Mark Johnson lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his coffee machine, his wife, and two children. He traveled, then worked as a high school teacher before getting into writing and publishing. He chose fantasy because it’s the best way of telling the truth, without telling the truth.
Hello, Mark, it's a pleasure to speak with you today.
Hi Melissa, thanks so much for having me! We've just come out of another lockdown here in Auckland, and the outbreak's still not dormant. I've been going to cafes recently to work, just BECAUSE I CAN and it's so good to get out of the house after lockdown.
Dual Heritage: A FireWall Story is the first of four books you have. Did you have all four planned in the beginning when you first started?
Kind of! I've got another three books coming, after this. It'll be out in November. But my sequence of six books changes quite a bit in my mind all the time. I know the particular character and story arcs I need to include, but I also like panicking and getting stuck in my plotting - which makes me more creative. It's kinda convoluted, but it seems to work well.
What research did you do for your characters?
A lot of my characters are archetypes I've met in real life. For example, the person who believes in and loves the system, no matter what the system is or does to them. Or the person who's just arrived from somewhere else and is setting themselves up for the first time in a new place. The person trapped in an unhappy relationship, or those with dysfunctional relationships with family.
What book have you read that kickstarted inspiration and made you want to write?
I started reading fantasy in the early 90s with the old guard - David Eddings and Robert Jordan. I was in awe at Eddings' heroes' journey and Jordan's worldbuilding and slow-reveal mystery. As time and the genre have progressed, I've recently become a fan of Brian McClellan for his character and structural work for his Gods of Blood and Powder series. I also admire Sarah J Maas' Throne of Glass series, for all the slow and deliberate character twists. David Estes is a brilliant writer who consistently upsets everything you were expecting, and I'm loving his Fatemarked series. Adrian Tchaikovsky's science-fiction where he pushes the bounds of humanity are a brilliant read, and I can't recommend his 'Children' series enough.
Is your family supportive?
Very much so. You can't embark down an unknown path with an ambivalent partner at your side, and my wife has been my rock throughout all of this.
Have any of your travels helped with any of your writings?
Yes. I've lived in large cities and small towns through the USA, before returning to New Zealand. Understanding the mentality of small-town and big-city folk were essential to me in creating the setting of my series FireWall. The smell of people and the bustle of packed urban areas. It's truly anchored me.
Your books are more adult fiction, but would you consider writing young adult?
Yeah, I'm open to it, but I haven't really come across the right story to develop a YA series. A few ideas for academy have passed through my mind, but nothing that I can make sticks into a story.
My Keurig is practically a family member. Do you drink a lot of coffee while you write? Do you snack, also?
Hi, my name is Mark and I'm an addict. My morning coffee is a ritual where I sit and process and think of everything I need to do in the coming day. It has to be black because I do intermittent fasting. And that also staves off the snacking. And I try sticking to just two meals a day. Which doesn't always work, but the intention is there. That counts, right?
What's a typical writing day like at your home?
I don't understand morning people. Who are they and where did they come from? My brain doesn't work in the mornings, so my mornings are admin, exercise, housework and correspondence, and whatever else. After 1 pm my brain clears up enough for me to think about my writing and do some editing or correcting my work. Once my kids are home and fed, I'm at my optimum. I can get between 1000 and 3000 words done between 7 pm and 10 pm if I've got what I need to write.
The Night Princess recently released, will there be another to follow up soon?
Yes! I've got book 4 of my 6-book series coming out in November. I'm over halfway through book 5, and I'd like to have that ready for January or Feb, but we'll see.
What activities do you do when you are looking for inspiration?
Non-fiction is my best inspiration. For instance, the book that's informing my characters and settings for my next series is 'The Decadent Society' by Ross Douthat. I've also been known to walk in circles around my living room and scream at the walls, looking for plugs for my plot holes. That works too.
Thank you, Mark, it's been fun!
Thanks so much, Melissa, it's been great talking!