Thursday, January 2, 2014

Interview with Mark Woods.

Full Name:
Mark Woods

Do you have a nickname or what do your friends call you?
At a previous job I picked up the nickname Sparkymarky, mainly because it rhymed, and it kind of stuck.  When I had a chef tantrum, it would change to Narkymarky.  People also call me Woody a lot because of my surname to the extent that some people in the hotel I work at don’t even know my real name is Mark!

Norwich, Norfolk in the U.K

Current hometown:
Dereham, a small market town in Norfolk

Favorite city and why?
Well, I would have to say I have a soft spot for Norwich because I was born and grew up there and it will always be my home!

Birthday / Age:
Physically 40, mentally the jury is still deciding.

How would you describe yourself physically?
Tall, dark haired and devilishly handsome.

How would someone else describe you physically?
Tall, lanky, slightly nerdy or geeky and looking more than a little bit like Harry Potter.
Have you ever tried to cash in on the Harry Potter thing?
No, not intentionally  but when I dressed up as Tom Baker for a Halloween party a couple of years ago, a friend saw the photo and thought I had gone as Harry Potter despite the fact I had a sonic screwdriver and a homemade K-9 under my arm…

The first thing people notice about you is…
My sarcasm.  It seems to have a life and a character all of its own and often comes out of my mouth before my brain has even had a chance to think about engaging.
I used to be really sarcastic, but I found that it just means that you have to say everything twice.
Some person: “Aren’t you cold?”
Sarcastic Old Me: “No.  I just like hanging out with my hands in my pants pockets and shivering.”
Some person: “Really?”
Sarcastic Old Me: “No.  Do you have a jacket I could borrow before my nipples freeze off?”

Religion, if any?
Again, the jury is still out.  I like to believe in something spiritual and believe certain events throughout my life have happened for a reason but find it difficult to put my whole trust into any one, single faith.

Are you superstitious at all? Any phobias?
I don’t like heights, am not afraid of spiders but don’t like beetles, don’t like other people’s blood though I am fine with mine.  Go figure that one.

Do you smoke / drink? If so, what? Any bad habits?
Don’t really drink any more as much for pleasure as much anymore since I joined J.Ellington Ashton as their U.K  and Lace 21 Erotica Editor.
Ooh!  Erotica!  What would you define “erotica” as?
And as a follow up question, does any of the stuff you have to read for your job ever arouse you sexually?  Or is it just a bunch of words you have to make sure end up reading well?
Erotica quite simply to me means anything that turns you on.  One of my favourite pieces of Erotica in 2013 was 50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland that combined erotica with humour and very clever parody.  So far we haven’t had many submissions for our Erotica imprint but this is something J.E.A is hoping to rectify in the New Year.  We have strict guidelines that all authors must adhere too (such as NO bestiality, NO minors and absolutely NO unwilling, abusive or coerced sex) but are looking to find the next (and hopefully much better written) 50 Shades Of Grey.  One of our authors, Christopher Goose, specializes in crypto-erotica (aka sex with fallen angels and shape-changers), so long as it is well written then chances are we will be interested.  As for does it have to turn me on?  Well it doesn’t have to per se but, as an Editor, I do need to assess whether or not a story is marketable regardless of genre.  I don’t always have to like a book I edit so long as I can see it is well written and will sell.  Luckily, because of my reviews, Catt and the team have a lot of trust and respect in my opinion.

What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?
The best advice I ever read or saw in a zombie book or movie was keep moving.  If you stop, you die.  As soon as you settle in one place, it is too easy to get trapped. Have caches or stores hidden in strategic areas but always always keep on the move.  Oh and keep other survivors around as bait so if you get cornered, the Zoms can pick off the stragglers while you escape!
That’s not bad advice.  Especially the last part.  I don’t have to be the fastest runner left on earth.  I just have to be faster than you.
Amongst my peer group, I was one of only a few people who applauded Shane (in The Walking Dead) when he made the decision to shoot his ‘partner’ and leave him behind as bait while he escaped.  I could see a lot of me in that decision even though many thought it a bit cold.

Weapon of choice:
Something melee. I live in the U.K so don’t know how to handle a gun and what happens when you run out of ammo?  Start with a melee weapon to begin with and you never have to rely on firepower.
I live in America when they give you a rifle, a handgun and a shotgun on your thirteenth birthday to celebrate your becoming a teenager.  It can be difficult being a teenager, what with all of the peer pressure and school bullying, so having superior firepower comes in handy.

