Some interesting interview questions from @KitaraLemur for @Metallic_Dreams

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The following is syndicated from Janet Wrenn's Blog and is posted here with permission.

Aspire and Inspire - Meet Mark Rice, Author of Metallic Dreams

Meet Mark Rice, author of Metallic Dreams. Born and bred in Scotland, he grew up immersed in reading, writing, music, swimming and fighting (sometimes in dojos and rings, but often elsewhere). It has come to be legend that he sold his soul to the devil at a Scottish crossroads in 2006, in exchange for literary flair. Or he just worked long and hard at the craft of writing stories. One of those statements is true, which do you believe?

Mark's keeper of his kilt, Deena, kindly let me snag a few moments of his time in order to interview him. Ladies, keep the drool to a minimum, he is spoken for.

First of all, inquiring readers want to know, regimental under the kilt?

The phrase we use in Scotland is whether or not one is a ‘true Scotsman’. Wearing anything under the kilt is unScottish. My father imparted to me the importance of being true to our cultural heritage.

Now that we've secured that question, I have no further questions.

Ok I lied.

So how does a nice Scot like you start writing about debauchery and heavy metal?

I grew up hearing my older brother’s music. One of the original punks, he listened to the Sex Pistols, The Rezillos, X-Ray Spex, The Buzzcocks and loads of others, such as innovative Scottish punks The Skids. The raw aggression in that music resonated with me. I used to drive my mother to distraction singing along to Friggin’ in the Riggin’ by the Sex Pistols, which I liked mainly because of its wonderfully obnoxious lyrics. When I heard the clean, razor-sharp riffs of AC/DC’s live album If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It), which was recorded in Glasgow, Scotland - birth city of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young, and me – that was a ‘choirs of angels’ moment: the horizon opened up and I set off on a track from which I’ve never faltered. With regards to debauchery, it came naturally. As the adage goes, ‘write what you know’.

 I hear you write a wee bit of poetry as well?

Aye. Robert Burns was a constant presence in my childhood. His poems and songs, especially Tam O’ Shanter and To a Mouse, worked their way into my consciousness: the former instilled in me a fascination with devilish things; the latter honed my love of animals; both widened my appreciation of how the Scots dialect has a unique cadence and rhythm, which at its best can be musical. My father was an eloquent poet who wrote equally well in English, Scots or Gaelic. So poetry has always been in my mind and soul. What’s in must come out.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

If you’re referring to ice cream, my answer’s chocolate and vanilla…and throw in mint choc chip, coconut, tangerine, raspberry ripple, butterscotch and rum ‘n’ raisin too. As a child, when faced with an à la carte menu and asked whether I wanted chocolate cake or apple crumble for dessert (the two options), I replied, “Both.” The waiter brought one large bowl with both desserts in it. I learned an important lesson that day: sometimes it pays to be greedy.

What authors have given you inspiration?

There are myriad authors whose work I’ve enjoyed reading. A few of them wrote stories that altered my perspective on literature: Douglas Adams, James Robertson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tom Bryan, James Herbert, Paulo Coelho, Irvine Welsh, Piers Anthony, Mark Manning (aka Zodiac Mindwarp), Bill Drummond, Chuck Klosterman, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Markus Zusak, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Christopher Brookmyre, Ben Elton, Stephen King.

Are there other genres you'd like to delve into?

There’s a dead heavy metal icon whose biography I want to write. I won’t name him in case I jinx the project. If/when it happens, I’ll make it a hell of a read.

Have you ever thought about going traditional versus Indie?

Since I started Horned Helmet Publications, no. If a long-established publishing house invited me onto its roster, I’d accept on three conditions: (1) I retain creative and editorial control over my work; (2) my books still feature the metallic Horned Helmet logo and wording; (3) the publisher gives me a serious amount of cash.

If someone were to offer you money to read from one end of Wikipedia to the other just so they could listen to your accent would you think they're crazy? Don't answer that one. Move on.

What has been your favorite scene to write thus far?

