Dan: What is it that got you into writing? – How long have you been writing?
Mark: I was a big daydreamer as a child, sitting in class, staring off into nowhere, and slipping into other worlds. Unlike most childish daydreams, mine weren’t about me. I’d see a movie in my head. As I got older, I discovered what I saw was more a result of some sort of weird camera in my head than my imagination, and I started writing down what I saw. This was maybe around age 10. I’ve been writing off and on ever since, but I didn’t get serious about writing until 2009/2010.
Dan: Where did the idea for Calasade stem from?
Mark: To be honest, I’m unsure unless the medieval world of Calasade stems from reoccurring dreams I’ve had since the age of 5. Those dreams are always about one man, the time being somewhere between towards the end of the Roman Empire and the end of the Dark Ages (could be a hundred or so years later than that), and differ from normal dreams in that nothing fantastic happens. The dreams depict mundane things, like the man talking with friends or sitting down to dinner with his family. He hurts a lot of the time because he’s suffered injuries. From what I don’t know, but I suspect they were obtained from years of fighting. The dreams are always from the man’s point of view. I’ve little idea what he looks like or where he lives. Nor do I know his name. As for writing, I’d typically always written Horror or Westerns and while I’ve always been a fan of Sword and Sorcery, I never consciously considered writing it or Fantasy. Then, in the early 2000s, I started seeing glimpses of a strange, ancient world. I tried working out what I saw, but the details I got then were nebulous, just general ideas about a medieval Fantasy world and a part of that was this group called the Sai Knights, the faction similar to the Templars except without the religious overtones. Nothing else came and I grew frustrated, so I put the idea of this world aside for several years. Then, in 2009, I heard a voice in my head. It was Cristiana, the main character of the upcoming novel Calasade: Strife, and what she told me was she had a story to tell. Calasade was thusly born, is still being born really, and I now suspect the Calasade stories will never end.
Dan: Your work in progress right now is a western titled – Gunslinger Greed – what drew you to that genre? Any movies/stories you’ve seen/read in the past that have impacted you? What’s the feel of the character you wish to portray for that story? You list it as Western Horror, could you explain this genre a bit?
Mark: I’ve always been a fan of Horror because it combines reality with surrealism and is typically dark. Edgar Allen Poe was my introduction to Horror and a hundred other authors have since followed, Stephen King and Clive Barker being the most common and besides Tolkien and Robert E. Howard, are my biggest influences. My fondness for Westerns came from my grandfather. He would sit in his rocking chair, smoking his pipe and reading, and I would perch cross-legged at his feet. I admired him, so I wanted to be like him and started reading his books. Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, Elmore Leonard, Zane Grey; those authors were a staple of my grandfather’s library. That reading gave me a fascination for the American West and I learned a lot about American Indians, including their folklore. I guess Gunslinger Greed is a combination of two of my favorite genres and an extension of what I like to read and what I learned about the American Indian’s folklore and superstitions.
The feel of the character I wish to portray…I’m afraid I can’t answer that question. The characters choose me; I don’t pick them. I plan nothing of my stories and know nothing about what I’m writing and the characters that make up the story until I start writing and the story is revealed. Even when I work out the details of the medieval world Calasade, it’s not a conscious decision that decided the state of Metallum is a cold, inhospitable and mountainous place and that its inhabitants (the Trucia) are short, stocky, and incredibly strong people who possess larger noses to help them breathe the thin air of their homeland. No different than Calasade and its people is Earl Claudius Wade, the antagonist/protagonist of Gunslinger Greed. He simply appeared in my head via that camera I mentioned earlier and his story has played out in my mind’s eye. I was shocked, to be honest, that he is a wholly psychotic killer chased by a Wasicu (the Lakota’s version of a Wendigo) that may be real but could also be a figment of Earl’s imagination. He is quite insane and sometimes very hard to write because he scares the shit out of me.
Western Horror is term of my own invention. There is a subgenre called Weird West. It is a literary style combining elements of Western with another literary genre (typically Horror, Occult, or Fantasy). I find “Weird West” too vague, so I call the literary style of Gunslinger Greed and stories like it Western Horror. Western Horror depicts exactly what the story contains. Maybe I’m too anal retentive; I don’t know.
Dan: Any more upcoming projects?
Mark: I’m preparing for Halloween of 2014. Unless I find a big name publisher or agent between now and then, I’ll be trying something different in how Indie authors release their books (usually one at a time). Me, I will be releasing five Calasade books at once. These are Calasade: Blood and Riches, Calasade: Blood Isle, Calasade: Foolish Endeavors, Calasade: Strife, and Calasade: Fight for Life. The tales will be published individually and also in one big collection called Calasade: 2014.
The Blood stories are about Caderyn, a nobleman who loses everything due to his gambling addiction. He becomes an adventurer in an effort to regain his lost riches and ends up losing his freedom. He is made into a Proeliator. Proeliators are warrior-slaves fighting in the Bleeding Grounds (arenas). Foolish Endeavors is about Thalazar, a young man trying to do the right thing and who is subsequently accused of a murder he did not commit. He goes on the run and meets Cristiana, the heroine in Calasade: Strife. Thalazar subsequently disappears and Cristiana does not know why. This is where Strife starts and details Cristiana’s efforts to get away from her drug-dealing, possibly schizophrenic husband and search for Thalazar. In Fight for Life, we learn Thalazar is a Proeliator, the same as Caderyn, and is held captive in a slave-city. Cristiana must race to free Thalazar before he and Caderyn are forced to fight to the death.
These books tell a lot more than what I’ve mentioned, but I didn’t want to give away any spoilers. LOL Let’s just say there are threads to each story, magic and monsters, too. The monsters are both human and bestial and they play a huge part in each story.
Dan: You used to play billiards and traveled because of it. Has this experience impacted your writing at all? What was it like traveling around to do that?
Mark: Travelling around gave me exposure to a lot of different people. Playing billiards gave me insight that perhaps I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Billiards taught me to read not just the layout of the table; it gave me quick and deep insights into those people I’ve mentioned. In order to beat them, I needed to know right away what their physical and mental strengths and weaknesses were. I think that has lent to the complexity and quirks of my characters. To be good at Pool, a person needs to be logical and creative at the same time. Logical creativity is a huge part of writing; it’s what allows an author to make a story fantastical while also making the story completely believable.
Announcements will be made on Mark Stone’s Author website ,Interested readers should go there to learn about Stone’s new and upcoming publications.