Welcome back to Part Two of Confessions interview with Mark Cassell.
In tonight’s session, Mark tells us all about his book The Shadow Fabric and takes on The Ten Confessions.
It’s only Tuesday but go grab some pizza and a beer, sit back, and mostly……enjoy!
CoaR - Moving on to The Shadow Fabric, what is that all about? What did you want to achieve with it?
MC - It's a tale of a sentient darkness, of 17th-century devices, and deceit among old friends, following one man's struggle to unravel his past. I wanted to write a book that I needed to read. Having been bored to death of vampires and werewolves, of zombies and goblins, I had to devise a new evil and so I created the Shadow Fabric.
I've never read a book that strips down witchcraft and demonology and turned it on its head, so I wrote it myself. Not once did I expect it to expand into the mythos it's become, and I still get demands for more stories.
CoaR - It is very dark. Is this the sort of horror you like to read and write rather than say, the out and out blood and guts?
MC - Yep, I've never been one for gore and graphic violence, not mankind's horror. We're reminded of that too often when switching on the news. I prefer the supernatural or even alien horror, the stuff that's on the other side of what we believe is real. It's my escape from reality.
CoaR - Without giving anything away of the story, it is not really the sort of theme that you can research too much. Does this make it harder or easier to write?
MC - It makes it so damn difficult. Tearing apart the fact and fiction we've all grown up with takes time to develop, building the foundations for a whole new mythos. With demonology and witchcraft there's a certain amount of grounding, but it takes many drafts to make a new angle actually work. Even some of the short stories in the mythos have taken a ridiculous amount of drafts to perfect.
CoaR - I know from reading your site that you have more plans for the Shadow Fabric Mythos. Will this mean more novels? Even a series?
MC - I am currently scribbling notes for a sequel and a prequel, yes, and the mythos will certainly continue as a series. However, each novel or novella will be a standalone story.
CoaR - What is it about prequels? Why not just write it first?
MC - From what I've discovered about storytelling, it's the background that matters. When fleshing out a novel, especially when dealing with something as complex as this particular sentient darkness, a writer needs to know not only what is happening, but also the how and why of it.
Having filled a couple of notebooks with scribbles, be they random sentences or entire scenes that lost a place in the novel, they can all be used somewhere else. Whether in a prequel or sequel.
I know precisely what you mean about prequels though, and of course the Star Wars saga is recognised for that. Actually for me, it was a fan (I'll give him a shout here: Mark Green, hi!) who came to my table at a convention. He mentioned two characters from The Shadow Fabric, asking of their hostility and history. I'll answer him soon.
CoaR - Where in the hell did you come up with the scenes for this? It is very involved and imaginative.
MC - I laid out plans from the very start, knowing the beginning and end, and wanted to avoid every cliché there was. It took time. Some scenes were lifted straight from dreams whereas others took a great deal of shaping. For instance, I needed to develop a device with which to stitch the Shadow Fabric, and even after creating a 17th-century hourglass complete with wrist harness, I still had the issue of bringing it into the 21st century.
When it came to precisely how the stitching occurs, that's when I truly had fun.
CoaR - So none of this is taken from anything similar in legends or folklore? This is all out of your imagination?
MC - Entirely from my noodle, yes. I think that's why it took so damn long to lay down the groundwork. I think I scribbled and scrawled more than I ended up typing, no joke.
I didn't realise it at first but as the plot evolved, it was necessary to reshape witchcraft and demonology into something more than a standalone novel.
CoaR - Naming your lead character Leo – was this paying tribute to your hero Leo Sayer?
MC - Dammit, man! Ha! No, Leo was actually named after a cat we once had.
The poor guy was killed out on a main road. He was my little buddy, and was in fact one of the black cats mentioned in the dedication.
CoaR - Was Leo the cat named after Leo Sayer?
MC - Haha! No. No, he wasn't. He was Leo long before I met him.
CoaR - What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
MC - I'm a gym-goer, and love cooking. I aim to be healthy inside and out. Also, I'll admit to being a tree-hugger at heart. I love the outdoors, hiking, etc. In fact, my wife and I just got back from Madeira; beautiful walks through the mountains with our heads in the clouds. That's pretty much what we’re about.
Our honeymoon was the Inca Trail up to Machu Picchu, incidentally.
CoaR - Have you ever been to China? Walked the Great Wall? I was there once and could swear I saw someone like you there. Thought that was where I recognised you from.
MC - Perhaps it was my evil twin.
Closest place to China I've visited is Hong Kong, and it is more British than Chinese. Given the roads and signposts are the same as here, it was surreal to see such familiar markings beneath looming skyscrapers supported by bamboo scaffold. Fantastic vibe though, don't get me wrong. The atmosphere there was incredible. As for the Great Wall, that's a walk I intend to one day dirty my boots with.
