Oh my goth! This is me in 1989
This is an article I wrote for Female First Website on the 10 things I’d like my readers to know about me. It involves, goths, zombies and karaoke!
- I have my mum to thank for my warped imagination. After my parents divorced when I was nine, she used to let me stay up to keep her company. She’d fall asleep and I’d stay awake watching horror movies and all sorts of inappropriate TV. She also let me read her library copy of James Herbert’s The Fog. I’ve loved scary films and books ever since.
- I used to be a goth. I had dyed black hair which I would crimp and back-comb until I looked like a skinny version of The Cure’s Robert Smith. My friends and I hung out in a nightclub in Hastings called The Crypt, dancing to Sisters of Mercy songs and drinking snakebite and black because that’s what goths are supposed to drink. (At the time, we denied being goths. If anyone asked, we called ourselves ‘individuals’.)
- My worst job was in a food packing factory when I was a student. We made pickle, mincemeat and jelly babies. I used to sit on a conveyor belt picking out the black cornflakes. I wore eyeliner to work which went down really well with some of my more macho colleagues who took to calling me ‘Rambo’.
- I’ve been vegetarian for thirty years. Like many people of my generation, I went veggie after watching a documentary about The Smiths in 1987. My views and tastes have waxed and waned over the years but two things remain constant: my vegetarianism and love of Morrissey.
- I became a karaoke addict in Japan. I taught English conversation in Tokyo for a year and discovered that karaoke is probably the most fun activity in the world. I am a terrible microphone hog and show-off when it comes to karaoke. The moment I step into that room I transform from a mild-mannered writer into a wannabe rock and roll megastar.
- I am obsessed with Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. It’s not only my favourite novel, it’s my favourite anything. A couple of years ago I saw Ms Tartt read from The Secret History (oh it was rapturous!) and afterwards, when I told her how much I loved her books she shook my hand. It was an effusive handshake and I floated home on a cloud of hero-worshipping wonder.
- I spend a lot of time daydreaming about how I would survive a zombie apocalypse. I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead and have passed many happy hours figuring out a survival plan should the undead ever overrun Wolverhampton (no jokes, please). At the moment, this plan involves kayaking along the canal near where I live, even though I don’t know how to kayak and I’m not sure what I’ll do when I reach the first lock. Panic, probably.
- I have four children, one of whom lives in Australia. It’s hard, and I miss her terribly, but I owe the people who invented Skype a very large drink. Twenty years ago it would have been impossible for us to maintain such a long-distance relationship, but we chat every week – mostly about Doctor Who, which is her favourite programme, and which was my favourite at her age.
- I went to school with Stella McCartney. No, I didn’t go to a posh private school. Sir Paul sent his kids to the local comprehensive because he’s a man of the people, innit. Stella was in the year below me and I never spoke to her, so she would have no idea who I am and is unlikely to include ‘I went to school with Mark Edwards’ in an article like this. I used to have Paul McCartney’s autograph too (he bought his fruit and veg in my stepdad’s shop) but I lost it, which causes me great pain.
- It took me fifteen years of trying to get a book deal. I spent most of my twenties and early thirties writing countless books (I can’t actually remember how many) and although I secured an agent I still couldn’t get a deal. Finally, in 2011, after self-publishing two books with my friend Louise Voss and topping the Kindle charts, I got a deal. That didn’t work out but three years later I found another publisher and now I’m a full-time writer, doing what I always dreamed of.
To read the article on the website, click here.
Me with Louise Voss
Here, myself and Louise Voss talk to Harrogate International Festivals about our road to success.
We appeared in the 2012 Festival’s ‘Creative Thursday’ session ‘The Road to Publication – Success Stories.’
The paperback publication of Killing Cupid is proof that if you create something good enough and want something strongly enough, you can make it happen. Even if it takes a long time. This story is intended not just for writers but for anyone who has a dream of achieving something that is difficult to attain: whether your field is music or art or business; or even something in your personal life. Whatever you want to achieve, you can do it.
