Book Nerd Interview
Mark David Gerson is a screenwriter, award-winning author and creator of The Q'ntana Trilogy of fantasy novels andfilms. The MoonQuest, the first book in the trilogy, has won multiple awards, as has his book on writing and creativity, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. Both books and his The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers CD are available on his website (www.markdavidgerson.com) and on Amazon. The MoonQuest, the first feature film in The Q'ntana Trilogy will be in theatres in 2012.
Mark David is also a script analyst, editorial consultant, artist, photographer, broadcaster and popular speaker on topics related to creativity and spirituality. Although his Muse & You radio show is on hiatus, he is still a regular featured guest on Unity.fm's Spiritual Coaching radio program.
As a creativity coach and writing-workshop facilitator for nearly 20 years in the U.S. and Canada, Mark David has guided writers and non-writers alike to connect with their innate wisdom, open to their creative power and express themselves with ease.
Mark David is currently working on a memoir and on The StarQuest and The SunQuest, the book and screenplay sequels to The MoonQuest.
For more information on Mark David, his books and his other work, visit his website (markdavidgerson.com) and blog (markdavidgersonblog.com).
Facebook - facebook.com/markdavidgerson
Google+ - gplus.to/markdavidgerson
Twitter - twitter.com/markdavidgerson
YouTube - youtube.com/markdavidgerson
Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Montreal, but have lived in many places since leaving there in 1983, among them: Toronto, Nova Scotia, Hawaii, Santa Fe and Sedona, Arizona. I now hover between Albuquerque and L.A.
What inspired you to pen your first novel? Where did you get your information or ideas for The MoonQuest?
My guest blog post, “The Birth of a Book,” covers that story [http://www.markdavidgerson.com/mqgenesis.html] In short, I had no plans to write a MoonQuest, nor did I have a conscious desire to write a fantasy novel, let alone a trilogy. The MoonQuest birthed itself during a writing workshop I was facilitating when, in an unprecedented in-the-moment inspiration, I did the same exercise I had presented to participants. What I wrote that evening became the opening scene of the first draft of a novel I knew nothing about. From there, I just kept writing, discovering the story as I went along, until I was done. The StarQuest and SunQuest stories emerged similarly.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
An open heart and mind and a willingness to surrender to your story and travel wherever it takes you (and to break all the rules getting there).
How long have you been writing?
Perhaps the better question would be, “How long did I resist writing?” I joke that my Muse tricked me into writing, given that for most of my early life, I resisted anything remotely creative.
My first jobs out of university were in public relations, where I had to write, even if what I wrote at first was largely formulaic. However, that experience gave me the confidence to try my hand at freelance work and, before I knew it, I was a full-time (self-taught) freelance writer and editor, doing mostly magazine, newspaper, corporate and government work. However, it wasn’t until my early 30s, when the double-whammy of a creative and spiritual awakening knocked me over the head that I began to explore more creative avenues. And it wasn’t until I was 39 that The MoonQuest, my first foray into serious creative writing, began to have its way with me. I’ve been hooked ever since.
What is The MoonQuest about?
Imagine a land where storytelling is banned, where storytellers have been put to death, where dreams and visions are outlawed, where imagination has been stripped from the land and its people. This is the Q’ntana of The MoonQuest, a land where, as Toshar, the main character, puts it, “‘once upon a time’ is a forbidden phrase and fact is the only legal tender.” In this land, legend has it, the moon has been so saddened by the silence and tyranny, that she has cried tears that have extinguished her light. As a result, the moon has not been seen for many generations. The MoonQuest, then, is the journey undertaken by a reluctant Toshar and his three companions to restore story and vision to the land and to rekindle the light of the moon. Check out the book trailer at http://youtu.be/1aLboaT4_zM.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Did you learn anything from writing The MoonQuest and what was it?
