Friday, March 26, 2021

Mark Leslie Interview - Fear and Longing in Los Angeles


Photo Content from Mark Leslie

Mark Leslie Lefebvre has been writing since he was thirteen years old and discovered his mother’s Underwood typewriter collecting dust in a closet. He started submitting his work for publication at the age of fifteen and had his first story published in 1992, the same year he graduated from university.

Under the name Mark Leslie, he has published more than a dozen full length books. He pens a series of non-fiction paranormal explorations for Dundurn, Canada’s largest independent publisher. He also writes fiction (typically thrillers and horror) and edits fiction anthologies, most recently as a regular editor for the WMG Publishing Fiction River anthology series.

The very same year, Mark saw his first short story in print he started working in the book industry as a part-time bookseller, and was bitten by the book-selling bug. He has worked in virtually every type of bookstore (independent, chain, large-format, online, academic and digital). He has thrived on innovation, particularly related to digital publishing, and enjoys interacting with the various people who make the book industry so dynamic.

Between 2011 and 2017, Mark worked at the Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Kobo where he was the driving force behind the creation of Kobo Writing Life, a free and easy to use author/small-publisher friendly platform designed to publish directly to Kobo’s global catalog in 190 countries. By the end of 2016, Kobo Writing Life established itself as the #1 single source of weekly global unit sales for Kobo and, in primarily English language territories, responsible for 1 in every 4 eBooks sold.

Mark has spoken professionally in the United States and Canada, in the UK and across Europe, specializing in advances in digital publishing and the vast and incredible opportunities that exist for writers and publishers.

        
  


Tell us your latest news.
I’m pretty thrilled that, after many years of false starts, I’ve got the novel FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES out the door. This, of course, apparently carries the long-standing tradition for me with this series. I started writing the first book, A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2006, but it didn’t get published until 2016. At least FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES, which I started writing for NaNoWriMo in 2017, was released only after a little over 3 years.

I suppose it helps remind me that, regardless of how long a project might take, I’m still a storyteller through and through.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think storytelling allows us as creators, to express thoughts, feelings and ideas in ways that are important and come with an urgent sense of those things we want to share with others.

For the listener, or the reader, storytelling serves to inform, entertain, and inspire.

The beautiful thing about a story is that, in the process of telling a story, I’ve envisioning something very specific that’s obviously derived from my personal experiences and perceptions of the world. And the person receiving that story is also peppering it with their own unique experiences and perceptions.

So, while the story I share is not the same story the perceive experiences, it is one of the ways that we can connect with one another.

Fundamentally, at its core, storytelling connects people. It may be the closest two distinct people ever get to sharing somewhat of the same experience even when they are both existing in different spaces and times.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I still reflect back to a short story I wrote for a science fiction anthology that was meant to be used in an elementary school science class. It was sci-fi stories written based on the grade 4 science curriculum and used in a fourth-grade classroom as a way to introduce different scientific concepts.

One day, a letter arrived in a mail, forwarded to me via the publisher and editor. It was from an elementary school teacher who shared how my story had been the first story a reluctant reader in her class ever finished reading all on his own. And he was so enamored with the story that he wrote a sequel to it and drew a sketch of one of the scenes in my tale. A copy of his art was included.

Knowing that I helped turn a little boy onto reading means I’ve helped him discover a marvelous multitude of worlds, adventures, inspiration, and knowledge.

That’ll certainly be a hard rewarding experience to ever top.

Can you tell us when you started FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES, how that came about?
FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES (or FALILA for short) is a novel in my urban fantasy adventure “Canadian Werewolf” series. It’s the second full length novel in that series, following A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK. The series follows Michael Andrews, a Canadian writer living in Manhattan and dealing with the side-effects of being a werewolf. During any phase of the moon where it’s 80% or more, he turns into a wolf, with no human conscious thoughts or memories. As human, he retains additional sensory powers and extraordinary strength; and he uses these powers to help others.

In FALILA, Michael finds himself on a temporary work trip to Los Angeles to work as a script consultant on the set of a Hollywood movie being adapted from one of his novels. He is using the trip as an excuse to “get away” from a relationship where he has, for all intents and purposes, been dumped by the only woman he has ever loved.

While he is there, he not only finds a woman who captures his heart, and could potentially help him to get over the heartache he is stuck in, but he also uncovers a seedy and dark evil attacking local LA residents.

