Saturday, March 22, 2014

Please welcome the Great Wizard of Notts, a.k.a. Mark Barry, author of The Night Porter

Today, the great Wizard of Notts and Cauldron fame, aka Mark Barry, has graciously agreed to say a few words about himself, his work and his future aspirations as Green Wizard Publishing celebrates two years in the business.

Thanks for stopping by, Mark.

 First, please remind people who you truly are - you do not need to betray state secrets, or you can, if you wish to reveal true confessions.   Only kidding, Great Wizard.  My fans just want to know a little bit about the REAL you. 

Me? My name is Mark Barry. That’s my real name. I live in Nottinghamshire in the heart of Robin Hood country. I am passionate about reading (note, not writing), books, comics, music, Notts County (note, not football) and most of all, aside from family, horse racing. I love that sport with a passion. I don’t smoke, drink (much) and run thirty miles a week.  In a fortnight’s time, my company, Green Wizard, is two years old.

And I make a profit. Not a huge one, but I filed a profit nonetheless.

Mark with his son, Matthew, who, so far, shows no sign of following in his father’s literary footsteps – though he does fanatically support Notts County (which is a much more important trait).
You’re a big fan of the Magpies (Notts County football team), and have written about fans supporting the team in two novels, Ultra Violence and Violent Disorder, which are Green Wizard Publishing’s best sellers.   Were you surprised by the interest your football hooligan stories have generated?  If so, why.

The first book, as you know, went through the roof and I attracted some good numbers. It’s a genre book, of interest to football fans and mainly hooligans, though I know you, Ngaire and Brenda have all read the books and enjoyed them, which was really surprising.  Genre books sell. They have a ready audience. Look at romance. Even the most uninspired of writers can make a living selling romance novels. It’s in the genre. I wasn’t surpised though:The two books are written completely differently to the other football books – the closest I can think of is Awaydays by Kevin Sampson, though my favourite, like many other hooligan writers, is Football Factory by John King. A masterpiece.  So, innovation always attracts some attention.

Why do you feel you had to tell this story about violence in sports?

 Simple. I wanted to tell a story about small clubs, a small club like Notts, and the people involved in what was relatively small scale violence. I thought there was a gap too. Most hooligan books are about the big boys, the Millwalls, the Stokes, the Chelseas, the West Hams, the Birmingham Cities, the Cardiffs, etc. I thought it was about time I told the Notts story. Particularly as our deadliest rivals, Nottingham Forest had a book out there which is written by Martin King, who specializes in this kind of genre work.

How realistic are your stories?

In the football? All of them happened.  Bang on.  The rest of the books are fictional stories based on my observations, like other writers, and turned into big long tales.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?  Do you start at the beginning and continue writing until the story is completed, or do you write chapters out of sequence?

I am a blank page writer and start at the Once Upon a Time stage. I detest editing and proofing and I rarely redraft. Give me a blank page and I am at my happiest. I don’t reread my work after its published. I shelve it. I know writers who have eight or nine drafts of a book. No way. I have to get my book finished or I reach a boredom zone. The Ritual, which is being re-released as a six (or seven) book mini-series is an exception. I saw that backwards, from the end, which is why I had to rewrite it as the middle needed a LOT of work. I didn’t say I was perfect, Mary Ann

How do you come up with the titles for your novels?  Do you use working titles or are your titles set in stone?  Do you have a title before you start the story, or do you choose a title once the story is completed?

 All the titles bar The Ritual were conceived at the beginning of the process. I cannot believe that I was able to get Ultra Violence and Violent Disorder as titles. I like my titles. The Ritual was known as The Daughter of Satan until I saw how many other books, mostly porn, had the same title. Twenty or thirty. Happy with The Ritual as a title. It does exactly what it says on the tin. There is a great line in Book Six which would have been even better had the original title remained. I love titling and naming.

What is your favorite novel written by you, and why?

 My latest book The Night Porter, without a doubt.  Everything else has at least one flaw. In UV, you never find out what happens to the narrator’s job. Same as BBVD. That book may as well not have a framing sequence! Hollywood Shakedown, which a few people really like, slows down after a melting start before picking up again. Carla is oppressively dark for me nowadays – I’ve cheered up no end – and I can no longer see the black humour and the bitterness is overwhelming at times. There is one fantastic chapter in there called Smash Box which is pretty well written.  The Ritual has that terrible middle that old school horror writers could get away with in the pre-Playstation era, like Stephen King’s utterly mind numbing democracy chapters in The Stand, an otherwise melting book at both ends. You couldn’t wait for that stuff to end, but you carried on, knowing that Randall Flagg was about and he was well evil!! Nowadays, modern pop kids, with hundreds and thousands of books to choose from won’t forgive a writer his fancies. They want perfection and they want it now. TNP, as you and I know it, is fast, well-paced, clever, innovative, conceited, intricate, shallow when it needs to be, with decent dialogue and interesting characters. Its accessible to both genders and most ages, though young readers seem to read their own stuff nowadays, which is of limited interest to me, excessively dialogue based as it is.

I just love when you mention ancient times in your novels.  For those fans who have yet to read your work, your passion is evident with the historical references you weave throughout your stories.  Since you are so knowledgeable, would you consider delving into the realm of historical fiction?  Ancient Rome and/or Roman Britain, perhaps? Or William the Conqueror?  Just teasing you, Great Wizard - I know your true feelings about the aftermath of the Bastard’s invasion.  Just a thought since you write in multiple genres.  That being said, would you care to comment?

