Author Spotlight With Mark Hurst
Mark Hurst, a happily anonymous chap, who works diligently as a husband, father and imposter in the grown up world of work, is the author of three books. The first ‘The Nasties’ he views as a salient reminder of the perils of over enthusiastic self publishing (although it does have amazing cover art), whilst is sequel ‘End of Watch’, he feels, makes up for his initial inexperience, and is really rather worth a look. His third book, The Long View is the one he has been able to be quietly proud of, at least bits of it. A lifelong fan of all things horror/dark fantasy, having bathed in the pages of Stephen King and Clive Barker as a boy, his mind naturally, and in ways he cannot control turns to the odd side of life, looking for the gaps into which strange things might crawl. He very much hopes you would like those places as well, and would allow him to point a few out to you. He lives with his family and two badly behaved dogs in Southern England and is currently working on his fourth novel ‘In Winters Garden’, about an old folks home that is run by vampires….
First of all Mark, I want to say a huge thank you to you for taking part in this interview I know it's something different for you, so I'm delighted you are here. How are you?
I’m good thanks. This is a different experience for me, but it’s kind of exciting too. I really appreciate the opportunity.
For those who have seen my review, could you tell us more about what the book is about? The story revolves around Sophie, a young girl who suffers with anxiety. Sophie lives with her Dad and Uncle. Her Mum passed away a few years back. The circumstances of her death are unclear and painful for them all. Dad is an undertaker and they live on the business premises. Sophie has inherited an unusual ‘gift’ from her Mum. She can sometimes see and speak to the dead.
Killings start in the town where Sophie lives, and Sophie is drawn into a battle with her nemesis (local bully and school queen, Cassie) which triggers a connection with the afterlife, the place her Mum told her about, The Long View. We are introduced to a former detective who has an obsession with a serial killer who he is convinced had discovered the secret of eternal life. Events converge and a connection to Sophie’s Mum’s is uncovered. Sophie finds herself battling a demonic presence who is under the control of the old gods that roam the wastelands of the Long View, and we see her path cross with Bob’s and ultimately a shocking truth is revealed.. You have another two books! Can you tell us more about those too? I started my writing adventure (and harsh lesson) about 5 years ago. My son had been set a assignment by his English teacher to write the opening paragraphs for a piece of fiction that would create a sense of tension/dread. I attempted to help him, and in doing so the opening chapter to what would become The Nasties, was born. I could see the story ahead and decided, what the hell, I’ll see if I could do this. The story is simple but fun, boy versus unknown monster, but I could see it expanding into something bigger and I was enjoying the distraction of writing, so followed it through into the more expansive sequel End of Watch, where we find out the little boy in the first story is part of a much bigger universe whereby he is the last (aren’t they always!) of the watchers, a group designated to protect the earth from the monsters that roam behind a Veil that protects earth from multiversal creatures and demons.
I learned so much from the process of writing both books. Not just about the writing itself but the often torturous process of publishing and making sure your product is fit for the market. You also learn to be patient and realistic about what you can achieve. I was astounded to see the amount of books out there in self publishing and it is a daunting prospect when you throw your own little offering out there. Happily you also discover there are loads of really genuine people on social media who will try and help you, kindness to strangers does still exist in the reading/writing community, and that is an amazing thing. What gave you the inspiration for 'The Long View'? I’ve always been distracted by the idea of what might run alongside the world we all see and know. I had the idea of a girl who had a team of lost souls who would support her in solving mysteries, and who lived in the family funeral business so had a ready supply of souls to talk to, but when I started writing it, I ended up heading down a different and (happily) darker path. It often goes like that for me, I think of a very basic premise and then write the characters and it kind of unfurls in front of me. I don’t think any basic plot timeline I set out with has ever remained the same by the time I finish, but I’ve always enjoyed the fluidity of that, if I don’t know what is going to happen and it evolves then hopefully that makes the writing more interesting. How long did it take you to write this book, and what came first for you, the characters or the plot? It took me about 14 months from putting pen to paper through to pressing the button on KDP. I think I have answered some of this above - sorry! You spoke in this novel a LOT around the circumstances of the afterlife, what are your personal thoughts of this? That’s a good question. I’m not a religious person, certainly not in the sense of believing in a rigid system of belief or dogma. That said I am drawn to the idea that there might be something more, it’s an attractive idea for sure, if only because having lost a few important people in my life, I would like to think they are still there somehow, or I will get the chance to speak to them again. If there is anything beyond our last breath, I’m betting it’s nothing like whatever we have the capacity to imagine, which is invariably human focused. It would be funny if you got to the other side only to find out the worms or the orangutans had been in charge all along…
Within this novel, what character do you think you connected with more, and which was your favourite scene to write? I liked Bob Curran and also Cassie Buckland best I think, just because they are both flawed and trying to deal with the hand they have been dealt. I always enjoy writing the scenes that have an otherworldly or faintly gruesome element, so for me it’s the climactic stuff at the end when we get to see inside the Long View and meet the Old Ones who rule there. You ended this novel on a perfect cliff hanger, and I think you could tell from my capital letters I sent you in a message that I am DESPERATE for the next book. Was this your intention because it was pretty clever if I do say so myself! I didn’t have any intention to write a sequel. I wanted to leave the end slightly ambiguous. I’ll have to give that idea some thought! I've noticed you mentioned you love all things horror and dark fantasy, who is your favourite author and what is your favourite horror film? It’s crashingly obvious but I was crazy for Stephen King, but also Clive Barker (Weaveworld and The Great and Secret Show) and remember dragging the dog eared copy of James Herbert’s The Rats from the school library more than once as it was the only horror novel they had. I think I was actually drawn into the darker stuff by Roald Dahl though, after reading all his kids books (which are deliciously macabre) I got into his tales of the unexpected - they blew me away, so nasty and clever - he was a genius.
On the film front, I loved the Exorcist. Showing my age, I remember watching the VHS when I was a kid and then trying to sleep that night. I don’t think you ever forget the first film that genuinely scares you witless. More recently Midsommar and Hereditary were great, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Drag me to Hell and 28 Days Later.. Who has been your biggest support in terms of your writing? Without a doubt, my wife, Carolyn, who has patiently put up with me noisily bashing away on a keyboard and abruptly disappearing at inopportune moments when I ‘get an idea’. If your novel got chosen to be on the TV, who would you have to play your characters? I think Toby Jones would be a great Bob Curran. For Sophie I’m not sure but someone like Maisie Williams sits right in my head. Tell us something we don't know about you? I was once a DJ - back in the early days of house music, what feels like (and unbelievably now is) a lifetime ago! Thank you so much for taking part in this, I thought your book was fantastic, what's in store for future for you? Thankyou for asking me, and also for your kind words. It is a massive boost when you find out someone has enjoyed a story.
I am trying my best to finish the first draft of a new novel ‘In Winters Garden’ which is about a once famous horror writer who is deposited into an up market old folks home, that seems to carry a dark secret. I am trying to blend a more complex mix of storylines around aging, the way we treat our elderly, and of course the idea of vampiric creatures that have a taste for vintage blood. I am hoping to have it out in the world later this year, or early next.
To Follow Mark On Social Media: Twitter: @MarkHur41481024 Instagram: @_markhurst