British Mark David is a new author on the scene who has just released his first book, an author and historical researcher who goes the final mile to access remote places, chart them and bring them alive in the telling his tales. An admirer of culture, history, as well as fantasy, Mark David has spent many years crafting his passions and universes before releasing his books. Mark writes mystery-thrillers, fantasy and Viking Myths and Legends.
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The Elements Series
Earth, water, air, mist, ice, fire and darkness, The Elements is a complex and gritty mystery-thriller series with deep roots in history, aiming to break the bounds of contemporary fiction.
Developing a Fantasy series like Game of Thromes, Mark writes under the pen name D.A. Marvik, crafting a new high-fantasy series with a touch of the Jules Vernes effect – called Voyagers and Kings.
A third series having grown out of the research for The Elements is the Viking Legends and Norse Mythology Source Book, using much of the material developed, volume 1 The Undead and the Afterlife just out as eTEXT (interactive eBook), Volume 2 ‘Bloodlines Of Legend’ is his current Work-In-Progress.
Why do you write?
Because I always wanted to, and had been working on a fantasy universe building for many years. I shelved that build because it was just too big. Then ten years later I realized I had to do something about this need I have to create other worlds, even if close to our own. It’s a passion driven by a creative mind.
When did you decide to become a writer?
That must have been after a trip to Sweden in 2006. The joy of the Swedish hinterland in the fall was an odd contrast to a conflict brewing in the group I was with. Being confined in the wilderness was an experience – seeing the shadow side of people was the catalyst. Coming back from that trip I sat on the train and developed a story idea for a book involving conflict amongst expats in an out-of-the-way location set against the golden backdrop of autumn. That conflict evolved into pagan ritual and murder in the prologue to my first series, The Elements.
How long does it usually take you to complete a book?
For me, a long time. I’d say at least a year for a novel. I know we live in an age where more and faster is the norm, but really, it takes a very long time to craft a really good story and develop the plot, characters and a complexity of back-history that moulds into a whole that can constantly surprise a reader. I try to compensate by having many different projects going on, switching from project to project. Once the basics are in place, more books are quicker and easier to construct.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’ve always been very creative. Creativity is something we’re born with. All we have to do is learn to tap into those aspects of ourselves we already have. I have evolved an approach that works visually, using photographic resources to develop story by scene-building. I also use plotting more loosely that I used to and let the subconscious decide new directions. Most of all, I do my best to tap into dreams. When I can, I work them into the story, no matter how bizarre. I also publish them on Medium.
What have you written?
I’ve written four books of The Elements series, but have only the prologue out. The first part of the series is due for release in the summer 2017. I’ve released much of the source material used to craft the series now as a non-fiction project about Viking Legends and Norse Mythology.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?
I tried working to an outline plot, but found I kept breaking it as the inner story engine kicked in when submersed in the material of the story. The human mind needs to do both, actually. It’s a left-right side of the brain thing, but we need to see the territory while also focussing in on the details. I do my best to let the impulse take over and often re-plot according to new insights as I’m writing.
Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website?
I do. I’m a design professional so would never leave this to someone else. I’m very visual and design-brand driven.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Yes. Think very carefully about if they are prepared to work very, very hard with little in economic reward. I believe those who are successful are those who know how to channel all that hard work to the right places.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
The main character in The Elements is a girl in her late twenties, Angelica Lux. To men, she’s alluring and attractive, but she’s really just a tomboy at heart who hates being chatted up and doesn’t take any crap. As an analyst trapped in a man’s world, she’s intelligent, but she’s restricted. She trusts her instinct, her gut feelings. That makes her special because she’s been trained to do what she’s told and leave the thinking part to her seniors.
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere. I see an unusual place, I think, ‘I need to use this.’ I take pictures, craft story scenes around those and develop story from there. I use history a lot too, and research people and backgrounds. I find the best story ideas come from the real world, from old books written by travelers from another era, or from being inspired by TV series. I love gritty and real.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Doing it for the pleasure and not the reward.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Developing continuity from the previous book, while also providing a self-contained story. A story evolves in a series, but the reader needs the resolutions to the mystery being served. It’s a balancing act.
What is your favorite movie or TV show?
Game Of Thrones and Homeland.
Which writers inspire you?
Tolkien Nr. 1. Then James A. Michener, Stieg Larsson and Robert Ludlum. I could also mention H.G. Wells and Jules Vernes.
What is the current book you are promoting?
Fear Of Broken Glass, the Prologue to The Elements. This is the book that grew out of that trip to Sweden back in 2006. Conflict has evolved into murder by Viking-pagan ritual. It’s a complicated plot involving a conspiracy across nations but is a simple story set in the middle of the wilderness. We follow a back country detective’s attempt to solve another crime in a series over a decade. A series grew in the telling, to quote Tolkien. There are ten books planned in The Elements series.
