Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I have a treat to share. A while back, I had the pleasure to interview a wonderful author named, Wiz- oh I mean, Mark Barry. A good time was truly had by all, and here’s how it went down.
Toi Thomas: Hi there Mark! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ToiBox Blog. I’m excited to learn more about you and your work.
Mark: Hi Toi, lovely to be here and thank you for inviting me.
Toi Thomas: So tell me, who is Mark Barry?
Mark: I am a multi-genre author (the clever name for contemporary fiction). I have written nine novels, seven of which are currently in print. My latest book is a gangster thriller set in the UK called Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals, which is difficult to acronymise. It is currently my best seller in the US.
Two of my books sell respectably. I live in the UK (Midlands) and have one son, Matt, on the brink of University. I am the co-designer of the popular reluctant reader project, Brilliant Books.
I also write anthology fillers (and I mean that genuinely – when an anthology doesn’t fill, out comes my helpful friend) under the name Stefan Xerxes.
Toi Thomas: Well Mark, I can already tell we are going to have good time today. Your title may be hard to acronymise, but at least it’s one that sticks with you.
Toi Thomas: Now before we dive into your special message today, let’s get to know you, the person inside the author.
Toi Thomas: Who is so you and why?
Mark: When I was a kid, I was often compared to Roger The Dodger, a character from the British comic, the Beano. Roger would do anything to avoid chores and schoolwork. In his room was stored a book of dodges with every single excuse known to humankind. He was my favourite character and I spent most of my youth coming up with great dodges. Well, up till I was thirty seven, actually. Kids stop the dodges in their tracks, Toi!
Toi Thomas: I’m sure they do Mark. I don’t have children of my own, but my nieces and nephews always seem to find ways of putting me to work.
Toi Thomas: Though I think I have a pretty good idea, tell me; what makes you geek out?
Mark: I’m a huge comic collector. I’ve been collecting since I was ten. I collect Batman, Master of Kung Fu, Black Panther, Swamp Thing, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Flash and all that stuff. I somehow managed to buy 96-150 of X-Men in NM at cover price, so that’s why I’m not going to publish my address online any time soon. Love comics.
Toi Thomas: blink blink OOO, what! 😮
I don’t blame you Mark. With a stash like that you can’t be too careful. Though I still keep up to date with all the characters I love to follow, my collecting days have taken a back seat to my writing interest, though I haven’t completely abandoned them and never will.
Toi Thomas: If comics are your thing, it makes me wonder; what was your favorite book or story, pre-teen years?
Mark: Lord of the Flies by William Golding. What a terrific book and suitable for all ages. Piggy’s fate is an allegory which has never been equalled. I also read Lord of the Rings as a kid and since then, have never read another fantasy book. Why bother? How can that be equalled?
Toi Thomas: Starting on a brief tangent here, I love how we say the same things in the same language and yet they are not spelled the same. This always tickles me whenever I interview someone from the other side of the pond…
Now as for Lord of the Flies, it scared me as a kid, but I guess that’s the point. I don’t think enough of the newest generations have read it and thus society has suffered. Oh and it would be quite a feat to outshine Lord of the Rings.
Toi Thomas: In terms of interviews, whose brain are you just itching to scratch?
Mark: Jim Starlin, the comics genius. He invented so many great characters, particularly Warlock (my favourite of all time), Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora (the deadliest woman in the whole galaxy) and Pip the Troll – unfairly airbrushed out of Marvel history – a degenerate smuggler and criminal. I’d talk about his seventies work, which is unparalleled. Along with Don McGregor, who wrote the seminal, novelesque “Panther”s Rage”, Starlin revolutionised comics and laid the groundwork for writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller a decade later.
Toi Thomas: Geez Mark, are you trying to make my head explode. All your comic knowledge is just too cool for me. I’d heard of Pip before but didn’t know much about him, plus no visual sprang to mind. I think it would be cool to attend a comic book apprenticeship to learn from greats like him, just how to write and draw characters and stories the way they do. But now I’m getting off topic.
Toi Thomas: Now that we know a little more about you, the person, let’s learn about you the author, and dive into your special message.
Toi Thomas: So whacha got for me today?
Mark: Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals. This link contains everything a reader may like to know about my book. It’s a gangster story set in the Midlands of the UK.
Toi Thomas: All I can say it wow! Please if you are reading this, check out Mark’s link. You’ll be so glad you did.
Toi Thomas: You covered this already a little, but tell me anyway. Who’s starring is this 2 dimensional script read of Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals?
Mark: Terry Valentine is a loser. A bum and an ex-con who finds himself driving an escort to meet her tricks. He’s fat, washed up and addicted to designer drugs.
Chloe, is the escort, half his age, impossibly beautiful, amoral and bisexual, whose motives for doing the “job” are unclear.
Neville Gant is her boss. A manipulative, cunning and Machiavellian pimp who Terry hates from schooldays.
The other main character is the city itself – and the people who live in it.
Toi Thomas: Simply based on the characters, I can tell this isn’t a story for “the masses”, but that’s not to say there isn’t a huge audience for this. It’s like those people who say they “love” comic books and then rant about the violence in a Deadpool or Sin City Comic. There’s an audience for imaginative grit like this. Nice.
Toi Thomas: Tell me, what’s so special about this story that’s going to reel in the readers?
Mark: There is nothing like this out there. Whether that’s a good thing or not is another matter. It’s partly written in British slang, with Cormac McCarthy lack of “speech marks”. Indie tends to be very conformist and genre-led and I like to try new stuff.
This is a thriller, a romance, and a look at the world in which we live and a commentary on the relationship between the rich and the poor in the UK. Early reviews are positive. It is also an extraordinarily fast read – essential in today’s day and age.
Toi Thomas: What is this British slang you speak of? That’s enough right there to entice me. I’m always curious about what I call “how the real people of a nation actually speak.” I like to try new things as well, but am afraid I tend to chicken out…I keep trying though.
Toi Thomas: Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?
Mark: I write straight onto the computer. I sometimes lay out my books in a little Hardy-esque notebook, but mostly not. It’s all in my head. I write in my living room (I live alone) in a small apartment (one day, Toi, one day!). I used to smoke sixty a day, especially at my desk, but now I nibble (and not carrots either). I work from November to March and read from April to September. I cannot read the work of others and write at the same time. I write one book a year. That’s a sustainable figure. I like writing in candlelight. I listen to all sorts – currently seventies disco music, the soundtrack to my latest work.
Toi Thomas: So not quite the fabulous life of a well-to-do bachelor, but not too shabby either. Cutting back on smoking must at least feel good. Have you considered dipping carrots into sweet dark chocolate? They it’s the milk chocolate that’s really bad for you. Oh, but wait…you write one book a year! You must be doing something right. Eat and smoke whatever you want. 😀
Toi Thomas: When you have time to reflect on things, what author(s) do you feel have most influenced your writing? Why or how?
Mark: Martin Amis. No question. The greatest writer produced in these islands ever and I have considered that question for two decades. Money, London Fields and House of Meetings are unparalleled. I can never write like him, but I am inspired by his ideas and functional structures. I don’t follow 101 blogs or #writetips and neither does Amis. Otherwise, we’d all be writing the same book, Toi!
Toi Thomas: Thank you Mark for saying that. I admit that as a continually developing writing I do check out writing tips from time to time, but sometime I must put my foot down and say no. I don’t want to read cookie cutter books and I don’t want to write them either. I love your unique and unquestionable style and want to develop my own someday.
Toi Thomas: Sorry for my fight-the-system rant. Now this is where the questions get a little kooky; are you ready?
Mark: What’s the full SP
Toi Thomas: If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Mark: The Man Who Would Be King by John Huston. Based on the Rudyard Kipling story and starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery. It has me in floods of tears every time. A fantastic film.
Toi Thomas: You know, this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten this answer and I still haven’t watched this movie. I need to step up and experience this for myself.
Toi Thomas: When the soundtrack of your life is playing in your head, what songs express your glee and what songs bring out your rage?
Mark: I listen to Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and all that early heavy metal. I like Deftones and Slayer from later on. I like the Sex Pistols and The Ruts. Loud and fast. I also like (and this may come across as weird) seventies disco music (not sure why) like McFadden and Whitehead, Aint No Stopping Us Now. This music makes me happy. I’m not a fan of modern music at all, -who’s Kanye West/Lady Gaga? – but, then, I’m not supposed to be, am I? When I get merry, I listen to The Beatles – surely the best ever, Toi?
Toi Thomas: Don’t feel too bad. I find that people either love or hate disco; there’s only a few of us in between who just like it and appreciate it. As a child of the hip-hop generation, even I am struggling to embrace modern music. I keep thinking that it will get better and rejoice whenever I find a rare gem that doesn’t bring out my rage… You can’t beat the Beetles.
Toi Thomas: Now let’s play zombie urban survivor. What 3 things do you need to survive a black-out in Central Park the day zombies attack?
Mark: I’d love it, get rid of all that pent up, modern day, grumpy old man rage. I need a pump action shotgun with unlimited ammo, a machete for the up close and personal melee and a Dark Knight Returns Joker Tee Shirt.
Toi Thomas: You’ve covered all the bases: your uniform and two battle tactics. Bring on the zombies.
Toi Thomas: Let’s wind down a bit. What’s the most fun experience you’ve ever had, to date?
Mark: Hanging around with my son in the last eighteen years. They were special times I’ll never have again – unless I meet a reasonably presentable and visually challenged thirty year old any time soon.
Toi Thomas: I adore answers like this. This is the reason I love to interview people. Spending time with your son is the joy of life. Who knows, someone special may coming along and you can doing all again.
Toi Thomas: Last question of the day; here we go.
Toi Thomas: Not that you can see into the future, but in your opinion, what does the future hold?
Mark: I hope people wake up to climate change and that the Asians and Brazilians stop chopping down the forests – the two are connected. #Ilovecostarica Our children deserve it.
Toi Thomas: You make a good point. I believe there are quite a few dots that need to be connected in order for the world to change, but someone has to first recognize that there might be a connection.
Toi Thomas: Thank you so much Mark for spending time with me today.
Mark: Love it, Toi. Thank you for inviting me around the ToiBox. I’m off out to look for zombies!
Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. For more from Mark Barry, check out these great links:
News Blog: Green Wizard Publishing
Interview Blog: The Wizard’s Cauldron
US Amazon Author Central: Mark Barry
This has been a
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords