Author Spotlight: Mark E. Lacy
Mark E. Lacy was born in Cookeville, Tennessee and has lived in eight different states across the eastern U.S. Currently a handful of grandchildren hold Mark and his wife hostage in southwestern Ohio. Son of – brother of – and father of a writer, Mark has had a lifelong interest in writing, as well as reading. He acknowledges he is an unrepentant bibliovore, compulsively tracking every book he’s read for over forty-five years. His first science fiction story, written at age eight, is thankfully (mercifully!) not in print. He has published everything from short stories to personal essays, articles, reviews, and scientific papers. A love for the outdoors is part of the fabric of all Mark’s writing.
Thanks for joining us today, Mark! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently.
I recently finished Relics by Tim Lebbon, an engaging blend of horror and urban fantasy that involves black-market trading in body parts of supernatural creatures. Of course, appreciating the moral questions surrounding said trading requires first and foremost a belief in or encounter with said creatures. Lebbon does a fantastic job of showing the whole range of reactions from humans who thought they were the only sentient creatures on the planet till they get caught up in the horror of it all.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Warrior-mage. Sword in one hand, staff in another, able to effortlessly draw on martial arts or the magic arts at any time! Hopefully if I can’t defend myself with one, I can rely on the other. Or, if worse comes to worst, engage in such witty repartee with the monsters that all they want to do is give me fist-bumps.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
It all depends on the speed with which thoughts and ideas and prose come to mind. If it’s coming fast and furious, I’ll rely more on typing so I can get it down before I forget it. If it’s on a slow, effervescent boil, I’ll write it out by hand.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
Hmmm. I haven’t yet tried being serenaded by damned souls! Silence is my first preference. Music is a close second, especially if I need to redirect my thoughts from following a distracting TV show my wife is watching in the next room.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
For me it’s never a binary decision. It’s always a blend of design and cultivation, top-down and bottom-up. Writing The Ban of Irsisri was more like planting a garden and seeing what would come up, until I began to see design possibilities and started playing “what-if”. As I work on the sequel I realize (at this point in the process) I’m acting as more of a plotter than a pantser. I can’t just assume the structure will work itself out over time; I need to impose more structure upfront because the storylines are complex.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Probably TV and movies. But also, perhaps, religion. I have blogged about the significance of mystery and mysticism in both religion and scifi/fantasy. In my opinion, some of the best stories include an element of things that transcend human comprehension.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Season 2 of Stranger Things. My daughter had said I ought to watch the show, that I would really like it. So my wife and I started with a binge-watch of the DVDs for Season 1 and got hooked right away. Then we subscribed to Netflix just long enough to watch Season 2. I expect we’ll resubscribe just long enough to watch Season 3.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Get out in the woods, or walk the beach, with my family and friends. Catch up on some reading. If the Apocalypse should happen tomorrow, I’ve got enough reading material on-hand to last until the world gets back to Normal.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
They all have their uses, but the exclamation point is frequently overused!!! Good writing can convey emphasis or excitement or shouting without using so many exclamation points!!!!!!
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
The sequel to The Ban of Irsisri presents the protagonist with a very difficult question: What would you do if the only way to block the reincarnation of evil was to participate in forbidden rituals that would give you power that no one is supposed to have? Can you succeed in doing the right thing if everyone is against you?
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
The last time I got sucked into a TV series (prior to Stranger Things) was when I watched LOST. I think working with J. J. Abrams would be really cool. (Hey, J. J.! Want to option the movie rights to The Ban of Irsisri?)
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
It’s important to know when you have to follow the rules and when you can safely ignore them.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I’d like to see the Middle East during the Crusades, or Northern Europe during the age of the Vikings. As long as I could be an observer, not a participant. And only if I could upgrade my cell phone plan to handle international roaming at very low cost. (Sending videos of battles by phone would probably result in some hefty bills.)
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I go back and look over a project other than the one I’ve been focused on. Spending a little time on something very different allows my mind a break. Sometimes moving between a fiction project and a non-fiction project is helpful.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I did not expect to appreciate When the English Fall, by David Williams. But when I cracked it open and started reading, Williams’ prose carried me along as comfortably as the Shaker song, “Simple Gifts.” The story may have been apocalyptic, but it engaged me and I couldn’t put it down.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
In The Ban of Irsisri, we have three heroes and one sorcerer, each with a quest to complete. If the sorcerer is successful in taking a powerful artifact, it will give him unimaginable power. The heroes stand in his way, but only if they can complete their quests first.
It sounds brilliant, Mark. Thanks again for joining us today, and good luck with the book release!
Mark E. Lacy is the author of The Ban of Irsisri, available to purchase now.