You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser?
My new story is a fantasy project I started twenty years ago, called Voyagers and Kings. The teaser is the premise for the series. We’ve forgotten the world of Jules Vernes and H.G. Wells, the sense that there is a lot to discover. In this series, I get back to voyage and epic discovery, in a world where there are two continents at different levels of technical development. One world is medieval caught in strife like we know from the crusades, the other has just discovered steam and industrial iron. What happens when those two worlds collide?
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Ash in Fear Of Broken Glass and The Elements. He’s a young Brit trapped in a life in Scandinavia he didn’t choose for himself. He’s had a really hard life, been in and out of prison, breaks all the rules, doesn’t care less about many things, does everything his own way, and ultimately, he’s a hero. Except, he doesn’t know it.
Who is your least favorite character and why?
Ash’s Archaeologist friend and side-kick, Dan. I really want Daniel to have a greater part in the story, but if he did so he’d take some of the limelight away from Ash who really needs to evolve, since others are depending on him (Ash). He’s my least favorite character because he’s restricted by Ash story-wise, but Ash needs him and the story need him.
Do you have any formal education in creative writing? If not are you planning to go to school?
I have a doctorate about structuring creativity and have a lot of experience with creative projects. The creativity question is one of the reasons I’ve thrown myself into this.
What is your next project?
I work on more than one project at a time. I want to develop Voyagers and Kings until I can release book 1 at the end of 2017. Begun twenty years ago, this is epic fantasy with a history like we know from Middle Earth and Game Of Thrones. To illustrate, I have a very visual universe build-site going on https://voyagersandkings.wordpress.com/. I have a history to write as a book project to get the universe nailed before I can release the first book, maybe at the end of 2017.
What one person from history would you like to meet and why?
Albert Einstein. He was a true creative genius. The Theory Of Relativity was based on pure thought and reason, no experimentation.
What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?
I’ve had contracts offered by traditional publishing and to be honest, they are miserable reading. The traditional publishing industry does what it can to maintain profits in a rapidly changing market. Unfortunately, the people who pay the price are those providing the payroll – authors. So despite the misery of drowning in so many new books, I’ll go with self-publishing since I really have to be in control of my own projects.
Tell us something unique about you.
I go the final mile. This isn’t a bragging right, but an honest recognition I make things too hard on myself. The fact I’ve spent so long developing my stories is really crazy, considering the nature of the self-publishing game with all the cards stacked against me.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would love find better ways to connect with readers. The reading experience, feedback and connection is everything.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
By going to Elementa Mundi, my project site and read what I’m now making available. I want this to be many things, not least a place for people to get access to my work so they can judge for themselves. I’ve started putting previews out of ronline reading on the online publication system ISSUU. By signing up to my mail list, I share online resources not available on the project site.
Extracts from an interview conducted with Mark David, London 28.03.2017. By Mia Roberts.
British 46 yr.-old Mark David is no ‘ordinary’ author, but also a historical researcher and avid amateur photographer who goes the final mile to access remote places, chart them and bring them alive in the telling his tales. After interviewing Mark David I was left with one big impression – passion. Many passions, not least for crafting mystery-thrillers that know no bounds, in time or place.
An admirer of culture, history, as well as fantasy, Mark David spent ten long (and lonely he says) years crafting his passion, setting out from the start to write fiction that was epic and real at the same time. Is that really possible? I wondered. Set in the reality of recent history, I have read two of his books, opening visages to new destinations from what he calls ‘the sands of time’. But how?
Mark begins his explanation with energy and enthusiasm. So I put the question to him, how?
‘Without wanting to give much away – I love to surprise readers – the answer is find those aspects of civilisation that we have, well, sort of forgotten, and weave them into the trials and tribulations of people placed in very difficult circumstances.’ Mark proceeds to define what he calls ‘epicity‘, about what it takes to write an epic story while keeping it real and down-to-earth. ‘It’s a fine balance,’ admits, ‘being a question of identifying with the what it is that drives the characters, what it is that makes them live, while looking at how a story can be viewed as a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. It’s also a lot of work.’
Mark David is no ordinary author. He is the author of the epic new series The Elements, an almost impossibly-ambitious mystery-thriller series on a vast scale – from what I’ve been allowed to peek into, breaking the bounds of contemporary fiction, while bounded in time and place by the twentieth century in the years 1917-1989. Next, I asked him what his vision was.
‘THE VISION for my books is to simply break new ground.’
‘How?’ I asked, looking for more depth.