When I begin a project, I rarely know the story in advance. When I began The MoonQuest, for example, I knew nothing about it, except what emerged in each day’s writing. I didn’t have a title until about halfway through, and I had no idea of the ending until about two-thirds of the way through. It was an experience in surrender: in surrendering unconditional control to my Muse and to the story. And it was tough! It was tough to keep writing with no plot, no outline and not even the remotest clue where the story was taking me. But it taught me how to get out of the way and let the story have its way with me. That’s still how I write — regardless of the form, genre or project. And I do it with way less resistance than I did it on The MoonQuest. But it’s still, sometimes, the most challenging aspect of the work...even as it’s also the most exhilarating and is, for me, the key to the magic!
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d probably have to say Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time. I didn’t discover A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels until I was an adult, when I also discovered, through her nonfiction writings, L’Engle’s deep spirituality, one that informed her creativity and her life. While L’Engle’s spirituality found its expression through the Episcopal Church and mine is largely unstructured, she was a profound influence on my writing and my life. In a sense, she already was a mentor without me knowing it. Now, if she were still alive, I’d like to thank her for that.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
For the most part, I don’t believe in fixed routines. Rather, I operate intuitively — in my writing and in my life. I’m not one of those people who writes at the same time every day or who believes that you should sit down to write regardless of how you feel. While other coaches and instructors recommend applying a regular routine to creative production, that method never works for me for very long. Rather, I remain as in-the-moment as I can and follow wherever the inspiration leads me — in my life as well as in my writing. That way of living and writing is both exhilarating and, at times, terrifying. But it does keep things in an organic balance!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating The MoonQuest?
Three things, I suppose. The first was that I was actually creative. The second, that the methods I had been teaching (writing nonstop, without thinking, without worrying about where the story was going) actually worked on something as long as novel. And the third, related to the second, that the story was, truly, way smarter than I was!
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have two books out: The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy and my book about writing, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. And I have three books-in-progress: a memoir and The StarQuest and The SunQuest, the two sequels to The MoonQuest, which, together, form The Q’ntana Trilogy. (I also have the three Q’ntana screenplays, also in various stages of completion). But asking which is my favorite would be like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. Each is meaningful to me in particular ways and each is a favorite for particular reasons!
What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
When I opened the FedEx envelope and pulled out my advance copy of The MoonQuest, I burst into tears. I didn’t expect to have that same reaction with my second book, The Voice of the Muse....but I did!
If you gave some of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?
“What took you so long to get our story out??!?” Seriously, I spoke to my characters while writing the book. And it was some of those conversations that led to some of the most surprising (to me) and powerful scenes in the book.
Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of The MoonQuest?
I would invite readers not only to look at the book from the outside, as readers, but to look at the journey the main characters undertake in the book through the lens of their own life experience. In other words, where does The MoonQuest speak to you, personally, in your life?
Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
I’ll answer this question as long as you don’t reveal my answer to the book’s main characters! My two favorite characters, I think, are the two quirkiest and the ones that always make me smile and sometimes make me laugh out loud: the Ferryman (he’s so minor that he has no name) and Pryma, a giant, turtle-like creature, who makes a return appearance in The SunQuest.
What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
Given that the first draft of the book was one 400-page chapter, that one’s impossible to answer! As I mentioned earlier, I had no idea what the story was or where it was taking me, so I just kept writing, with no chapter breaks, until the first draft was done. I only added chapter and section breaks in later drafts.
Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
Any authors who claim that they don’t see aspects of themselves in all their characters are either lying, blind or woefully un-self-aware. I am in all my characters, even (I hate to admit) the nastiest! In The MoonQuest, though, the character I most identify with is Toshar, the main character whose first-person account the story is. This young man who discovers his stories and his storytelling ability through his MoonQuest journey was very much a metaphor for the creative deepening that writing the book represented for me at that time in my life.
Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?
I haven’t had that experience with a review. But I have had it with reader comments. Two experiences in particular were surprising, and gratifying. In the first, a reader told me why the most difficult scenes in the book supported the story’s theme. Those were scenes that had been challenging for me to write, were often challenging for readers and, although I intuitively knew they belonged in the book, I couldn’t explain why. In the second instance, a reader brought up a theme that I hadn’t known was there but that made perfect sense to me once he mentioned it. Truly, my books are smarter than I am!
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Although winning awards and getting great reviews for both books have been tremendously gratifying and validating, and although having a film producer ready to turn my books into movies is fabulously exciting, what’s most rewarding is when individual readers tell me how one or both of my books has affected them and, in some cases, changed their lives. This video, for example, was sent to me by one of my readers: http://www.youtube.com/markdavidgerson#p/a/u/1/s4U0YmFkQmA.
What are your current projects?
I’ve just completed a third draft of The StarQuest book and screenplay and a first draft of The SunQuest book and screenplay. My current project is Acts of Surrender, a memoir. I’m also an associate producer on The MoonQuest movie project and am beyond excited to see that move forward.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
My secret ambition would be to be a singer! More realistically, I’m also an artist and photographer and would be quite happy devoting more time to those creative pursuits. You can see my art at markdavidgerson.com/art.html and a lot of my photography on my Facebook page.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
This is for all writers, not just aspiring ones! Trust the story, even if you don’t yet know what it is. Trust your innate creativity. Take it word by word and allow your pen or the keyboard to spell out the story for you. Allow yourself to be the passenger on your creative journey, not the driver. And, of course, get a copy of The MoonQuestand The Voice of the Muse book and CD! Seriously, if you can begin to believe that your story always knows best, you’ll never go wrong.
Where is your favorite place to read/write?
I’m a bit of a café freak. I love reading and writing at Starbucks (as my Facebook friends/followers have discovered)!
One of your favorite quotes.
From The MoonQuest: “You either trust or you do not. There is no halfway in between.”
What book are you reading now?
I just finished The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife. It was great! I’m now zipping through The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry, one of my favorite thriller writers.
Where can your readers stalk you?
I am easily stalkable! lol
The best place is either via my website (markdavidgerson.com/contactmdg.html) or Facebook (facebook.com/markdavidgerson), or by leaving comments on my blog posts (markdavidgersonblog.com). While I still have a Twitter account, I’m no longer very active there (twitter.com/markdavidgerson). I’m also on Google+ (www.gplus.to/markdavidgerson). FYI: I do my best to respond to all comments and queries...but sometimes it’s just not possible. But I read and appreciate them all.
In a land where fear rules and storytelling spells death, only one bard's imagination can end the tyranny. Here, as black-clad armies terrorize the countryside, Toshar and his three companions must follow a trail of stories to the source of the moon's dimmed light. A gripping and epic adventure rich with universal truth.
"Those were exceptional times, the darkest of ages, a land where 'once upon a time' was a forbidden phrase and fact the only legal tender. That was the land I was born into, a land of slaughtered bards, a land dulled and divided by fear. That was Q’ntana, and this is its story, and mine...a story that begins once upon a time..."
Winner of five national and regional awards.
Soon to be a major motion picture.
You can purchase The MoonQuest at these following retailers.
Click LINKS below:
Unleash the power of your creative potential!
~ Learn practical, fun techniques guaranteed to get your stories on paper
~ Weave worlds of wonder beyond your conscious imagining
~ Discover how to write naturally, eloquently and powerfully without struggle
Whether you're a seasoned writer or just starting out, whatever your genre or form, The Voice of the Muse will deepen your creative experience and awaken you to new skills, new stories and a renewed confidence in your innate gifts.
You'll never feel the same about writing again!
"The words lie within you. They hover in the shadows, longing to be noticed, yearning to heard, aching to be shared. Together, through this book, you and I will give them voice."
~ Mark David Gerson, "The Voice of the Muse"
Winner of a 2009 Silver Medal as a top U.S. writing book. Also winner of a New Mexico Book Award
Works well in conjunction with "The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers," a 2-CD recording by the author of all the guided meditations in the book.
You can purchase The Voice of the Muse at these following retailers.
Click LINKS below:
And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you Mark David Gerson for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive one Personalized copy of The MoonQuest by Mark David Gerson.