Welcome to Part One of Confessions of a Reviewer’s interview with an author who is, quite possibly, one of the nicest men you will ever meet at a con.
Tonight, we present Mr Mark Cassell.
I first met Mark at Emcon in Nottingham earlier in the year and was immediately impressed by his manor and his set up at the con. This has developed into meeting him a couple of times now and we have had quite a lot of contact putting this together and I have to say my initial impressions were spot on.
In Part One, tonight, Mark talks about himself and his writing in general. He also talks about his obsession with seventies singing star, Leo Sayer, and gives us some info on what he’s doing and how he does it.
Part Two, tomorrow night, features chat all about the new book, some more general stuff and of course The Ten Confessions where it turns out Mr Cassell has one or two demons of his own hiding in closets!
Wednesday sees the Confessions review of his book The Shadow Fabric followed by showing it off on Thursday.
Nothing left to say at this point other than go grab some nibbles and a drink and sit back, and most of all……enjoy!
CoaR – So, tell everyone a bit about yourself in general. Who is Mark Cassell and what is he about?
MC - I'm a guy who lives on the south coast of England with my wife, a cat, a rabbit, and a guinea pig. And I have far too many apocalyptic dreams featuring Sean Bean.
CoaR - Do you have a boring pay the bills job or are you a bone fide writer?
MC - I'm part-time scribe, part-time driving instructor. Twelve years ago I dropped the yes-sir-no-sir shit to embrace self-employment. Becoming an instructor has proven invaluable, now giving me a flexibility to write. It's only recently I've dropped to around fifteen hours a week, leaving me more time for writing.
CoaR - Why writing? Why decide on that as a career?
MC - I need to get the weird stuff out of my head. I can't draw or paint, so I did the word thing.
CoaR - That it? No long winded story about how your family always wanted a writer in the family and because you were the last hope they made you write short stories on the back of toilet paper?
MC - I could give you some profound bollocks about one day discovering the written word where inspiration slapped me across the face and I began writing.
But no, nothing like that.
I've always enjoyed writing, certainly, and I've always loved telling stories and letting my imagination wander. It's a bonus that I'm able to pour it out in written form. Plus, it's a bonus that there are people out there who enjoy my work. Then on top of that, those readers demand more. That's why I'm chasing this.
CoaR - Take us through your process for a story. How do you start it and follow it through to the final product?
MC - Often it'll be a title that I work from, or perhaps even an opening line, then I free-write a first draft where it spews out like a kid's written it. I'll build and sculpt the story rather than write it linear, often going back to delete chunks, shift stuff around and cringe. For me it's a slow process whatever the word count. There are many, many drafts.
CoaR - You seem to be one of those quiet men in the indie horror world. There isn’t much info out there about you, including your own site. Is this how you like it or is it all for show?
MC - Perhaps it's both for show and the way I like it!
CoaR - What’s it worth for me to keep some of the secrets to myself?
MC - A free copy of my next book? I'll sign it and give you a bookmark. In all honesty though, I guess my fiction gives you a good insight into what makes Mark Cassell tick. Not only that, I'd rather write a story than write stuff for my website.
CoaR - How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you carry a notebook with you everywhere or write stuff on the back of your hand?
MC - Notebooks. Everywhere. In every room. That's why I wear combats pretty much all the time, so damn handy with their many pockets.
CoaR - Music seems to play a big part in your life. As I type this I know you are at a festival. How did it go? Who did you like best? I know you were excited to see Leo Sayer!
MC - Haha! Leo bloody Sayer! I was there for the camping and the company, not really the music. Adam Ant headlined and although I think I was keen to see him, I spent the duration of his set necking beer outside our tents. The whole weekend consisted of me emptying beer cans.
CoaR - In case there is someone out there who is unfamiliar with Leo Sayer, Mark asked me to add this video. It’s one of his personal favs.
CoaR - On a serious note, I noticed a Dream Theater quote on your site. Do you reckon, like me, they went to hell when Mike Portnoy left?
MC - Absolutely hell all the way. I often play their albums, and the one I always bounce back to is Images and Words. What year was that produced? '92 I think (I'm not Googling it, can’t be arsed). I reckon my music tastes are stuck in the early 90’s. I often try to tune into new stuff and of different genres, but I always lean on rock and metal of that decade.
