Mark Barry wears many hats. I know him as the author of novels, Carla, Once Upon a Time in the City of Criminals, and other books. He’s the head of his publishing company, Green Wizard, and now, he’s also the writer by the name of … Luke Rock.
Like my name, Luke Rock is a pseudonym, and here is what he says about it:
“The reason for the pseudonym is easy. Kevin And The Atomic Bomb is like nothing I have written before”.
I’ve featured one of Mark’s books on my blog before, and I’m pleased to interview him to highlight his latest book.
* * * *
Welcome to Eden’s Exchange, Mark. Great to have you here finally! Tell readers how your best friend would describe you in 20 words or less.
Loyal, honest, intelligent, funny and a bit bonkers.
That’s even less than 20 words. Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
I was a full time writer until imminent starvation propelled me into helping run Empleo, a popular local voluntary and social enterprise, alongside my friend and colleague Phil Pidluznyj. We are based in Nottingham (UK) and help others with employability, reading projects and creative writing and anything else we can think of.
Ha! We’d all be rich if we didn’t have to eat, right? What is your biggest extravagance?
Gambling on horses and going to football matches all over the UK, following a team called Notts County.
Gambling on horses? I made a bet on a horse once—a sure thing (I was told). I lost five bucks and that was the end of gambling for me! If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Lose weight: An eternal struggle.
What profession other than your own would you like to try?
Hmm … I’ve never had that answer before. What is one thing you want to do before you die?
Visit all the racetracks in the world, particularly Melbourne Park, Longchamp, Happy Valley, Baden Baden, Santa Anita, Del Mar and (your own) Woodbine.
Wow, you’re serious about horses, aren’t you? Any favorite curse words? Especially, say, when you lose a bet on a horse?
I have to be careful with the F word. I use it way too much.
Hehe! Do you have a motto you live by?
Win or lose, have a booze.
That’s a new one! What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Helping my nineteen year old son grow up to become a decent person.
Sweet. What makes you REALLY laugh?
A British TV programme called The IT Crowd. Cracks me up every time #Messyjoes.
I love British comedies. As for your writing, I previously featured your book Once Upon a Time in the City of Criminals, and I’m thrilled to learn you have another one under your name, Luke Rock. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Real life and real people. I won’t read a book unless it is theoretically possible to meet and shake hands with the characters in the street today.
What motivates you to write?
The prospect of making a living at it.
That never hurts, does it? What is the best advice you’ve received as a writer?
Don’t write long books.
Ahh, that would explain your brevity here. Name a few of your favorite authors and books and why you like them.
Martin Amis, Scarlett Thomas, Jim Thompson, Sebastian Faulks, Charles Bukowski, Rimbaud, Liz Jensen, Cormac McCarthy, Sylvia Plath, Tom McCarthy, Alan Moore. Great, clever, ingenious writers. Beautiful sentencesmiths – that is important to me, far more than the story itself.
How do you market yourself?
I’m not sure I agree with you. You get around *wink.* How much research do you do for your books?
Virtually none. It’s all in my head.
You must have a lot of information stored in there. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being a writer?
I like the white space aspects of writing. Exploring the blank page in front of me at the beginning of a piece. The first pages of a novel are exciting, aren’t they!? Actually, the blank page, meeting other lovely writers like yourself and the quest to construct the perfect sentence, are the only things I like about being a writer. The rest is an utter pain in the arse. Writers must be bonkers to even attempt the caper.
It’s always great connecting with other writers, but I agree that being an author is not an easy way to earn a living. What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most?
The start and the climax. The middle is the actual work. Not a marketing man at all – like pulling teeth. My own.
I hear you, marketing is tough. Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it?
Yes. Absolutely essential. Otherwise, what is the point exactly?
I understand. For me, it’s the journey, but sometimes it’s a long, hard one. Do you outline, plot and structure, or do you just sit down and write?
No. I’m a pantser, in that lovely YA-influenced olden times phrase.
Me too! What is your best advice for new authors?
If you need a kitchen critique group, advice from a 101 blog, a book club, a phalanx of beta readers and slabs of reassurance about your work and abilities, you simply aren’t ready to publish your work, simple as. Sorry if that’s offensive.
Not at all. I think every writer is different. Some may need more support initially to get started. Tell us a bit about your relaunched book, Kevin And The Atomic Bomb. I know it’s a YA/NA novel under your pen name of Luke Rock. Why should people read it?
It’s a black comedy full of different characters and it is based squarely in the ten days following the British people’s disastrous decision to leave the European Union. There is a love story at its core, there are jokes, there is polemic, a really nasty villain of the type many of us have worked with in the past and best of all, there is an atomic bomb in a garage in the suburbs.