Do you have any special skills?
I’m a mean chef.  And by that I mean I’m a good cook not a Ramsey-style chef with attitude.  Wait, on second thoughts…

Did you go to college and, if so, what for?
When I took my options (where you choose which topics to study for the last years of school) I had two things I was okay at.  Cooking and drawing.  I chose cooking and did that at college.  I missed a trick.  I was also good at English and, in hindsight, probably should’ve thought about doing a journalism degree instead!
Well, you could have always been a cook, written articles about your cooking, and then draw pictures to illustrate your articles.  Then you’d be fully self-actualized.  It’s not too late! 
Well if I ever decide to do this and it works, I will have to cut you in for a percentage!

If you went to college, did you manage to pay off your student loans?
My parents helped with college tuition and I also worked washing up in a Nursing Home kitchen.

Any pets?   If so, what are they and what are their names?
Two cats.  Picasso and Smirnoff.  (Yes, after the vodka!)

What is your favorite animal?
Hedgehog.  Don’t know why.

Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?
I don’t suffer fools gladly and am not really a people person.  Which is why I works as a chef, not front of house.

Favorite / Least favorite Food:
I love sweet things.  Desserts.  I am the guy who won’t eat all his main meal but then tucks into everyone else’s desserts.  I make awesome chocolate brownies and sticky toffee pudding with dates and tea.  Those are the two desserts I’m best known for making at work!

What is your favorite quotation / motto / saying?
Being a big Doctor Who fan, I say Allonsy a lot.  Also I often use frak because I was a big Battlestar Galactica geek and had the hots for Caprica 6 big time even if she was a toaster!

What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
This year when horror author Catt Dahman told me to write and I saw four of my stories getting published.  Before that, meeting my wife and seeing the birth of my daughter Emilie.
I just interviewed Catt!  She’s an “interesting” lady.

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
The first week she was born, Emilie had to go into hospital because she wasn’t feeding properly, lost weight and was in need of desperate care.  In the ward she was on, there was a large selection of letters and cards posted up on a wall.   I went to read them and discovered they were mostly from parents whose children had died on the ward, thanking the nurses for their care whilst they were there.  Quite understandably this was the last thing I needed to see at that time!
Wow.  That’s pretty heavy.

Ever had your heart broken? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
Lots of times.  Before my wife, I had this habit of chasing unobtainable women incapable of sharing for me what I felt for them.

Ever broken someone’s heart? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
Not that I know.  Normally I was the recipient.

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
Went to Rome for my honeymoon.  It was the best 10 days of my life.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
I once found a wallet at the train station and took the money out before sending it back to the person with a note saying “next time, be more careful with your wallet.”  Another time, I hit someone’s car (not badly) in a car park and was going to drive away but these girls shouted out “WE SAW YOU!”  So I pretended to leave my details on their windscreen but really just left a note saying sorry.  Small potatoes really but still, pretty mean.
Well at least you sent the wallet back.  The money inside was just a finder’s fee.  You could’ve just taken the money and dumped the wallet in a bin.

If you could kill one person, who would it be, and why?
I have a shit list like the L7 song but I don’t think I could ever kill anyone.  I respect human life too much and think the taking of any life is wrong.  There is too much killing already in this world!

What do you do?
I read, I write, I edit and I work as a chef.  I don’t have time for much else.

How did you get started doing what you do?
As far as the writing and editing goes, that’s all down to Catt Dahman, a woman I owe a huge debt to.

What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do?
The best advice I know is that the only way to be a writer is to write.  Just write.  If you are good at what you do and you have a passion or a flair for telling a good story, then sooner or later, your writing will get the attention it deserves.  If you don’t try, you will never ever come close to achieving your goals.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on/finished in the past?
Give us a little history if you will.
Well, my first published short story was Up On The Roof, a zombie story based two years after the uprising and looking at a group of survivors who had barricaded themselves in their apartment building.  That appeared in The Tall Book Of Zombie Shorts with all proceeds going to a charity for wounded veterans which came about as part of a big Zombie event that occurred on Facebook.  Since then I have had two short stories published in two of J. Ellington Ashton’s anthologies, All That Remains and Other Worlds, with a third due out in Midnight Remains available soon.  This next short story is called Dairy of the Dead, and is set in the same universe as Up On The Roof and features zombie cows!  It came about as an idea after someone I knew mis-pronounced the Romero film, Diary of the Dead.  Finally, I have a short story in a very recently released anthology, Holiday Horror, that I was approached to submit for and a short novella being published soon called Time Of Tides that ties in Global Warming with Lovecraftian lore and is set on the Norfolk Broads.

What projects are you working on now?
I have three ideas for novels – two of which I am currently working on.  The first crosses traditional fairy tales with a zombie apocalypse, the other expands my short story Hand Built, from the anthology Other Worlds, into a full novel by exploring further many of the ideas and concepts first introduced there and going into much greater detail about the events described.  The third is a secret and is intended for the future.

