Interview with Mark Ash

When did you first start writing?
I can hardly remember a time when I didn't write. I wrote short stories from a very early age, and my first full-length work was completed when I was fifteen. I tried submitting it to a couple of publishers, and had some constructive comments and compliments from one or two publishers' readers, but neither it nor I was ready for publication. I've had a few factual articles published in specialist magazines (under a different name), but I gave up doing those once I'd said everything I wanted to say. I can't imagine a life without writing, but this is possibly because several of my close relations have been writers. My father wrote and illustrated mini-books just for us when we were children; it wasn't until I was older that I appreciated the real charm of them ("See that sarcophagus; that's my mummy!")
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in England, and when part of my stories takes place on Earth, England is the most likely place for that to happen. I've always felt inspired by the wilder places of Britain, where man has had (or appears to have had) little impact. The mountains of Scotland and Wales, the "wild north" of England (the Yorkshire Fells, Dales and the North York Moors), and those parts of the coast still under the influence of ancient sea spirits, trigger the muse for me. My local wild place – the New Forest – is a permanent source of both relaxation and inspiration; and the sea is the same.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Many things. Primarily because publishers or agents ready to take on new authors seem to be about as rare as rocking-horse poo; but also because I freely admit I'm a control freak. I can't stand the thought of someone telling me which way my story should go, what my characters should be like, or (horror of horrors) insisting on a cover design that just doesn't work. I respond to deadlines with irritation: the story flows at the rate it flows, and when it stops flowing no deadline or threat will make it come back and play nicely again. I would be the same if anyone ever wanted to make a film of it (which would be nice). I would be horribly insistent on getting involved with, for example, casting. If an actor just couldn't convincingly be the character I created and have in my own mind, then that actor wouldn't get the job. Far better, in my view, to have a relatively unknown actor who really portrays the character I've known for so long than to have a top name who's just wrong.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I think the characters are possibly the greatest joy. I know them very well (we've been working together for a long time now), and I know they're never going to do anything unpleasant to me. They do have minds of their own, though. They have a habit of taking over and going in directions I wasn't expecting to begin with. Possibly the most interesting thing is when a character appears in my head out of the blue, and absolutely insists that they must be in the story. I have one like this at present - she was most insistent that she should be included, and, to date, I have no idea why. No doubt it will all become clear in time.

The escapism is also a great joy. I can retreat from The Real World into a much nicer place when I'm writing. I feel more at home there. I can even control the weather!
What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on Book Three of my The Horns of Elfland story. It got stuck for a very long time when Real Life got in the way, and just wouldn't flow. It actually got stuck literally in the middle of a sentence; as though someone had flicked a switch somewhere and my fingers just wouldn't connect to my brain any more. It's coming back now, though much of it is still in my head rather than down in words. I have maybe twelve more chapters to write on that before the story is finished.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have so many! My first favourite author was Tolkein. I have lost count of the number of times I've read The Lord of the Rings. Another favourite has to be David Eddings; I've read The Belgariad and The Malloreon many times over. Anne McCaffrey is another favourite, as are Patrick Rothfuss, Terry Pratchett, and George R.R. Martin.. I'm also fond of Kathy Reichs, Georgette Heyer, and Tom Holt. Other books I've re-read several times were written by my own relations.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading, dealing with the various animals that own me, and playing games on my iPhone. I don't like games of violence, but can play word-finding, peg-blasting, or fit-the-shape-in-the-bigger-shape puzzles for hours at a time. I was particularly chuffed with myself for being the fourth person in the world to complete the Wordbrain puzzles at one update, and have been near the top of the lists in Toy Blast and Star Blast Mania too. OK, maybe I'm a bit obsessed; but it does help to drive away the demons when my mind needs time out. I also like gardening, but as my own garden space is currently not big enough, most of my gardening is done at my younger daughter's home!
What is your writing process?
Everything has to be clear in my own head before it can get started on paper or virtual paper. Not necessarily the entire story, but each part of it. When I actually sit down to write, the words come out pretty much as fast as I can type. This can be exhausting. Apparently my grandfather (who published over 50 books) operated the same way; whereas my aunt deliberately used to write at least a third more than was necessary and then cut it viciously during the editing process. When I'm creating it's often as though I'm watching a film of the events and just recording what I see and hear. I always have a general idea of where the whole thing is heading, but individual scenes and conversations are far more under the control of my characters than they are of my conscious mind.
How do you approach cover design?
I have a clear idea of the 'feel' that I want the cover to have. It has to feel right. I may choose an image depicting just one important part of the story, and I like playing with image-on-image ideas. Book two of the Horns of Elfland (The Unnamed Blade), for example, has a faded image of a wintry waterfall as background, with the sword as a floating image in front of it. Book three's cover has the unbridled horse himself as background, with the blue stone on a chain which appeared towards the end of The Unknown Quest in the foreground.
When will Book Three be published?
Book Three – The Unbridled Horse – is still being written. This is the one which got stuck in the middle of a sentence for a very long time, but is now waking up again. I'm definitely hopeful of completing it within a few months; with any luck it will take over my brain in the way that The Unnamed Blade did, in which case we might be looking at weeks rather than months. One of the major characters in The Unbridled Horse was very shadowy in my mind for a long time, but recently I've come to know him much better. He woke up from his slumber while I was listening to some Imagine Dragons tracks, and suddenly became a real person. (For those who are interested, "It's Time" woke him up at first, "Demons" put me in touch with some of the darker side of him, and "On Top of The World" brought his passion and intensity to life!) A lot of ideas are busy gelling at the moment, but the characters are now nagging at me to get on with it again, which is always a good sign.
Published 2017-06-12.
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Books by This Author

The Unnamed Blade
Series: The Horns of Elfland. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 92,700. Language: English. Published: April 22, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Aimed at readers aged 15+. The Children and Farinka embark on the long journey to the Hidden Valley and adulthood, and Nemeth retrieves the Unnamed Blade from its hiding place.
The Unknown Quest
Series: The Horns of Elfland. Price: Free! Words: 82,940. Language: English. Published: April 19, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
(5.00 from 3 reviews)
For readers aged 15+. Thousands of years ago, one of Sherath’s distant ancestors refused to take on a quest. He's agreed to complete it, but without his full powers that can't be done. Time is running out for his race, and they have been waiting for the saviour and leader, told of in an ancient prophecy, to arrive and help them. But she turns out to be a volatile teenager from modern-day Earth.