That got everyone’s attention, didn’t it? No, not with Tom Cruise in the film of, but with Mark Knight – author of the Daniel Dark series, and with the latest of them now out:
Often the book-buying preferences of the reading public follow trends, and vampires and the associated blood-lust issues are very much the thing now. I was fascinated when doing a recent book signing in Waterstones to read the titles in the teens and YA fiction near me. They were nearly all related to vampires and werewolves. Chatting to an avid youung reader who was scouring them for her next good read I asked her what she thought of them and she said she would actually like the opportunity to read something more closely linked to the average teenagers daily life, but escapism is a good thing too.
Let me introduce you to Mark then who writes in this genre and enjoy the trend as it happens with his series. This is Mark talking about himself and his writing:
Well, I grew up in America, living everywhere from California to Boston, son of an Irish father and a British mother who had immigrated to the US shortly before I was born. It was while I was still a young teenager living in Massachusetts that I discovered that I wanted to write, because I loved strange tales, be it science fiction, ghost stories, or horror. I started with short stories, then novels. Of course, those early ones were dire. But I knew I wanted to be a published author one day. Our family moved to Ireland where I finished school and also completed my first novel, a space adventure. In the early 80s I moved to the UK. Since then, I have been writing novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. Now I concentrate mostly on Young Adult urban fantasy, which I found to be the most fun to write.
Which project are you currently promoting?
Currently I am promoting my Young Adult urban fantasy novel, Blood Family – Quest for the Vampire Key.
Blood Family is a different kind of vampire book. I wanted to write about vampires, keeping all the tried-and-tested cool elements intact – the vampire’s strength, blood-lust, etc – but adding new elements to the lore, especially to what vampires were, their origins. The theory of other dimensions have always fascinated me. What if, I thought, vampires were interdimensonal creatures that took over the bodies of humans, transforming them and making them into the fanged bloodsuckers we know and love? And what if one of those bloodsuckers then sired a child with a human? That half-vampire child would have quite a life, especially if he knew nothing of his true parentage. Daniel Dark starts off that way, a normal teenager. Then he finds out what he is, and everything changes. That sets him on a quest, and an extremely perilous one, to confront his vampire father and find his birth mother, utilizing his emerging vampire powers along the way.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have always loved vampire stories; one of the first stories I ever read was a short story about a vampire. I knew I wanted to write a tale about a normal teen who found out that he was different, that something amazing and terrifying lurked within him, that only emerges after a key event. That way, the reader can relate with the main character from the get-go, and then discover his or her emerging powers as the character does.
What can you tell us about your main characters?
Daniel Dark is the seventeen-year-old hero of the story. At first, he is no hero at all; he is laid-back, a bit surly, and with no particular goals other than smoking weed and hanging out with his friends. His dad is a local pastor. He and Daniel simply don’t get on. They barely speak to each other, or interact. But Daniel knows it’s because he is different; he just doesn’t know why. Then he is contacted by his real father – a master vampire called Dominus, who initiates a transformation within Daniel. Daniel’s vampire powers spring into being, and before he knows it he has left home on a perilous journey to confront his vampire father. Along the way, his powers manifest. But he discovers a lot more about himself as a person, about his truly important abilities – those that everybody has within them.
Keeping his vampire half a secret, he teams up with vampire hunter, Logan DuPris, a young woman with a sharp tongue and mean trigger finger. She wants to find Dominus just as much as Daniel does. But she has no idea about Daniel’s relationship to the master vampire – at first.
Did you have to do any research in order to help you with the writing of this book?
I travelled to Mexico in the mid 2000s and was inspired by its beauty and the way it different from the US and the UK. I explored the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan and heard many stories about witches, ghosts, and other supernatural beings who the locals swear are real and not imaginary. On my second trip there, I visited some caves, where local witches had left black candles, having used the cave as way of connecting to the ‘otherworld’. I had already hatched the idea for Blood Family by this time, and wanted my main character, seventeen-year-old Daniel Dark, to go on a journey that would reveal secrets about himself and his vampire origins. I love tales that take you to other countries. You travel to intriguing places, seeing them with the eyes of the characters. I knew Chiapas had supernatural depths to its culture, and felt compelled to incorporate those aspects into Blood Family.
After Daniel goes to Mexico he travels to Devon in England. Although I reside in the UK I had only been to Devon once, and so made a special trip to basically walk in Daniel’s footsteps. I stayed in a creepy old Inn and explored the windswept plains of Dartmoor. After those few days, I had plenty of notes for those sections of the story, and a lot of new inspiration!
What made you decide to become a writer?
Been writing since early teens. In my 40s now so…gulp…quite a long time! Always knew I wanted to be published, but never knew what a circuitous journey it would be. But, over the years, I had things accepted. First, a comic strip. Then a short story. Then, more short stories. And also a couple of things which I scripted for British television.
As to what made me decide to write, I think it was my love of stories and my desire to make my own, to make my own world and characters. I grew up in America and in the 6th or 7th grade we were given a short story to read in class – about a vampire, as it happened! I thought, ‘I can do this; it can’t be much more difficult than figuring out a comic strip’. I drew a lot of comic strips in those days. I wrote my first short story but it was more like a mini novel, with chapters. It was Sci-Fi, about telepathy – only about 20 pages long, but it was so satisfying. I knew then what I wanted to do.
What genre do you generally write, and why did you choose it?
I began by writing Sci Fi stories. Later on, I was asked by a friend in the movie business to write a supernatural/horror script with him. I wasn’t into that genre at all but the prospect of maybe getting a film made was too good to pass up. Anyway, I found I enjoyed writing this kind of story, and so later on wrote Blood Family. It was written as an adult book but my agent at the time suggested it was really YA and I should perhaps concentrate on YA. And that is exactly what I have done!