I’ll restrict my answer to published work. The Metallic Dreams scene in which the main protagonist, Spark MacDubh, meets the young child Sunshower for the first time - then realizes she’s the daughter of his long-lost friend and bandmate – was heart-wrenching to create. That scene moved me to tears when I was writing it, and still does every time I read it. That’s one way for a writer to know when (s)he is on the right track: if our own words move us to tears - of joy, laughter or sorrow - we’ve tapped emotional depths and communicated them effectively. Sunshower was a gift from the literary gods: she fell out of the sky and landed fully formed in my mind. I saw her with absolute clarity and heard her voice too. Her behaviour and dialogue weren’t planned. She acted of her own accord, and I documented those events in words.

Is your character, Spark MacDubh, like you in any way or were you able to separate yourself from the character while writing him?

In terms of personality, he’s exactly like me: an alter ego. Not only did that make Spark easy to write, it meant that I wasn’t separate from him while writing. I saw through his eyes and experienced the story vicariously as I created it. When it came to editing, however, that changed: I separated myself from all the characters in order to look objectively at the story from the outside, having already created it from the inside.

How long did it take you to self-publish, from start to finish?

Metallic Dreams took one year to write and two years to edit/polish. In that same time period, I also compiled, edited, contributed to and published the Writers Inc anthology A Blended Bouquet.

How many blue ribbons do you have?

One. It’s tied round my tadger and has a label featuring the words ‘Property of Deena Rae’.

What other projects do you have in the works?

I’m almost finished with a shortish story (20,000-30,000 words) that’s steeped in folklore and revolves around the witch hunts in Scotland. My second novel, a dark mystery set on the remote island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, is moving along. The follow up to Metallic Dreams is underway too.

Was there a point when you felt like it was never going to happen for you? How did you power through?

There were points at which finances hit rock bottom, but that didn’t affect my self-belief. At those times, when some friends and family members tried to talk me into taking a ‘regular job’, I explained that I was creating something timeless, so fuck working for some ‘boss’ who expects the world and pays peanuts in return. Stubbornness and determination served me well during those years. Just as the book was shaped by tough times, I was too.

What do you turn to when you need some inspiration, such as a song or poetry or a person?

Historically, I found inspiration in music, poetry, writing and exercise, all of which I still enjoy. Now, though, inspiration comes from my woman, Deena Rae. Even when mountains of shit are hitting giant fans all around me, my lover’s voice takes me into an instant state of bliss. She’s my muse. Hell, she’s my everything.

How many drafts of Metallic Dreams did you go through before you reached the “Ah Ha!” moment where you knew it was in masterpiece format?

120. I wish that was a joke, but it’s not. I believe that nothing should be published until it’s READY. Not just OK or acceptable or semi-ready, but sparkling.

Did you do all your own editing or did you have any portion of it edited/proofed by an outside source?

I did all my own editing.

Can self-editing hinder or help a writer?

Whether self-editing hinders or helps a writer depends on his/her ability to prune out everything that isn't necessary to the plot. Another factor that affects the success of editing is the author's command of English grammar, spelling and syntax; many great storytellers aren't fastidious with the nuts and bolts of language, just as some grammatical sticklers aren't particularly creative when it comes to writing. To successfully edit one's own book, both characteristics have to be present. Good advice I received while writing the first draft of Metallic Dreams was 'switch off your inner editor while writing'. I found this to be useful, as writing with an editing head on is like driving with the brakes on. Write with a creative head on, then set the manuscript aside and return to it later – as objectively as possible – with a strict editing head on. 

Do you have any words to the wise for aspiring authors?

Write every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Believe in yourself and your ability to grow as a writer. If you don’t believe in yourself or your work, you can be damn sure others won’t. Don’t rush your stories into the world; spend at least as long editing and refining each piece as you did writing it. And always be learning. Never think you know it all. The intricacies of language, writing technique and storytelling are legion; aim for mastery, not averagery. (Yes, I made that word up. One isn’t truly a writer until one is fearless enough to make up new words when the occasion demands. Averagery, noun: a consistently average level of control over an activity.)

Thanks for those interesting interview questions, Janet.

It was my pleasure, Mark! Thank you for allowing us to peek into your world.