Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mark Bousquet: The Dreamer of Kraken Moor

How could I not have introduced you to Mark Bousquet already? Better late than never.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest novel is The Haunting of Kraken Moor (http://www.amazon.com/Haunting-Kraken-Moor-Mark-Bousquet/dp/1482794861), which was designed to 1) get me out of my comfort zone, and 2) demonstrate to everyone who asks me, "How do you write a novel?" how to write a novel.

On the first count, I'd never written a horror novel before, I don't keep a journal, I rarely ever write in first person, and while I often use female protagonists, I'd never written "as a woman" using first person.

Enter Beatrice Sharper, a young woman of the Confederate South who ran away from home during the middle of the Civil War over objections to the Southern Cause that her father and fiance were fighting for. As her journal opens, it's New Year's Eve 18 years later, and she's run out of money and about to start work as a housekeeper in Kraken Moor, a castle in the east of England. Almost immediately, creepy things start happening: sleepwalking, bad dreams, werewolves, demons with goat heads who want to have sex with her, visions of her now-dead fiance being tortured in the pits of Hell ...

You know how some people will tell you to write what you know? The Haunting of Kraken Moor is an exercise in doing the exact opposite of that. (laughs)

On the second count, I wrote it as a journal, writing and posting nearly every day for two months so people could watch the progression. I tried to write it in "real time" as much as possible - thus, if I sat at my computer at lunch time to write, I tried to have Beatrice writing during her lunch break, too. There are moments when that's not possible, of course, but I think it added something to the project.

What was interesting about the writing process is that this is Beatrice's journal, after all, but my novel, and that tension between her desire to recap her day and my desire to tell a story often clashed. In the book, I set this up by introducing the idea that this was a journal I was hired to transcribe and that I left everything as it was - so there are some mistakes in spelling and there are some inconsistencies and there are moments of frustration where, as a reader, you want more than the writer was providing. But if you're keeping a journal and you witness a werewolf having sex with a 70-year old woman, you're probably not going to spend page after page describing all the silverware you polished - you're going to favor the big moments.

So now, when people ask me, "How do you write a novel?" or say "I'd love to write a novel, but I don't have the time," I can point them to Kraken Moor, tell them that most entries were written in an hour, and in just over two months, I had a book written.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

That's a great question. In addition to the new horror novel, I've written 2 kids novels (Stuffed Animals for Hire and Adventures of the Five), a weird western (Gunfighter Gothic), an urban fantasy (Dreamer's Syndrome), straight up cosmic pulp (Harpsichord & the Wormhole Witches), and a book of movie reviews (Atomic Reactions: Marvel Comics on Film), yet there are similar themes that run through the creative works.

I like taking people who are comfortable in their environment and radically changing that environment. All of these novels spend time in settings that are alien to them. For Hanna and Jill in Gunfighter Gothic, it's the weird west. For the Stuffed Animals for Hire, it's Los Angeles. For the Five, it's a fantasy world with human-sized Nutcrackers and Abominable Yeti. For Harpsichord, it's the Deep of far space. And for the Dreamers, it's a world that, overnight, has been reconfigured by angels to mirror everyone's childhood dream.

I usually write groups of characters and I like to use the new environments to cause fractures in relationships. With Hanna and Jill, for instance, the two women grew up in the same house together as best friends, but with Jill being the rich, white girl and Hanna being her poor, Korean-American servant. Now that they're out west and out of Jill's father's house, they're equals, so we get to watch their relationship evolve. They first appeared in PulpWork Press' How the West Was Weird, Volume 2,and I purposely wrote that story in such a way that everyone would think Jill was Batman and Hanna was Robin, and then deep into the story another character laughs at Jill and says something like, "You don't even realize this is Hanna's story, do you?"

Full admission, too - I'm much more interested in characters than action, so by putting characters on the run and in new environments, I force myself to keep things moving.

What would be your dream project?

I want to be Kevin Feige.

Let me explain. One really great thing about writing in the print-on-demand world is that I can write whatever I want whenever I want, so in a very real sense, every project I work on is my dream project of the moment.

When I was an undergrad at Syracuse, I had a professor who basically told me, "I don't think you can cut it as a writer, but I can see you running a studio." I was much more successful in that class helping other people with their projects than I was in creating my own, and maybe because my professional training is as a literary academic rather than a creative writer, and maybe because I'm constantly either analyzing fiction or analyzing student essays or writing movie reviews, I'd love the "All Seeing Eye" challenge of being the point man in a shared universe.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to construct multiple narratives. I'm much more a Marvel guy than a DC guy, but I'm constantly thinking about how I'd put the DC Cinematic Universe together, or how I'd put Marvel, Phase 2 together. So big scale, I'd love to have a Kevin Feige position. Small scale, I'd love to have a publisher give me the freedom to create a shared universe anthology.

My dream full time job, though? I'd love to work in creative for the WWE. All that thinking I do about the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes? I spend just as much time figuring out how I'd make the tag team division or women's division interesting, since both divisions are currently not nearly as entertaining as I think they could be. About 10 or 15 years ago, I had a friend of a friend who worked at the company and had me send him my resume, but unfortunately, nothing ever came of it.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

Dreamer's Syndrome. Maybe we all end up feeling this way about our first novel, but I wrote it originally as an online serial for Frontier Publishing (RIP), which closed up shop before DS was finished. Without having an outlet for it and being knee deep in grad school, I didn't finish it until Van Allen Plexico over at White Rocket Books approached me about finishing it. So I banged out the last 4 or 5 chapters and Van published it. What I should have done - and this is totally on me because Van gave me the freedom to go in either direction; he was incredibly supportive - was spend some time transforming the story from serialized novel into a regular novel. We put a note in the front of the book that it was a serialized novel but I still got some flak from readers who were unsatisfied with how every chapter was nearly the same length and almost always ended on a cliffhanger. I put out a Special Edition of DS a few years ago to take another step closer to turning it into a straight novel, but I think now the better option would have been to design the book's interior to mimic a serial rather than attempt to take a pie and call it cake.

What inspires you to write?

It's less about inspiration and more about compulsion, I think. I've been writing stories since first grade or second grade. I can remember getting a creative writing assignment early in elementary school and writing a line that said something like, "Things were so crazy on Crazy Street that you could see the air." From there, I was pretty much hooked and I've been writing stories ever since. Even during stretches where I wasn't writing anything creative, I was always thinking of stories.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

First and foremost, early to mid-1980s Marvel Comics: Walt Simonson. Roger Stern. Steve Englehart. Mark Gruenwald. Ann Nocenti.

There were writers that influenced before them: Tolkien, Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Thornton W. Burgess, Chuck Jones, George Lucas, Peter Gammons, Hanna-Barbera's stable, Maurice Sendak, whoever it was writing the Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, and Encyclopedia Brown stories. There are writers who've influenced me after them: Mark Twain, Nick Hornby, Elmore Leonard, Herman Melville, Bill Watterson, Quentin Tarrantino, Emily Dickinson, Steven Moffat, Roderick Frazier Nash, Wright Thompson, David Quammen, Ernest Hemingway, the writing team on Buffy, Neil Gaiman.

But at my core, I'm a guy looking to create the magic of Thor vs. the Midgard Serpent, of the Siege of Avengers Mansion, of the West Coast Avengers, of Captain America vs. the Serpent Society, and Daredevil vs. Typhoid Mary.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

It's science, but you've got to do it artistically. Or it's art, but you've got to do it scientifically. It's a blend. Your idea? That's art. Your execution? That's science. Knowing a genre, knowing how to use a comma, understanding subplots, constructing a good fight sequence ... that's all science, but that part of writing that makes the story yours ... that's where the art comes in.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Right now, I'm editing my next book of reviews, Atomic Reactions: Science Fiction Movies, Volume 1. I write reviews constantly at my webiste (atomicanxiety.wordpress.com) and this is a collection taken from those reviews. Unlike the Marvel Comics on Films book, which covered every single Marvel movie I could get my hands on (from Power Pack to Avengers), the Sci Fi book will be a much more random collection. I cover all the Alien/Predator movies, but after that it's an eclectic mix of films, covering a variety of moves from 2-Headed Shark Attack to Blade Runner. I'm hoping to have that available in May.

At the same time, I'm working on the next Gunfighter Gothic collection, called Under Zeppelin Skies. There should be four stories in the collection: "Waltzing Zombies Prefer Dixie," "The Vampires of Jesus Christ," "Colorado Kaiju," and "Chemical Winter." As is plain to see from up above, I like variety in my writing, but I'd to make Gunfighter Gothic my signature series. Even though it takes place a year earlier and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, The Haunting of Kraken Moor takes place in the Gunfighter Gothic universe (and Hanna and Jill make a brief appearance in flashback). While I try not to plan too far out, I'd like for every other novel or novel-length collection to be set in the Gunfighter Gothic universe.

Ironically (or cruelly, maybe), I think Adventures of the Five is my best book but one of my worst sellers, and I'd love to return to that universe, too. I've got a Christmas book that's 50-60% complete and I hope to get that finished this year, too.

I've got a few short stories due to drop this year, as well, and I'd like to start doing more writing for other people because I think it helps to make you a better writer.

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Mark Bousquet is the author of several novels and collections, including The Haunting of Kraken MoorGunfighter GothicStuffed Animals for HireDreamer’s SyndromeHarpsichord and the Wormhole Witches, and Adventures of the Five. He has also published a review collection entitled Marvel Comics on Film, which covers every cinematic and TV movie based on a superhero from the House of Ideas. A complete listing of all his work can be found at his Amazon author page.