Interview: Five Minutes With Mark West

Today we have an old Ginger Nuts Favourite, Mark West , mark is one of those rare breed of authors whose prose lives and breathes on the page.  I like to think of his writing as horror with a soul.

 Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

My name’s Mark West, I’m in my early forties (which explains, partly, my fascination with the eighties that permeates a lot of my work), I love the horror genre and I’m Dad to a brilliant little Dude, who keeps me on my toes and keeps me laughing (and is now giving me story ideas).  I write what I hope are scary stories, sometimes short ones, sometimes novellas and even, occasionally, a novel.

Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?

I don’t mind, I think all three are perfectly valid though if I were to describe myself, I’d say I was a horror writer.  Weird Fiction, for me, is a bit more fantasy orientated and Dark Fiction is what I would say described a lot of the great crime fiction that’s being written now.
Who are some of your favourite authors?

I have a long list – how much time do we have?  I’m very lucky in that a lot of my writer friends are really starting to make their mark now, so books that are appearing in my top ten of the year are by people I know and chat with in real life.  A quick list (and as soon as I send this email, I’ll think of a dozen more) – Robert McCammon, Clive Barker (Books Of Blood/Damnation Game era), Stephen King, Mark Illis (he wrote a terrific short novel called “My Chinese Summer” but doesn’t seem to do much nowadays), Sue Moorcroft (who writes wonderful chick-lit fiction), Gary McMahon, Simon Bestwick, Steve Bacon, Conrad Williams, Michael Marshall Smith, Alison Littlewood, Adam Nevill, Graham Joyce, Robert B Parker, Claire Massey – oh, the list goes on.
What are you reading now?

I am currently reading John Llewellyn Probert’s “The 9 Deaths Of Dr Valentine” (which I’m really enjoying) and Gary Larson’s “Far Side Gallery 2”.  Next up is Mark Morris’ “Vampire Circus”, then a critique of the new novel from my friend Sue Moorcroft.
 Which book do you wish you had written?

Overall, I’d go with “Boys Life”, by Robert McCammon, which is – quite simply – a masterpiece.  I adore coming-of-age tales, I love books about childhood and that sometimes difficult transition into young-adulthood and this book has the lot.  I read it in 1997 and it’s stayed with me so strongly that I’ve never gone back to re-read it, though I’d love to.  More recently, I’d say “Last Days” by Adam Nevill which is a fantastic book, about film-making, cults and the 70s and features some of the scariest sequences I’ve read in years.
How would you describe your writing style?

I honestly couldn’t tell you – as a reviewer, you’d perhaps be better placed to explain it.  Having said that, I’ll occasionally read something back in draft and think “yes, I can see me in that” but I couldn’t explain it.  I try to be straightforward, to explain what I can see – and want the reader to see – and keep things moving.
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I don’t have a typical day really, in so much as I don’t write every day and haven’t done for a long, long time.  I’ll plan and plan, then decide to get cracking and on those kinds of days, I can write two or three thousand words without really thinking about it.  As for unusual habits, I don’t think I have any, except that I don’t have a problem where I write – it can be at home or at work, during my lunch-break, with all the attendant noise around me.  The only thing I can’t do is write longhand – my handwriting is terrible and I’d “lose the spark” transcribing the text onto my laptop.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

“The Mill”, which originally appeared in the Gary McMahon edited “We Fade To Grey” and has subsequently been re-published as an ebook and paperback by Greyhart Press.  I had been stuck deep in a writers block that bound me up for two years following the birth of my son and Gary pulled me out of it, by asking for the story.  We’d suffered a family tragedy a few years before and that was playing on my mind (I wanted to write something darkly supernatural, which wasn’t how my writing was going before the event) and it occurred to me that I could perhaps lay some of the issue to rest if I explored it and so that’s what I did.  I used a lot of real locations, I used a lot of things that people said to me and I think that made it as real as it was possible to have a piece of fiction.  Most of the reviews that I’ve had comment that it’s both frightening and heartbreakingly sad and that’s as much as I could ever wish for a piece of work – it was tough to write and it’s not something that I really ever look back on but it helped me, both in ‘real life’ and as part of my writing, so I have a great affection for it.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?

My last publication was “What Gets Left Behind”, which was the seventh chapbook in the series from Spectral Press.  There’s a serial killer, called the Rainy Day Abductor, a lot of eighties references and it’s told in two strands – in 1981, we see Mike and Geoff chased into a warehouse by a bully where they make a terrifying discovery and in the present day, when Mike goes back to make his peace.
I was really pleased to be asked to be part of the Spectral line-up and I decided it was a good chance to explore some of my love (see answers above) for coming-of-age, childhood stories and I had a lot of fun writing it.  Thankfully, that fun seems to have translated into the writing because I’ve received some good reviews from it.
At the moment, I’m working on some asked-for short stories, then I plan to put together some novel pitches.  Beyond that, we’re working on “ill at ease 2” (I’m editing my story for that at present) and I’m supervising one of the Hersham Horror anthologies – mine is about sleazy horror, all good stuff!
Cheers Jim!
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