Wow, that’s timely! How long did it take for you to write it?
I wrote it in 2012. It took six months and then I have completely rewritten in it in the last ten days, the hardest work I’ve done for a while.
What inspired you to rewrite the book?
I published it under my own name and a different title in May 2012. The market reacted favourably to other books of mine, notably Carla (my most critically acclaimed book), but this one got a bit lost. I depubbed after three weeks. Then, when the British public decided to commit economic suicide en masse, I saw an opportunity to republish it, completely rebranded, titled, authornamed and covered.
Incidentally, it is quite political, but you can skip those bits and still enjoy it, assuming you don’t hate me for it, in which case bollocks.
Bollocks indeed! Let’s take a look at the book.
Blurb for: Kevin And The Atomic Bomb
What would YOU do if you were the most powerful single human being alive?
Kevin Taylor’s got problems.
His maintenance grant is being cut, the leader of his protest group has designs on Rachel (his far-too-pretty-for-him girlfriend), DC are retconning their universe again and the local bullies make a habit of standing on his specs.
To top it all, his beloved mum is sick and her long term busybody “companion” is constantly in his face.
And all he really wants to do is play Doom.
Despatched to London along with his streetwise best friend, Ricky, his orders are to pick up two secret packages donated by a pan-national group of hardcore Euro-revolutionaries. A massive demonstration is planned and the group need these to raise the stakes.
When Verna -a mysterious and alluring Polish freedom fighter – donates a mysterious third package that no-one expects nor knows anything about, Kevin Taylor quickly comes to realise that his problems are only just beginning.
And his life as he knows it, and the life of everyone around him, is about to change forever.
Other information: The story takes place over ten days in the immediate aftermath of the British public’s decision to leave the European Union and in the context of the consequently collapsing economy.
How are you marketing the book?
Twitter and on FB. I use giveaways a lot.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from writing your book?
Books are of their time. There is a time and a place. In the first instance, when I set up my business, everyone bought Carla, one of my personal favourite novels. It sold well at one point, but is almost forgotten now. This one (Kevin) struggled in its original guise, but early signs are much more promising.
What is the best way for someone to support your book, aside from buying it?
When I publish the paperback, I’ll send it to you free if you review it!! You know, Eden, of all people, how important reviews are to small press and Indie authors. We can’t get reviewed in newspapers and it’s critical that we get the word of mouth. I sell quite a few books every quarter but I don’t get reviewed as often as some of my peers. I’m not sure why this happens. I would like that to change but hey, I’ll join the queue for the answer to that question.
Reviews are always tough to get. I’m happy to buy your book and read it. Let’s finish with a fun lightning round.
Aside from people/pets, what is the ONE item you would save if your house was on fire? My ammunition crate full of vintage superhero comics, a photograph of a girlfriend, and this laptop.
Favorite place you’ve traveled to or would like to travel to? California – would love to meet my sidekick, your friend and mine, top fiction author Brenda Perlin, and I’m also a big fan of Lorraine Devon Wilke who has promised me muffins galore by the shore if I ever make it over again.
I’d travel over with my great friend Georgia Rose, romance author, noted horsewoman and paddock expert and we’d go to Santa Anita and pay for the trip using our combined horse selecting skills. I’ve just written a short story about Billy Idol on Highway One for Brenda’s new punk anthology and I had a great time researching it – would love to mountain bike up the Pacific Crest Trail too.
Name a food you can eat everyday. KFC. Buckets of it. Unfortunately, it no longer loves me and we’ve been divorced for six weeks now.
Salty or sweet? As most ladies know, there’s nothing like something salty on birthdays and at Christmas.
Coffee or tea or something else? Tea – every time. Built an Empire!
Favorite style of music? Late sixties psychedelia. Beatles. Byrds. Jefferson Airplane. Janis. Floyd. Favourite band: Black Sabbath.
Your most guilty pleasure. Sleeping in when I should be up and about.
Favorite season. Autumn – that’s the original label for Fall to you North Americans, Eden!
Name something you cannot go a day without. Reading. More of a passion to me than writing.
Thanks so much for your answers, Mark. I wish you success, no matter what name you write under!
Readers, please find Mark at all his virtual homes below.
* * * *
Connect to Mark Barry aka Luke Rock
Mark Barry is a multi-genre writer and novelist. His work includes the minor cult hit Ultra Violence about football hooligans at a small Midlands football club and Carla, a quirky, dark, acclaimed romance with shades of Wuthering Heights.
He is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people. He has one son, Matt, on the brink of University, with whom he shares a passion for Notts County Football Club.
Fast food, comics, music, reading, his friends on the Independent scene, and horse racing keep him interested and he detests selfish, narcissistic people and bullies of all kinds.