The title, as you can see, is a cheeky nod to Hunter S. Thompson’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS in the same way that A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK is a bit of a nod to AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. In my novel, which is nothing like the Thompson book or film, it’s a different city, and the fear is the underlying fear that a hate group with access to supernatural powers instills in the city, and the longing that Michael is filled with as he arrives to the city.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I’d like readers to enjoy the adventure, be intrigued by the evil that is plaguing society via an underground hate group, and feel for Michael as he transitions from the way he has been stuck in a rut relationship-wise, for a number of years.

I’d want them to not only understand the message about hate groups and prejudice against minority groups of all types, but also that this hate is often something hidden beneath the surface, even when there is a masquerade of equality and fairness. To often we like to pretend that the evil and hatred and ill-will is not there, but it’s constantly there, beneath the surface, often infecting society worse than any global plague. And that’s because it’s an infection of the mind, heart, and spirit. And something that can often operate in very asymptomatic ways.

And, of course, I’d like them to ultimately think: “Wow, I liked this. I can’t wait to read the next ‘Canadian Werewolf’ book, which, incidentally is FRIGHT NIGHTS, BIG CITY. (Yes, that’s a nod to a book and movie from the 80s)

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love for Michael Andrews to meet and connect with Peter Parker. Because a lot of who Michael Andrews is modelled on is based on the geeky teenager who found himself endowed with great powers, and he turned that into a personal conviction to help others.

Andrews, like me, grew up reading Spider-Man comic books and that was part of the reasoning behind his desire to live in New York. It was because that’s where those Marvel Comics adventures were set, but it’s also because that’s the hub of North American publishing.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Single thing. That’s funny. Because I’m distracted by plenty of things. But I suppose the single worst distraction is the overwhelming tendency I have towards procrastination.

I started writing this book in 2017 during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I only finished it in early 2021. I suppose that’s better than the previous book in this series. A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK was started during NaNoWriMo in 2006, wasn’t finished until 2015, and didn’t see publication until 10 years after I first started it.

So I’m hoping that my trend of closing down that procrastination timeline continues to reduce. It better, since FRIGHT NIGHTS, BIG CITY is up for pre-order for December 2021.

What part of Michael did you enjoy writing the most?
I quite enjoy Michael’s wry and sometimes snarky commentary about the things around him. He is perhaps best described as an alpha wolf and beta human. And he’s the kind of person who (and please pardon the crude expression) wouldn’t say shit if he had a mouthful of it, because, in that very stereotypical Canadian way, he wants to please and will quietly put up with things and not breathe a word of negativity about it. But the books are told in a first person narrative from Michael’s point of view. And in his head, which is where the reader is, those snarky comments that he rarely spews aloud, can be enjoyed and relished.

I think that part of Michael is something many readers can empathize with.


What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
I think that everyone should do something that scares them or makes them nervous. And no, I’m not talking about something dramatic like jumping out of a plane. I’m taking about pushing the envelope of comfort and taking and risk and putting something out there, or saying or doing something important that they might be compassionate about doing but don’t out of frear of failure.

Because until you try, until you take that risk, you never know. You might surprise yourself and others. And until you do try, you’re limiting yourself in a self-imposed way.

Best date you've ever had?
That would have to be the first time I met my partner, Liz.

We connected via Match.com and met at a Craft Brewery for a quick drink. That quick drink turned into a lengthy dinner and animated conversation, then dessert, in an evening that I never wanted to see end. I knew the minute we parted ways from that first date, that I wanted to see her again, and again, and again.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I would go back to the day of my father’s operation where he had been nervous and wanted to back out of it because he had a really bad feeling. I would have said: “Okay, let’s cancel today and see if they can reschedule.” Perhaps he might still be alive, because he died in the recovery room that day.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Usually, I never leave the house without my smart phone.

Most of the time I don’t leave the house until I’ve put my contact lenses in.

I almost always have my wallet on me, too.

Oh, and pants. It’s been so hard to remember to put on pants since the pandemic started and almost everyone was working from home and visible only from the waist up on video chat.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
I honestly can’t come up with anything for that. I suppose what’s weird to one person might be normal to another. Like me, for example. I have multiple skeletons in different poses throughout the house. My home office is littered with decorative skulls of all sizes and styles. Hmm, maybe, it’s my house that helps people easily answer that question.

First Heartbreak?
Yes. I have had one.

I loved her completely. I thought we would be together forever. She broke my heart multiple times in a very short time period. Most of those times, it was infidelity. The final time was when she announced her engagement to someone else just when I thought there was a potential of use figuring things out. That pain likely impacted me in terms of relationships for decades afterwards, and some of those ripples are still felt today.

