Mark Stevens has worked as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. He also worked as producer for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and in school public relations. He has published three Colorado-based mysteries, Antler Dust (2007), Buried by the Roan (2011) and Trapline (2014). Trapline is a finalist for the 2015 Colorado Book Award. Buried by the Roan was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award in 2012. The fourth book in the Allison Coil Mystery Series, Lake of Fire, will be published in September 2015.
Link to Mark’s book review site: markhstevens.wordpress.com
Author’s page on Amazon.
What motivates you to write and how did you get started?
In the mid-1980’s, having really started to enjoy the mystery genre, I wondered: “How hard is it to write one?” I wanted to know. Plus, I had run across a newspaper story that seemed like a great seed for a story. I started writing and started learning. It turned out, I had a lot to learn (but enjoyed seeing the work get better, bit by bit).
What’s most rewarding about writing?
I love the discovery as you go, being open to possibilities in the moment of a scene and in the bigger arc of the story. Of course, a great review is rewarding, too. There’s some sort of magic to me in a book and all the different ways that people react to the plot, the characters and what you’re trying to say.
What’s your favorite genre and why?
Well, mystery-suspense-thriller in general but I do read a lot of general a.k.a. “serious” fiction, too. A well-written mystery is satisfying: jeopardy, puzzles, distractions and, most of the time, a satisfying resolution. The mystery genre allows just about any type of person to walk on stage and take care of business, to set the world right.
Who is an author who inspires you and why?
Can I get more than one? I love John Updike for his language and humanity. He was fairly fearless when it came to looking at how men and women relate. Philip Roth, Ian McEwan, Paul Auster – clean prose, tight stories. Richard Ford, too. Barbara Kingsolver? Amazing. Scott Spencer, so overlooked. Mysteries by Craig Johnson, Nevada Barr, John Galligan, Tony Hillerman. Patricia Highsmith, in the suspense world, gets under the skin of her warped characters like no others. And Elmore Leonard–the energy and darkness are fantastic. The early stuff is really overlooked, like “Unknown Man No. 89,” “City Primeval,” “Fifty-two Split.” Leonard is so efficient and cuts to the chase like no other.
What do you look for in other people’s books?
A voice, a style, confidence, originality. A fresh point of view. I think we all want to pick up a new book and, within the first few pages, meet someone we would never have met without that ink on the page.
What are you writing now?
I’m writing the fifth book in the Allison Coil Mystery series. The fourth, “Lake of Fire,” will be out in September.
What kind of book would you like to be known for?
That’s a heck of a question. I don’t know. I’d like to be known as a good storyteller. I’d like to picture a reader finishing one of my books and passing it to a friend, saying “get a load of this.”
What has writing taught you about yourself?
Another great question. I have no idea. I guess, more than anything, that I’m more determined than I give myself credit for. I spent 23 years writing fiction before I was published. I also know there are still things to learn and lots of ways to get better at the craft.
What encouraging advice can you offer new writers?
Get involved in writing groups. Share your work. Share a few paragraphs, a few pages, a chapter. Listen to feedback. Reject what doesn’t make sense but listen hard to consistent themes. Read everything in sight. And then read some more. Know why you want to write. Know what you’re trying to do with each story. And, when all else fails, just keep writing. Write every day if you can and, when you’re not writing, think about what you’re going to write. It should consume you.