Are you interested in writing other genres?
I still love science fiction. That is where I started. So I may go back to that one day. But urban fantasy is much more accessible. Stories about vampires, werewolves, or magic are pretty much understood and embraced by everyone, whereas many shy away from Sci-Fi because of the technical aspects.
Oh, and I wrote a children’s adventure fantasy some years ago, which I had for sale under a different name. I may just resurrect that one day!
Do you follow a routine when you begin to write a scene or chapter?
Every novel I write is planned out meticulously in notes. I begin making that document months before any actual story writing. It is kind of like a scaffolding of the story, complete with photo reference and other references. Sometimes it is chapter by chapter. I write directly from that guide, but still leave a lot of room for spontaneity. So, I always have a fairly detailed knowledge of where I’m going, but often I surprise even myself with things that my characters end up doing or saying!
How long does it usually take for you to write a book?
Blood Family took a year because mainly because of the research. Other novels have taken anywhere from six months to nine months. It depends on a lot of factors, like what other crazy things are going on in my life! But I think six months is a good time factor; that is what I aim for.
That’s an easy one! And it applies to all my stories. The character I admire the most and is my favorite is my main character, Daniel Dark. I think if an author isn’t totally into his protagonist, then why bother? He or she is who drives the story, pulls your reader along. It is the central character who is the story. For me, if I don’t make the main character the most interesting and most dynamic person within the tale, then I shouldn’t be writing it. And plus, all writers, I think, take an aspect of themselves and mould their hero out of that. It can be a part of you that the public sees, or never sees. Or a facet of your personality you would like to cultivate; the person you wish you were. Daniel has the dynamic, forthright, and impetuous qualities I wish I had sometimes. And he definitely has the drive and perseverance that definitely I know I have. Completing a novel certainly requires both!
Have you ever had second doubts about a story you’ve written? If so, have you wanted to rewrite some parts of it?
Quite often when I am planning a novel I create a structure that I eventually reject. If it doesn’t excite me enough or if it just doesn’t feel right, I scrap it and start again. Then it invariably comes together after that. I think you have to get a lot of old and clichéd ideas out of your system first; that’s the way it seems to work. But then you can go ahead and write something fresh and exciting.
Are there any authors you admire?
I admire Tolkien for putting so much love and detail into his fantasy world; it showed that he real cared about it and wanted it to come across as a real place. And he does that through simple storytelling. I am also a fan of Science Fiction authors like Arthur C Clarke and Frank Herbert.
I do love The Hobbit, more so than The Lord of the Rings. Read it many times as a kid; it was one of the stories that was so vivid that it inspired me to write. I love The City and the Stars by Arthur C Clark and of course Dune by Frank Herbert. As for current YA novels, I have dove into both Hunger Games and I Am Number Four last year – they are great books!
Did you self-publish? If not, is that something you will be willing to consider in the future?
Although Blood Family was considered by Hodder & Stoughton publishing house I eventually decided to self-publish because I wanted to present the book my way. They liked the book a lot at H&S, but wanted to make the vampires more like normal vampires. And although my vampires have all the attributes of the creatures from popular culture, they originate in another dimension, possessing the bodies of willing hosts. I wanted to keep all of that intact.
What is your least favorite part about getting published?
My least favorite part? I enjoy all the aspects of creating and promoting a book, but the problem is that there are just not enough hours in the day to do as much as you’d like. Today, with social networking, you have to be blogging and tweeting and whatnot pretty much constantly. And really, as a writer, I should be writing!
The best part, though, is when people finally get to read it! The novel has been in your head for a long time, and has taken months to write. Finally, you get to hear other people’s reactions to it. Feedback for Blood Family has been extremely positive so far which is absolutely wonderful.
Was the road to publication a long one for you?
I wrote the book back in 2005. It took a while to attract an agent and then to do the rounds with various publishers. As stated before, it did almost become published with Hodder. I wrote several other novels after that, all Young Adult, before coming back to Blood Family and deciding to self-publish. Even then, it took many months of preparation – hiring an editor, formatter, cover artist, etc. But all well worth it!
Do you use a pen name? If so, why?
I have used pen names in the past mainly because I have written in different genres. I have written Sci-Fi, children’s, and now YA. I think one aspect of good branding is to associate oneself with one particular genre. Currently all I write is YA.
What is the best advice you can give to a new author?
I have been writing since I was in my very early teens. I started with short stories, and then tried my hands at novels. I was 16 when I tried my first novel – a Star Wars sequel! Gosh, it was terrible. I think, really, I wanted to make my own Star Wars movie; I couldn’t really do that at 16, but I could write one down. My mother urged me to write original stories, and told me of an author she had read an interview with, who gave the simple advice ‘don’t never give up!’. That deliberate double negative has stayed with me. If your first story isn’t published, or appreciated, it does not mean that it is no good. It means that you are still honing your talent. To be good at writing you have to write. But don’t just consider your early work mere practice. Everything you write is—or should be—a fun experience. If you love what you’re writing, your readers surely will, which is the best possible advice I could give.
My author site is www.markknightbooks.com. There is a link to my blog on there.
For more fun facts about Blood Family, you can visit its dedicated website, www.bloodfamily.co.uk. The sites are constantly evolving with new things added all the time. For instance, I soon plan to upload the timeline of events that I used while writing Blood Family to the Blood Family site. You will find sketches and other pieces of artwork by my cover artist, David M Rabbitte, on there as well.
Happy reading, folks – and if you would like to read an excerpt from Marks new book, you can find it here: ominously entitled
More from me on other topics soon, but you can follow me on
or my website: www.debbiemartin.co.uk