What are you watching?
Well I just finished Doctor Who for now but have Seasons four and five of Fringe to watch.

What are you listening to?
At the moment, I often listen to classical music on the drive home from work.  I find it helps me unwind from all the stress.
Nice!  Do you have any preferred composers or do you just tune into a classical station or use a classical music aggregator on the internet? I tend to just tune into a U.K station called Classic F.M. I’m not cultured enough to recognize more than a few of the more popular composers and tunes.

What are you reading?
Nothing right now but am editing the latest book from Susan Simone, a highly underrated fellow author friend who deserves much more recognition than she gets.
Cool!  I have an interview survey from her waiting for a Second Round edit on my desktop.  I’ll move it up the queue so your interviews can run next to each other.
Actually, published it this morning.

Favorite author / book?
It by Stephen King or Hearts of Atlantis.  My favourite fantasy novels of all time are Robin hobbs Farseer series.  Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz.  The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and House Of Leaves by Mark Danielewski.  What do you mean I can only have one?
I tried to take on House Of Leaves, but it defeated me.  It came highly recommended, but it was my opinion that there was way too much build up before getting to anything resembling a pay-off.  I like big books and I cannot lie.  But sometimes I like a bit more meat in my book sandwiches.
I just liked the way it experimented with different styles of writing like scrawling it’s text all across the page at some points.  For me it was just so different from anything else I’ve read.  As far as other books that have played a big impact in my life, I could also mention A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Wild Swans and Mao, a biography both by Jung Chang.  I am a prolific reader and enjoy being educated as much as entertained!
Now that you mention it, I did like the innovative use of formatting in House Of Leaves.

Favorite band / song?
Guns n Roses – back when Slash and Axl were together.  Civil War is my favourite of their songs or One In A Million.

Least favorite band / song?
Any boy band.  Or Justin Bieber.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?
I would much rather be a full time writer than a Chef.

Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met?
You get three choices: Alive. Dead. Fictional.
Alive- Bernard Cribbins.  He was great in Doctor Who and I grew up watching him in my childhood.
Dead- Clifford Simak, my favourite sci-fi author of all time.
Fictional- Fitz Chivalry Farseer from Robin Hobb’s books or The Fool from the same series.

What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?
Being a chef to both questions.  The buzz is fantastic but when you have a crappy night, you just want to crawl up in a corner and die!

Are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you wished I had asked that you would like to answer now?
Why are you wearing a bow tie?
Because bow ties are cool.  And fezs.  Fezs are cool too.

Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?
Susan Simone.  I think she would find being put under the spotlight uncomfortable but I so want people to discover her rare talent for good storytelling as her novel Silent Heart had such an impact that it has stayed with me months later. But seeing as you have already mentioned that you have her already, how about Scotty Schrier? He is always lots of fun to talk to.

Got any questions for me?
What’s your favourite book of all time?

Probably The Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, as translated by William Scott Wilson.  I always carry a paperback copy in my backpack, as I have found it to be a bottomless well of life lessons and I admire, although I do not have the fortitude of will to adhere to, Bushido philosophy.
Maybe I should check that out!
Well, here’s a little taste and one of my favorite quotes:
“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm.  When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road.  But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet.  When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking.”

Thanks for letting me subject you to being interviewed!

Pitch parade:
Give me all of your links for things you want to promote.   All of them.

About the Interviewee:
Mark Woods is a loving husband, doting father, successful Chef, a U.K Editor for J.E.A Press and an aspiring author who specializes in Horror, Zombie and speculative fiction. Mark is also an occasional Blogger and full time book geek who writes reviews for such sites as Amazon, Goodreads and Dooyoo. He has had four short stories published in his first year of writing with two more soon to be released and looks forward to making his mark (no pun intended) in 2014!

About the Interviewer:
Scott Lefebvre has probably read everything you've read and can write about whatever you want him to write about.
Mostly because when he was grounded for his outlandish behavior as a hyperactive school child, the only place he was allowed to go was the public library.
His literary tastes were forged by the works of Helen Hoke, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft.
He is the author of Spooky Creepy Long Island and a contributing author to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, The Call of Lovecraft, and Cashiers du Cinemart.
His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Screams of Terror, and he has appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and HorrorHound Magazine.
He is the Assistant Program Director for The Arkham Film Society and produces Electronic Music under the names Master Control and LOVECRAFTWORK.
He is currently working on a novel-length expansion of a short-story titled, "The End Of The World Is Nigh", a crowd-funded, crowd-sourced, post-apocalyptic, zombie epidemic project.
Check out the blog for the book here:
Check out the Facebook Fan Page for the project here:
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Check out his publishing imprint Burnt Offerings Books here:
And here:
Check out his electronic music here:
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Follow his Twitter here: or @TheLefebvre
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