Mark turns serious for a moment. ‘Go beyond the boundaries of established genres I hope. I want to bring something bold and unique to the marketplace – making it available to the reader in new ways, connecting reader with author and what’s on offer.’ That was the short version of a journey he believed all authors travel when taking a passion and turning it into a reality. ‘I yearned for realms of fiction that goes beyond the boundaries of the physical world,’ Mark says with reflection, ‘touching those aspects of us that makes us who we are – ideas, memories. And dreams. Eventually I felt I had to dedicate myself to getting the stories out that kept me awake at night.’ Then one train ride after visiting Sweden in the autumn of 2007 – and the seed that germinated into The Elements was planted.
I learned of Mark from the Writer’s Communities he was a part of on social media. Seeing year after year, how committed he was to his project I had to find out more about what it is that drives today’s new-breed Independent Publishers. ‘Passion,’ he says, ‘comes from an interest and in having something to say.’
Mark’s genre is historical mystery-thriller – being the easiest description. ‘There are also elements of conspiracy-thriller, crime and spy,’ he adds. Identifying his influences, Mark mentions the genre-elements of Stieg Larsson, Dan Brown, James A Michener, John Le Carré and Wilbur Smith. ‘I love to weave in elements of the esoteric, lost knowledge, often spending long periods in researching historical sources,’ he adds. ‘This is the kind of approach adopted by Dan Brown, but my approach is different than that:
“The story universe I invent draws on many sources, working with timelines and multiple character points of view with a backplot that places The Elements in the same level of epic scale as we know from Fantasy.’ He describes his approach in terms of the research needed to develop complexity. ‘To this end,’ he explains, ‘I have chosen to withhold publishing, adding layers of back-plot and complexity into The Elements mix, resulting in dark, brooding, rich eclectic cocktail of mystery, adventure and not least, conspiracy thriller.”
A Unique Writing Approach
Next, we got onto the subject of approach to writing. There was a lot to learn, mostly by trial and error, sending out draft after draft until he felt he couldn’t improve on the manuscript anymore. Mark chose an approach to story-making that builds layers of complexity and intrigue, each book adding explanations for the previous so the reader of the series embarks on an intricate path of discovery. This path is not only fictive, but historical, the story weaving together as many elements from the real as the fictive one.
Most books are constructed in plot around the idea of presenting the reader something to understand, so they gain emotional involvement by understanding and identification. The Elements challenges this, by adding layer upon layer of complexity, so no reader will be able to identify the essence of what the elements is about, until all the pieces in the mozaic can be put together.
Writing The Elements
The Elements is described by Mark as a response to ‘wyrd’, the Nordic conception of the web of fate, the web being spun by actions and perceptions, fate changing as people act according to the understanding of how the past, present and future are/can be intertwined, ’being a web spun by ourselves conditioned by the webs spun by others we are also caught in the predicament created by our own actions,’ says Mark.
Mark David began writing ideas for the series in 2006. He started writing in 2007 and expanded the concept and the series in the years 2007-2014. By the end of 2014 the series had expanded to encompass the prologue He Who Favors Fire and seven books in The Elements series. By 2014 he had developed the series crossing the boundaries between the genres historical, mystery-thriller, spy, conspiracy and horror.
Each book has a distinct thematic identity mirroring the notion of the classical elements air-earth-fire-water, expanded to encompass earth, darkness, water, mist, mist, air, ice and fire. The series is notable for the depth of research through history, with two parallel timelines progressing from 1917 to the end of the second world war alternating against the fiction-contemporary timeline 1986-1989 at the eve of the end of the cold war.
“What The Elements is, is a unique hybrid bridging the lonely world of spies with archaeological discovery, crime and an enigmatic mystery of such magnitude, that it will, I hope, provide The Elements story with the reader discovery I feel so much fiction is lacking today.”
Explaining The Elements
Mark’s series works on two levels:
– An exploration of time, belief and fate. This is based on archaeological discovery and esoteric doctrine is the common thread linking different people at different times together.
– The central underlying premise that ‘reality’ is not absolute. Reality as ‘actions-in-time’ is multi-threaded and determined by those who have gone before us, our actions partly determining our present as we ourselves define the conditions for the future.
The main plot concerns the protagonists in the ‘present’ timeframe of 1986-1988 as they struggle to unlock the secrets of the past, in order to explain actions in the present. By doing so they become, through their own actions, pawns in a grand scheme of deception of which they ought not necessarily have been a part.
Being a web spun by ourselves conditioned by the webs spun by others we are also caught in the predicament created by our own actions. The question is whether the protagonists can spin themselves out of it. ‘I’m still working on it…’, he adds with a smile 🙂
The Elements I can reveal, is intended to be grown slowly over many years, without fanfare, but by engaging online digital book sellers Mark says will be featured on the Elements Project site called elementa mundi – Latin for ‘The Elements Universe.’
Extracts from an interview with Mark David conducted by Journalist Mia Roberts, March 2017