to let the unconscious do the heavy-lifting – that’s where creativity lives. I work by plotting with ‘tent-poles’ – the beginning, the major events that need to happen along the way and the ending – and then leave lots of space around it for the unconscious’ ‘tent’.
“? What advice would you give to a writer wanting to get published in the genre market?
If you’re talking about mainstream publishing, as opposed to indie publishing or self-publishing, the most important thing is to understand the business and how it works. A lot of people have preconceptions that are completely wrong and will probably end up hampering their attempts to get published. Once you learn the business, then start to build contacts. Publishers get swamped in hundreds of manuscripts every week, from all over the world. It can be a lottery just getting read. But if you build contacts, you bypass a lot of that randomness. I’ll be giving a seminar about this at alt.fiction.
“? What are your future plans?
More books, some from Mark Chadbourn, some from a mysterious pseudonym who made the best-seller lists last year. For the last ten years or so I’ve been a screenwriter for BBC Drama, so I will probably be doing some more TV. I’m currently working on a film script too. So, keeping busy!
To view Mark’s profile on the Writing East Midlands Writer’s Database, please see here.