Mark Ward is a local author who has now written 3 books True Colours, The Marguerite Effect and The Blue Angels. Mark tells us about his latest book, what inspired him to start writing, his writing style and much more…
Tell us about your latest book
“The Blue Angels” is my second novel and is significantly more hard-hitting than “The Marguerite Effect”. It tells the story of Milton Styles, an everyman who has lost his family in a natural disaster. When the novel begins, Milton is falling apart, haunted by a recurring nightmare in which he witnesses his family’s final moments. Very soon, however, the dream changes with the appearance of the beautiful blue lights that the world will come to know as the Blue Angels. Milton finds love and hope but he also acquires a powerful enemy as he tries to find out what those lights represent.
Are you in the process of a new book?
I am. I’ve been planning it for almost a year now. The new book is also a sci-fi piece and is set in England in the very near future. I won’t give too much away but there are murders, a particle collider, the world’s wealthiest individual, an unfortunate allergy to spiders and shadows of Arthurian legend in the mix. I hope to stop planning and to start writing within the next couple of months and to have something that can be called complete by the end of the year. As yet though, it doesn’t even have a title.
When and why did you start writing?
I guess the urge has always been there, as it is in many people. I first started to kick ideas around when I was in my twenties (a long time ago) but I just didn’t know how to even start writing anything. It took a couple of Open University courses back in 2007 to finally set me on the road. Writing is a hobby for me now: I commute to London every day and instead of reading, I write.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’d written some short stories as a part of my OU courses, and as a sort of “run up” to a novel. Most of these ended up in “True Colours”. As to my first novel, I was on holiday with my family in France back in 2010 and I happened to notice that the sediment in the bottom of my near-empty wine glass was spinning around. I puzzled for a few minutes over what kept it moving and then had the idea of a scientist discovering the ultimate in green energy. I started to write the story and then, when I had written around 25,000 words, I realised I was actually writing a novel. Eighteen months later, “The Marguerite Effect” was complete.
Do you have a specific writing style?
With something as personal and introspective as writing, a person’s personality will inevitably manifest itself. Curiously though, the personality that shows through might not be one that others will recognise. I don’t intentionally emulate anyone, but “The Library at Saint Pelice”, for example, was written as a homage to M. R. James, whereas “A Streetlight Named Desire” was inspired by Tom Sharpe. For my novels though, I tend to go for the recognisable, even if it’s bent a little out of shape. There’s always a little humour too, sprinkled here and there. “The Blue Angels” deals with grief and loss, as well as love and madness, but that’s no reason not to assume a wry smile upon occasion. As Joshua Hayle, the villain of “The Blue Angels”, complains after a thwarted murder: ‘What the Hell use is it owning your own plane if you can’t throw someone out of it?’
How did you come up with the title?
In my mind, UFOs mean extra-terrestrials. I think that’s the case with most people, even if they don’t actually believe. While researching UFO sightings, however, it became clear that an alarmingly large number of people – particularly in parts of the USA – have alternative explanations, namely that UFOs are piloted by demons or angels. The lights in the book are beautiful, blue and serene and so I assumed that those same people would most likely associate them with angels. The book itself takes a more ambiguous stance.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The old advice, that honesty is the best policy, is excellent advice: lies have to be remembered, in contradiction to actual events. At its heart, a fiction novel is simply an elaborate lie in which every attribute of every event has to be remembered, justified and carried forward: get it very wrong and your readers will notice.
No story exists in isolation; all our lives are inextricably linked with those around us, the wider world and – ultimately – the universe itself. In fact, no story can happen unless everything else is ripe for it to do so. The writer, then, has to consider a raft of things that fall outside of the story in order to give it context, meaning and direction and the trick of it is to know how much of the “whole story” to work out and how much of that to write. I think of it this way: when lightning strikes sand, the shape of the fulgurite glass that it makes depends upon much, much more than the lightning bolt’s own properties. The sand itself will dictate much, as will recent weather and the sand’s location (wet sand will behave differently to dry sand, as will sand that is wet with salt or fresh water). The story is the fulgurite, and the writer, the lightning. If the writer knows nothing of the sand, how does he know that the final shape makes sense?
When the novel begins, Milton is falling apart, haunted by a recurring nightmare in which he witnesses his family’s final moments. Very soon, however, the dream changes with the appearance of the beautiful blue lights that the world will come to know as the Blue Angels. Milton finds love and hope but he also acquires a powerful enemy as he tries to find out what those lights represent.