Interview with Mark Henry

Jen: This weekend we welcome Mark Henry to Book Talk. Mark, will you please share a short bio with us?
Mark: Sure! I’m a recovering psychotherapist (too many years in the business leaves one a little thin on empathy), John Waters enthusiast, and aging goth. I live in the soggy Pacific Northwest with my lovely wife and three dogs who don’t understand the concept of peeing outside. Argh!

Jen: Tell us about Road Trip of the Living Dead and where it’s available.
Mark: Road Trip of the Living Dead is the second Amanda Feral, celebrity ghoul book. In this one, Amanda and her ghoulie gang (vampy Gil and co-zombie Wendy) hit the road to escape Gil’s disgruntled vamping client and his werewolf goons, their destination? Three states away, Amanda’s evil mother is dying and Wendy is certain her friend needs some closure, much to Amanda’s dismay. Along the way they run afoul of some nasty skinhead zombies, tentacle monsters with terrible diction, a Hindu goddess and a trail of mutilated bodies. To survive, Amanda’s going to need to use more than her keen fashion sense and deadly verbal barbs.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Mark: I “discovered” the skill about three years ago. From the time I made the decision to write to my first sale was a nine-month time frame. Other writers hate to hear that and it really is unusual, I guess, as is the whole story of my first novel. I pitched Happy Hour of the Damned at a conference during one of those group pitch sessions, I hadn’t written a word, but the editor loved the concept and asked me to submit. Which I did and she really prodded me throughout the first draft of the manuscript, which took three months. At the time she emailed to alert me the book was going on to her senior editor, I didn’t have an agent, but was able to turn the possibility into an offer of representation. Jim McCarthy at Dystel and Goderich got back to me the quickest and with the most enthusiasm. He’d sold the book and two more within a week. It still makes me breathless.

Jen: How does your family feel about your career?
Mark: Face to face, they’re pretty nonchalant, but I get word that they do a fair amount of bragging. They’ve come to one reading and my father was a bit embarrassed by the irreverent humor and foul language. But when I look back over the years, I’m certain I get the storytelling from him. The irreverent in-your-face humor comes from my mother, though.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Mark: Happy Hour of the Damnedwas very much a “pantsed” book. I just wrote it straight through without an outline, which makes for a much more character driven book. It’s pretty obvious from the read that Amanda’s voice and anecdotes are just as important to the enjoyment of the book as is any mystery. Since then, I’ve embraced outlining and the plotting has gotten much tighter. At the same time, I’ve really had to give myself the leeway to let Amanda ramble a bit and remember things that may not have to do specifically with the plot. It’s her way, after all.

Jen: Do you have a specific time or place that you write?
Mark: I write in my office at home, during the day. I’ll goof off in the morning until about ten and then try to get through 2500 words by 4 o’clock when it’s time to start cooking dinner. I’m the cook in the house obviously and I never seem to pick a recipe that doesn’t take at least a couple of hours to prepare. Ah well. It’s my other great love.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Mark: The distractions are like sirens calling me to the rocks and the internet is the worst of them all. The easiest thing is the snark. Amanda’s voice is surprisingly easy to channel.

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Mark: Hearing from readers that they really loved the book, or laughed their butts off. I can’t hear that enough.

Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
Mark: I’d love to write a collection of personal essays ala David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs. I’d probably never attempt a western. For one, I can’t stand them. Second, I can’t stand them.

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Mark: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Sedaris and Burroughs (obviously) and Christopher Moore, the guy has humor by the balls. Love his stuff.

Jen: Most people only dream of becoming a published writer. Now that you’ve accomplished that goal, is there anything else you dream of doing?
Mark: I’d love run a bookshop, become a professional chef, be a matchmaker and write a film that gets produced. Beyond that I can’t think of anything.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Mark: I love Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel, Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects and Jaye Wells and I have entered into a pact to stalk Michael Chabon, whose The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is as fine a piece of literature as any. Right now I’m juggling Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge, The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo and 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Mark: Watch a lot of reality television, particularly the trashy ones. Right now it’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, The Girls of Hedsor Hall and Toddlers and Tiaras. Genius. Oddly enough I love to unwind with an English period drama. There’s really something wrong with me.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Mark: I’m working on the third Amanda book, Battle of the Network Zombies, as well as the first in a new series about a small town populated by all sorts of angels and demons, including one particularly dysfunctional incubus named Joe.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Mark: I’m nearly ubiquitous on the internet, I have a website (http://www.markhenry.us), blog (http://www.markhenry.us/blog), and livejournal (http://mdhenry.livejournal.com), I’m a founder of the League of Reluctant Adults (http://www.leagueofreluctantadults.com). I’ve got a facebook, myspace (http://www.myspace.com/markhenry_writer) and twitter (http://twitter.com/mark_henry). A better question might be, where can’t you find me. Oh…I’ve also got a yahoo group, The Glamazombies (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/markhenry)

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Mark: I’d like to know what your favorite zombie movie is. I’m always on the lookout for one I haven’t seen!

Jen: Mark, thanks so much for stopping by the blog this weekend. Readers, Mark is giving away a autographed set of his books to one lucky reader. To enter, just leave a comment on the interview, excerpt or my review. A winner will be chosen on Sunday, March 22 around 5 pm PST. Please consider leaving a modified email address on your post or subscribing to the comments if you’ll not be checking back to see if you’re a winner. We’ve had a lot of unclaimed books lately…