We started writing Killing Cupid ten years ago. Come Together by Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd had recently been a big hit, and we came up with the idea of writing something with the same structure – alternating male and female narrators – but instead of romantic comedy, we wanted to write a psychological thriller. We knew what the twist in the middle would be – it was our starting point – but we had no idea where the story would end up.
A few months after we started, I (Mark) moved to Japan to become an English teacher. I remember sitting on the floor of the guest house I stayed in during my first week there, the day after arriving, jet-lagged and bewildered, working on Killing Cupid. Over the coming months, Louise and I wrote it like a tag team, writing alternate chapters and sending them back and forth.
Halfway through writing it, Louise met up with a BBC TV producer who had liked Louise’s solo books but was looking for something darker. Louise showed her our work in progress and she loved it. The BBC optioned the book before it was finished. We were sure we were onto a winner.
About nine months after we started it, Killing Cupid was complete. However, Louise’s agent at that time wasn’t keen, but she agreed to submit it to publishers. We kept being told that because it was a mixture of thriller, romance and comedy, it would be too difficult to market. Everybody passed on it.
Still, we had the BBC option which was exciting in itself. The BBC hired a scriptwriter, took us out for dinner… Then silence. We didn’t hear anything for months. Many months. Finally, we were shown a treatment for the drama: they had changed everything: the plot, the characters, even the title. It bore no resemblance to the original novel. The while thing fell apart.
We then wrote Catch Your Death, deliberately making it more of a straightforward thriller, but this time we weren’t even able to find an agent. My former agent, who I had had a pretty good relationship with for years, rejected it with a single line: ‘Just not good enough.’ After a few months of trying, we gave up. It wasn’t worth the stress. We had good day jobs. I was starting to have kids. At the risk of sounding corny, we put the writing dream back in the drawer along with our old manuscripts. That was in 2006.
Fast forward to 2010. I started reading about a few authors in America who were making it big on Kindle and suggested to Louise that we give it a go. What did we have to lose? So we set about updating both the books, dragging them into a world where Facebook and broadband existed.
In February 2011, we put Killing Cupid on the Kindle store. On day 1, we sold 2 copies, to my mother in law and boss. Over the next few weeks we sold a few copies a day. And spent every evening after working blogging and networking like crazy to try to get people to know the book existed.
We’ve told this story lots, but it’s still exciting to tell it: after a few months of relentless pushing, and a very very slow crawl up the chart, Killing Cupid sat at No.2 on Amazon.co.uk.
And our other book, Catch Your Death, was No.1.
From there, we got an agent, who sent the manuscripts of both books out to publishers before the end of the week. We were all over the media, appearing live on BBC Breakfast and Sky News, the first of the British indie writers to hit the top spot.
The same day that we were on Sky News, we got an offer from HarperCollins, which we accepted. I was going to write ‘happily accepted’ but that would be a massive understatement. It was the moment I had dreamt of for a long time, and if you’re a writer, I bet you’ve had that fantasy too. The call telling you that you’ve got a book deal. It’s the literary equivalent of scoring the winning goal in a cup final.
So now, here we are, ten years after we first had this crazy idea to write a book about two crazy people, and Killing Cupid is finally in the shops. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, sitting there in WHSmith, crying out ‘Buy me!’ to passers by (as they head towards the massive table groaning under the weight of all the copies of 50 Shades of Grey).
It feels fantastic. Like after all this time, we’ve achieved something. Something that means a lot to us.
And it’s not just about achieving something and then resting. It’s about using it as a starting point and moving on. Because whenever you get something you’ve wished for, you will – if you are anything like us – want something more. In our case, it’s wanting to be able to keep doing this, to write more books, to find more readers, because it’s what we love doing. Killing Cupid has put us in the lucky position of being able to do that.
