I met Mark Noce on my blog many years back, he left a comment saying that he would love to read my stories and that was it. We became critique partners and to be honest it has been sheer pleasure reading and critiquing Mark’s manuscripts and getting feedback from him on my own stories. When Mark signed with super agent Rena Rossner, I was thrilled for him.
On December 5, Mark’s novel Dark Wind’s Rising, published by St. Martin's Press (sequel to Between Two Fires) hits the bookshelves. I’m excited and happy for him. I know he is pressed for time, but there was no way I would let his book launch go, without him paying my blog a visit.
Q. Your novel is set in post Arthurian times, what kind of research did you do for Dark Winds Rising and its prequel Between Two Fires?
Thanks for having me here, Rachna! My research consisted of culling through both historical documents as well as legends from the era. I found the legends particularly enlightening because the few historical documents that did survive were usually fragmented. Archeological data was also really helpful.
Q. Your protagonist is Queen Branwen. How hard was it to write from a woman’s point of view?
Honestly, I’m intrigued by writing from other perspectives because I believe that the common threads that make us all human shine through in any protagonist. Also, my wife is my secret weapon and she reviews all of my early drafts and provides invaluable feedback as I write.
Q. One of my favourite characters in both your books is the hedge knight Artagan, tell us something about how you sketched this character?
Yeah, for better or worse there’s actually a fair amount of me in his character. Maybe that’s why I like to write him. He’s definitely flawed, but hopefully has his heart in the right place.
Q. How do you balance your writing with your day job?
It’s not easy, especially with kids too. I commute via public transport and that time is really useful for me. I can get a lot written or read on my morning and evening commutes. The key is to keep it fun too. If the writing is fun, I always manage to make time for it.
Q. What is your writing style? Plotter? Pantser? Detailed outline?
I’m a total panster, at least on the first draft. That doesn’t mean I’m not plotting some elements in my mind and doing research while I adjust the narrative, but I really enjoy flying “blind” the first time I write a draft.
Q. How long does it take you to finish a first draft?
I typically prefer to write as fast as I can. While the inspiration strikes me. My first draft for a full length novel usually takes 3-4 months tops. I’ll do revisions after that of course and get feedback from great CPs, such as yourself!
Q. How many drafts do you typically work on before you are ready to submit?
I try not to count. But I’d say a surprisingly large part of the first draft shows through in the final product. The more eyes I can get on the text though, the better. Quality feedback is essential.
Q. What is your revision process like?
It’s a different mode, editing versus writing. When editing, I try not to do anything else, so that I really focus. In the first draft anything goes, but in subsequent ones I try to really question everything as I review it.
Q. Did you ever think that Historical fiction novels would be a hard sell in terms of getting an agent?
Not particularly. I read plenty of historical fiction, so there are definitely agents representing it. The funny thing is that what I call historical another person may call romance or literary or even fantasy. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. So long as the story is good, that’s what matters to me.
Q. Could you tell us something about your journey to getting an agent?
Sure. I attended writer’s conferences and met agents face-to-face. I also queried others via email and by post. I actually found my agent, Rena Rossner, online one day and emailed her. She read the first few chapters of Between Two Fires, and that was it. Of course every step of the journey takes time, i.e. convincing the agent’s agency to take you on, sending out manuscripts to publishing houses, etc. But once I got Rena’s first reply to my manuscript, I knew I was on to something.
Q. The book/s you are currently reading?
Everything! I try to read 3-4 books a week, as it’s more grist for my mill. I’ve been reading a lot of murder mysteries and historical fiction set in WWII. I’m also a big Lawrence Durrell fan and recommend him to anyone who wants to peruse a spectacularly well-written novel.
Q. Any writing craft book that you swear by?
Honestly, I don’t feel attached to any particular “writing craft” book. I do, however, firmly believe that fiction itself is the best teacher. No need to listen to me when you can go pick up Shakespeare or Homer or any other great author at any time and read their best work! It’s like they are alive and talking directly to you, showing you just what to do.
Q. What are you currently working on?
I’ve got two more manuscripts with my agent right now that she’s excited about. One is a Viking story about a young warrior woman and the other is a murder mystery set in London during the Blitz. I definitely can’t wait for a chance to get these stories out there.
Here is wishing Mark super success with his book.
Mark on Twitter
Thanks Mark for taking out the time to answer a few questions.