An Interview With Mark Souza

A writer wanders into a writer’s group…and sticks around for years, becoming a friend in the process.

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You have family who are also writers. Can you tell me the pros and cons of having multiple writers in the same home?

With three writers, heads down over laptops, it can be a long stretch between words. Then there are the times you want them as beta readers, or they want you. It’s time they don’t get to write, and half the time you wonder if what you’ve written is even worth reading.

What has been the hardest for you along your writing path? The easiest?

Easiest is when the story flows through you too fast to keep up, and you see it all playing out in your head and it’s brilliant – then you look up and 10,000 new words are on the page. The worst, there are so many; when you’re blocked and words won’t come. When you reach a point in your story where there is no bridge to the rest of it. And when you’re stuck in the DMV of edit/rewrite over and over again until you never want to see your story again.

In this day and age of millions of books available, what steps do you take to help become visible?

I write the best story I can, and good cover art and blurbs. Good writing and good stories will be found. The world is hungry for them. But readers may not even look inside if the cover isn’t appealing, and the blurb compelling. I’ve tried advertising and blog tours, they don’t work. You’re much better off putting the work into your story – the next one, that is.

What draws you to the genres you write in?

Money and passion. I started out a mystery writer – mysteries are a passion of mine as a reader. I became a horror and sci-fi writer because there were far more open short story calls for those genres and I wanted to be published, and I wanted to be paid. My first novel, Robyn’s Egg was going to be a short story. Sci-Fi pays the best. The call was for stories of up to 15,000 words, and paid five cents a word. At five cents a word, you get pretty Dickensian (who was also paid by the word). I got to my 15,000 words, let my wife read it, and she said there’s a lot more story there. So I kept writing, and it turned into a work of passion and a 162,000 word novel. I had some things to say. My second novel, Zombie-saurus Rex was a work of passion from the start. It’s about a gawky zombie kid just trying to get by and maybe be accepted, though he is clearly different. It’s sort of autobiographical.

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Where do you think your love of words and stories came from?

I’ve always been a storyteller, though initially my talent was oral storytelling. I’ve always known that the order you weave your tale, and the which words you choose makes a big difference. It’s all in the delivery. I would hear people tell their own stories, and internally wag my head while smiling on the outside, thinking, “that could have been a great story if you only knew how to tell it.” It seemed like a natural step to move from oral storytelling to writing – though it was much harder than I thought it would be. Practice, practice, practice. Get your one million words down on paper and you’ll probably be a decent writer. And don’t let anyone who doesn’t love you see those first ten stories.

What is the earliest thing you remember writing?

When I was 25, I wrote a Hemingway-esque story of a couple in the 1920’s whose marriage falls apart after the birth of a mentally handicapped child. There was no joy in the story, but it was visceral and real. I wrote it out longhand on a canary yellow pad and don’t know what ever happened to it.

When did you have that ‘aha’ moment that made you realize you were a writer?

When my first story was published and I got paid. It wasn’t a lot of money – dinner and a movie maybe, but it meant something.

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Aha!

Storytelling in one form or another has been around forever, from cave drawings to oral traditions, to e-readers. Why do you think stories create such a deeply important part of being human?

It’s a chance to travel somewhere exotic, meet a hero, or someone charming, and face down a villain. It’s a chance to escape your life and live a bigger one. It confirms your beliefs and challenges them. It makes you stay up all night because you just have to know. It’s because the world inside your head is so much bigger and more colorful than the real world.

Now that you have a few books out, do you see an underlying theme that comes through in them? Or a theme that draws you to write? I have a tendency to get on my soapbox in the novels I write. The one thing I’ll say is writing is so much easier (and better) if you are passionate about your story.

There is so much advice out there for writers. In your writing path, what have you found most beneficial and what advice have you found least helpful? On the helpful side, “write in active voice with creative, audacious verbs,” and “show, don’t tell.” The least helpful, “write what you know.” Write what you want. Write what you have a passion for. If you don’t know it, research and learn something along the way. And don’t be afraid to create your own world.

In all the interviews you’ve done as a writer, what is the one thing you would like to have been asked and haven’t yet, and how would you answer that question?

“May I fill your trunk with gold bars?” And my response, “yes, you may.” These questions were awesome – thanks Lisa.

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4 thoughts on “An Interview With Mark Souza

  1. Sometimes I get a little down on myself when I read interviews with writers who have found some measure of success. I’m glad I finally found the courage to read this one. Great questions, interesting answers, and information I can file away for future reference — I loved it. Thanks to you both.

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