Author Spotlight: Mark Lawrence
Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. His day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say ‘this isn’t rocket science … oh wait, it actually is’.
Between work and caring for his disabled child, Mark spends his time writing, playing computer games, tending an allotment, brewing beer, and avoiding DIY.
Thanks for joining us, Mark. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Master Assassins by Robert Redick! A wonderful novel, exciting, literary fantasy for grownups. Incredibly good characterisation and excellent prose. Rush out and buy it.
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?
I think I would lead from the back and be a magic-user. I could go for the classic magic-user dagger but I prefer a staff … lets me keep the enemy at a distance. I’ve always preferred the idea of being able to use spells to that of swinging a sword. If you’re in a fantasy world why stick with something you could do in the real one?
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Does anyone hand-write these days? I imagine it would involve a hundred times the effort when it came to editing. Type! My handwriting is bad and I am lazy.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I generally play the same list of random music, not to listen to or be inspired by but because it is so familiar I don’t hear it. I play it fairly quietly and it serves to block out much of the day’s noise that might otherwise distract me.
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!
I am a gardener. Though ironically my garden is in a terrible state because I can’t bring myself to deal with it. Also we have recently acquired a puppy. I think pantsers are just the same thing as gardeners?
In order to know whether something about my writing method was unusual I would have to canvass a lot of other writers, and from what I can tell the common factor among writers is that we are all very different in our ways. My best guess though, based on how it seems to irritate other authors, would be the fact that I write a line or a paragraph here and there while doing things on the internet or around the house. I don’t get into the zone. I don’t have to summon focus. Also, I tend to write things once, read through for typos, and that’s it, I’m done.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Uh. Dunno… Films I’ve seen?
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
I’m binge re-watching all of Scrubs. I saw it was all there on Amazon Prime and got nostalgic for it. To me it still feels really recent, something I watched just the other day, but it turns out it was nearly 20 years ago and all the phones and TV sets are clunky…
I broke off watching Season 2 of Jessica Jones and the new episodes of The Tick to watch it. The last film I saw was The Revenant on Netflix. No way that dude got better!
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?
I guess I would play computer games. I’ve basically given up on those and I used to love them. The problem is that writing success is generally fleeting and so I feel guilty when I am not taking advantage of my current opportunities. Also, I like writing!
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
The semi colon. What’s it even for? My editor adds a dozen of them to each of my books. I don’t argue. Grammar am a mystery to me.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
Hmmm. I don’t have one! Ah ha!
I’ve just finished the 2nd book of my upcoming D&D / science fiction trilogy, just finished editing book 1 of that trilogy, that should be called Power Word Kill but may end up as One Word Kill because of copyright… and am currently editing Holy Sister, book 3 of my Book of the Ancestor trilogy. And when I say editing I mean addressing the publisher’s edit because as said earlier, left to my own devices I would be finished with it.
When I’ve finished the Holy Sister edit I will probably start the third and final book of the science fiction story. After that I will return to the first book of my new fantasy trilogy, set on the same world as Red Sister. I guess you could call that my WIP as it was 2/3rd finished when I abandoned it to address the tighter deadlines on the scifi trilogy.
Something about it? It’s set out on the ice that covers 99% of Abeth and has a female protagonist.
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?
I have co-written a series. It was much harder than writing it by myself and I wouldn’t choose to do it again.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Pin point detail brings a scene to life. You don’t need to describe everything, just a bit here, a bit there, and let the reader join the dots.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Well, somewhere with good wifi, naturally… I’d quite like to go back to India and try it again with some money this time.
History is interesting, but not enough to suffer it in person.
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 don’t. I just do something else. I guess if I found myself not wanting to write on a regular basis I would have to either decide not to be a writer anymore or to work on motivating myself. But fortunately I very rarely find myself not wanting to write.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I’m not sure I know any… It used to be Senlin Ascends but that seems to be getting a good deal of interest these days. It will be Master Assassins if that fails to take off, but it has only just come out so it’s too early to tell.
I’ve read a number of good books among the finalists of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and you could make the case that those are underappreciated, though most seem to be doing quite well at the moment. Those are Paternus, Bloodrush, Path of Flames, The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids, and The Grey Bastards.
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!
My elevator pitch is limited to, “What floor?” and “That wasn’t me.” I guess in the context of the question it might now extend to “No biting!”. I’m not sure what makes readers pick up books but I’m pretty sure it’s not the authors telling them to. And yes, I would make a terrible, terrible salesman.
Mark Lawrence is the author of the Broken Empire, Red Queen’s War and Book of the Ancestor trilogies.