Indie author Mark Gillespie currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, although he originally hails from Glasgow, Scotland. Mark is the author of two alternative history novels; FAB (FAB Trilogy Book 1) which examines what would have happened if John Lennon had not been killed, and recently released L-2011 (Future of London Series #1) which asks what if the 2011 London riots had gone on, and on? Mark has also penned a unique collection of short stories The Outsider Tales. Here he talks to me about his favoured alternative history genre, the idea behind L-2011, his journey so far as an indie author and his future projects. Enjoy!
1 – How would you describe your work? What genres do you feel comfortable in?
I tend to go with ‘Speculative Fiction’. I know that’s a huge umbrella term that covers many things like sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and other sub-genres. Narrowing it down, I’d say my own preferences – both for reading and writing – are alternate history, apocalyptic and horror. But anything dark and imaginative is good.
2 – L-2011 is set during the London riots of 2011, and explores what might have happened next…Can you tell us where you got the idea for this novel from? How did it evolve?
The idea to write about the London riots was inspired by a friend of mine. She lived in Croydon during the riots and her flat was burned down, taking everything with it – her two cats, her musical instruments which she used to earn a living. And God knows what else she lost. Up until then, the London riots had just been something on the news for me. After that, it was real and I couldn’t let go. Not long after that, I wrote a post-apocalyptic short story, which drastically evolved over the course of five years, eventually morphing into L-2011.
3 – I understand L-2011 is going to be part of a series – when will the next books be out and can you tell us anything about them?
Yep sure, it’s a series called ‘Future of London’ about errr, the future of London 🙂 Or at least the one in my head. I hope to have the second book out by late September/early October. I write fairly short books – novella/short novel sized, so fingers crossed it’ll be done by then. I can tell you that the next one is set nine years after the events depicted in L-2011.
4 – Tell us how you write your novels. Do you get the characters first, or does it all come from a plot idea?
I start with an interesting situation and run with it. After that, it’s all systems go and I’m absorbed in the idea. Regarding work techniques, I’m neither exclusively a plotter or a pantser – I’m a ‘plontser’.
5 – What is your writing process like? ie how much time do you dedicate to writing, how do you stay focused etc
On average, I’d say 6 days a week for an average of about 4-6 hours a day of writing. First draft it’s 1000-2000 words a day, then with further drafts it’s 2-3 chapters editing per day. Past failures, disappointments and frustrations spur me on. That’s how I stay focused. It’s also how I get out of bed and go to the desk at 6am on a freezing winter’s morning, and still be there at 10pm (with a couple of breaks in between of course!) You’ve got to be a little bit mad to be a writer.
6 – When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Early 2011. I’d just ended another creative career and was drifting in No-Man’s Land for a while. I wasn’t sure where I was going and then, as I was preparing to embark on an English degree, I got the writing bug when we studied short stories by the likes of Raymond Carver and John Cheever. It was always there a little bit though, the bug – I’d dabbled with writing in the past and I was an avid reader.
7 – What made you decide to take the indie route into publishing?
I attended an intensive two day publishing course in Melbourne. This wasn’t long after I’d moved to Australia from Scotland. Both trad publishing and indie publishing were covered in the course and the indie session was head and shoulders above the rest. To sum it up, it was all about what writers could do for themselves rather than begging the gatekeepers and God knows who else for a break. I actually wrote a blog post about the decision to go indie – (link to post)
8 – What would you say are the best and the worst things about being an indie writer?
The best thing is the absolute freedom to do what you want. You’re the star, director, and producer of your own movie. But it’s kind of the worst thing too in terms of workload. And at the start, it’s tough because nobody who isn’t a friend or is related to you cares about your book. That’s where oodles of stubbornness and perseverance come in handy. Play the long game, just keep reminding yourself of that.
9 – What advice would you give to anyone who has finished their first novel and is about to embark on the indie path?
Write another book. And do it quickly, but don’t skimp on the quality or the editing and all the things you need to do well. As indies, we have to produce good work and we need to do it consistently to remain visible. None of this one book a year crap for the likes of us – not unless your book genuinely takes a year to write of course! But I feel most writers are capable of a greater output than that.
10 – Where would you like to be five years from now with your writing?
Ha-ha, that’s funny you should ask. I’ve been reminding myself to write a five-year plan for a while now, but it’s taking me five years to getting around to writing my five-year plan. Five years from now, when I’m finished, I’ll let you know 😉
11 – What are you currently working on? What other projects are on the go?
I’m on the brink of completing the first draft of the second book in my FAB trilogy. This is another alternate history series which asks ‘What If John Lennon Had Lived?’ In between drafts, I’ll be outlining the second book in the London series too.
12 – Tell us three interesting things about yourself
I was a professional musician (bass player) for 10 years. I toured around the UK and Ireland a lot, and got into some hilarious situations (that’s a book in itself) Also, I got married on a mountain top in New Zealand in 2014 – that’s two interesting things – jeez, there must be something else interesting. Oh yeah – I used to work as a bouncer in Glasgow. There’s a book in that too 🙂
You can find out more about Mark by following him on social media;