My Writing Life: Mark Dawson
I’ve always wanted to write. My first book was a 25,000 word sci-fi story that I put together on BBC Micros when I stayed late at school. It was dreadful, of course, but it was a great start. Was there a particular book? Not really. It was more a love of reading everything and anything but, when I was older, I’d point to books like The Stand, American Psycho, Money and the Thomas Covenant series.
Where do you get your story ideas?
Newspapers are a pretty fertile source of ideas. My John Milton series deals in contemporary events, and so recent stories from Somalia and Iraq have been fruitful in providing me with ideas for plot and setting. Relevant non-fiction is brilliant when you are in the drafting. My present novel is set in Basra and so I’m reading the excellent Red Zone by Oliver Poole. And then, of course, there’s TV and film. My Soho Noir series has been described as a cross between The Sopranos and The Talented Mr. Ripley, and that’s something I’ll happily take to the bank.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Write. Write. Write. And then do it again.
Where do you usually write?
On the train. I commute to London at the moment and I have never found a better spot to get stuff done. It’s 3 hours every day, too, and so I can easily plough through 5,000 words a day.
Do you believe in Writer’s Block?
No. If you’re out of ideas, go for a walk. We have a dog and some beautiful fields very close (we live in Wiltshire in England) and I found a bit of exercise usually works wonders. I was struggling with a tricky plot point this morning and it was solved by the time I was back for breakfast.
What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?
I love thrillers, sci-fi and fantasy, but I can be tempted to read just about anything. Guilty pleasures? A friend recently dabbled in chick lit and I was pleased to find that I quite enjoyed that. Who doesn’t like a happy ending?
What made you decide to self-publish?
I was traditionally published at the start of my career and although I received generous advances I was disillusioned by a lack of marketing, no input on covers, that sort of thing. Self-publishing blows all of those up once and for all. Now, I am responsible for getting the books out and making readers aware of them. I have final say on the covers, although I am blessed to work with a professional who has designed UK covers for Stephen King and John Le Carre, among many others. And then, of course, there is the immediate contact with readers that I never had before. True story: I once found a copy of Subpoena Colada in a second hand book shop with a handwritten note of comments about what worked and what didn’t work. I wish I could have met that person, because she was spot on. I do get to meet that person now – I get emails from readers nearly every day and I love it.
Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?
I don’t think you can trick or game your way to success. Readers are not dumb and you will be found out. You have to write well. That’s a given. You have to have a great cover and your blurb needs to rock. The first few pages are going to be read as previews, so make sure that you start with really strong writing (and then don’t let up). I make a point of nurturing my email list and I will always respond to emails from people who get in touch. That’s not a chore – I defy you to find a writer who doesn’t get a thrill every time someone tells them that they’ve enjoyed their new book. I bet JK Rowling still feels that way. I know I do.
Why do I want to publish on Kobo?
Because I want as many people as possible to read my books, in markets where other retailers struggle to make headway. As a British author with a long standing fondness for WH Smith (fostered during a childhood spent exchanging hard won pocket money for magazines for my Spectrum and Commodore 64), I’d get a real thrill to be sold through them. Oh, and Canada rocks.
You can also find Mark:
On facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markdawsonauthor
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/pbackwriter