StevenÂ Paul Mark, the author of a great novel “Drift” agreed to do an email and telephone interview. The book review can be found here.
Simon@BNN: Let me start by saying thank you for agreeing to an interview. As I understand it â€˜Driftâ€™ is your first foray into the writing business, and a very well written first novel it is. Before we talk about the book though I was hoping that we could get a little information about Steven Paul Mark. The foreword describes you as a lawyer, yet it also says that from an early age you have had an interest in the Earth sciences. Why did you select one profession over the other, and maybe you could give our readers a little background about yourself?
Steven Paul Mark: Iâ€™ve been interested in natural history as long as I can remember. It seems to be a family thing as my grandfather, aunt and uncle and parents were always taking my brothers and me to the American Museum of History. I love dinosaurs to this day and wish I still had my insect, rock and leaf collections. My baseball card collection, too, for that matter but thatâ€™s another story. I went to college during the late â€˜60â€™s at a time when civil rights and free speech were under threat so being a lawyer seemed like a more sensible profession than hunting for dinosaur fossils.
Simon: One of the features that struck me about Drift was the style. The story is written from several perspectives, the heroes, the villains, and the cops. Many authors use this style but tend to stay in one voice, or persona for many pages, your style offers 2 or 3 page glimpses into each view. I liked this, was this part of the design, or is it just your natural writing style?
SPM:Â Thatâ€™s a really good question. I was advised by an editor to stay in one voice but I didnâ€™t see how I could do it. I wanted the reader to be in the big meeting with â€œthe villainâ€ when plots were being hatched, or at FBI headquarters when a PowerPoint presentation illuminated some facts or even at the bottom of the ocean in a research vessel. In none of those scenes were â€œthe heroesâ€ present yet they added explanations, color and drama that my heroes couldnâ€™t. I found the style comfortable and will be curious to see if readers of the book are not put off by it. Life doesnâ€™t happen that way so why should a novel? Our lives are so self-centered that we seldom wonder what so-and-so is doing right this moment. Like, I wonder where Mick Jagger is right now and what heâ€™s doing while Iâ€™m doing this.
Simon: Drift is a good sized read at 376 pages, and a very exciting page turner, with so much in the book I can assume that you spent quite some time researching and writing. How long did Drift take to come to fruition?
SPM: I came up with the basic idea about 10 years ago but there were no characters to propel the action. I started writing in early 2002, finished a first draft in 2003 and then rewrote and rewrote. I started looking for a publisher in 2005.Â Iâ€™m a research junkie and the Internet is this gigantic candy store/Disneyland/Yankee Stadium to me. If I wanted to write at 3 in the morning and needed to find a remote village in Turkey to set a scene, a few typed keystrokes and a click of the mouse could get me there, complete with photos!Â If I needed to â€œfile a flight planâ€ from London to the Aegean or even find out if one was required, I could get that information too. Of course, thereâ€™s a price to pay. The beauty of the Internet (and research) is that one thing leads to another so before you know it, (if youâ€™re curious about everything like I am) youâ€™re an hour into a succession of websites that somehow no longer have anything to do with why you were researching in the first place. Oh, but the places youâ€™ll go and the things you will do!!
Simon: The idea of someone or some organization being able to change the make up of the planet is an unnerving one. Yet we live in a world that is being changed by man. Are you an environmentalist?
SPM:Â I wouldnâ€™t say Iâ€™m a political environmentalist but I go nuts when I see the environment being destroyed in the name of â€œprogressâ€ through arrogance and negligence or worse, for profit. Thereâ€™s no excuse for an extinct species. Animals love to mate so it canâ€™t be disinterest, if you know what I mean, as to why there are disappearing animals. Wouldnâ€™t you love to see a dinosaur grazing on the prairie, or even a wild buffalo for that matter? Or a flock of whooping cranes as they fly in the sunset? It always intrigues me how politicians can idealize the cowboy, wide open spaces and the Bald Eagle yet do everything in their power to oppose laws that limit emissions or promote renewable energy, clean air and clean water and energy conservation. But I also get upset when buildings or places of historical significance are bulldozed. Preservationist might be a better self-description.
Simon: The characters in Drift are very well crafted, not wishing to put you in the hot seat, but did some of them come from real people?
SPM:Â Iâ€™d like to think thereâ€™s some of me in Max, the main character. I certainly admire his courage, integrity and tenacity. Heâ€™s put into a horrible situation for no good reason and has to battle his way out. For the most part, itâ€™s not so much that the characters are drawn from specific people but some of the situations are redolent of experiences in my travels.
Simon: Where can people find Drift? Is it available through any internet sources?
SPM:Â At the moment, it can be purchased at www.Booklocker.com. Itâ€™s also available at Amazon.com. BarnesandNoble.com, Borders, etc.
The second part of the interview was by phone, He is a most engaging person to talk with. I will try and condense our conversation. These are not exact quotes (I can not write fast enough)!
Simon: Your characters are very well developed; do you intend to use them again?
SPM: I lived with them for 3 years, a part of me was sad when the book was completed. It is possible that I may use them again.
Simon: I understand you are working on a second book, can you tell us anything about it?
SPM: The hero shares some of Maxâ€™s traits, a business executive witnesses a murder committed by someone who appears to be homeless. It is going to be a thriller involving archeology, and set mostly in England.
Simon: As I understand it Drift was released in late October, how are early sales going, and maybe more importantly are you getting positive feedback?
SPM: Sales are encouraging and yes, I am getting very positive feedback.
Simon: I have read many articles about the trials and tribulations a new author faces, traditional bricks and mortar bookshops have a limited amount of shelf space and as a result tend to stock the tried and tested rather than the newcomers efforts. Do internet based companies like Amazon help the newcomer?
SPM: If you are a self publisher it is hard to get your product into the Bricks and Mortar stores. My plan is to approach some of the smaller stores here in New York, and in the small towns near where I have a cottage and see if they will help. The internet is the primary delivery vehicle. With the internet you can use the POD (print on demand) system. This makes for a much more efficient and cost effective solution.
Simon: You remarked in an earlier email that the internet was a valuable tool in your research, I also use it extensively, in a write up about Drift, I found this comment â€œWith keen interest in natural history and suspicious of big oil, Drift resultedâ€Â Are you suspicious of big oil?
SPM: Yes I am, we need to look for renewable resources, the current situation should worry everyone. Oil will not last forever, and even worse, we are not spending the time and money to find a replacement.
Simon: Most writers are also keen readers, who are your favorite authors?
SPM: Well fiction authors would be Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler. I also read a lot of Non-fiction, and Doug Preston with Lincon Child have to rate very high.Â
Simon: Completely off topic I have a couple of other questions. Are you the same Steven Mark Paul who was the writer of the 1985 TV documentary on dinosaurs that won an Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects
SPM: You have done your homework. Yes it was a project that was close to my heart, and we managed to sell it. It was great fun to be involved with the project, Christopher Reeve was the narrator.
Simon: Thank you so much for talking with me, and I look forward to reading your next book, or watching your next dinosaur program.
Oh, and the forward of the book explains that Steven has two parrots. I can swear that this is true. I could hear them in the background while we were talking.
This is one man that should go far in the literary world. A great wordsmith, and a most genial and accommodating person to interview.