Today we welcome an old friend of TwistedSpace. Mark. W. Duncan has been an indie author as long (if not longer than I) and his was the first book I reviewed on TwistedSpace, Only the Dead – An African War. Now he’s back with a vengeance. Better yet, he isn’t alone, this time he is armed with the backing of a publisher and a fleet of fans.
Mark, welcome to TwistedSpace…
It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me at TwistedSpace.
Your new book Carrion City has leapt into the Amazon bestseller charts within the first few days of release (in no way jealous). Can you give us a brief overview of the novel and the key characters?
I have to admit I was really surprised to see Carrion City climb the Amazon bestseller chart. A welcome surprise for sure.
Well Carrion City marks the beginning of a new narrative for me. I’ve planned out three books in the series with the possibility of extending it further. The basic plot is a new virus erupts in Aberdeen, Scotland. The Carrion Virus turns those infected into mindless killers. The book follows the government’s attempts to contain the outbreak and stop a global pandemic.
Eric Mann is a private military contractor, captured and tortured in Iraq. Losing his best friend and returning home to a fragile personal life he looks for an escape. When offered a role of leading a team in Aberdeen to help contain the outbreak, he jumps at the chance without realising the seriousness of the situation.
Gemma Findlay is a reporter for a small time locally circulated newspaper. She has aspirations of reporting for one of the national outlets and the outbreak provides the story that may just make her career. With a media ban in place, she breaks the law in getting her story, and gets far closer to the infected than she ever dreamed.
Dr. Eugene Holden is a specialist working on containment and cure with the Department of Special Disease. Wanting nothing more than to help, he finds his methods become more desperate as the infection spreads.
PC Nick Galloway, a police officer from the Highlands with a strong sense of duty volunteered to come to Aberdeen and help police the city. Seeing his fellow officers fall to the infection or retreat from the city, he soon becomes a solitary figure with the fate on many on his shoulders.
DSD Agent Tim Magarth, an administrator with the DSD is sent to Aberdeen to help coordinated the Department’s efforts in the area finds his role to be something out of a nightmare. With no training he is forced to drive the DSD response units around the city. Wanting to escape the madness of the outbreak he becomes ruthless in his attempt to flee the city.
These are the main players in Carrion City, though there are many more periphery characters who influence the story and will return for the sequel.
You’re no stranger to writing about warzones, notably Only the Dead was a vivid story with plenty of nail biting action. How do you go about planning your stories and how would you best describe your writing style?
For me, I read a lot of non-fiction, mostly history and military history. I’ve no actual combat experience myself so rely on first person accounts of war. I take the facts, raw emotion from these, mixed with some of my own imagination and mould it into something original. As for planning my stories, I always start with a title. If I don’t have a title I can’t start writing. Once I have a name for the story the ideas form and I create a rudimental plot. I’m not a writer who sits down and plans every novel out. In a way, I wish I was. I’m sure the writing process would be a lot smoother but that’s the way I work. Each day when I sit down I only have a rough idea of what I’ll write.
If I had to describe my writing style? Hmm, tough question. I’d say to the point. I write what I like to read. If I can get the story told in an efficient manner then I will. I use an economy of words, not piling on the description, more trusting the reader to have the imagination to see the picture in their minds from what I’ve written.
You recently signed with Severed Press, they deal primarily in horror and science fiction. Is this an indication as to where your future works are heading?
You could say that. I’ve never seen myself as an author who is defined by a certain genre. At the moment the Carrion Virus Series is dark thrillers/post-apocalyptic/survival horror. I find it difficult to categorise them. After I’ve completed the initial three books, I’ve got a two novel sci-fi story that I’d like to write. I’ve got the titles and the basic plot, I just need to fill out the details. I’m pretty excited about it. Many years ago I wrote a short story for a local anthology that was published. The story- I am Moral is something I’d like to rework and turn into a full length, stand alone novel. It’s a supernatural thriller that focuses on a masked vigilante. Then I’ve got a fantasy series planned. I’ve actually had the idea for this since I was sixteen or seventeen but always felt I never had the writing talent to approach such an epic work. I think in the next few years I’d like to start the writing of them. Again, they’ve all got titles so I’m ready to go. Time is the only constraint at the moment.
What are you working on next?
Well at the moment I’m writing the second book in the Carrion Virus Series. I’m about 20% of the way through the first draft and pretty excited with where I’m going with it. I actually had a eureka moment the other day in regards to part of the plot. It’s very exciting, I just hope I can translate it effectively from my thoughts to the page.
I’m also working on the sequel to Only The Dead: An African War- Sleep In Thunder. However, since signing the publishing contract my independent writing is something that’s been relegated to when I have the odd half hour here or there. My main focus is The Carrion Virus Series.
As an indie author, how have you found the conversion to working with a publisher?
Okay, well most people won’t know this but Carrion City has been considered by two publishers before it was snapped up by Severed Press.
The first, spent nine months considering it before I got a rejection. However, the rejection email I received was full of praise and they regretted that they couldn’t sign it to a contract.
The second publisher who was interested was a different story. After a month of consideration they expressed interest and I signed a pre-contract with them. For the next year or so we worked on reshaping Carrion City to how they felt would be best. I have to admit, there was quite a bit of compromise on my part with the story but I believe we changed the novel for the better. Then, out of the blue, I got an email informing me that my novel no longer fit into their remit. It was like a slug to the gut, I can tell you. In a way, I was glad it happened as this was my first true experience of the publishing world. More often than not it’s cutthroat and can be brutal. So this experience shattered my naivety in regards to publishers and agents. I’ve become a bit more resilient and know to expect anything from high praise to crippling criticism, but that’s okay. I’m a writer, it goes with the territory.
Severed Press have been a joy to work with. I submitted to them in the evening and had an email from them the next day expressing an interest in signing me up. They were very open to suggestions for cover design and supplied an editor to make sure the manuscript was publishable. There was no pressure to change anything to fit their vision for the novel.
I think one of the biggest benefits of having a publisher outside of creating the book and getting it sold etc is that you know there’s a company behind you who have faith in your writing and your ability to sell. Your friends and family can tell you how awesome your writing is but when a company invests money in you then you know you’re doing something right. There’s no BS when money is concerned. I still plan to complete Only The Dead series independently. I like the idea of doing everything myself but for all my future novels, I’ll hopefully having the backing of Severed Press and a few other publishing houses.
Where can we get a hold of your novels and where can people follow you (in a non-stalkerish way)?
Both Carrion City and Only The Dead: An African War are available via Amazon. At the moment Carrion City is only available as an eBook but the paperback will be released soon. I really need to upgrade my blog and make it a little more professional. It does the job for the moment.
I’ve have a social media presence and can be found on Twitter, Facebook and run a blog on Wordpress.
Again, thank you for having me here on TwistedSpace.