The publication of the paperback of Killing Cupid marks the end of the first phase for us. Catch Your Death and Killing Cupid have been so good to us, even though for a long time it seemed they would languish unread. Now, though, we can’t wait to get more books out there. The next one, All Fall Down, is being copy-edited now and will be out next February, and we are about to start writing our fourth book, Forward Slash.
Being writers is what we have both wanted to do for most of our adult lives. We did give up for a while. With hindsight, we could say we were biding our time and waiting for the right opportunity to come along. When it did, we seized the day. That’s what you have to do.
Whether you’re a writer, an artist, a musician, an entrepreneur, a lover or a fighter.
Never give up.
To read the article on the website, click here.
For this blog, Liz Loves Books – The Wonderful World of Reading, I was asked why I write books. Here’s what I said. . .
Why We Write – Mark Edwards
When I was nine or ten years old, my mum left a copy of The Fog by James Herbert lying around. I think she even told me some of the things that happened in it. Intrigued, I picked it up and found myself reading about schoolboys butchering their teacher (the scene with the garden shears will stay with me forever) and various people running murderously amok. It was a bit of a change from the books I’d read before then, like The Wombles.
Around the same time, my parents got divorced and, wanting company, my mum let me stay up late. She would fall asleep on the sofa and I’d stay up watching late-night TV: Death Wish, the Hammer House of Horror TV series, Zoltan Hound of Dracula in which a vampiric pooch goes bonkers on a caravan park (sigh, they don’t make ’em like that any more). I also started to read 2000AD and other similar comics. Not long afterwards, the video revolution happened, and I was able to walk into my local video rental shop and hire such movies as City of the Living Dead and American Werewolf in London (I’m still slightly in love with Jenny Agutter after that shower scene).
Of course, I turned out to be a psychopath, roaming the streets of Hastings with a huge knife in my pocket and my own trained troupe of killer rats… Oh, not really. I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t psychologically scarred at all by my early exposure to horror and mayhem. But it definitely had a lasting impact on my imagination and influenced my tastes for, well, the rest of my life.
As a teenager, I returned to James Herbert (terrible prose, great stories) and discovered Stephen King. I think the first King I read was Salem’s Lot, and over the next few years I read all of them – speeding through his back catalogue and buying every new book as it came out. It was around this time that I decided I wanted to be a writer. At school, I excelled in English while being rubbish at most other subjects. My English teachers would raise their eyebrows at my stories about werewolves and blood oozing from walls, but they always gave me good marks. I wanted to be a horror writer, unaware, and not caring, that it was almost impossible to make a living writing in that genre. I wrote my first novel when I was sixteen. It was bloody awful. Thankfully, it is long lost but it was about a boy who finds a mysterious box that contains demonic powers. Like I said, bloody awful.
When I went to university, I started reading more literary stuff: Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Bret Easton Ellis, William Boyd. Much of it was still pretty dark, but for the first time I discovered the pleasure of reading not only for the story but for the language. Story was still my main interest but by moving beyond the limits of the horror genre my eyes were opened to a whole new world of books and I became a full-on addict, filling my flat with contemporary fiction, cult classics and even the occasional proper classic (though I am still allergic to anything written pre-World War 2).
In 1992 I read the book that would have the biggest influence on me, the book that I still think is the greatest novel ever written: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I was utterly blown away, immersed in this incredible, atmospheric masterpiece for a week. I pressed it on all my friends, talked about it all the time. Suddenly, my ambition to be a writer was reborn. To make someone feel a fraction of the way I had felt when I read The Secret History…that was my dream. (As an aside, last year I heard Donna Tartt read from TSH at an event in London. Afterwards, I spoke to her and she shook my hand. I was trembling with excitement.)
I spent my twenties writing and trying to get published. I had the most horrible day jobs – answering complaints for the Child Support Agency and then Connex Rail. Writing was my escape, my weekends spent banging away on my Sharp Fontwriter, a cross between a typewriter and word processor on which you could only see three lines of text at a time and which took a week to print a manuscript. I couldn’t afford a computer (cue violins) until 1998 when I bought a blueberry iMac with a bank loan. I wrote and wrote. I got an agent but no publisher. The first drafts of The Magpies and What You Wish For were written during this period, along with a book called The Liberators which was, I admit, a copy of The Secret History set in London.
