Interview with Mark John Isola

Tell us about your book “Inky Flesh: Stories Written by the Body"
It is a collection of gay short stories that are as thoughtful as they are titillating. My intention was to marry the literary with the erotic word. The early reviews from several noted authors suggest the collection does this. Michael Bronski says: ‘Be prepared—these stories stir the body and mind in wonderful and surprising ways.” So, I am pleased to think the book is effective in this way.

As the book’s back cover copy says, each story in “Inky Flesh” explores the social within the sexual to consider the reflective, romantic, and randy aspects of life. These three R’s are very important to me as I approach them with a sense of realism. You know what I mean, the lips in these pages taste like real-lips, and the sex that happens is real-sex.
“Inky Flesh” has an interesting and controversial publication history. Can you tell us about this?
Sure, and this took a while to come back from and figure out. Many people reading this will probably already know, but “Inky Flesh” was a completed book that was ready to be published. At the eleventh hour, the new owners of my publisher cancelled by book—literally the week before it was to print. They did this at the very last moment, when I had already arranged and paid for print and digital advertising, which all went live by the way. So, “Inky Flesh” is a fully edited and formatted book, and I have been sitting on it, trying to figure out my next step.

For now, I am publishing story by story here to hopefully build a reading community as a I finish my novel. There are more stories than the ones in “Inky Flesh,” so, at some point, I will probably combine them into the books they were meant to be and continue posting new ones here. We will see how this shakes out. All along, I have planned three books. Each with a final story that comes together to form a concluding trilogy.

While I love writing short fiction, it is not easy to sell to a publisher, so in the end, I may well have fallen into the best plan. All along, the goal has been to provide these stories with a reading community, for I think they deserve that.
You have had over one million web readers. What was that experience like?
I started posting fiction on the web when it was still fairly young. This was also a time when an individual’s ability to access a worldwide audience by just pressing a button was still a new experience. I pasted a world map on to a foam board and inserted pins in each new country or geographic territory as it appeared in my web statistics. These were the days before geo-statistics were something you just find in your site dashboard.

At first, this meant the usual English-speaking suspects—the United States, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. However, after a short time, there were pins representing dozens to thousands of unique visitors, readers really, from every region of the map and in between. My web statistics identified these other readers as .org, .edu, .mil, .gov, and others. This was when I first really processed the worldwide aspect of the web. The last pins I stuck into this map marked readers from the Vatican, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and places as remote as Mauritius. Each pin felt like hard-earned growth toward an amazingly wide-reaching reading community.

So, hands down, seeing that map, realizing that my writing held the ability to connect with people—everywhere. While there are others, this moment made me realize the seismic potential of writing.
Published 2017-08-27.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.