CoaR - It was 1992. You Googled it, didn’t you?
MC - Believe me, I didn't! I also know their Awake album was released in 1994. Back when music came in plastic cases rather than clickable links onscreen, I would read—no, I'd devour—the inlay cards. Remember when those inlays featured lyrics, too? Does that still happen?
CoaR – I believe it does but I am a Spotify man now!
CoaR - Can you tell us if any of the characters in your books are based on people you have come across in your life or maybe even yourself?
MC - I'm a horror writer and I kill people. Every one of my stories contains characters sharing traits with those I've met and yeah, even family members. As for myself, the main character of my debut novel has a knee injury, and that's just one example among many where a character's life parallels my own.
CoaR - Did you get embarrassed when you came back from your pee at Horror Con and realised I had sold all your stuff while watching your table? Were you even more embarrassed at the fact I had to give people their change out of my own pocket?
MC - I never get embarrassed; I'm emotionally stunted. Besides, you know I desperately needed that pee. I did consider doing it under the table, you know?
CoaR - Yeah, I had a look under the table. What was with all the masks?
MC - Those, my friend, are the faces of my enemies. Seeing that you still have your face intact and it is not now a leathery feature in my collection, shows you're not an enemy. Let's keep it that way.
CoaR - Are you ever going to give me that change back?
MC - Dude! Did I not pay you back? Sorry, man. How much do I owe you?
CoaR - It was 50p. I was 50p short for my taxi to the train station so I had to walk. Was the pee worth that?
MC - I'm outta change right now, so it'll have to be an I-owe-you. That okay? Besides, walking's good for you; keeps the blood flowing.
CoaR - Tell us about Chaos Halo?
MC - It's an ongoing dystopian cyberpunk saga inspired by the images of Future Chronicles Photography, first published in their zine. I often attend conventions with them, and their cosplayers and models have proven invaluable for ideas.
Only released a couple of months ago, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill is already pulling some fantastic reviews. Someone recently said it's like "Blade Runner meets Mad Max…with a cyborg chick."
CoaR - So this is definitely going to continue?
MC - It will. I have a whole notebook dedicated to the protagonist, Abigail, and what she learns of her origins. Right now however, the Chaos Halo series is taking a back seat so I can concentrate on the Shadow Fabric Mythos.
CoaR - Who would be the authors you would give the credit of being your influences and who do you just not “get”?
MC - Brian Lumley is up there among my top influences, with his awesome Necroscope series where he perfects the crossovers between horror and fantasy. There's a slice of Sci-Fi in there, too. Next, I have to say the boundary-leaping Clive Barker: his supernatural stuff is off the chart.
As for an author I do not get, I have tried countless times to read Terry Pratchett. I fail every time.
CoaR - What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
MC - Shoving aside the procrastination demon, that sneaky bastard. Social media is a time drainer, but you gotta be seen to be active right?
CoaR - Talking of social media, why do you have a website, and a blog?
MC - Sad as it is to say, these days I hardly ever blog. I just want to write! My hits are pretty low and I rarely add content.
However, my website does lead directly to a Free Story subscriber list, and that's where the attention goes (www.markcassell.com). I'm actually amazed at how that list has grown since I first started handing out those freebies. I guess everyone loves free stories, right?
Plus, I have a Shadow Fabric page (www.theshadowfabric.co.uk) where all things to do with the mythos exists. It even features fan art, and some of that is astounding. One fan has actually had the Shadow Fabric sigil tattooed on her foot. The website is slowly growing, but it needs a keen eye for expansion.
Again, I'd rather be writing.
CoaR - What would your ultimate wish be with your writing?
MC - Simply a healthy readership, a committed following, and I know I'm blessed with those I have already. On top of that, I'd love to see the Shadow Fabric Mythos become a role playing game, or even adapted into graphic novels. You know, to really expand the concept. I'm already in talks with some artists.
Well unfortunately that is it for Part One of the interview. Please remember to come back tomorrow night for Part Two.
And please remember to tell your friends.
Thanks again for visiting Confessions of a Reviewer.
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous anthologies and ezines including Rayne Hall's Ten Tales series and horror zine, Sirens Call.
His best-selling debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is closely followed by the popular short story collection, Sinister Stitches, and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos. His most recent release, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography.