I’m delighted to have been asked by Caroline who blogs here to be part of the celebrations for Mark L. Fowler’s Coffin Maker. Mark is a new to me author and I love finding out about different writers so I’m thrilled that Mark has agreed to be interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag.
Coffin Maker is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.
The Coffin Maker lives and works alone in the Kingdom of Death. When he completes a coffin a life on Earth ends. That’s how it’s always been.
One day as Coffin sits writing in his journal, The History of Death, trying to sum it all up in one perfect sentence, a note sails past his window.
Is he about to gain a glimpse of the elusive Divine Plan that has eluded him for centuries? Is life in the Kingdom of Death about to change forever?
There are rumours that the devil is finally arriving in the guise of Colonel Gouge. Rumours started by a priest who has upset the Church by writing a book: Coffin Maker. A book written to comfort a bereaved nephew. A book that appears to prophesy not only the arrival of Gouge, but also the cataclysmic events about to unfold in the Kingdom of Death.
An Interview with Mark Fowler
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing . Firstly Mark, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
Hi Linda, and thank you for inviting me to your Book Bag. I’m based in Staffordshire and I have been a writer almost as long as I can remember. I’ve tried my hands at many forms of writing, including poetry, songs, sitcoms, short stories and novels. But I’m primarily a story teller, and more than anything I love writing fiction. I have three novels published so far: Coffin Maker, The Man Upstairs, and Silver. I have a fourth novel, Red Is The Colour, due out in July this year.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
When I was a youngster, I was very much a dreamer, drawn to the world of the imagination. I loved making things up. But I was always very shy about showing anything that I’d written to anybody. I always imagined that they would laugh and say, “Who does he think he is, imagining he can write?” My writing also tended to be very personal, in the early days, quite autobiographical, and of course I was concerned that I might be giving too much of myself away. I think that it was writing my first novel, Coffin Maker, that really changed things for me. I was writing about things that interested me, but I was no longer writing about myself. Things that mattered to me, things that concerned me, that frightened me, perhaps; things that I found amusing, or that made me angry – but I had burnt off the autobiographical tendencies, realising that writing, storytelling, could be an adventure, a voyage of discovery, and the most tremendous fun. I knew then what I wanted to do.
If you hadn’t become an author what would you have done instead as a creative outlet and do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
I have musical interests. I play piano and guitar and occasionally I write songs, though nobody listens to them – ha ha, sob sob. A few of my books have a musical theme. I wish I was a better singer, though. I think if I wasn’t writing novels I would go back to screen writing. I had a lot of fun writing sitcoms, and there might still be some unfinished business there one day.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
It depends on the book I’m writing, really. My latest book, Red Is The Colour, has two police officers as main characters. I had to ensure that I had certain facts correct, and I even got a police officer to read over an earlier draft checking for any errors regarding procedures. Beyond that, though, I felt that getting the psychology of the characters right was even more important. The same with Coffin Maker. Coffin is obviously an entirely fictional creation, but I had to know what makes him tick, his desires, motivations, fears. I had to make him real. I wasn’t trying to write an academic treatise; I wanted to be thought provoking. I was free to make of the Kingdom of Death whatever I wanted, but I still had to create the right landscape for the Coffin Maker to inhabit. I had to be consistent and credible even though it was very much a work of the imagination.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I love writing dialogue. Perhaps that’s the screen writer in me. On the other hand, I don’t tend towards long character descriptions, as I generally don’t enjoy reading them. I like to reveal character more through what they do and what they say. Their interactions. I like to leave some room for the readers’ own imaginations, rather than spelling everything out.
(That sounds like perfect ‘show, don’t tell’ to me Mark!)
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I write at home mainly, and I try to write most days. I find that writing works best for me when I keep a momentum going. If I come to a complete stop, the fear of the blank page can take over, and a week of writing nothing can easily lead to a month, and so on. I think writing feeds ideas, and questions emerge in the writing process.
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Coffin Maker?
Coffin Maker is a gothic tale set between our world and the Kingdom of Death. In the Kingdom the Coffin Maker lives a solitary existence, and every coffin he completes signals the end of a life in our world. One day he discovers that he is to be sent two apprentices, amid rumours that the devil is arriving on Earth.
How far do you believe in fate or a Divine Plan?
Ha, that depends on how philosophical you want to get. And maybe how religious and psychological. It can be very difficult to reconcile a predestined, Divine Plan, with individual freewill. Just as it can be difficult to reconcile the idea of a loving God with the existence of pain and suffering, and indeed death. I believe that as human beings we are naturally curious about these things, and it is partly the fascination with such deep mysteries that draws me to philosophy. We get glimpses sometimes, flashes of insight, but I don’t think we can ever nail these questions entirely. In the end it has to come down to faith, I believe. Philosophy can only take you so far.
You studied Philosophy at university. How far has that study impacted on what and how you write?
I think that the study of philosophy has to some extent fed my natural curiosity, and that curiosity has often manifested itself in storytelling. I have never had any interest in writing academically, but in a number of my books, and perhaps in Coffin Maker particularly, I have been drawn into asking philosophical questions. Primarily, though, I want to tell a good story, to explore an interesting character, or characters. Philosophy can fuel a sense of wonder, and so can good storytelling.
There are very real and concrete consequences for Coffin when he completes a coffin. How far were you trying to convey an allegorical message through your narrative?
I wanted to convey the dark reality of death; the grim, heart-breaking, savagery of what occurs every day in this world. Yet at the same time I wanted to show the possibility of hope and the saving grace of love and compassion.
Coffin Maker has a cover that suggests decay and gothic horror to me. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
I was trying to convey desolation, I think. A clear evocation of death and loss, but without being too corny. I wanted an atmospheric image that had a gothic feel, possibly suggestive of horror, but without tying the book to that genre in an obvious way.
If you could choose to be a character from Coffin Maker, who would you be and why?
Hieronymus. He is a revolutionary, a flawed hero, fighting against something monstrous. I wish I had his courage.
If Coffin Maker became a film, who would you like to play Coffin and why would you choose them?
It would have to be either an unknown actor, or at least an unrecognisable one. I don’t think that it could possibly work if you were familiar with the actor. Having said that, I have been surprised many times on the screen. I would love to see Coffin Maker on the big screen.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I read quite a bit of fiction, mainly crime, psychological thrillers, some contemporary fantasy and gothic/horror fiction. I love coming across stories that don’t quite fit into a clear genre, that exist on the borderlines. I think that Coffin Maker fits into that category.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Coffin Maker should be their next read, what would you say?
You will not read another book quite like Coffin Maker. It is utterly unique.
Thank you so much for your time, Mark, in answering my questions.
About Mark Fowler
Mark L. Fowler is the author of the novels Coffin Maker, The Man Upstairs, Silver, and Red Is The Colour, and more than a hundred short stories. His particular interests are in crime and mystery, psychological thrillers and gothic/horror fiction.
His first published novel, Coffin Maker, is a gothic tale set between our world and the Kingdom of Death. In the Kingdom the Coffin Maker lives a solitary existence, and every coffin he completes signals the end of a life in our world. One day he discovers that he is to be sent two apprentices, amid rumours that the devil is arriving on Earth.
Mark’s second novel, The Man Upstairs, features the hard-boiled detective, Frank Miller, who works the weird streets of Chapeltown. Having discovered that he is in fact the hero of twenty successful mystery novels, authored by The Man Upstairs, Frank has reasons to fear that this latest case might be his last.
In 2016, Silver, a dark and disturbing psychological thriller was published by Bloodhound Books. When a famous romance novelist dies in mysterious circumstances, she leaves behind an unfinished manuscript, Silver. This dark and uncharacteristic work has become the Holy Grail of the publishing world, but the dead writer’s family have their reasons for refusing to allow publication.
Red Is The Colour is Mark’s latest book, a crime mystery featuring two police detectives based in Staffordshire. The case involves the grim discovery of the corpse of a schoolboy who went missing thirty years earlier. Red Is The Colour is the first in a series featuring DCI Tyler and DS Mills, and will be published in July 2017 by Bloodhound Books.
The author contributed a short story, Out of Retirement, to the best-selling crime and horror collection, Dark Minds. Featuring many well known writers, all proceeds from the sales of Dark Minds will go to charity.
A graduate in philosophy from Leicester University, Mark lives in Staffordshire, and is currently writing a follow up to Red Is The Colour. When he isn’t writing he enjoys time with family and friends, watching TV and films, playing guitar/piano and going for long walks.
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