Sunday, October 07, 2012
Mark Lawrence
By OFW Editor: Michael Keyton
Published: September 17, 2012

Accomplishment: Mark Lawrence is a research scientist working in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments, and brews beer - which may or may not make you intelligent. His debut novel, 'The Prince of Thorns' is the first volume in a powerful new epic fantasy trilogy, 'original, absorbing and challenging.'

The guy looked defiant, the way Sheri liked it.

“I’ll answer your first seven questions,” he said. “You’ll get nothing else from me.”

Sheri looked at him. “You’ll talk until I tell you stop.” She licked ruby glossed lips and leant closer. “And that might be some time.”

Does bestseller mean good writer?

The word ‘good’ is open to interpretation. Clearly a bestseller is good at writing books that lots of people want to read. Bestsellers are, I suspect, always good storytellers for their demographic. For the general public writing is a story-delivery medium, not an end in itself. I know this but I don’t care. I want to be a writer who authors that I admire will call a good writer.

- I love the power and poetry of language. I want what I write to be powerful on a line-by-line basis – to be able to create images and moments that will blow people away. Bestsellers can just be wish fulfilment for the masses. There’s not the slightest thing wrong with that and clearly it’s lucrative. I want to be a good storyteller too, but my first love has always been trying to work magic with words on the small scale. That’s my particular take on ‘good’. For me you can spot a good writer after reading a page – many bestsellers look pedestrian on the basis of a single page, but win the reader over with the tale as a whole. That of course is a rare and valuable talent.

To agent or not to agent? Why or why not?

Agent. Because I’m not in the least bit interested in all the necessary stuff they do, and I would be no good at it. My agent got me a big advance and a 3-book deal with Ace/Penguin within 6 weeks of my signing with him. That’s worth 15%. Two months earlier I had 15% of nothing and no path whatsoever to the people who eventually bought my book. In addition my agent has sold my book into 14 other languages – that’s not something I could have achieved nor would I relish the negotiations in the cases when foreign publishers approach me out of the blue – it’s a great comfort to forward their emails to my agent and get on with writing.

In terms of digital publishing do you think paperbacks will ever be collectible and what would you start collecting now?

I’ve no idea. I have hundreds upon hundreds of books but I’ve never been a collector. I don’t treat my books well. They’re just there to read. So I’ve no insights into the business of picking and choosing titles that might appreciate. As to whether paperbacks will ever become so rare because of e-books that they become collectable . . . again I plead ignorance. I’m a dinosaur. I’ve never read an e-book. I like to hold a proper book and slide it onto the shelf when I’m done. And although I get significantly more royalties from an e-book sale than from a hardcopy, emotionally I much prefer the idea of other people holding and owning hardbacks and paperbacks of mine than having my work simply occupy some invisible electronic space on their kindle.

Would you see it as an exciting or a retrograde step if digitisation encouraged writers to choose sound and pictures to augment their words?

Hmmm. Well aren’t they just called picture books when you stick piccies in them? You don’t need electronics for that. I seem to recall when I got a copy of Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara back in 1979 there were half a dozen pictures in it. And way back in 1910 or whatever before the talkies we used to add a lot of text to our movies . . . so adding movies to our text, or sounds or whatever . . . it wouldn’t be that ‘out there’. Retrograde sounds like a condemnation – I wouldn’t condemn any experiment along those lines, that would be silly. On the other hand I’ve no inclination to pursue such paths myself either as a reader or writer.

Has a book every made you angry. If so, which one?

I’ve been riled by how badly written some books are. Like many people I’ve been prompted to say, “I could write better than this crap!” and to marvel at how a book got published. I guess I should thank those books for goading me into putting up or shutting up.

The only other times books have made me angry is when I’m so swept up in them that the hurts done to the main character leave me furious with the character doing those hurts. That’s pretty rare – it takes a very good writer to get me railing against their ‘baddie’. It has happened but I really can’t remember the particulars. I think I was pretty close to it with some part of Robin Hobb’s excellent Assassin series.

Which four literary characters would you like to invite to dinner, and why?

I guess I should have picked my questions after all as I’m as stumped by this one as I was by #4. I’m not at all sociable. I like to eat alone. Having to mix it with four literary characters at dinner would not be a pleasure, whoever they were. I guess I’d pick four who kept their mouths shut and didn’t hog the good stuff. Roland Deschain (Dark Tower), Judge Dredd (2000AD), Ser Ilyn Payne (Game of Thrones), Miss Havisham (Great Expectations).

Is self publishing the new 'slush-pile’?

I guess it might be. There’s certainly no stopping (or reason to stop) people from publishing their own work. It’s self evident that the books that do well as self-published works have appeal to the readers. What proportion of these sales are a reflection of the authors’ genius for self-marketing and what proportion reflect their intrinsic quality is of course an unknown. Clearly work that flounders in the self-pub market is not always going to fail if it taken on by a big publisher. But yes, it’s certainly a baptism in fire for any book and I’m sure that the trend for publishers to pick up self-published authors who have proven themselves this way will continue. I know it’s a model that has worked very well for Michael Sullivan and his Riyria series.

“That’s seven,” Sheri said. The smile was venomous. "I want more." She turned the wheel a good half inch and opened her mouth as though breathing in the sudden hoarse scream. I stopped her in time.

“Guy’s a research scientist,” I said.

Sheri seemed less than impressed.

“He does top secret stuff for the American government, kid. Our government.”

There was disappointment in her face, concern, too. Sheri Lamour was a patriot.

"So long as I keep the book."

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