Posted by: Mark | October 9, 2013

Q and A about This Mutant Life

I had a story accepted in This Mutant Life, an anthology about super- and pulp heroes and villains. My story is titled “Mastermind” and is about a supervillain slowly losing his mental powers. When I started out, it was meant to be funny but it progressively became sadder.

Here are questions from the editor about the story:

Where did this story idea come from?

I’ve always been a fan of villains in general and especially supervillains in comics. I tended to buy comics based on who was the bad guy instead of the main character. I always wanted the villain to succeed in taking over the world (although when, on the rare chance they did, such as Mark Waid’s Empire or Mark Millar’s Wanted, it felt like a let‑down).

I also always had a fear of Alzheimer’s but could never really do it justice in my writing. I hope “Mastermind” finally puts everything together.

How did you capture the ‘voice’ of your main character?

It’s roughly based on Doctor Doom, Lex Luthor, and other super‑intelligent supervillains. I imagined Mastermind as too arrogant to ask for help but aware of what was happening to him. There was a degree of older relatives in his voice which helped to ground it for me.

Are you a planner or a ‘pantser’? (Do you plan a story or let it write itself?)

Normally, I plan stories but this on branched out uncontrollably.

What are you working on right now?

I have several stories that I’m planning or have partially written. I’m trying to finish what I hope will be my (and possibly everyone else’s) last zombie story.

What do you like best about writing neo‑pulp (or superhero) stories?

So many fantasy stories are set in ancient or pseudo‑medieval times that it’s nice to have a modern genre that doesn’t have to hide in shadows but can be as loud and showy as possible.

What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had as a writer?

I thought I came up with a great name for a character and was halfway through his story until I realized that “Steely Dan” was already taken.

Which comics have been the most influential in developing your writing?

When I was a kid, Sergio Aragones’ Groo kept me from suicide. I was initially on the Marvel side of the Big Two question but branched out later.

What do you find the most difficult part of writing?

I have two special‑needs children which makes finding the time a real challenge.

What do you do in your other, ‘real world’ life?

With paid work, I used to edit municipal codes for a legal publisher but now I teach English at local universities. Most of the time, I have to take care of my kids and animals.

How did you hone your writing craft?

Slowly and painfully. I’ve taken many creative writing classes back in my school days and shared work with friends but mainly it’s been through self‑evaluation.

What’s the shortest story you’ve written, and what’s the longest one?

I’m a big fan of Frederic Brown who was famous for his short short stories, including “The World’s Shortest Horror Story.” I’ve written many stories with fewer than 50 words with the shortest weighing in at ten words. My longest story is over 140,000 words.

Have you written in other genres, and if so, what genres do you write?

I mainly write fantasy, science fiction, and horror but in college I was pushed towards mainstream fiction. I wrote a few stories that I’m still proud of but I came back to my roots.

Do your friends and family understand you as a writer?

For the most part, no. My wife seems to regard it as between snoring and drinking milk from the carton.

If you could give your younger self some advice on writing, what would it be?

Just keep writing. When you take a break, it will stretch longer and longer, and it will be all the harder to get back to work.

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