 Why would I compete with you out there, Mary Ann? You wrote the best historical fiction book I am ever likely to read with The Briton and the Dane: Concordia.  I couldn’t do it justice, though I would love to do a barbarian book. Robert E Howard was one of my very favourite writers. I do love history though and have a running plotline throughout all my books about the lingering impact of the Norman success at Hastings in 1066. Life would have been very different had Harold not had that two week forced march from Stamford Bridge. And they nearly won!!

Battle of Hastings

I am interjecting here, a passage from the first edition of “The Ritual”, which mentions Romans, Saxons, Normans, pagans, and druids - all in the same place.  Love it!
“We know nothing about the Villa, but we do know that the Romans built their temples on pagan ceremonial sites. Something traditionally done, each successive conqueror dynasty supplanting the sites, the churches, and the sacred spaces of the conquered. The Norman-built Three Steeples Church, for example, is built on a Saxon place of worship. The Saxon, in turn, is built on the Roman Villa site. The Romans built the Villa on an expansive Pagan ceremonial wood and a Druid burial site. Druids from this area fought alongside Boudicca in the forest, and they helped butcher a Legion, something that enraged Rome. Eventually, the rebellion faltered. Hence, the Villa and Temple built on one of their most sacred places. Those Druids practiced wood magic, sun worship, harvest rituals and human sacrifice. Like Stonehenge, this whole region drips in magical lore and a religious culture, which goes back thousands of years, all the way back to the times primitive societies began to develop faith and beliefs. Arkwright must have known this, which is why he built this masterpiece right here.” He put his arm around Jennifer again. “Listen. Feel. Embrace it, Jennifer. If you concentrate, you can sense the spirits here.”

 Southwell Minster

That’s Doctor Merchant. I’d know his portentous prose anywhere, Mary Ann. I actually live a hundred yards away from The Minster and have had a look at the old Villa up close. If the mini-series sells, I’ll write a loose sequel called Monstertown. I have the first chapter written and its based around that old roman Villa. Sadly, a developer has bought it and the Council have permitted the building of six detached executive houses on there. So that will be the last we see of it

Congratulations on the launch of The Night Porter. 

How did you come up with the title? Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 
I sat down in November and wrote the first chapter. A friend of mine, who worked as an Escort, told me of a job at the local hotel as a Night Porter when I was ill in 2010. I actually asked for an application form, but I bottled it. The job comes up every now and again and I think I developed a fascination with it, maybe an obsession. I wrote the first chapter straight off and it developed from there – the awards ceremony, the loathsome Julian Green, Martin Sixsmith and the character of The Night Porter. I do reference Cavani’s film in the book, but it is completely different concept. Message? Yes there is a massive message, but readers will have to get stuck in to find it. Sorry, Mary Ann.

In case you missed it, Youtube has the movie in its entirety

Mr. Chuckles has taken me into his confidence, and I dare risk his wrath by asking you to confirm your next project.  Is it true that GWP will be publishing a spell-binding horror story as a series?   Pray tell - we DO want to know the inside scoop.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m rewriting The Ritual and instead of publishing it as a giant novel, I am doing a six (or seven) part mini. 20,000 words each for 99c/99p. It’s too good a book to let languish, but people simply don’t trust an Indie with a big book like that. The last chapter I edited today is fantastic, possibly the most exciting chapter I have ever written, anywhere. Now my job is to strengthen the earlier chapters. I also have a book of short stories in my head, but – you will be pleased to know, Mary Ann, I am taking a big break for six months for racing and sleeping. It’s been a long winter.

Before we bid adieu, would you share with us your favorite excerpt from your favorite novel? 

The Bramwell pub – the second most vulnerable to closure of the nine Wheatley Field’s hostelries and situated in a hollow, which acted as a repository for the water flow – was soaked to the rafters. It will take it six months to re-open, and local gossip indicates it might never re-open at all.

 I’ve enjoyed a pint of Bishop’s Mitre in there, and closing would be a shame. The chap who runs it is an ex-serviceman called Michael, and he deserves success, I think, and even if he were a horrible man (and there are two hostelries in the town run by such), I still wouldn’t wish the pub to close.

 You can judge the health and vitality of a town like The Fields by the number of pubs it contains, or, as a friend of mine puts it, the number of a town’s convivariums: places where people meet, encounter, congregate, laugh, whisper, plot and scheme.

The wind at night is different from its daytime counterpart, and there’s something refreshing about it. Something brisk. I let the wind embrace my face, and I close my eyes. I wonder, on occasion.

 Had Neil appreciated these little night time things, he might still be here. Sixteen years older and sixteen years less dead.  

My fans and I thank you for your candid replies.  We wish you the very best with your new titles, which you can discuss when we have you back.

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  1. A super update from Mr Barry about his writing. And what a shame about the Roman villa being buried for good! The Night Porter ... a daring piece of writing. n x

  2. Mary Ann, thank you for this. It's terrific. I don't give many interviews but I wanted you to be the first. Thank you for your support and your terrific editing - couldn't do it without you. :-) Mark

  3. Thanks Mary Ann for giving me an insight into my new friend Mark Barry, who I can see is clearly a gifted writer. Now I'm keen to read his books, as well as your books, Mary. You and Mark are both obviously well rounded people with fertile imaginations and lively minds!

  4. Mary Ann is an amazing editor besides writer and your writing Mark is out of this world. Looks like you are all going to follow your blogging format Sir Wiz! Beautiful page and The Night Porter is a great read.

  5. By the way, Mark, your son is adorable!!!!

  6. Thanks for your lovely words, Brenda, and for your continuous support. God Bless.