MARK REEFE author of the Hell Walker Series and contributing author of Crossroads in the Dark anthologies.
The Burning Willow Press authors wish to help you celebrate the best month of the year, October. How you may ask? By giving you a different author from the ranks each day with in depth answers to questions that our staff have decided to ask them. Many will be generic, others not so much. Let’s get to know the authors of BWP! Oh, and did we forget to mention… the staff there are all authors too so they have decided to chime in with some answers of their own.
So first, when did you realize that the voices in your head were telling you to write stories or go mad with all that stuck in your head?
I dabbled in writing off and on for most of my life, but it wasn’t until five years ago that the voices started to get really loud. That was around the time my family and I moved to a small town in the Shenandoah Valley as a result of some changes at my job. I ended up having a bit of a commute over the Blue Ridge Mountains to my office in Charlottesville, Virginia. Turns out the long drives through the rolling hills and along the winding roads were just the medicine I needed. It had been years since I had written anything of significance, but in those quiet morning hours an idea started bubbling in my head. I had to get the words onto paper. Before I knew it, I had the first few chapters of The Road to Jericho scribbled out.
I know many writers who jump in all different genres, so what is your favorite to write?
I find I’m drawn to the supernatural thriller/horror genre most of the time. There’s just something about a good, spooky story that I can’t resist.
What is your favorite book not written by you? See that question is not the same as the other one above… to follow up, what was your favorite book that you wrote?
I know it’s not a single book, but I’ve enjoyed the entire Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz immensely. They are all easy reads but consistently maintain a fast pace with a plot intriguing enough to make you keep wanting to turn the page. I also like the way Koontz is able to inject his perfectly timed wit into his action scenes.
As for my books, there will always be a special place in my heart for my first published novel, The Road to Jericho. The narrative is still one of my favorites. I thought about someone – a man – who was lost. He was wandering, trying to put together the pieces of a life which hadn’t turned out the way he expected it to (I believe many of us have found ourselves in a similar position at one time or another). At its heart, the story (and the trilogy it is a part of) is about the enduring strength of the human soul and the true power of empathy as a weapon against evil.
When the muse is off doing their own thing instead of pushing you to write, albeit by gunpoint at times, what is your favorite time-waster?
Between the job, the family, and trying to keep a 150-year-old house from falling apart, there’s little opportunity for leisure pursuits. That said, I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors to include camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. I find there’s nothing like a little fresh air to clear the cobwebs and gain a little perspective on things.
What is the one thing that you must do to get into a writing mood. For me, it is listening to 80’s hair metal.
Peace and quiet is key for me. Like my dogs Indy and Rocko, I’m easily distracted by loud noises, kids playing in the yard, kitchen commotion, and so on. I try and lock myself away in the darkest, most remote portion of the house to channel my Zen.
Is editing your story just part of the job or does it literally kill a part of you to “kill your children” as it has been said? What about making revisions?
Editing my stories is definitely the most painful part of the job. This is mainly because I am a terribly sloppy writer. I’ll read a couple of pages of a first draft and think, wow, this is great! Then it all goes to crap for the next twenty or so. By the time I’m done with my first round of edits and revisions, I’ve rewritten at least fifty to sixty percent of the story!
What would you like to be chiseled into your headstone?
Here lies Mark Reefe, shot by a jealous husband at the age of ninety-five.
What was your favorite candy to get at Halloween as a kid?
I always liked Lemonheads. The combination of sweet and sour in a candy crunch was hard to resist. Charleston Chews were also good if you put them in the freezer for a while.
What is your favorite Halloween ritual? And if you do not do that… what is your favorite Halloween movie?
No specific rituals. There are lots of great Halloween movies, but my favorite is probably Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s far from the scariest movie out there, but aside from the whole nostalgia thing, it seems to embody to me the whole Spirit of Halloween.
I know my “To Be Read” list is never ending and grows daily… how is yours? And do you prefer paperbacks or e-books? Notice I did not ask about audio?
Lately, I’ve been keeping a constant rotation of about 3 to 4 books in the queue. I try and mix it up with some of my favorite mainstream authors (like Koontz) and some less well known but equally talented writers. Next up for me to read are The Devil’s Playground by Alice J. Black, and John Matthews’ Hell Gate.
As to the second question, it has to be paperbacks. I need the tactile experience of flipping the pages and bookmarking where I’m at. Also, admittedly, I will lean in and take a sniff of the pages every now and then. So sue me.
If you could not be an author then what would you be?
Maybe a carpenter. I like to work with my hands and build things. I also enjoy the smell of fresh cut wood – wish they had a cologne like that.
What was your childhood ideal job to be as an adult?
I remember in fifth grade distinctly wanting to be either a stunt man or fighter pilot. Still considering being a stuntman if the whole writing thing doesn’t work out. You can scratch the carpenter answer I gave before.
Advice in one sentence to a new author who is not published yet?
Believe in yourself and rely on a trusted group of beta readers to help you polish your work so that it is ready when opportunity knocks.
Do your siblings or other family members support your choice to write horror? Fantasy? Erotica… if you do? SCIFI? Other genres?
My family is very supportive of my writing. I use my dad, sister, and brother as beta readers from time to time and their feedback is amazing. I’m sure my mom would have been supportive (she was a librarian’s assistant after all). Unfortunately, she passed away before I had a chance to share any of my work with her. I get a feeling she’s proud of me though!
