MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR MARC WATSON!
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! My name is Marc Watson, and I am an author of Science fiction and fantasy.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
My first book ‘Death Dresses Poorly’, started as a strange encounter I had with a man years ago in Chicago. The whole first chapter is almost a verbatim retelling of that encounter. I always held onto that meeting, and years later turned it into a Gaiman-esque romp into the worlds of life and death.
My second book ‘Catching Hell Pt. 1: Journey’ was spawned years ago from some of my previous hand-written works in a sprawling post-apocalyptic shared universe I’d concocted. It’s been growing in my mind so long, I don’t remember life without it rattling around up there.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
For Catching Hell, my epic fantasy, I always wanted to write a world with a blank slate. A familiar world, but one without the rules of modern fantasy.
For DDP, an urban fantasy/black comedy, I needed to just cut loose after I was done writing Catching Hell Pt 1 and 2, and it was my way of cleansing my mind after years of work. Then by dumb luck, it just ended up getting released first.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Easy answer for both: very, very little. Catching Hell as I mentioned is a clean slate. That’s the joy of apocalyptic fantasy; we can just bend the world into whatever we want.
For DDP, I needed to do some quick locale research regarding Chicago and Seattle, but that was about it. Basically place names and distances, just to not get called out by anyone.
Can you tell me about your Series?
Sure! Catching Hell is part of a duology (Book 2 coming soon!) that takes place in a world I think of as the ‘Ryuujin Universe’, the aforementioned worlds I’ve had a number of previous works take place in (and hope to one day publish). All of them are stories about super-powerful people, their effects on the world around them, and the things they see as the millennia pass one after another.
For Catching Hell, so much of these worlds have already come and gone, and the reader is thrust in to the shoes of two mortal, powerless young men who need to jump into the world of these super-beings without getting themselves killed.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
My favorite will always be the first one I wrote with a pen and paper (and still sits in my bedroom) tentatively titled ‘The Dirt King’, but will likely need a title change if I ever publish it because it still sounds like a vacuum brand. I was obsessed with finishing that story during high school, to the point of nearly failing because of it. It just opened so many doors for me.
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
I’m a child of the late 80s and early 90s, so a lot of the influences are from fantasy and cartoons of that time. Anime from that era played a huge roll for me. I just found the stories coming out of Japan so much more lovingly crafted, mature, and beautiful than those from North America. While Disney was churning out mediocre fluff like ‘Oliver and Company’, somewhere in Japan ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ existed. There was no comparison for me.
Was it always meant to become a series?
Yes. Absolutely. I knew it was a sprawling epic when I first started. Eventually it evolved and the ideas bloomed from it and Catching Hell was the result. Big ideas need room to grow. A series is the only way to get that done.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
Well I’m a busy man. I have a great full-time job, and a wonderful family with my wife and two active young boys. I coach them, run them to practices and events, and generally exhaust myself before bed each day. What writing I do is often in the 45 minutes to an hour I have for lunch at work (which is where I am right now!)
As for writing goals, I’m pretty consistent on my answer: NEVER! I don’t believe in them, and am a staunch advocate against setting them. Stories are organic. They will be written if they need to be written. If you can’t motivate yourself to get something down, then is it worth writing? I’m a busy guy, so I say no, because if I’m just staring at my keyboard trying to force 3000 words out of my fingertips, then I’m wasting my time and I should be doing something more productive.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
Like all passive writers, of course I do! ‘Catching Hell Pt. 2: Destination’ is complete and has just recently been edited by my favorite crew at Fluky Fiction (who also published Death Dresses Poorly, but aren’t the publishers of Catching Hell. We have a great symbiotic relationship). My hope is that I can get it out before the end of 2018.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Nope! Naming things is something that comes naturally to me, and I may crib a bit from place names or people in the world around me, but most of the time I just spit them out and see what works.
I can say that for DDP, the main character Ethan was named after my oldest son for the longest time, right up until it almost went to print, but my wife and I agreed to change it at the 11th hour. Ethan isn’t exactly a model citizen with a happy life. He’s young and beaten and weary and generally unpleasant when we meet him. Not a great namesake.
Where do your ideas come from?
Experience, pop culture, and music play a lot into my process. Most of my “best” ideas have come from walking my dog or rambling around work listening to music that paints a picture in my head and fills it with possibilities. I never write any of it down, though. If an idea is good enough, it’ll stick.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Not particularly. My mental slate is so full I think I’m satisfied with what I’ve got on the shelf. I really wanted to do a comedy, and then I did and it went great, and that itch was scratched.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Finding the time! Oh lord, would that I could find the time. 45 minutes a day isn’t much, obviously. I can’t write at night because by the time the kids go to bed I just need to shut my brain off, and what writing I have done in those hours is just terrible.
But that said, I do love my job, and I don’t wish to become a full-time writer, so I suppose I’m exactly where I should be.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I honestly never had much of an opinion about them, and I know I never watched any so I’m not their target audience at all, but I do have one for Death Dresses Poorly (shout out to Fluky Fiction once again) and I loved what it conveyed. In the right hands, with the right idea, they’re brilliant. I may not hunt them out, but I know people that do.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
My kids. Cheesy answers, and not terribly helpful in an author interview, but if I can get them right, everything else in life is just gravy. I love the young men they are becoming, and I want to see more and more of their growth every day, good or bad.
If it has to be a writing answer, I set a goal to provide one dinner for my family with earnings from my books. I was able to have one fulfilling Mexican dinner with them with my fist cheque, and I’ve never been prouder of myself, which is saying something because I’m pretty vain.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
People I’ve known for years saying “You wrote a book? It’s about time!” I can finally shut those people up.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In the same general place I hope, only I’ll have a 20 and 18 year old, so there will be significantly less food in my house, regardless of if they still live there, because they will come and take it all.
