Interview with Mark W Sasse

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Butler County, Pennsylvania - just north of Pittsburgh. That's still "home" in my mind, even though I've lived in Southeast Asia for most of the last twenty years. If you read my first novel "Beauty Rising", you'll immediately know how much Western PA remains in my blood. Half of the novel is set there while the other half is in Vietnam.
When did you first start writing?
I've always wanted to be a writer, and I've written various things over the years, but it was just within the past few years that my writing career has blossomed. It was drama writing that put the writing bug back into me. Once I had written several full-length plays, I wanted to try a novel. I wrote Beauty Rising. But I was afraid it was a fluke so I told myself that I won't publish it until I wrote another one. I wrote The Recluse Storyteller in just a couple of months. I've since written my third novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree - set to release in 2014 - and I've started my fourth and mapped out my fifth. I love it! I just need time.
What's the story behind your latest book, The Recluse Storyteller?
It came out of an image. I saw in my mind a woman in an apartment watching her neighbor leaving the building , wearing a red hat. That's all I needed. It just took off from there and I created the scenario where a recluse creates stories about her apartment block neighbors. Of course, it couldn't end with that. I had to figure out a way to bring all her stories together in a meaningful way that would bring all of the characters together in a wonderful climax. I hope I've succeeded. Please check it out and tell me if I did !
What motivated you to become an indie author?
At first, I did the query letters to literary agents thing, but eventually, I realized what kind of person I am. I'm very independent. I believe in my own work, and I want to be able to write my stories the way that I'm inspired. I also love being able to publish and promote on my own time-table. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely! But it's been worth it so far. I'm having so much fun.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Creativity. I get to decide what will happen. I'm kind of like the commander of the universe when I'm writing. (I have had students before who accused me of wanting to be a dictator.) I love letting my imagination take hold of me and being able to completely release it into a story.
What are you working on next?
I just completed my third novel - The Reach of the Banyan Tree. Set in Vietnam in the years 1945 and 2000. It was more of an ambitious project - my longest one to date. It's currently in the hands of some readers to get feedback. I have two more novels in the wings - one I just started and the other I just thought of which might actually jump to the front of the line because it sounds so interesting to me. But no sneak-peeks yet.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I teach. I teach both history and drama, and I love them both. I also am a drama director, so I'm often working with young actors - and, yes, I almost always to originals that I write. It's a great outlet for me.
What is your writing process?
I need a seed idea - and that's about it. From that small kernel, my mind usually just takes off and I discover where the story is going. Rarely do I know the ending - possibly even not the middle! As I've said before, writing is a discovery process for me. I love how unexpected it is.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
"The Ugly American" - fascinating political view of Southeast Asia. "Shoeless Joe" - I saw the movie Field of Dreams on my honeymoon. That probably says it all. "The Sacred Willow" - an incredible look at Vietnamese culture through the eyes of one family. "Brother Enemy" - mind-boggling reading about the Khmer Rouge during the turbulent 1970s.
What do you read for pleasure?
News. Publishing blogs. I really don't read novels anymore, which I suppose is rather strange for an author. But I love to keep up on what's going on in the world, and, of course, I love to read about the publishing industry - always looking to learn some new trick to further my career. That's how I found Smashwords!
Describe your desk
Messy. My mind doesn't sit still and I have my head promptly inserted into various writing projects at one time.
Published 2013-09-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Christmas in the Trenches, 1914: A Short Story
Price: Free! Words: 5,910. Language: English. Published: December 9, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Holiday » Christmas, Fiction » Historical » General
Christmas Eve, 1914. Young Private O'Malley and his comrades on the war front stare-down a group of approaching German soldiers singing Silent Night. Is there enough Christmas magic in the air which would allow the weary soldiers a brief respite from the ravages of war on the holiest of nights?
Beauty Rising
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 62,270. Language: American English. Published: February 19, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Martin Kinney's dying, abusive father asks him to bury his ashes in Vietnam, where he served in the war. As Martin travels to Vietnam, he discovers he buries his father's ashes in the wrong place. He then has his wallet stolen by a young Vietnamese woman, who uses Martin's driver's license to save her life. Two lives, twelve-thousand miles apart are now connected in very unlikely ways.
The Recluse Storyteller
Price: $2.25 USD. Words: 57,160. Language: English. Published: October 7, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
The Recluse Storyteller weaves five stories into one as the loner Margaret not only searches for meaning from her reclusive life, but also gives meaning in the most unexpected ways to the troubled souls of her apartment complex. Part adventure, part tragedy, and part discovery, The Recluse Storyteller bridges genres, bringing hope and redemption to the broken relationships of modern society.