passions, research, and routine
famous Canadian Science Fiction novelist
Mark A. Carter discusses the motivations, obsessions
and passions, research, and routine that helps him write.
playing with chemicals and looking through a microscope for years,
I left Biology for
English Language and Literature.
I earned an
Honors B.A. and and M.A.
in literature. Then, just as I was about to embark on my continued
upward paper chase toward
an M.Phil. with major scholarship
in hand, and an eventual Ph.D.
in literature with the goal of teaching at university, I asked
myself what it was that I really wanted to do. And the answer
was not teaching in any capacity. It was writing.
But before I
felt confident enough to write full time, I felt that I needed
more of a background in Drama
to better understand how and why characters move in stories.
I wanted to literally experience being characters, feeling characters,
so I could crawl into the skins of the characters I wrote about.
I also wanted a better comprehension of character motivation.
These tools, as I saw them, were not taught in any banal creative
writing course. So, I abandoned my upward climb and started at
the bottom once again to learn more about
And while learning
about acting, blocking, makeup, scoring,
and stagecraft, I
decided to take a few more Psychology
courses as well. And before I knew it, I graduated with
a double major in Drama and
the pseudoscience of
Psychology. Who would have thunk it? Can you say
oligodendroglial? My big observation about
Dramatic Arts Departments is that they're full of
insecure mental lightweights with personality issues.
My observation about Psychology Departments
is that they're full of crazies.
Warning, Will Robinson,
Then I turned
my attention to writing full time. But before I could write I
had to unlearn everything, or so it seemed, to forget the technical
information I had accumulated because it overshadowed the creative
part of me. It took a while. It literally took years, decades.
Meanwhile, I drank copious amounts of coffee. I looked at the
stars. I smelled the roses. I contemplated death, life, pain,
and suffering. I worked on my writing every day, even if it went
nowhere. And I grew older.
I gave up the
security of a weekly wage for the idealistic notion of becoming
a novelist because I thought it was a cool, laid-back, and sexy
occupation; whereas, I have never worked harder in my life as
author, novelist, scrivener, or writer, whatever name you put
to it. Go figure. Right. Sure. You
I have worked
all kinds of demeaning jobs while navigating my way through life,
and without a doubt my current position as Science
Fiction author, aging boy genius, editor, guru, illustrator,
man of letters, philosopher, poet, producer, publisher, researcher,
scholar, troubled visionary, undiscovered talent, web designer,
and writer extraordinaire is a dream
Music lies at
the core of my writing. It moves me emotionally, intellectually,
and visually. It stimulates the plot of a story, the development
of characters, and the motivations behind their actions. Music
allows me to see entire scenes. And I take detailed notes. But
it is not until the voice, that part of me who is the narrator
in my books, begins to speak to me, that the actual writing begins.
Then it is only a matter of keeping up with the words that tumble
To me, writing
has become an obsession and a passion. It is something I
love to hate and hate to love, a
twenty-four hour a day job that will not let me rest.
I toil at the craft every waking day, and fight the demons that
my work wretches up from my altogether too creative subconscious
every night. I sit at my love seat
every morning and write long
hand into a red binder of blank white pages using my
translucent red fountain pen. And during the afternoons I transpose
my work onto my computer.
It beats working
in the steam of a canning factory, grinding gear shift levers
beneath a waterfall of carcinogens, cleaning washrooms as a custodian,
or wearing hip waders and shoveling sauerkraut in a deep vat
until you're ready to pass out from the fumes. Yes, I have
done all of that and then some. Jack London would be
proud. So, sitting and writing about aliens, angels, bug-eyed
monsters, armageddon, and whatever else strikes my fancy in the
comfort of my apartment is a little
slice of Heaven. And I am grateful.
As I have said
in the past, when I sit here and stare into
middle distance, it isn't you. It's me. I'm working.
And I can't help it. The writing comes when it comes, in snippets.
I see my stories enacted on the screen in my mind as clearly
as watching a movie at the theater. So, excuse me if I make a
few notes on my napkin. I'll transfer them to my binder when
I get home. And perhaps months from now, when I have enough notes
and have done enough research, I'll get around to writing another
novel. And imagine, you were there when it all began, and I
A note to others
who may be in the habit of zoning
out too: Be careful when and where you do it, as if you
can control it. I zoned out
recently while sitting in my front room on a Saturday with my
wife talking to me. And when my mouth hung open and I developed
that blank stare, she was close to calling an ambulance because
she thought I was having a stroke.
Yikes. I was so inside my story too. But, of course,
she broke my bubble, and I
could not return. See: Fiction Bubble.
So, go ahead,
buy my books. If my novels delight you, display them boldly on
your coffee table and discuss the contents with your visitors.
If you hate my novels, by all means, use them to balance a table
leg, burn them, or toss them away with the coffee grounds and
the orange peels. Whether you hate or love my literary creations,
they will open your mind nonetheless. That much is certain.
And the sleeper
Finally, in the
oh by the way department,
because so many of you have contacted me and asked: the HTML
code for markacarter.com was
written with an abandoned website editor, on a defunct computer,
running an ancient operating system, within sight of
Heaven and Hell, in
the outskirts of Canada, and
in the shadow of so-called
civilization. Right. Sure. You bet.