I didn’t really know what kind of books I was writing. I guess I would have called it contemporary fiction, with elements of horror and suspense. The Magpies was intended to be a non-supernatural horror novel; I was trying to emulate Stephen King, with terrifying things happening to normal people. But it was around this time that I started to read crime novels. Of course, I’d already read Thomas Harris, but I soon discovered James Ellroy, Michael Connelly and Michael Dibdin’s Inspector Zen novels. Books like The Poet and The Black Dahlia were a revelation. Utterly gripping, thrilling page-turners. There was a trend for psychological thriller films too at this time: Single White Female, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Unknowingly, I was getting closer to finding my genre.
After meeting Louise Voss, we set about writing Killing Cupid. This was the first thriller either of us had written, although it wasn’t purely a thriller – it had a lot of dark comedy in it – which made it hard to sell to publishers even though we managed to get it optioned by the BBC. A few years later, I read The Da Vinci Code (like Herbert, terrible prose, great story) and Catch Your Death was an attempt to emulate that kind of fast-paced, pure thriller. After writing Forward Slash with Louise and then re-writing The Magpies, I finally knew what kind of books I wanted to produce. Psychological thrillers on my own, but with dashes of horror, and police procedurals with Louise. Our next book is our first out-and-out police novel.
Now I mostly read crime and psychological thrillers. This is mainly because they are the kind of books that draw me – along with my other favourite genre, post-apocalyptic dystopian novels – but also because I think it’s important to keep up with what your peers are writing. Occasionally I will read a book that’s so good that I will feel like giving up, but mostly I am compelled to raise my game. I have come across some novelists who claim that they don’t have time to read. This is insane. Reading is the fuel that helps you write. How can you hope to be a good writer if you don’t read a lot? I read every day. Books are like oxygen, like food and drink. Reading a great book still makes me want to write, just like the first time I read Stephen King or Donna Tartt.
That, in the end, is why I write: because I love books.
To read the article on the website, click here.
My publisher sent this picture!
There’s good news to announce and it’s definitely celebration time here at Edwards Towers.
Thank you to everyone who has bought Here To Stay so far. To date 50,000 copies have been sold in under a month!
For anyone who hasn’t yet bought it, it’s a tale about the chilling consequences of welcoming strangers into your home and the in-laws from hell.
Here are some of the reviews from readers:
“It has the twists, the turns and the emotion that every psychological thriller NEEDS to have to be successful.” – Lucii Dixon, Southampton, UK
“The tension I felt reading this was insane. At some points I even got physically anxious and had to keep reading just to calm my nerves.” – Joe Hunt, Worcestershire, UK
“I was hooked on this book from page one and couldn’t put it down until I finished, Another great read from Mark Edwards.” – Yvonne Doney, New South Wales, Australia
“This book takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions while reading it…happy, sad, maddening, frustration, and downright angry.” – Leila Rae-Bush, Georgia, USA
“Fantastic story! A week spun tale with plenty of twists and right as you have figured it out, you have nothing. . .” – David Alspector, Las Vegas, USA
If you’ve not yet read it, it’s available from Amazon.
Good news from across The Pond, my latest book Here To Stay has hit the Number 8 spot in The Washington Post’s National Fiction chart.
The book, my first ever to be published in hardback, has been out in America for a few weeks and has received some amazing reviews on Amazon and I am thrilled for it to be in the Washington Post’s Top Ten.
Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy, read and reviewed it, I appreciate your support as always.
The book is out in the UK on September 1, yes, it’s a Sunday, and I will be hosting my traditional launch party live on Facebook so head over there to join me. Click here if you want to RSVP. It’s not too long to wait now!
See you at the party!