All of you are invited to join in the fun of the Massive Autumn Book Launch Event (#MABLE) organised by my publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing. It began on 17th September and runs to 31st October. And you can sign up to join in the fun here.
I’m posting interviews with the authors here during the event. This is one is with Mark P. Henderson:
After a career in medicine and university teaching, Mark P. Henderson retired to North Derbyshire in 2002 and started to write fiction, edit manuscripts, teach creative writing, and collect and tell Peak District folktales. His publications, through five different publishing houses, comprise an anthology of short stories (Rope Trick, 2008), a novel (Perilaus, 2009), a children’s story (Fenella and the Magic Mirror, 2009), a study of the evolution of a local legend (Murders in the Winnats Pass, 2010), a collection of 62 traditional stories (Folktales of the Peak District, 2011), a collection of puns in verse and prose (Cruel and Unusual PunNishments, 2016), a one-act play (Forget it, it’s History,2017), three more novels (National Cake Day in Ruritania, 2018; The Engklimastat, 2019; Perilaus II, 2021), a novelette (The Definitive Biography of St Arborius of Glossopdale and his Thin Dog, 2019), and a novella (The Cat of Doom, 2020). Con, the sequel to Perilaus II, is scheduled for release in 2022. A novel about Glossopdale’s real sixteenth century folk hero, Black Harry, has also been accepted for publication and will be released in 2022-3. Mark plans to complete his film compilation of folktales from South West Peak this summer, coronovirus and drone camera permitting (http://www.peakinthepast.co.uk/folktales.html).
1. Did some specific event trigger the creation of Perilaus II or, alternatively, was this a project you’d been considering for some time?
Having discovered that some men who commit serious crimes have no recollection of the act, I considered writing a story about such a case. I don’t think a specific instance triggered me, but I acquired the relevant knowledge while teaching part time in a men’s prison around 25 years ago. Therefore, as with nearly all my books, there was a long gestation period!
2. Most works of fiction have themes either at their heart or subtly roving beneath the surface for the more analytical reader; what were your themes here, and why do they matter to you?
One theme is contained in my answer to question 1, but I should add others. (a) I’m concerned about injustices in the justice system and I wanted to create a character who rants about them. (b) The relationship between creator and creation fascinates me and I wanted to explore it. (c) A crime novel is, in an abstract (Popperian “World Three”) sense, an instrument of torture: the writer puts characters into it and many of them will suffer and at least one of them will be murdered. Suppose the writer, the torturer, were put into his own creation and made to suffer, as the legendary Perilaus was forced into the bronze bull he’d created as an instrument of torture; would that be justice? (Hence the title of the book!)
3. Is Perilaus II your first created book or do you have others both published and/or awaiting publication?
Perilaus II was my fourth novel, if you don’t count the novella or the little e-book novelettes (see my mini-bio and the list at the end of this post).
4. When did you start writing and what prompted you to choose words as your creative medium?
After I’d taken early retirement and moved to the Derbyshire Peak District I needed to decide how I’d spend the rest of my life. I was well accustomed to writing medical/scientific papers and monographs and to teaching students how to do likewise, so a new career in editing and fiction writing seemed a natural sideways move. Of course, to write fiction, I had to unlearn several of the conventions of technical writing!
5. To what extent does genre guide your treatment of story/subject?
Hardly at all. Perilaus II is ostensibly a crime novel, but it’s really a psychological portrait; and that’s the nearest to single-genre I’ve ever come. Indeed, in National Cake Day in Ruritania, I deliberately combined every genre I could think of.
6. How do you feel about ‘experimental’ literature? Have you ever employed an approach that might be seen as experimental?
In a way, all fiction writing that aims at “literary quality” is experimental; but I know what you mean. The only truly experimental book I’ve written is the novella, The Cat of Doom, in which I combined a story, various black-comedy poems and songs, and a host of improbable characters (three trees, a plastic garden gnome, a pack of mangy dogs…) to present a left-field perspective on the apocalypse.
7. Do you plot, or are you a ‘pantster’ writing without a definite plan, and why do you use this method of construction?
I can’t imagine how anyone can write a novel without more or less meticulous and detailed planning! I know there are people who do this, but I’d never have the confidence to go down that route.
8. What, if any, input did you have in the design of the book cover, and is such collaboration important to you?
Whenever I’ve suggested a cover design, my publishers (whichever publishing house) have always rejected the suggestion and produced a better alternative. I always respect their skill and accept their decision.
9. English is a temperamental language; how important is it for an author to understand its rules?
It couldn’t be more important. A tradesperson who didn’t understand how to use the tools of the trade would deserve to fail because he/she could never do a satisfactory job. A doctor who didn’t bother to learn the basic science of human biology would be downright dangerous. The same principle applies to writing. (Sorry, I’m pontificating, but this is something about which I feel strongly – as my students discover!)
10. Finally, bearing in mind the wide choice of self-publishing platforms now available, what made you choose Fantastic Books Publishing as your route to the reading public?
Six years ago I was exchanging emails with Boris Glikman, who’d published with FBP, and I asked his opinion of them. (I’d encountered publishers I was glad to keep at a distance and I wanted to find one with whom I could work.) Boris wrote warm words about them, so as an experiment I submitted a little – not very good – story for one of FBP’s competitions, and it was accepted and included in an anthology. Thus heartened, I approached FBP with my hideous collection of twisted puns, Cruel and Unusual Punnishments, and thanks in no small measure to David Moss’s cartoon illustrations, the little book was accepted. I felt so much welcomed by this publisher, and the relationship I developed with them was so friendly, that I’ve stayed. Yes, I’ve got one novel with a different publisher, but there are reasons for that, and for most purposes FBP will remain my first choice.
Previous publications by Mark P. Henderson
Novels and novellas
National Cake Day in Ruritania
The Definitive Biography of St Arborius of Glossopdale and his Thin Dog (e-book only)
The Cat of Doom
Cruel and Unusual PunNishments
Fenella and the Magic Mirror (e-book only)
Rope Trick: Thirteen Strange Tales
Murders in the Winnats Pass
Folktales of the Peak District