What was the last movie that you saw at the cinema?
Oh wow. Hard to remember. It might have been that last Spider-Man movie, FAR FROM HOME, with my son. Of course, it could very well have been one of the last Star Wars films. I’m sorry, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen a movie in theatres, that it’s a bit of a blur.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I’ll take heart break over never experienced true love 10 times out of 10. True love is one of the richest, deepest, most giving and nourishing experiences of life. I wouldn’t trade knowing that for the world, even if knowing that means you sometimes have to also know life without it.

TEN FAVORITE READS EVER BY MARK LESLIE
  • 1. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
  • 2. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  • 3. Different Seasons by Stephen King
  • 4. The Poet by Michael Connelly
  • 5. Twisted by Jeffrey Deaver
  • 6. Here After by Sean Costello
  • 7. Clockwork Lives by Kevin J. Anderson (with Neil Peart)
  • 8. Traveling Music by Neil Peart
  • 9. Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
  • 10. A Writer’s Tale by Richard Laymon
Your journey to publication
I have known, virtually me entire life that I wanted to share stories. It started off when I was a child and use to make up fun adventures with little Fisher Price figures when I was young. I loved being read to. My Mom and Baba (Grandmother) used to read to me, and my mom used to buy me comic books from the convenience store where she worked when I was little. I grew up loving reading comic books and books, and many of them inspired me to want to tell my own stories.

When I got older I started to create stick-figure cartoons to share my stories. And it was discovering the magic of the permanence of putting something on paper, walking away, and someone else could discover and enjoy it, that stuck with me.

I later marveled in the joy of long-form writing (particularly because I wasn’t all that good at drawing, and the dialogue bubbles in my cartoons were never large enough to get all the dialogue I wanted to write). When I was thirteen years old I discovered my mom’s old Underwood typewriter in the back of her closet. I pulled it out and haven’t looked back since.

At the age of fourteen I spent almost the entire summer vacation working on what I felt was a magnum opus, a 30,000 word or so “epic fantasy adventure” which was mostly inspired from adventures playing Dungeons and Dragons and the Conan The Barbarian comic books and movies from the 80s staring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I got my first publishing rejection at the age of 15 and have amassed thousands more rejections since then. My first short story was published in 1992, and my first professional sale (6 cents or more) was in 2001.

I self-published my first book, ONE HAND SCREAMING, in 2004. It was a collection of many of my previously published short stories, and two years later edited an anthology for a traditional publisher. I self-published another anthology in 2009, and then later sold rights to my first non-fiction book to a publisher in 2012.

I have been an early adopter of hybrid publishing and continue to work with publishers for some of my books and stories, while using self or indie publishing for other projects.

One thing I know is that, no matter how long I’ve been doing this, there’s still something new to learn about the craft and business of writing each and every day, and my thirst to keep learning and exploring, and writing, drives me forward.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Jean. I’m honored to be here.


WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

If New York is the city that never sleeps, then L.A. is the city where you have to sleep with one eye open.

Michael Andrews learns quickly that it's not just the cut-throat world of Hollywood you need to fear. There's something deeper, darker, and far more disturbing lurking just beneath the shadows of the city, waiting for any moment of vulnerability to grab you by the throat.

An extended trip to Los Angeles to be on set for the movie adaptation of his latest novel leads Michael into a twisted and macabre underworld where he becomes entangled with an intriguing, sexy, and mysterious woman. At times she seems just what he needs in order to finally get over the unrequited love of his ex-girlfriend; but at other times, she appears to be the gateway to a Pandora's box of B-movie nightmares.

Can he trust her? Can he trust himself with her?

Michael's supernatural wolf-enhanced powers and special abilities might not be enough to survive this particular harsh and gritty jungle and the unique and deadly predators that crawl out of the shadows.

You can purchase Fear and Longing in Los Angeles at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CREATIVE EDGE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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10 comments:

  1. "If you could live in any period in history, where would it be and why?" The Tudor period, because the clothes were actually quite flattering. (Naturally, I would be dressed as a nobleman of the highest standing.)

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  2. That's a tough question. I guess I'd live in the 1960s, because of all the good music that was around then.

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  3. I would probably choose Regency England.

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  4. Yes this is a difficult question.
    I will say the 60's also - that music was fantastic!

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  5. I would like to live in the 1950's because my grandparents said it was a good time to be alive.

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  6. I would like to live in the 1950's. It seems like a nice time with families staying together and the country prospering.

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  7. I would choose the 1950s so I could live with my grandparents.

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  8. Perhaps the 1700s in Hawaii before the invaders came.
    Thanks for the contest.

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