an interview with Mark Allan Gunnells. He’s a promising talent on the rise. His stories are well-written, dark, and have a playful quality that can easily trick you into thinking maybe everything will work out all right. Mark has various things coming out soon from Sideshow Press and Apex’s imprint The Zombie Feed. It’s wonderful to see him off and running, and I hope that everyone gives his work a chance. He’s a pleasant and gifted host.
Lee: How did you come to love reading and writing, Mark? Were they a soft whisper that coaxed you into the dark, or a deafening roar that compelled you to set yourself apart?
Mark: I fell in love with reading at a young age, with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Something about that story just really captured my imagination and I began reading a lot. However, I fell away from reading as I got older and didn’t find my way back to it until high school, with the help of one Mr. Stephen King. As for writing, that also began at an early age, with me penning these little one-page Twilight Zone knock-offs. Hopefully I’ve improved some since then.
Lee: People love your work. You’ve improved. Do you have a process when composing stories?
Mark: I’m very lucky in that I get to write at work. I’m a security guard, and have pockets of downtime throughout the day. I have trained myself to write in those pockets. It isn’t ideal for some, the constant stop-and-start method, but I’ve managed to make it work. I don’t put pressure on myself by aiming for a certain number of words or pages per day. My aim is just to write.
Lee: And knowing how much you’ve written I’d say it’s working very well for you! Who are some of your greatest influences?
Mark: Well, there are many writers I love. King is wonderful at characters and just seems to exude a passion for storytelling; Lansdale is awe-inspiring and has taught me how sometimes simplicity in style can expose great depths; Barker is just a master of the short form. That said, I don’t know if I’d call them “influences” in that I do try not to emulate but write with my own voice.
Lee: Who’s Lansdale and Barker? (Hehe. I kid.) What are your favorite types of stories? And does your work naturally fall into this camp or that?
Mark: I like different types of stories, but horror is my first love, and perhaps my truest love. I’ve always found them to be thrilling and exciting. And because it’s what I love to read, naturally it’s what I love to write as well.
Lee: You have several stories which will be available soon through Sideshow Press with other talented writers like Sam W. Anderson, Erik Williams, James A. Moore, and Kurt Newton. What are your stories there about? What is unique about this press and why does your work fit so well among their catalog?
Mark: My upcoming projects include WHISONANT, which contains two novellas. “Whisonant”, which is a ghost story of sorts set on a college campus, and “Creatures of the Light” which is a post-apocalyptic creature feature. Also, Sideshow will be releasing TALES FROM THE MIDNIGHT SHIFT VOL. I, my first full short story collection, which I’m most excited about. Sideshow is a wonderful press run by Tom and Billie Moran. They have a true love for the genre and for books in general, and they bring their passion to their company. I am very fortunate they were willing to take a risk on me.
Lee: What do you want to accomplish? What is your ultimate goal?
Mark: Some may call it simplistic, but my ultimate goal is just to entertain. Not that I don’t sometimes have deeper themes and meanings, but to me the most important thing is entertaining. I want to be entertained by what I write and entertain those who read what I write.
Lee: That’s a great goal. People love to be entertained! (I’m a great pointer out of the obvious.) What do you have in the works now?
Mark: Right now I’m working on “The Summer of Winters”, a coming-of-age novella.
Lee: You have a novella coming out through Apex’s imprint The Zombie Feed. What’s the title? How long did it take you to write? What’s it about?
Mark: It’s called ASYLUM, and it’s a zombie story that takes place in a gay club. I sometimes jokingly say it’s like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD only in a gay club instead of a farmhouse. There are zombie attacks and flesh-eating goodies, but it’s also more of a character study of the people trapped inside the club.
I actually started a version of this story–then called NIGHT OWLS–in college when I first got the idea, but I wrote only the first few paragraphs (including one of my favorite opening lines: “When the dead arose, Jimmy was going down on the balding accountant.”) before putting it aside. After college, I went through a dark period where I stopped writing altogether, but when I finally came back to it (came to my senses more like it) I looked at those paragraphs and decided I wanted to try again. NIGHT OWLS became ASYLUM (because I liked the dual meaning of the name) and I started. I got halfway through then for whatever reason felt it wasn’t working and put it aside again. A little over a year later I looked at what I had written, really liked it and couldn’t remember why it wasn’t working for me at the time. Maybe all I needed was a little distance. So I went back to it and finally finished the thing up.
Had a hard time finding a home for this one, for various reasons. For some, the explicit gay themes was a problem. For others, it wasn’t zombie intensive enough. I am very happy that The Zombie Feed is taking a chance on it.
Lee: Neat! Any advice for aspiring writers?
Mark: If you love to write, write. Plain and simple. Yes, you should strive to learn all you can and improve your craft. Definitely seek publication. But above all else, just sit down and write. And have fun with it. In my opinion, if writing isn’t a joyful experience, you’re not doing something right.
Thanks for sharing some time with me and these intelligent gents and ladies who read my blog! I’m sure we’ll see a lot more quality work coming from your golden pen, Mr. Gunnells. Looking forward to it!
Mark’s story “Dancing in the Dark” from Darkside Digital is a good first taste of his fiction. Support a great writer and a great publisher. And it’s cheap! Buy it HERE! (<--Right there) Here’s a sneak peek of his novella coming out through Apex’s Zombie Feed imprint: Clickie.
Here’s a free story up on Sideshow Press’s website. (Click ME)
Mark’s novella just went up for pre-order! The details are here: Asylum