Interview with Laurie Marks

Published 2023-02-21.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I don't remember writing it, as I was three years old. And no, I didn't know how to write. I drew the story in pictures and narrated it to my father, who wrote it down and then had his secretary type it. Let me just add that I grew up in a stereotypical 1950s family, in a neighborhood of ranch houses where the kids played kickball in the street. Yet I was troubled by repeating nightmares because whenever I looked at anything, I perceived it to be composed of moving dots of color which I found quite threatening, a fact that baffled my parents. My first story recounted one of my color dreams.
What is your writing process?
People often describe me as organized, and assume I'm being modest when I answer that I'm compensating for extreme forgetfulness and disorganization. Similarly, my writing process is so messy it's difficult to describe, but fortunately I do write in a linear fashion from beginning to end. I don't start writing unless I know the beginning and the ending, but what is to happen in-between always is a mystery to me and, needless to say, I frequently can't figure out my own story. Fortunately, writing is a kind of thinking, and if I just keep putting words on paper, the story emerges. Even more fortunately, I enjoy revising, because I am fated to do an awful lot of it. For me, revising is real writing, and I rush through the first draft since I know I'll throw the whole thing out, anyway.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My mother had taken a course in children's literature which influenced her to fill our house with books--many of them way over our heads--and she and my father read out loud to me and my siblings every night. By the time I read "Dick and Jane" in first grade, many, many books had already been read to me, including a number of fantasy and science fiction novels. One was "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster, and to this day I still rely on Milo's multi-purpose excuse, "why not." I've been looking for that medallion my entire life.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
These are some of the books I frequently re-read: "Sarah Canary" by Karen Joy Fowler is erudite and hilarious, a science fiction story that occurs in the past and uses not even one science fiction trope. "The Dazzle of Day" by Molly Gloss is a gorgeous, humane science fiction novel, a genuine work of literature. I love everything by fantasy writer Delia Sherman, whose kindness towards humanity is balanced by a profound understanding of what idiots we humans can be. Rosemary Kirstein's innovative Steerswoman series offer excellent adventure tales that intelligently demonstrate the practice and worthiness of scientific inquiry. "Piranesi" by Susanna Clarke is an engrossing, mystifying, inventive fantasy about an enchanted place and the man who lives alone among infinite, inexplicable statues.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read a lot, about a hundred novels a year. Most of them are classed as fantasy and science fiction, and am most attracted by books that push the boundaries of the genre, that take advantage of the mystification, amazement, and unpredictability of the genre while avoiding being formulaic. I love books that provide gorgeous language and powerful plots while remaining unconfined by dreary reality.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Onyx Boox. (I don't have one yet, but I really want one.)
Describe your desk
My favorite workplace is a shabby leather armchair by the fireplace in a craftsman cottage in a road-free neighborhood that feels a lot like a campground. I have a work table that I constantly struggle to keep clear enough to be useful, but I mainly use it for art. Along its edges are a jar of paint brushes, a jar of water, feathers I have collected, a fabric-covered box I made myself that's filled with clear paint rags, and a cup for pens that never has any pens in it. (If I need a pen I look in my purse where they naturally congregate.) Also the head of an old doll of my mother's that I'm rehabbing to give my little granddaughter.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Riverside, California, where my parents had settled to look after the orange orchard that my grandfather had planted when my mother was pregnant with me. It's a beautiful place to which I returned as an adult to live among and look after the orange trees. Living in southern California, even in a city, you are constantly aware of the natural world because everyone is endangered by fires, earthquakes, and droughts. I learned to respect nature and its laws. My parents had office jobs and farmed on weekends, but I was deeply influenced by the complex process of inducing nature to produce food, in my world-building I am always thinking about how people live within and think about the natural world, and also about what they eat and where their food comes from. Also, although I write fantasy, magic is grounded in the natural world and in human nature.
When did you first start writing?
I composed my first story when I was three, and wrote a poem in first grade before I had learned the entire alphabet. Since I grew up in a house filled with books and the mother of one of my friends was an author, for me to write seemed obvious, though I imagine that my practical parents had some "What have we done?" moments. I was writing a fantasy novel by the time I was twelve, at around the same time I felt pressured to abandon children's games of imagination. I carried my novel around with me on hand-written pages in a loose-leaf notebook.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Dancing Jack is a post-epidemic novel, about people who are struggling to put back together the pieces of their lives and civilization. While its relevance to the present day may seem obvious, I actually wrote it in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. My current work in progress is another epidemic novel--which I began to write well before the covid epidemic. I haven't enjoyed living through these public health disasters, but I am interested in how people recover from them.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I am republishing out-of-print books that I believe will appeal to a new generation of readers.
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Books by This Author

The Watcher's Mask
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 90,150. Language: English. Published: April 10, 2023. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Newly published by the award-winning author! Jamil is a multi-souled Separated One, who serves the Emperor of the island nation of Callia. Jamil awakens to find herself inexplicably lost in the wilderness. She must return to the Emperor to avert a danger that is entangled with her own forgotten history. For Callia was built on the back of a sleeping dragon, and the dragon is awakening.
Dancing Jack
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 75,790. Language: English. Published: March 18, 2023. Categories: Fiction » LGBTQ+ » Lesbian, Fiction » Fantasy » General
(5.00 from 1 review)
Now back in print, from the acclaimed award-winning author. Memories of loss drive Ash of Ashland to take her dog and leave her farm, to seek out the fate of her brother’s children. But she is taken hostage on a renegade riverboat and is forced to travel against the current, toward the past, where a lost king, lost friendship, and lost power offer danger and hope for the plague-devastated land.