Today, Hartford Books Examiner offers seasonal salutations to Mark Parker.
A contributor to the anthology Wrapped in Red: Thirteen Tales of Vampiric Horror (Sekhmet Press LLC), which will be released in print and digital editions tomorrow, Parker has also published three solely credited works—Way of the Witch (Book 1 of the Witch Saga), Biology of Blood (Part 1 of the Southridge Vampire Series), and a standalone psychosexual thriller, Lucky You—all of which are available through Amazon.com. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and is pursuing his Master’s Degree in Theology. Parker was born in the Midwest but currently resides in Boston, MA, where he works in mental health and hospital education. He credits coastal New England’s rich literary history– think Melville, Lovecraft, Poe, Hawthorne, and King—as influencing his own mixed brand of horror, suspense, and mystery fiction.
Wrapped in Red’s other contributors include Bryan W. Alaspa, Maynard Blackoak, Justine Dimabayao, Patrick C. Greene, Suzi M, Michael David Matula, Brian D. Mazur, Bille Sue Mosiman, Chantal Noordeloos, Domyelle Rhyse, Sarah I. Sellers, and Michael G. Williams.
From the publisher:
Thirteen crimson concoctions sure to tempt your teeth, from the ancient to the modern, from the Carpathian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean to the Wild West, you are sure to find your… type – Wrapped In Red.
Unlimited Vampire Nightmares.
Now, Mark Parker sinks his teeth into a blood curdling inquisition …
1) You are included in the new anthology, WRAPPED IN RED. What inspired your story—and how do you see this project as marking a milestone in your career?
The story I wrote for the forthcoming vampire anthology, WRAPPED IN RED, came from a novel idea I had been working on for a while now. The story, The Scarlet Galleon, as it appears in the anthology, was borne from this earlier idea, but quickly evolved into something quite different. I had the idea for setting a vampire story aboard a 16th century Spanish Galleon, adrift in the black murkiness of night somewhere off the coast of Spain. I could see specific scenes playing out in my head and thought, if pieced together ‘just so,’ this could make a really cool short story. I hope my instincts were right! This project marks a milestone in my career because it’s my first ‘official’ solicited manuscript for publication. I plan to frame the check and hang it above my writing desk, as testament that (cliché as it sounds) dreams really do come true!
2) You have published three digital shorts but aspire to write novel-length works, as well. How does story dictate which format you choose?
At present, I only have three digital shorts available on Amazon: BIOLOGY OF BLOOD, LUCKY YOU, and WAY OF THE WITCH. While I have always dreamed of being a ‘novelist,’ I have wanted more to be a writer. For me, every story has its own import, style, setting, voice—and length. I never go into a project knowing full well how things will turn out in the end, or which format a particular story might choose to take, because—as we know—the stories themselves effectively decide that! In some cases, I suppose I know going in that a story will live in a shorter format rather than long…as happened with these first three offerings currently on Amazon. BIOLOGY OF BLOOD, for instance, was initially supposed to be a short story submission for an earlier anthology, but I confess to having ‘chickened out’ prior to submitting, and decided to self-publish it instead. Thankfully, due to folks wanting more of the story…to learn more about the characters and what happens to each of them, I have begun working on the second ‘installment’ of the Southridge Vampire series, BIOLOGY OF BLOOD II – TEACHER’S PET. Likewise, LUCKY YOU started with a single thought: What might happen if after a night of exuberant sex, a woman ends up dead, and the unsuspecting ‘killer’ realizes that the power to take someone’s life—even if unintentionally—proves to be a far greater aphrodisiac than the sex itself? There could be a Part II to this story somewhere down the road, to further explore the seeding of such a development in a young man’s life, but I have not yet begun to consider what might happen next for the character of Declan, or his budding identity as a shaped serial killer. And with WAY OF THE WITCH, this story was always seen to be part of a larger whole; at the very least one side of a triptych, that evolves as the setting—and result—of a childish prank that goes invariably wrong. Two childhood friends encounter a woman they believe to be a witch, and their act against the old woman, comes to have dire consequences for all three, in a much more real way than any of them might’ve ever considered—or expected!
3) You write about vampires and witches, among other supernatural beings. How do you take such well known entities and make them your own? Also, in your opinion, which is scarier: otherworldly horror or the human kind?