Have you always liked to write?
As far as I can remember I have, yes. I always had a story to tell and tried to find ways to express it. My teenage years were when I really started smashing out the work.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My first piece of advice it always to go at your own pace. Move how you’re comfortable moving. If setting a daily goal is your way, I’m no one to argue, but I am a firm believer in a story growing naturally and giving it room to do so. And whether it’s for 5 hours or 5 minutes, no time is too much or too short to write in.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
Sell camping gear. God I love selling camping gear. I did it for years before I got a job that actually paid livable money, and if I won a lottery and never needed to worry about bills again, I’d be in some camping store working part-time telling people about the loft rating and compression dimensions of down-filled sleeping bags.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
For sure I do. I want to know what people think, and I love responding honestly to those thoughts. My goal was always just to get my work out there for you to see and judge. So long as I get my book in your hand, my job is done. After that, you can think anything you want about it. I really hope you like it, but writing is like any art; it’s subjective. I’ll never, ever please everyone, and frankly I don’t want or need to.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Well agents could have smaller windows for having replies to queries, and not restrict writers to ONLY SUBMIT TO US AND NO ONE ELSE! I get the timeframe is hard because there’s sooooo many writers out there trying to get seen, so that just is what it is, but I started late. I’m almost 40. I don’t have 4-6 months to wait for you. That’s 1/16 of my kid’s life! Reject me and move on!
What are you working on now?
Planning how to juggle two kids in hockey while trying to sneak Catching Hell Pt 2 into the world. Results pending…
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Happily! This is from the Prologue to Catching Hell Pt. 2:
After that point, when her period of mourning was over and every tear she’d ever cried was multiplied a thousand times, she returned to the tower to feel the real world for what it was, hide herself and her feelings, and shield everyone from her Power. After all, with the death of the original Ryuujin, wasn’t she now the most powerful Embracer that there was? Although Ryu’s son may argue that point, she knew that she could become a threat to everything she loved. Eventually, she was simply alone in the sky.
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
It’s the classic trope: I write what I know. I don’t know history or mathematics. I know magic and swords and androids and complex human emotions. I know a world with an infinite array of shades of grey between good and evil.
Where did your love of books come from?
I’m not exactly sure, honestly. I recall my grandmother reading to me whenever I’d stay at her house, but I think I just stumbled into books honestly. I remember getting a collection of Charles Dickens books when I was 7 or 8, and reading A Tale of Two Cities and understanding very little of it, but I loved that it was a long story with no pictures. I felt so mature. It just grew from there.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Favorite book is easy: The Shipping New by E. Annie Proulx. It was mandatory reading in English class in high school, and I devoured it. It is the most complex, rich collection of characters I’ve ever set my eyes on. I bow to Proulx’s craftsmanship.
My favorite author is someone I honestly don’t read any more. Young Adult author Gordon Korman was the first author who I set out to read every book he wrote. He is from Southern Ontario, the same as me, and wrote stories in a world I recognized. He started incredibly young, just like I wanted to (whoops…) and just kept going. He’s the person who made me a reader, and the person who inspired me to write.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
A reoccurring character throughout the ‘Ryuujin’ stories, including as a main character in the Catching Hell series and in the snippet above, is a woman named Crystal Kokuou, an absurdly powerful woman with a backstory both amazing and tragic. I love always coming back to her, because even if the reader doesn’t see it, I know what that woman has been through and what she’s trying to accomplish with her life.
Strong, complex, richly textured women are so important to me. I was raised by my single mother, my older sister is fierce and independent, and my wife is my quiet, inspiring, beautiful hero. All these traits helped create Crystal, who is absolutely not a damsel in distress. She is the force that makes the wind in my stories blow.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I like to say it energizes me, but then I get exhausted from it. What I mean is that when I get into the writing zone, I feel like I can take on the world. But when I lift my head up from finishing what I was working on, I feel like I’ve been napping for three hours and the world is just a haze.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
YouTube. I could write, or I could watch Michael Cera eat increasingly spicier chicken wings! You can see the dilemma I’m in.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Why not both? With Catching Hell, I make no bones about the fact that I’m treading well-worn ground. It’s schlocky epic fantasy. I like to think that I can bend the tropes just enough to keep it interesting, but I may just be optimistic. Tolkien broke the trail, and we’re all just following (note: I’ve never read, nor ever plan to read Tolkien).
With Death Dresses Poorly, I subvert every trope I can get my hands on, but not in a malicious way. I wrote a story I’ve never heard before in any other medium. I just went crazy with the images I wanted to conjure, and I loved every minute of it.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My author friends list is short. I have people I like to meet with and talk shop, or follow on Facebook and Twitter because they’re great people and I want to know what they’re up to, but that’s about it. I love getting together with Edmonton author Konn Lavery, who has some really amazing ideas in his head, and the members of Calgary’s Imaginative Fiction Writers Association are always a blast when we get together.
My best ‘author friend’ has got to be my man Patrick Yokan Persaud. He’s one of my oldest and best friends. He isn’t published, per-se, but I’ve seen his writing, and I’ve had the honor to work with him recently on an amazing video game project that’s partly his brainchild, but as far as creativity and inspiration go, he’s my go-to writer buddy.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Ha. “Trying not to get Punched, One Day at a Time.”
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Hey Marc, who’s the most under-appreciated character in early 90’s Anime?
Wow, that’s a great question. Undoubtedly TatewakiKuno from Ranma ½. Strong. Charismatic. Confident. Hopeless romantic. Infinitely quotable. He’s really all of my best traits.
Where can your fans find you and follow??
The best place is always on my website www.marcwatson.ca
After that, I can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @writewatson, and on Facebook.com/marcwroteabook
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️
And thank you once again for having me. It was a lot of fun!