I'm very pleased to reveal an interview with Mark A. Sargent, author of Clockwork & Old Gods.
Greetings! Thank you for swinging by to talk with me about writing and your books. I like diving right in.
RJ: Please, introduce yourself and your writing.
Mark: Thanks for having me. Let's see, introduction – My name is Mark A. Sargent. I live in Colorado where I work as an IT guy until I can afford to write full time. In February I self published my first book, and I'm in the process of writing a sequel. And because I can't resist mentioning it, my wife and I are expecting our first kid in December (yay!).
RJ: Congrats!! Your blog touches on one of my favorite things – pens. You wrote recently about fountain pens having that feeling of antiquity. Has your love of pens – especially old pens – impacted how you write a story? Have you changed as a writer due to the physical tools that you use to craft your stories?
Mark: Definitely. Before I discovered fountain pens I hardly wrote by hand at all. Everything I did was typed, which meant when I wasn't sitting in front of my computer nothing got done. Fountain pens got me excited about writing by hand. It was so easy, so effortless, and they have a kind of magic about them that other pens just don't possess. Writing scenes in a notebook instead of typing them on a keyboard forces me to slow my pace and put more thought into what's going on in the story. I find I'm often happier with scenes I've written out by hand first, even if I do tweak them as they make the transition to electronic format.
RJ: Without paper, the humble pen wouldn’t make it very far. Are there any types of papers or journals that have evoked the same feeling for you that fountain pens do?
Mark:Anything leather bound with unlined paper, but I don't get quite as excited about the paper as I do about the pens. That aside I've found the paper in Moleskine notebooks works well. They're a handy size, too, and seem fairly durable.
RJ: We all start writing as raw beginners at some point. What interested you in writing? What influenced you to want to write?
Mark: My parents always encouraged me to read when I was growing up, and I think that had a lot to do with it. When I was young they went so far as to give me gift cards to Barnes & Nobles for my birthday or christmas, letting me get $20 worth of books or more at a go! Inundated with that much creativity I think it's natural that I would want to emulate it. I was also a natural introvert, and writing gave me a way to express myself. But if there's any one particular thing I could point to, it was finding a play by post Star Wars forum. I loved Star Wars, and having a place where I could get some social interaction while writing cooperative fiction was the best thing ever. The stories I helped write there (though I cringe at them now) really set in stone my desire to someday write a book.
RJ: Was there a specific book that made you want to become a writer?
Mark: I really can't pick just one book and single it out as what made me want to write. Having read so many books growing up I saw a lot that inspired me. There was no moment where everything clicked and I made the decision to be a writer – it just sort of happened over time. Maybe I was always a writer?
RJ: What has been the most challenging thing you've faced as a writer? What did you do to overcome this challenge?
Mark:I would say its writer's block, but someone (I suspect it was you) once said that writer's block is really just a sort of laziness. I think that's accurate, so I'll admit the greatest challenge I've faced as a writer is my own lack of discipline. Actually getting myself to sit down and commit something to the story is a constant battle. It took me three years to write Clockwork & Old Gods. I think the thing that contributed most to its completion was that I wrote it on Protagonize, a cooperative writing website where I could get feedback and, most importantly, encouragement. Knowing people were reading what I wrote and liking it helped me continue to come back and add things to the story.
RJ: A lot of writers I know are also roleplayers in one fashion or another. Do you think that you would enjoy gaming as much as you do now if you weren’t a writer? Do you find there is a connection between your creative talent and the games and hobbies you enjoy outside of writing?
Mark: I think there's definitely a connection between being a writer and my love of roleplaying games. Both allow me to exercise my creativity, and gaming is as much about creating stories as rolling dice. One amusing facet of gaming is that nothing ever goes as the GM plans. The players are always coming up with off the wall ideas, and there's a lot of mental gymnastics on both sides to react to what's going on. I don't hesitate to say that gaming, both as a player and a GM, has made me a better writer. Would I enjoy it as much if I wasn't a writer? I don't see why I wouldn't!
RJ: Tell us a bit about Clockwork & Old Gods. What inspired you to write this book?
Mark: Clockwork & Old Gods is a gritty steampunk/fantasy novel. It follows the main character Noman, as well as others, as he fights against the machinations of an Old God thought long gone. The book started as a single scene in the opening chapter, something I came up with while brainstorming random ideas. My inspiration was more or less “this sounds cool”, and I developed the rest of the plot around it.
RJ: What was the most challenging thing about writing and publishing Clockwork & Old Gods?
Mark: Aside from just finishing it in the first place, I found developing individual characters to be most challenging. Making sure each one had their own voice and was distinct from the rest was something I didn't feel I had a good handle on starting out.
RJ: If you could change any one thing about how you wrote or released Clockwork & Old Gods, what would it be?
Mark: That's an easy question. When I finished writing the book I spent a lot of time editing it myself. I didn't feel I had the money to spare on an actual editor, and doing it myself was a long and imperfect process. If I could change anything, it would be to hire a professional to go over everything before I published.
RJ: If you could give a writer one piece of advice, what would you tell them and why?
Mark: Never stop writing. If it's what you love to do, make time for it. Why? Because the more you write the better you'll get at it, and hey – it's what you do.
RJ: Finally, it isn’t an interview by me if I don’t ask a silly question. You are doomed to become a villain in a television show. Of the following, which television show would you want to be the antagonist of? You will make a one-time appearance. Would you choose Batman, The A-Team, Sonic the Hedgehog, Macguyver, My Little Pony (any series) or Doctor Who?
Mark: You say that like it's a bad thing. Villains have the most fun! My answer: Batman (the animated series, preferably).