CoaR - What’s coming in the future from Mark Cassell?
MC - I'm working on a bunch of horror stories based along the south coast. As for a longer project: I'm in the process of writing a novella—the prequel I mentioned earlier—that features the history of Lucas and Victor, two characters you may recognise from The Shadow Fabric novel. It'll be based in the 80’s when they both were younger. The way it's evolving, think Indiana Jones meets The Grudge.
THE TEN CONFESSIONS
1 Who would you view as your main competitor in the writing world?
This is something I have never thought of. There's so many of us out there. So I guess I'm still trying to find the fucker.
2 What book or author have you read that you think should never have been published?
G.P. Taylor's debut novel, Shadowmancer. It's terrible. I hated it so much yet still read it to the end because I was determined to understand how and why I felt this way. Reading the reviews, I saw I'm not alone.
3 Are any of the things your characters have experienced in your books been based on something that has actually happened to you? What was it?
As mentioned earlier, the main character of The Shadow Fabric has a knee injury, and the book opens with him returning from travelling the world. He also wears combats. His attitude and mannerisms reflect mine, too. He is me.
CoaR - Does he owe people money too?
Maybe that'll pop up in a prequel. Just for you, Nev.
4 Have you ever blatantly stolen an idea or scene and adapted it for one of your own books? If so, care to share?
No blatant rip-off, but one scene from a Dean Koontz novel has stuck with me for years. That man tricked me with a very clever twist, a subtle warp of perception that worked beautifully. I loved it so much that I wrote a short story with that in mind. It's completely different yet the surprise factor—I hope—has a similar impact. In fact, this particular story of mine will soon be published in an upcoming anthology.
5 Have you ever anonymously left a bad review for someone else’s book? If so, care to share?
Nope, never. Even G.P. Taylor's book remains untainted by my hatred.
6 What’s the one thing you are least proud of doing in your life and why?
Allowing people to walk over me. Back when I was employed, working in supermarket retail and then the print industry, I let management and salesman, and even customers, take me for a proper ride. I wish I'd had the backbone to tell them to fuck off.
We live, we learn. And now I can write each and every one of them into a story.
7 What’s the one thing you are MOST proud of doing in your life and why?
My round-the-world travels saw me bungee jump in New Zealand. Against all reasoning and if only to prove to myself that I could (temporarily) overcome my fear of heights, I set out to DO IT the moment I landed in that country.
There I stood, on the edge of a wooden platform looking out over a ravine and wondering just what in hell I was playing at. Then I stepped off. A freefall combined with fear, stomach knotted, cool wind rushing past my ears…and bounce, bounce, bounce. Awesome.
8 What’s your biggest fault?
I take on far too many projects and get distracted far too easily. I tackle many short stories at once and also jump between several larger projects, often leaping from genre to genre. My DIY projects are the same, and even day-to-day stuff is just as messy.
I'd be in one room, doing one thing, get distracted and start something else, then drift into another room and do exactly the same thing. Eventually, there'd be drawers and cupboards open, stuff on the bed or on the desk, things piled on the sofa waiting for my attention…all the while the fridge door remains wide, begging me to grab the milk to make that tea.
But…oh! I didn’t even put the kettle on. Plus, I would've been needing a pee for at least half an hour and now busting.
9 What is your biggest fear?
Can you guess? Please see Number 7: Heights. The older I get, the more that leg-tugging, stomach-churning moment steals my reasoning when looking over an edge.
I seriously doubt I'll ever bungee jump again.
10 If you had to go to confession now, what would be the one thing you would need to get off your chest?
Back when I was a kid, at a friend's house, I wondered how it would sound if I smacked his little brother over the head with a cricket bat. A disappointing sound, if I recall.
Am I sorry now? Not sure. Though I am sorry that I can't remember the sound in detail. Could've used it in a story.
Well boo hiss but that’s your lot for the interview.
I want to personally thank Mark for giving up his valuable time to take part in this interview. He has been an absolute gentleman throughout this whole process and it has been a pleasure to get to know him over this past few weeks.
This one has been pretty involved with a lot of toing and froing and I thank him for his patience.
Please remember to come back tomorrow night for the Confessions review of The Shadow Fabric and I will include all the links you need to go and buy this little wonderful story.
Thanks again for visiting Confessions of a Reviewer!
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous anthologies and ezines including Rayne Hall's Ten Tales series and horror zine, Sirens Call.
His best-selling debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is closely followed by the popular short story collection, Sinister Stitches, and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos. His most recent release, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography.