Local author rides the wave of publishing business

Daniel Marks is a local author who lives in DuPont, Washington. Marks is currently on a book tour promoting his latest work, Velveteen. Velveteen is his fourth published book and is currently available wherever books are sold.

Kathryn Herron: How long have you been writing?
Daniel Marks: I started writing back in 2006. Short stories at first, but then I attended a writing conference and pitched a well-received novel idea to an editor who handheld me through my first draft of a novel and then pushed me to find an agent. As a result, within 6 months of beginning this journey, I had my first three-book contract with a publisher. Damn lucky.

KH: Did you take creative writing classes in school, or was it a skill you just developed on your own?
DM: I took a single creative writing class when I went to Pierce College fresh out of high school, but it didn’t have any impact. My ability is more a combination of a pretty demented sense of humor developed out of twelve years of crisis intervention work (here’s a tip: avoid social services if you want to stay normal) and an obsessive love of reading- I’m voracious.

KH: How many drafts of Velveteen did you write?
DM: Velveteen is the fifth novel I wrote and fourth published, but it also earns the distinction of being the one I struggled with the most. It took two years and about seven revision passes both on my own, with my agent’s suggestions and then a few after we sold it to an editor.

KH: I really enjoyed your Amanda Feral series. What made you decide to switch to writing young adult (YA) novels?
DM: That’s one of those decisions that was made for me. The Amanda Feral books did not sell well enough for the publisher and so they passed on the option to publish the fourth. Which was pretty devastating and left me reeling. Luckily, I had the inklings of a fantasy story set in Purgatory prior to writing the adult stuff and my agent had begun to develop quite a few relationships with the YA editors and so the progression was natural or natural-ish. The decision was quite a surprise to fans of the Amanda books, as those were highly irreverent, gory and very adult.

KH: Why did you decide to use a pen name for this book?
DM: Because the Amanda books reveled in the profane and outrageous, the decision to go with a pseudonym was made out of necessity. My adult name had become synonymous with a certain type of writing (not to mention a poor sales record) and so to get a new contract, I needed to make a dramatic change.
KH: What advice would you give to any aspiring authors that might be enrolled at South Puget Sound Community College?
DM: Be flexible. Publishing is going through some pretty dramatic changes as a result of both the current state of the economy and the rise of eReaders. The Big Six publishers are terrified and not making the best decisions as a result. Writers who expect to ride out this particular wave are going to have to diversify, working in both traditional, eBook and self-publishing. It no longer makes sense to depend on a single system for an income. That said, I encourage every writer to balance their work by collaborating with professional editors and learning to accept and incorporate pretty intense scrutiny and critique.

KH: Where did you get the inspiration for Velveteen?
DM: After my first book was contracted, I took a trip to New York to visit my agent and editor. I had minored in Art History and was excited to get a chance to see some really great museums. The Museum of Modern Art was hosting an exhibit of impressionist George Seurat’s charcoal drawings. Seurat is most widely known for his pointilism and La Grande Jatte, a depiction of an idyllic day at a riverside park. But it was his grim figure studies that really sparked a visual for how I’d come to see Purgatory in Velveteen. Ashen and grayscale became my palate.

KH: Did you do much research for the book?
DM: No. Because I write from a dark fantasy framework, I can’t run the risk of being derivative. I avoided research into Catholic views of Purgatory for fear it would flavor my world-building.

KH: In a few sentences, sell Velveteen to the students of SPSCC. Tell them why they should read it.
DM: Velveteen, the leader of a soul salvaging team, wants nothing more than to slip through the cracks and haunt her killer to death. But there’s a revolution brewing in Purgatory. Now, she must come to terms with an unreasonably hot and totally off-limits coworker and her own death, before a fanatic, hell-bent on destroying the afterlife, escapes into the world of the living. Velveteen is equal parts horror and fantasy with just enough romance thrown in to really mess things up.

KH: What do you do when you’re not writing?
DM: I love to cook- in fact that might be my greatest love- so I’m lucky that I also love to hike or I’d be huge. I’m a ravenous reader, so I’m constantly reading or listening to books on my iPad.

KH: Are you currently working on any other projects?
DM: I’m plotting the next book in my contract with Delacorte. It’s another young adult book, but this time it’s distinctly horror without the fantasy elements. I’m hesitant to reveal too much as the publisher has to sign off on it before I get the green light.