An Interview with Author, David Mark
by Sarah Morgan
He’s not kidding. Social distancing means we’re spending most of our time indoors, although for David, that’s not unusual – being a crime novelist means he’s usually to be found at his desk at home in picturesque Weardale. What’s different at the moment is that his family – he and his artist partner Nicola have five children between them – are also hanging around the house.
Thankfully, they don’t seem to be distracting him. He’s already written two books this year and is currently working on a third.
“It’s set in a prison, it’s a psychological mishmash,” he reveals. “And it’s good, or at least I think it’s good. I’m enjoying writing this one because it’s not like anything I’ve written before.”
David is nothing if not prolific. On top of the three he’s written, he’s also self-published Darkness Falls, a prequel to his Hull-set Sgt Aector McAvoy series, as well as his most recent offering, Blood Money, the first entry in a new trilogy featuring anti-hero Nicholas Roe.
“It’s a crowded market place”
It may sound as if professionally, he’s at the top of his game. When it comes to creativity, he is, but commercially, that’s not quite the case. Despite critical acclaim for the McAvoy books – a bestseller in seven languages and a Richard and Judy pick – last year he found himself without a publisher for the first time in a decade.
“The moment you get signed, you think that’s it, you’re Stephen King, and all you need to do is to keep writing the best you can. But it’s a crowded market place. There’s just too many authors, and apparently I’m not allowed to kill any of them off…”
Instead, he’s having some of his work released via a small press publisher while having a crack at the aforementioned self-publishing. It’s an option many authors have taken recently; companies such as Amazon and Lulu have made it a fairly straightforward process. The problem comes in making people aware that the books exist.
“The whole dabbling with self-publishing thing… It’s so hard to know if it was the right thing or not,” he explains. “I’ve done better than 95 per cent of the people who have tried it, but that’s because some people have only sold four or five copies.
“They tell you to sell yourself”
“It feels a little bit Del Boy to me, sort of opening my van and flogging copies from it, but I’m so sick of the traditional process it may be the lesser of two evils.”
I suggest it doesn’t help that selling yourself and blowing your own trumpet are not qualities that sit easily with British folk.
David agrees: “I’ve been in trouble with publishers in the past for being too glib and self-deprecating. They tell you to sell yourself, but I find it difficult. I think I’m good and my reviews are uniformly top-drawer, but how do you say that without sounding like an idiot or an American?”
What isn’t helping him, and probably hundreds of other authors, is being cut off from secondary streams of income. Pre-lockdown, David ran creative writing workshops, which have, for obvious reasons, fallen by the wayside.
“But I’ve got quite good at getting funding for books. There are different literary funds and if they see the merit in your work, they give you bursaries to keep you going. But it’s very hand to mouth.
“The problem at the moment is that normally I’m meeting up with somebody because they’ve got something interesting going on and they want to work with me. But that’s all off now and they say, ‘we’ll meet up once this is all over’.
“It’s dark and grimy”
“When I get dispirited is when I think about the potential futility of it,” he adds. “All this work, then the book comes out and nobody seems to notice, be it the result of bad marketing or a global lockdown. You have to make your peace with the process. You have to enjoy what you’re doing and what you’re writing about, otherwise why are you bothering?”
For now, David’s hoping his readers enjoy Blood Money as much as he did writing it.
“It’s a thriller set on a remote spur of the Western Highlands and features a much-loved/much-hated duo from the McAvoy novels. It’s a story of human trafficking, undercover cops and the consequences of making a deal with a flesh-and-blood devil.
If it proves not to be to the public’s taste, well, not to worry – there’s another book, Suspicious Minds, which has been described as a cross between Rebecca and Straw Dogs, due in September, and his fertile imagination is already leaping ahead onto new things.
“I want to write a play. I’ve been asked to write something for radio, so that might lead somewhere. I’ve no shortage of ideas…”