I’m welcoming Mark West onto my blog today to talk about his new novella, Polly.
Mark’s one of my oldest writing buddies, one of my most local writing buddies, one of my beta readers and a member of Team Sue Moorcroft.
So, Mark, tell us a bit about yourself, and about Polly.
Okay, I’ve been writing fiction since I was about eight (I wanted to know what happened next to The Six Million Dollar Man and also the Star Wars characters and decided to make up the stories myself). I wrote some short horror stories in the late 80s, moved to contemporary novels in the early 90s then went back to horror and started getting published in the small press in 1999 (when I first met you). Polly is a dark thriller about a woman who goes to Paris when she realises her marriage is over.
When we first met you wrote the kind of horror that gave me nightmares (literally). In recent years you’ve moved over into chillers and thrillers. I’m glad, because, a wussy wimp when it comes to scary things, it means I can read your stories again, but what has made you change direction?
I loved writing horror (and still do) but one of my writing goals is to get a mass-market deal and that will just never happen with horror. I wrote a novella called “Drive” a few years ago, which isn’t horror and I was worried about how it’d be received and it went down very well, even getting nominated for a British Fantasy Society Award. Based on that, I decided to move into thrillers and you & I talked it over in-depth at the time during one of our Trading Post meet-ups. Polly was the first step towards that, to see if I could do it again, and my novel-in-progress is a psychological thriller.
I’m always surprised at your writing output, considering you have a full-time job and a family. You’re active on your blog and on social media too. Where do you find the hours?
I don’t really know and I worry that it’s one of those things where, if I figure it out, it’ll all collapse like a house of cards.
What’s your planning process? You write short stories, novellas and novels – does the process vary from one form to another?
I make a LOT of notes. I’ve been more suited towards shorts and novellas the past few years, to be honest, so going back into a novel was a big step for me and I’ve been like a magpie, stealing ideas and processes from all over.
Which is your favourite form?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on the novel but I still prefer the novella – it’s long enough to stretch out and luxuriate in the space, but not get bogged down in the length.
But back to Polly, I love the cover art. Did you have much input on that? Are you pleased with it?
I really like the cover art and didn’t have any direct input, other than to say I didn’t think the first image represented the character properly. It was well done, a woman in front of Notre Dame (which is key to the story) but the model was clearly in her twenties (too young for Polly) and had a lot of tattoos (which Polly doesn’t have). But the one that we ended up with is marvellous, very elegant and also nicely noir-ish.
Is there an audio version of Polly coming along?
There is, and it’s the first audio version I’ve had of one of my books.
What made you write this particular story? How did you find the right publisher?
Stormblade Productions, the publisher, asked me, and I knew Carrie Buchanan would be narrating the audiobook. That led me towards writing with a female POV (which also helped as a good exercise to get me up to speed with the novel), I quite liked the idea of writing about Paris and once I’d got the notion that her marriage had collapsed, it all laid itself out. Though, if you remember, my original ending was a lot darker and you & I, in another Trading Post session, brainstormed pretty much what’s there now.
I know you’re working on a novel right now. How’s that going? Can you give us an idea of what it’s about?
I am, it’s into the second draft now and seems to be going well, though I’m currently at the “this is rubbish, it’s not original, nobody’s going to like it” stage. It’s about Claire, a woman in her mid-forties, who is on the verge of divorce and having to start things over. Unfortunately, at the same time, she realises that someone is stalking her.
I know that stage! But I’m sure you’re wrong, it’ll be great, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks for chatting.
Thank you for having me! J
Mark West lives in Northamptonshire with his wife Alison and their young son Matthew. Since discovering the small press in 1998 he has published over eighty short stories, two novels, a novelette, a chapbook, a collection and three novellas (one of which, Drive, was nominated for a British Fantasy Society Award). He has more short stories and novellas forthcoming and is currently working on a novel.
Away from writing, he enjoys reading, walking, cycling, watching films and playing Dudeball with his son.