That’s a very interesting question! The challenge of making something new and fresh and uniquely your own as a writer really is where the rub lies, isn’t it? I have learned the hard way—mostly from not so favorable reviews—that readers take their supernatural entities quite seriously. In fact, I had one lady say that I had no right delving into areas I didn’t seem to know at all. OUCH!! For me using the supernatural as a kind of convention in my stories primarily came from an early love affair with all things Stephen King. I never intentionally decided to be a horror writer, as I really enjoy writing mysteries, thrillers, and even love stories when the occasion arises. For me it is always about creating a living atmosphere that effectively gives a story its tone and overall flavor. I personally think stories that have a darker, more foreboding taste, lend themselves a bit better to what I’m generally going for in my writing…that desire to really highlight the ‘what if’ scenario that can go terribly wrong, which leads to some of the greatest drama of all. Using the supernatural as a convention—or supernatural entities at least—can be a fun and evocative way of introducing rather philosophical truths and wonderments in a way that proves pleasing for both writer and reader. Some of the greatest voices in literature have turned to the frightful to delve into some of life’s more confounding truths. I find the element of fear in any story, to be the greatest storyteller of all. For me, it’s simply always been that way. Give me a cobblestone street or fog bank—or, in this case, a vampire or witch—and I am off and writing, which is the aim on even the most trying of creative days. And in answering which I find scarier: otherworldly horror or the human kind, I’m afraid I’d have to say that humanity wins that one each and every time. What we as humans have the capacity to do to one another—murdering our own children; raping our own mothers; or simply treating one another with cruelty and disdain—is, in my opinion, some of the most tragic horrors of all. You need only watch the nightly news to discover that, I’m afraid.
4) You have embraced the self-publishing platform. Tell us about how this process works and what you see as the benefits in comparison to more traditional outlets.
Although it continues to be my dream to one day sign with a major New York publisher, the platform Kindle Direct Publishing (and others) have provided the independent author with, is the ability to see his or her dreams come to fruition in a much more immediate way—and we all know that immediacy can be important to us westerners! What I like about self-publishing, is the ability to be part of the publishing process in a way that few legacy-published authors get to enjoy. For instance, I have input into what cover design represents my work, and which outlets I choose to sell through. Most authors don’t have that luxury. But what I dislike about it is that it is difficult to regulate quality. While quantity is more than proven through the zillions of stories that are being self-published each and every day through online platforms—flooding the market to an almost glutinous proportion—the overall quality of what is being published is not regulated in any real sort of way. This can prove challenging to anyone wishing to be taken seriously as an independently-published author. It’s that old freedom/responsibility thing. While I’ve only been ‘published’ for a matter of months now, I still hold out hope that my work will be ‘discovered’ and attain the backing that only the larger brick-and-mortar publishers can afford a fledgling writer seeking to make a name for him or herself—and, more importantly, for his or her stories!
5) In addition to your passion for writing, you also work a full-time job. How do you seek to achieve balance—and what words of advice would you give other aspiring writers who may have difficulty juggling responsibilities?
What I learned early on is that there is never a ‘right’ time to write. You either want/need to do it, or you don’t! It’s really that simple. For those aspiring to write beyond what a hobby might garner them, one must come to terms early on with just how much discipline—and belief in self—it takes to become a success at writing as any kind of career, vocation, or—dare I say—livelihood. Folks think that anybody can be a writer or successful author, and I would wholeheartedly refute such sentiment at every turn. Any person I know who writes—published or not—knows full well just what it takes to plant yourself in that uncomfortable chair each and every day, day in and day out, and set yourself to the oftentimes mind-numbing task of writing, because that’s what it is; it’s damned hard work! I think that many are enamored with living the ‘life of a writer,’ without fully realizing the amount of work it takes to make such a life possible for oneself. Millions or writers never get recognized for the talent they bring to the craft. We see that more often than not, in fact, which is regrettable. To be able to work at something when nobody’s looking is, in my mind, the true testament to how much you really want to be a writer. The level of a person’s commitment is everything. Although writing can be a feel-good act, doing it even on the days when you don’t feel like doing it points to the potential of success a person might garner if he or she is given the right set of circumstances—and enters the ring with a fair amount of talent of course! Without that, even the most diligent of writers will fall short making it as a published author in any effective sense.
6) Leave us with a little teaser: what comes next?
I am currently working on a Hitchcockian creeper of a story entitled, SPINSTER, as well as Part II of the Witch Saga – STICKS & STONES, and Vol. II of the Southridge Vampire series, TEACHER’S PET. I have also begun working on a full-length psycho-spiritual suspense novel set against the backdrop of the modern-day Catholic Church entitled, PERFECT DARKNESS – hopefully to be followed up with a sequel aptly entitled, PERFECT LIGHT. Balance is important! There must always be balance.
With thanks to Mark Parker for his generosity of time and thought.
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