Do you ever use writing as an excuse to get out of doing things with the family… especially the in-laws?
Of course not! Also, my in-laws are the most wonderful, interesting, and generous group of people it has been my pleasure to know. FYI – my wife actually responded to this question for me.
Beta Readers, Proofers, Editors… all are important to produce a better work of literature. So, who would you say is the most important in your team? Or do you not have those in place and are working on that?
I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of beta readers willing to offer their input on my works. For me, they play the most critical role as they help answer the really big questions regarding the story. Are there any gaping plot holes? Does the story progress in good form? Are the characters interesting and relatable? Would I be better off flushing the thing down the toilet? The other stuff is very important, but you need to have a good, solid story before you move on to proofing and editing. Beta readers can help with that.
In your day of writing… do you push through it all day or do you take mental breaks?
I find I have to break from time-to-time or the writing gets stale. The most I can go without some type of break is probably two to three hours, tops.
Do you ever get to travel as an author? Do conventions? What have you learned in those endeavors?
Not near as much as I would like to or should. But the limited number of times I have, the experience has been priceless. We were at a Comic Con in Roanoke, Virginia just a year ago, and it was an amazing time! In addition to selling respectable amounts of by first two books, The Road to Jericho and El Sendero, we met a lot of really interesting people. It’s also great opportunity to engage potential customers and work on your sales pitch. Turns out, my wife is better at selling my books than I am!
What do you have coming out in the next year and who is producing it?
The Valley of Hinnom will be my next book out and the final one in my Hell Walker Trilogy. It’s under contract with my good friends at Burning Willow Press with a pending release date. Hopefully soon, right Edd?
What is your go-to alcoholic beverage of choice?
I find abstinence is the best choice. Unfortunately, I suck at it, so I would have to say bourbon (perhaps Elijah Craig or Buffalo Trace), sometimes with a pale ale to chase it down.
In the book, Misery by Stephen King, his main character celebrates the end of the Misery books series by smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch so, how do you celebrate a finished story?
After I’m finished the millionth round of edits and the book is accepted by a publisher, I put it on a shelf in my room and wait. A couple weeks later, I pick it up and begin the one millionth and one round of edits and realize somewhere in the middle of it that I have a problem and need psychiatric help. What was the question again?
Who would you compare your work to and would love to have them read and give you a review of or even better, a tweet and post about it?
If I had to compare, I would say my works are not unlike those of Frank Peretti or Dean Koontz. I would be pleased as punch to have a review, tweet, post, etc., etc., from either of them!
Are there any horror or thriller novelist that you admired when you were younger?
Although he wrote many different genres of books, my favorite horror novelist growing up was, without a doubt, Ray Bradbury. The Halloween Tree, Something Wicked this Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451, and The Martian Chronicles were all favorites of mine. He had a great talent for creating these wonderfully spooky atmospheres. Of course, he had tons of short stories too and several of his works were adapted to film and television when I was growing up. Loved his stuff!
While writing, has any of your own stories given you nightmares?
It’s kind of the opposite. Several of my nightmares have found their ways into my stories to one extent or another. They’ve made for some of the best chapters in my book.
Do you ever base characters on people that you know? If so, do you ever kill said characters and feel bad?
Many of my characters are based in part or in whole on people I know. Generally speaking, those people tend to make it through the story in one piece, but I can’t say they all do. Killing off a character I like can be rough, but if it’s for the good of the narrative, so be it.
As a reader, what are some ways that I can discover new independent authors and novels?
Just type “Mark Reefe” into your search on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble, and you’ll find what you need! Seriously, though, there are tons of wonderful independent publishers and indie authors out there. If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d recommend Burning Willow Press. They have an amazingly diverse selection of horror, science fiction, and fantasy from a group of highly talented authors (including yours truly!).
I cannot live without Chapstick. What is one comfort item that you must have?
What is your ideal writing space?
Somewhere quiet. Maybe a desert island or some remote outpost in the woods with an endless supply of coffee on tap. Peculiarly, some of my best ideas actually come to me while driving. See, I do a lot of “writing” in my head. I visualize the setting and imagine the dialogue and put pen to paper when I arrive at my destination while it’s still fresh in my mind. Some of the best stuff I’ve dreamed up has been while riding my lawn mower and listening to a combination of The Pogues, Gaelic Storm, and a little bit of Johnny Cash. With all that said, once I jot the ideas down, I do need peace and quiet to bring them to fruition.
Do you ever feel that your characters have a mind of their own and change the course of the planned storyline?
On rare occasions, yes. That’s when I start to get really excited! It’s almost like they’ve taken over the writing, and I’m simply a vessel channeling what they want me to say.
What was your favorite Halloween costume?
My mom once made a knight costume for me. When she was purchasing the supplies to make it, I thought it was going to be terrible. She had a pie tin, a green plastic leprechaun derby, some weaved place mats, and a can of silver spray paint. After she had finished all of the cutting, clipping, fastening, and painting, I had the most awesome knight costume ever. That’s when I learned never to underestimate a mom on a mission!
Where can we stalk you at? Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, website?
You can find me at all the locations below. I am most active on Twitter and Facebook!