Interview – Mark Lawrence (Author of the Month)
Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled.
His day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say ‘this isn’t rocket science … oh wait, it actually is’.
Between work and caring for his disabled child, Mark spends his time writing, playing computer games, tending an allotment, brewing beer, and avoiding DIY.
The Prince of Thorns is his first published novel. It is the beginning of a projected trilogy following the fortunes of Honorous Jorg Ancrath.
Some people have a very strong, negative opinion about Jorg and his actions in the story and therefore about the whole book. Does this affect you, or did you expect it when “Prince of Thorn” got published?
Affect me? It affects me if it’s raining or if we run out of milk. Someone recently objected to the arrival of a spaceship in Prince of Thorns out of the blue. That affected me – the affect was mostly amusement that they would invent random stuff that doesn’t happen and attribute it to me. There was of course a degree of irritation that they would immortalise the lie in an online review. Everything said about my writing affects me, but most of it doesn’t affect me as much as running out of milk.
I guess a better word would ‘surprise’. I had never imagined that a moral judgement on the actions of a fictional character in a book would translate into a negative opinion about the book. I myself take a dim view of Sauron but I was still able to enjoy Lord of the Rings.
It seems to me the phenomenon divides into two main parts. Firstly readers who want to read about heroes and have rather unsophisticated expectations of literature. Secondly readers whose main concern is that each work of fiction be a vehicle for educating other readers in their world view and who hold the conviction that each story is really a thinly disguised commentary on whatever society they inhabit and that it is the author’s manifesto/socio-political agenda.
Although it’s a bit hidden in the first novel, the world Jorg lives in is a post-apocalyptic version of our own. Did this flow naturally from your pen or is it something you chose beforehand? Does it fascinate you , what might happen to this world in the future and what would become of the human race after an apocalyptic event?
I didn’t plan any of the books. Each element was conceived in the instant of it being typed. Rather like the answers to these questions!Lots of things fascinate me – the future course of humanity has never been a particular fascination, though it is fascinating.
Do you have a favourite scene/moment in the books? One you enjoyed writing the most?
There are many scenes I like and my favourite will change from day to day. I was pleased with the ‘angel’ scene in Prince of Thorns, the scene with the wind-up toy in King of Thorns, and the closing scenes of Emperor of Thorns.
I read that the “Prince of Thorns” movie rights have been optioned by Stephen Susco. Though that doesn’t always mean the movie is actually going to happen, how would it feel if a “Prince of Thorns” movie hit theaters in a few years? Who would you want to portray Jorg?
I guess how I felt about it would depend on how good a job was done with the movie. It would be very strange either way though, seeing my imagination delivered in a new medium. I’ve listened to parts of the audio books for Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns and that’s a new experience – just hearing someone else read my words aloud. If it were a good film then I’d be very proud of my contribution.
Jorg would have to be played by a young actor and I don’t know the names of any young actors. The person would have to be able to deliver the right mix of passion, intelligence, and raw crazy. They would have to make you believe them capable of anything at any moment and to not feel safe while they were on screen.
I kept wondering where Ancrath would be situated if you compared it to a map of our current world, but then you mentioned Pere Lachaise cemetery, which means it’s in France. Did you chose this at random?
Ancrath is indeed in France. This might help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJrCceCilFYAnd I guess it was as random a choice as any twist of plot or line of dialogue in the books – it just appeared when asked for.
Emperor of Thorns will be released in August next year. Any plans for books after the Broken Empire trilogy?
I’ve been contracted to write another trilogy with the working title ‘The Red Queen’s War’ and I’m busy writing the first book of three. I say busy … actually I haven’t written any of it in weeks, but I’m nearly half way through and I plan to be busy with it soon.
How does it feel to say goodbye to Jorg and his world now that the last book will hit shelves next year?
It’s a bit sad. On the other hand I’m pleased with the decision. Financially I should of course push out book 4, 5, 6 etc but characters who stay past their sell-by date become stale charicatures treading the same ground and tainting what first excited us about them. There’s a power in knowing when to stop. I feel I’ve built something worthwhile and I should now step away from it.
I also wanted to mention “Wheel-mouse vs all the crazy robots.” Can you tell us a bit more about this project you did together with you daughter?
Celyn can’t speak but she really enjoyed leading the Wheel-Mouse story by choosing all the different aspects, from the characters to what happens next at each turn, by selecting from long lists of options I gave her. If she didn’t like any of them I had to provide more.
I coded the story into her communication device and she told it to the children at her school using her head-switch. They loved it and she got to feel good about herself.
I’ve put the book on sale on kindle and we’re looking for a publisher to make hard-copy. All monies she makes on the book go to the hospice charity for terminally ill and life-limited children that runs the hospice that helps us out with respite (and runs several other hospices too).