Coffin Bell: Introduce yourself.
Mark Mellon: I’m a novelist who supports his family by working as an attorney. I have four novels and seventy short stories (many as reprints) published in the USA, UK, Ireland, and Denmark. Short fiction has been recently featured in Thriller Magazine, Tigershark, Lovecraftiana, and Into The Ruins. A novella, Escape From Byzantium, won the 2010 Independent Publisher Silver Prize for SF/Fantasy. More information about my writing is available at: www.mellonwritesagain.com.
CB: When you write, do you start with a plan and move from there, or do you generally go where the writing takes you?
MM: I usually know fairly well at the outset where I want to end up. I outline a lot, but it’s often an open question as to the exact route I’ll eventually take to reach a conclusion.
CB: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
MM: “A good writer can write about anything.” – Kingsley Amis. This has encouraged me to write in different genres like mysteries.
CB: What advice can you give new and emerging writers?
MM: Write about what most interests and engages you. Get feedback on your writing either through creative writing classes or by joining a writing circle. Don’t be afraid to submit your work and seriously consider any criticism you receive. Most of all, stick to it. Write consistently as a regular thing. Do it until it becomes part of your work ethic.
CB: What publishing advice can you give?
MM: Write short stories you can submit to magazines. Don’t be too proud to start small and work your way up to the pros. Plug yourself constantly on social media, your own website, etc. Understand if you really want to make it, you need an agent and it’s almost impossible to do that nowadays. Finally, consider self publishing only as a last resort.
CB: Who are your influences?
MM: As far as genre fiction goes, I try to write in a hardboiled style. Dashiell Hammett is still the champion in that regard, but I’m also a big fan of Robert E. Howard. He really knew how to keep a plot moving. In terms of literature, I’m a great admirer of Vladimir Nabokov, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy, and a lot of other authors. Faulkner was a very heavy influence on me in my 30’s.
CB: What’s one thing you wish every journal editor knew?
MM: I’ll admit it’s a tough job, usually undertaken for little or no pay with a lot of hassle involved, but editors should understand writers put themselves out there in front of the world and try to show tact. Also, keep that slush pile down.
CB: Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. Tell us about your fears.
MM: I’m claustrophobic to a large degree. My worst nightmares involve being penned up or walled in.
CB: What draws you to dark fiction?
MM: I think life is basically a horror story and getting more so that way every day. I also agree with Machiavelli that people are largely weak and mostly driven by their fears. This all adds up to a very dim, bleak view of life so it’s just natural for me to depict things darkly, hopefully alleviated by humor.
CB: How does the darkness in your piece enhance the work?
MM: Genre fiction is basically pulp fiction by a fancier name. Pulp fiction is about conflict and action, regardless of genre. Darkness is an almost sure fire way to generate both.
CB: How important are your surroundings when you write?
MM: My only real requirement is to be alone. I’ve never understood guys who sit for hours in a coffee shop busily writing in a journal, surrounded by people and hubbub. There are different ways to write, however. No way’s necessarily better than any other.
CB: If you had to summarize your philosophy of literary creation, what would that be?
MM: Like Bill Faulkner said, some people want to write, others need to. I fall in the latter camp. I write the same way I have brown eyes and curly hair. It’s just who I am.
CB: Where can we find more of your work?
MM: Googling my name will turn up examples of my stuff you can read for free in online journals like your magazine, Aphotic Realm, Yellow Mama, and Tall Tale TV. There are also links on my website blog. Also, copies of my out of print novels can be found on Amazon.