· Author William “Mark” Simmons ·
Since the Kansas Authors Club, District 6, is preparing for its next meeting, Saturday, July 28th, I invited our upcoming guest speaker, Wm. Mark Simmons, to be interviewed in person for this article. He lives in Hutchinson, Kansas.
I had no idea I was going to learn so much from Mark.
I knew his eighth novel was in the editing phase and I’d read he wrote humorous fantasy and horror novels. Simmons, Bibliography This prolific author is also a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
Since I was aware Mark had recently retired, I figured he might have a little more time available, but I soon learned that he was in the final stages of editing A Witch in Time, due out in hardcover in April, 2019 with a mass market paperback edition to follow later.
Our interview was packed full of valuable information for writers that I want to make available, so this blog will include excerpts and some links that will give the interested reader an opportunity to dig into the subject in greater depth, if they wish. (Just click on the links and you’ll find fascinating information from a master writer.)
Q1. You’ve only been retired from Radio Kansas two weeks, so theoretically that should give you more time to write. How’s that working out for you—having more time to write?
It’s funny; I’m not fully retired yet. It’s like a series of paper hoops I’m still jumping through, but I have to say that overall it’s great! I’m doing a lot of sleeping in order to recover.
Q2. You’ve written seven novels with your eighth on the way—that’s very impressive! What’s the secret to being prolific besides “keep writing”? Will you share?
One of the biggest dangers in writing is to talk to people about your stories. This is a big trap. Having another writer, and especially a writers group where you can ask people about plot problems, or character problems, or how do I make this happen, that can be a good thing and that’s a very important tool to get. But more people sabotage their output by telling other people the story instead of putting it on the page. The Big Trap
Q3. I’ve read that one writer who influenced you to write science fiction or fantasy was Ray Bradbury’s book, Dandelion Wine. What made him so good?
While technically speaking, Bradbury is a fantasy (rather than science fiction) writer, I like to call Bradbury a sensualist because he wrote for all of the senses. In his story, Dandelion Wine, which is about a summer for two young boys growing up in Green Town, Illinois in 1928, he was able to write about time travel, for one example, in a way that you would never imagine. Bradbury and the Senses
Q4. How has your genre of writing evolved? Did it start with science fiction and lead to fantasy? Do you prefer one over the other?
The first three books I did: In the Net of Dreams, When Dreams Collide, and The Woman of his Dreams, are kind of dressed in the trappings of fantasy but they’re really a hard Sci-Fi concept. Virtual World)
Q5. What’s the most fun part of writing for you? If there is a worst, what is it?
One of the reasons I began writing fiction was to read stories that I wanted to read but couldn’t find. How many times have you read a story and thought “that’s not how I would have ended it” or “it would have been better if…”? And another aspect, for me, is to figure out what happens between the beginning and the end. You may know how the story ends but there’s a lot of unexplored backroad before you reach your final destination, and discovery process may create a better experience than the best laid plots and plans. Plus, I love doing a lot of the research—though my browser history may suggest to the FBI that I should be on a half dozen “Watch Lists.” The Worst Part
Q6. What do you tell people who ask you for tips to becoming a better or successful writer (for any genre)?
Read. Read a lot. Especially read the kinds of stuff you’re writing. Know your genre(s). But don’t just read the stuff you want to write: be a well-rounded reader; it will elevate what you do in any given genre. But, professionally and practically, know your genre well. Research both what’s out there so you know where the interest is among the publishers. Do your research. Be accurate.
Q7. How do you define success in writing?
Success is a moving target. You want to get a book published? Great! There are famous authors whose literary reputations are complete with just one book. After my first novel came out I was suddenly aware of several friends who had a half dozen novels in print. It wasn’t long thereafter that I personally met writers who had published thirty to forty titles—not self-published works but mass-market editions and hardcovers by the big publishing houses. Quantity does not necessarily guarantee quality but they were by most measurable standards, successful and popular and doing okay financially. Defining Success
Q8. Who is your current publisher?
Baen Books is the science fiction (and fantasy) imprint and division of Simon & Schuster.
Q9. Your next novel is getting closer to publication. Can you share the title yet? Protagonist? First paragraph?
There are two tentative titles. I’m leaning toward Something Wiccan This Way Comes, my publisher is leaning toward A Witch in Time. It’s the 5th and last book in my Half/Life series. (Simmons also refers to the series as “Almost-a-Vampire series.”) The hardcover release is scheduled for April 2019; I don’t have a date for the subsequent paperback, mass market release, yet. Since I’ve blown through several deadlines, I’m not bugging them about their schedule, yet.
The books are in first person narrative; the protagonist is Chris Cséjthe. (pronounced “Chay-tay”)
First paragraph of the coming novel:
Everyone thinks the Great Battle against the Forces of Darkness is all about silver bullets, holy water, and consecrated crossbows. Mystical martial arts passed down through arcane academies. Profane prophecies and secret societies bestowing ancient wisdom, sacred weapons, and kickass tattoos. Read the opening paragraphs)
Until next time, happy writing and reading!