Glowing Author #29
Looking for an entertaining mystery, dripping with suspense and spiced with a dash of romance? I thought you might be. Which is why I’m glad Mark Young stopped by to tell us about his debut novel. So, without further delay…
Thank you. And thank you, Kay, for the opportunity to tell others about Revenge: A Travis Mays Novel.
So, tell us a bit about your new book.
Here’s what the backcover says: When a trained killer threatens ex-cop Travis Mays—and those Travis loves—he finds a skilled adversary and an unexpected fight.
Haunted by his past, Travis begins a new life and a new career, teaching criminology at a university and building a cabin in the Idaho Mountains. He hires a beautiful river guide, Jessie White Eagle from the Nez Perce tribe, to steer him safely through raging whitewater, only to find that this trip changes everything—for Travis, for Jessie, and for those they hold dear. In the shadows lurks a man—calling himself Creasy—determined to make sure Travis pays for past sins.
It’s a fast-paced thriller that takes readers on a wild ride down Idaho’s whitewater rivers, along the historic Lolo Trail once tread by the Nez Perce nation, and onto the city streets of California. Tighten your helmet. This ride never stops until the last shot is fired and the final body falls.
Wow! Not the kind of plot line just anyone could pull off! Could this be influenced by your “day job”?
Six years ago, I ended a twenty-six year career in law enforcement. It was a challenging and fulfilling mission, but my body finally told me it was time to change direction.
During those years in law enforcement, I was afforded many opportunities as a detective and sergeant not normally available to cops in mid-sized agencies like my own— the Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) in California. I worked on several law enforcement task force operations, including the presidential Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force targeting major drug traffickers, and the federal Organized Crime Task Force charged with identifying and prosecuting prison gang leaders.
So when I sat down to write my first crime mystery novel, I was able to draw upon years of experience—people from all walks of life, crime cases, personal impressions, and a little police humor gathered from real characters.
How did you come up with this specific plot line?
Actually, my attempt to learn to fly fish led to it. After leaving law enforcement, I needed to move my family from California to a more rural setting. So we packed up and moved to a small town in eastern Washington, a few miles from the Idaho border.
One of the things I promised myself was that I’d learn to fly fish. One of the fishing areas lay in central Idaho, along the beautiful Clearwater, Selway, and Lochsa rivers. Truly God’s country. The Nez Perce (NP) Indian reservation straddles a good chunk of these mountains, and I developed an interest in their culture and history. I began to envision a story where a character from my law enforcement world connects with a character from the NP law enforcement world, and they work together to solve a crime while learning about each other’s way of life.
I began to research the cultural, historical and present-day challenges of the NP. I interviewed the chief of the NP Tribal Police, members of the NP tribe, spiritual leaders in the community, and one individual who headed up archeology projects of this Indian culture for more than thirty years. Unfortunately, I could not use most of what I learned for this novel. I hope to dish out additional morsels of information in upcoming sequels to Revenge.
My interest in cultural history arises from my own personal history and experiences. I can trace my heritage, through my mother’s side, back to the Cherokee nation, with roots in Oklahoma. And, in 1973, I had an opportunity as a reporter to travel to South Dakota where I interviewed American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means during the takeover of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. During the standoff between AIM members and federal authorities, I was able to move into the town during the siege and interview members of the Oglala Sioux Nation about conditions they faced on the reservation.
The plot for Revenge was spawned from this background.
Deep and unique research like this is so important, Mark. That’s what really brings a book to life. How much of yourself do you put into your writing?
Writers must use their own experiences and thoughts in order to create real characters. A little of who I am invariably rubs off on my characters, but I hope not too much. And within the story itself—plot, conflicts, motivations, and point of view all reflect in some way who I am.
Even some of the background themes in each of my novels reflect a little about my opinions or observation about life. For example, my first novel, Broken Allegiance (to be released in the spring of 2012), deals with prison-directed gang violence on the streets of California and how the main character—homicide detective Tom Kagan—fights to protect his family and a young boy from harm. This comes from my years supervising SRPD’s Organized Crime and Criminal Intelligence Unit, and working gang cases with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. A part of my experiences emerge in this novel through several of the characters.
Are there other writers who have particularly influenced or encouraged you?
As a reader, Ernest Hemingway’s writing left his mark on me many years ago. But as a novelist, Francine Rivers became one of my earlier influences. It was through her writing that I started to realize I might become a novelist. I met her through our church in California, and finally picked up her novel, Redeeming Love. Since I ran with a bunch of macho cops, I had to sneak off privately to read this one—it’s not the kind of novel I could carry into my police briefings tucked under my arm. But, wow—that was the first time I saw how a truly gifted writer could put a story together that really spoke to people’s hearts—men and women. I write in a different genre and readership market, but her style left an impression on me as a writer. Francine has been a real encouragement to me, giving suggestions and advice as I struggled from one rejected novel after another.
I could not leave this topic without mentioning my friend and mentor, James Scott Bell. I never thought a cop and a defense attorney could really become friends—but I was wrong. I was fortunate to attend a writer’s clinic under Jim’s tutelage after attending the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference in California in 2006. He has been an encouragement and mentor to me ever since, as well as to hundreds of other writers. And when Jim began launching his ABA novels Try Dying, Try Darkness, and Try Fear in 2008, I snapped up those novels as quickly as the print dried.
You decided to self-publish your book. What do you see as the pros and cons of going this route?
I took five years to reach this decision, a journey I discussed on my own blog Hook’em and Book’em last month. Once decided, I researched as much as I could about how to self-publish. Only time will allow me to see if I traveled the right course.
Let’s start with the positive. Once a novel is written, edited, and refined, writers can have their works on the market in a relatively short period of time. Since I have focused on eBook sales to begin with, I learned a writer can offer their properly formatted novel for sale with 24-48 hours. No more rejection notices. No contracts that promise your book will be on the market in eighteen months to two years. And with self-published Publish On Demand (POD) opportunities, a writer can have a printed copy ready to go in about a month once the editing, formatting and cover design have been finalized. I am still working on the POD format for Revenge that Amazon’s Createspace will distribute, so I have much to learn about this process. I hope to have Revenge out in print in the next month. The beauty of eBook and POD self-publishing, however, is that any errors that slip through can be caught and corrected immediately. The corrected copy can be republished within a few days.
Now, for some of the disadvantages. It will be a fight to get your book self-published book into traditional-published markets—mainline distributors, brick-and-mortar stores, and before nationally recognized reviewers. Not that these avenues are completed closed, but getting there is a lot tougher. A self-published writer must recognize that the responsibility for editing, marketing, and advertising rests solely upon the shoulder of the writer. These duties can be farmed out to experts in each of these fields, but self-published writers must delegate all of these aspects of publishing or do it themselves while covering these costs out of their own pocket. Another consideration is that self-published authors do not gain the same respect or acknowledgement that traditionally published authors might enjoy.
Thank you so much for joining us, Mark! All the best on this great venture. We’ll check back in with you and see how it’s going.
Mystery readers and writers, Mark invites you to visit his blog at Hook’em and Book’em “where mystery readers, writers and law enforcement connect.”
“Self-published writers must build their readership base from the ground up—one satisfied reader at a time.”