About the Author
Mark Young is a former police officer with the Santa Rosa Police Department in California for twenty-six years; an award-winning journalist; and a Vietnam combat veteran. He served with several law enforcement task force operations, including the presidential Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force targeting major drug traffickers, and the federal Organized Crime Task Force charged with identifying and prosecuting prison gang leaders. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his family. Visit www.MarkYoungBooks.com for more information about Mark Young and his writing. Readers may also connect with him at http://hookembookem.blogspot.com/ where mystery readers, writers and law enforcement connect.
Mark Young Interview
First of all, I would like to thank you Mark for the opportunity to interview you for Black Diamond’s Book Reviews!
Could you tell me a little about yourself?
Thank you, Cheryl, for allowing me to join everyone here on this great site
Here is a thumbnail sketch of my shady past: After college, I worked on newspapers for about six years until I finally realized I could not support a family on what a reporter earns. So, I went to the dark side—as my journalism friends called it—and joined the Santa Rosa (Ca.) Police Department, where I worked for the next twenty-six years. Worked patrol, narcotics, gang crimes and criminal intelligence (is that an oxymoron?) until it was time to pull the badge. Upon retiring from the cop life, I began my writing career in earnest.
When did you start writing and how did you get started?
So many writers start with “I began with crayons, and wrote my first novel at age five …” or something along those lines. My writing career started a little later in life. I always loved to read, but I never thought I could write until I returned from combat in Vietnam and began attending college. Somewhere in those school years, I begin to get the writing bug—thanks to Ernest Hemmingway, whose writing had a great impact on me. I began writing fiction pieces for magazines while trying to write a novel. These efforts never went anywhere, and my writing consisted of meeting a newspaper deadline each day. As a police officer—particularly as a supervisor in later years—I began writing investigative reports and press releases. It became a joke in the department—my prose did not match what other cops wrote. I taxed the patience of more than one supervisor with lines of descriptive narrative that ventured far beyond department policy.
After law enforcement, I finally began to write fiction in earnest about six years ago. I subscribed to magazines like Writer’s Digest, started collecting and devouring recommended books on writing, and began attending writer’s conferences. All this helped, but the best use of my time was to plant my behind at the desk and write. I wrote four novels during that time, learning from my mistakes and trying to make the next manuscript even better.
Do you have any rituals that you use when you are writing?
I treat writing like a business. I set aside blocks of time during my workweek where I write from three to eight hours each day. Prior to Revenge, I would complete the first draft of a novel and then keep working subsequent drafts until I felt the novel was finished. For months at a time, I did not write any new material, just kept reworking old stuff. Now, I have changed my routine. After I finish my first draft of a novel, I start planning and writing my next while continuing to edit the old. That way, I have something new and fresh to work on, while working on editing projects later in the day.
Are you reading anything right now?
For fiction, I’m reading David Baldacci’s latest mystery/suspense novel, The Sixth Man, and re-reading Rick Bragg’s non-fiction book, All Over but the Shoutin’ , about growing up in the south. Bragg is a wonderful writer, and the way he puts words together makes me jealous.
What are some of your favorite books and authors?
Where should I start? Let me just list a few. For more current works, Wish You Well, by David Baldacci; A Time To Kill by John Grisham; The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen; anything written by Elmore Leonard; Try Dying by James Scott Bell; and anything Rick Bragg puts his pen too. Earlier writers: Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct Mystery series; The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, many of Ray Bradbury’s short stories; The End Of The Night and other novels by John D. MacDonald; and last, but not least, all the works of Ernest Hemingway, who first inspired me to write fiction after I returned from Vietnam.
Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?
I read with a heightened critical eye, whereas, before I read fiction strictly for entertainment and non-fiction for information. As I read works of fiction today, I am always looking to see how the author crafted the story. I study dialogue, point of view nuances, voice of the author, and many other factors that I never cared about before.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working on a novel?
I am always reading and writing. As a writer, I believe one of the best ways to improve your own writing is to see how other writers crafted their story. Not to imitate, mind you, but to see whether their overall effort really pulled together. I am inspired when I come across a novel that really brings everything together, a novel that takes me into that other world where I forget to read with a critical eye.
What is a typical day in your life like?
My writing days starts in full swing around 8:30 AM after answering emails, reading online material, and interacting with other writers and readers on the internet. I will write until lunch. After a short break, I’m back at the computer, writing and editing until late afternoon when my daughter returns home from school. Later that night, I return to the computer to answer emails, interact on the internet, and finally call it a night.
Are there other books you love or writers you admire that are from your local area?
My wife. She is a published poet and really can put feelings and thoughts down on paper in poetic form. Beyond that, it’s slim pickings.
I live in a town of six hundred people, a population that equals dwellers living in a good-size apartment building in any city. There is one other writer that I know of in the general area, and we’ve never met. So, I need to reach further than my local area for literary fulfillment and contact.
Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you like that character?
My favorite character in Revenge is Jessie White Eagle. She gives her father— Frank White Eagle, chief of the Nez Perce tribal police—a run for his money. And the main character, Travis Mays, just does not know how to interact with Jessie. She is an artist, a white-water river guide, a sharp shooter, and a person who does not back down from anything. But she also has a soft side that rarely comes out in the story because she is so feisty. She gives the novel enough conflict for a whole series.
Did you have to do much research when working on Revenge? If so, do you tend to write first or research first?
Actually, I did way more research than I needed for this story. I only hope that I can use this material in other novels down the road. Generally, I will have a basic concept of the story, and I will begin collecting information before I start writing. For example, I knew that Revenge would need a lot of information about the Nez Perce (NP) nation. So, I started pulling resource material from the Washington State University library, and began making contact on the Nez Perce reservation. I interviewed the NP tribal police chief, a NP attorney regarding water rights, several other member of the tribe, and an archeologist who has spearheaded Native American digs on that reservation and the Idaho mountains for the past thirty years.
Once I have enough information, I start writing. Often I need to do more research as I’m writing. As I go through the first draft, I will insert reminders in the manuscript to return to that spot and obtain whatever information I might need to make the story accurate. I hate to stop the flow and go check things out, so I just make reminders to myself.
Revenge was a very intense book with so many characters and things going on. How did you ever keep them all straight and figure out how the story was going to go?
I seem to be changing the way I structure a story as each novel is completed. By my second novel, I had an exhaustive Excel spreadsheet of very chapter, every scene—including characters, weather, time etc.—before I even started writing. When I started Revenge, my third novel, I knew that I needed a looser, less-structured approach to the story. I started with a general outline, but left the meat of the story to change and shift depending upon my characters. For example, I thought my story was going in one direction when Jessie got into trouble. By the time I reached that point, I found the story going in another direction because Jessie or one of the other characters would not cooperate. Yes, my characters talk to me and sometimes they fight me. Particularly Jessie. What can I say.
When deciding to write Revenge, did you know right away how the story was going to go, or did the story unfold as you were writing?
Without giving away the plot, I did have a certain direction in mind for the story. By the time, I got to that point, more characters emerged and it became clear the story needed to change direction. I was able to change because I was less structured in my outline.
What’s next for you?
By the first week of December, I plan on publishing my next novel, Off The Grid: The Daemon Files, an international thriller about an oddly-matched band of characters struggling to stay alive amidst the full onslaught of modern technology. Can one hide in today’s modern world? They’ll soon find out. This is my first novel where my characters travel internationally. Still a lot of cops and bad guys, but I’ve thrown in a few spies, politicians, and military to make the plot more gripping. It has been a lot of fun.
What three artists would I find in your Ipod or CD player?
You might find Nora Jones, Ray Charles, and Eric Clapton, among others.
If I came to your home and looked in your refrigerator what would I find?
You better check with my wife. She’s the guardian of that gate. You would find something healthy—low fat, low sugar, low cholesterol, and low sodium. And yet, she pulls it all together to make great meals. She does the cooking and I handle cleanup. I’m awesome when it comes to dealing with dirty dishes.
What famous person do other people tell you that you most look like?
People don’t generally tell me I resemble anyone. I must have a look all my own.
What is the one thing about yourself that others would be shocked to know?
I hate to dance. I told my wife, when we were dating years ago, that I would rather kick in a door of a house full of armed gangsters than go out on that dance floor. She did not believe me. Now—she does.
Choose a book title for the story of your life.
A Work In Progress.
Thank you again Mark Young for the interview! I am really looking forward to your future books!
Read my review of Revenge by Mark Young
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