Mark Biskeborn is a writer I have reviewed before. I have never interviewed him, and I thought it was about time I got him here on my site for some questioning. It was on my mind for a few days, what would I ask a guy who had written some terrific books? Mark is known in writing circles as the king of the deserts. He always writes about deserts– Nevada, Saudi Arabia… I guess he just loves sand! Well, we sat down to talk about the fantastic creations he has been putting down on paper. I loved every minute of this interview, and I believe you will, too! His new book, A Sufi’s Ghost, is a surefire winner!
Q) Yo Mark, are you ready for your interview?
A) Sure! Okay, then…we’re on…live from BBC with Nick.
Q) Ha! So let me ask, how do you feel about the art of writing? Does it come easy to you?
A) Hmm. I guess it does. Yes. I enjoy it immensely, but I do work at it. It’s the most enjoyable thing I know how to do.
Q) What do you enjoy most about it? Is it just the creativity that gives you a buzz?
A) Creativity, yes. And working with characters–that’s a blast. Creating characters and moving them through a plot line, and at the same time developing messages for the readers as the characters do smart or stupid things.
Q) How do you develop characters? What is that process for you? Do you spend a lot of time playing with characters and their traits?
A) First, I write my story in the form of a movie script. Granted, I’m not an expert as a script writer, but it serves my purpose to at least lay out the characters, who they are, and what the major goals and drives or ambitions they have within the story timeline. But then after completing the movie script version, there is a lot more to develop in the characters, and the characters are, in my mind, the most important aspect of the story.
Q) Let me ask you something experimental. Could you imagine a story without characters?
A) Well, that’s hard to imagine. Without characters, the story would be more like an expository writing, like an essay or an article. So, yes, you could have a “story” without characters, but it would be more dry. Your readers would not have much to identify with or elements of sympathy or empathy. Then there is the visceral aspect lost without characters. One the other hand, I have written a lot of articles, like journalists do, in which you write an expository essay that includes real people or invented characters to explore a concept.
Q) Do you ever experiment with your own writing at all?
A) Yes. Writing any fiction at all is an exercise in experimentation. You might think up a story with characters in an early draft but then after you revise it (and revise it several times), you can discover an entirely deeper story. That always happens when I write a story. I’d say that Mojave Winds is one of those stories in which I dug deeper into several layers. But then I could say that also happened with A Sufi’s Ghost, too. It’s a visionary journey in some ways because you can discover a lot of new concepts and aspects in the characters and also in the plot turns.
Q) Your latest book is called A Sufi’s Ghost. Can you tell me a little about that one?
A) The main characters are Larry Larson and Carmen. Larson starts off on a quest to make money by bounty hunting. He worked as a CIA field agent for several years, but that job only ruined his family life. So he returned to the Middle East to do what he does best, track down bad guys. That plan falls apart and Carmen appears…a beautiful Persian who married a Saudi prince…but then after a year of honeymooning, the romance turned into a nightmare so she looks for a way to get out of the Saudi Arabia and discovers that Larry Larson also needs to leave in a hurry. Both Carmen and Larson become fugitives and hunted for capital crimes. So, they start off with a plan and end up running to the border, but then there is a twist– they stumble onto an ancient codex…a chapter…a sura…taken out of the Koran.
Q) Where did you find the inspiration to write something so different to what is currently trending?
A) I don’t really know what is trending. I guess Vampires are all the trend now but probably mostly for teenagers. I have a few interpretations about what Vampires represent: power, supernatural powers during a time when most people probably feel powerless. But I believe that any good story can become a “trend.” There is this zeitgeist–the cultural trend–and art often touches on that zeitgeist and that creates a lot of sparks with audiences. A piece of art, a song, a painting, a book, a movie can touch that zeitgeist at any time. It can happen anytime, and when it does, it can run like…huh…well…like a vampire.
Q) (Laughs) Interesting! How are readers taking to your work so far?
A) So far, anyone who has read my stories gives me extremely positive feedback. I am happy to see how people relate. The trick now is to make it easier for people to find my stories. By word of mouth–the old ‘Turkish telephone’ as they say in French.
Q) Do you find promotion easy?
A) Yes, but I’m working on a shoestring budget. I do enjoy talking with people, readers, the audience; but now I do almost all my “marketing” thru the Web–mostly on Facebook and other social media. Over the course of around twelve years, I’ve also been writing a lot of articles on some of the more popular blogs, and most of this is a way to articulate the concept and themes in my novels.
Q) Let me pose a different question to you about the same subject. Do you think promotion has to cost money? Does money really buy good promotion?
A) I think that if you have stories that resonate with people, they will find you. Something I recently heard Bob Dylan say, “People find me, I can’t find them. That’s the way it’s always been.”
Q) Do you agree with many other authors that a lot of good stories get lost in a sea of self-published books?
A) I don’t know. I suspect that the stories that resonate with people will eventually find their way out into the world. But book promotion is necessary so that people hear about the stories. If they like the stories, the novels, the songs, they will tell their friends. Then the word of mouth passes on like the winds…blowing in the winds.
Q) Dylan fan by any chance?
A) Yes. The thing is, though, I was hardly a teenager when he started, and back then I memorized almost all of his earlier songs. Now I find that maybe one good song of a dozen is a real gem and I take those gems and make a point to memorize them. He has some real, eternal songs, like One More Cup of Coffee– extremely simple, but really penetrating.
Q) So, Mark, what is next for you as an author?
A) I’m working on a sequel to Mojave Winds called Mexican Trade. And I’ve started two other novels: one called Love Lost and another one, To Lose Your Way.
Q) Last question- do you think Mexican Trade will be your best work to date?
A) The reader will be the judge.