Mark Charan Newton about ... Nights Of Villjamur
Mark Charan Newton
Books by this Author:
interviewed Jun 2009 by Sarah Rudd
Nights of Villjamur is your debut novel and has led to you being touted as a great new voice in Sci-Fi/Fantasy writing, so we thought weíd try to get to know you a little better before you become too big a name for the likes of usÖ
Letís talk about your book Ė Nights of Villjamur Ė it looks on the dark side of life and could be said to be overly cynical about the human race: we canít all be bad surely?
Cynical? Moi? As for the human race: you should try living in Nottingham.
I think the darkness is all part of telling a story in which people will want to care about what happens to people. Itís certainly part of the territory for writing fantasy these days. If a character gets caught up in something light and fluffy, it might not be all that interesting.
What is the inspiration for the Cultists?
I felt that magic wasnít represented all that accurately in fantasy, in the sense that magic is power, and power Ė in the real world Ė is concentrated into the hands of the few. So it made logical sense that the Cultists would have a monopoly on the ancient technology Ė relics Ė and to keep them to themselves, using the magic to concentrate their power even further. Itís a lot like money really.
The relics sound awfully like modern technology Ė is that what they are, or are they something totally different?
They are indeed technological Ė although, misunderstood, perhaps even by the cultists. The concept that civilizations rise and fall and leave their detritus is very real, so I wanted this to have more relevance, especially when massively advance cultures fall. Even ours might Ė through whatever disaster, biological or military Ė and what would be thought of all of our own leftovers, from plasma screen TVs to particle accelerators?
Why the ĎFreezeí? Do you think youíre jumping on the environmental bandwagon?
Bandwagon indeed! Iíll have you know my degree is in Environmental Science, and donít get me started on the media. Hundreds of air pollutants, many of them toxic, and all they care about is carbon dioxide, which has been in decline in the UK for years. I see you did get me startedÖ
Now where was I? No, the Freeze in this instance is very much related to the plot, and very much to forward certain issues. It accelerates storylines, gives motivations to characters. Thereís a sense of time running out. The genesis actually came from a little-known SF novel by Michael Coney, called Hello Summer, Goodbye Ė I wonít spoil it for anyone who might read it, but it was a concept that came towards the end of that novel, and I thought it an interesting one to kick things off.
You have a blog, which is hardly unusual Ė but your tongue-in-cheek responses to book reviews and obvious bemusement with all the interest in your writing talent is quite provocative; is this a reflection of your natural self?
I didnít realise I was being provocative! Which probably implies it is a reflection of myself. To be honest, Iím just writing about what interests me, to support the writing too, but primarily just to keep an electronic scrapbook. If anyone is interested in that, then fantastic. Playing with reviews and what other people are saying does appeal to my inner showman, I must confess; I suspect Iíll get worse with time, too. But thatís what the internet is about when itís working well.
Youíre only a wee nipper (as they say in Scotland), 28 years old and already published Ė how does that feel?
I donít feel young Ė Iíve started to grunt when I sit in comfy chairs, and Iíve dabbled in growing my own tomatoes. These are not the signs of a young man.
To be honest, the reception has been amazing Ė Iíve sold to Del Rey in the US, as well as Tor in the UK, two very big, respected imprints, so itís an absolute honour. But thereís pressure that comes with that Ė you put your work in front of so many people to dissect it and sift through the entrails. Generally speaking, though, I know Iím extremely lucky to be in this position Ė I was in the right place at the right time, and although thereís a lot of work to do yet, Iíd do well to remember that fact.
Talking about your age Ė where does the nostalgia come from? What exactly are you nostalgic for?
Thatís interesting. I guess itís because a few years back I had a great bunch of friends, and weíd have such a random care-free time, heading off to the coast in the evening, taking guitars to the middle of nowhere, talking about subjects with a passion. I was a bit of a hippie. Time seemed to go by much slower. I think itís that Ė the attitude, the lack of responsibilities, when you can just enjoy lifeís subtleties Ė those things kind of get forgotten about when you have a full-time job and a mortgage. Maybe things werenít as good as all that, but Iíd love to capture some of those things again.
We hate to say it (for fear of emboldening you), but youíre a bit of a looker... Err... do you think this will help your career in any way? Weíre thinking, front covers of magazineís with your shirt off looking all moody is a sure-fire way to get the ladies interested in reading again!!
Good lord Ė I feel like Iíve stumbled into a hen night! Well Iím immensely flattered you think so, and Iím sure many would disagree. But I donít suppose it could do much harm Ė unless someone takes umbrage to my face and rips me apart in a bad review. It could happenÖ the internet gives a voice to some eccentric folk. As for getting my shirt off Ė well Iím a guy who is always open to suggestion, but Iíll need a few more months in the gym before thatíll happen. Writing isnít exactly the most energetic activity in the world, you know.
Does music inspire you to write? Were you listening to anything in particular when writing Nights of Villjamur?
It certainly does, and yes Ė Iíve a playlist on my blog, which is more in-depth. In summary I listened to a lot of Death Cab For Cutie, City and Colour, Broken Social Scene, Postal Service, Radiohead. Iím a fan of indie and acoustic stuff mainly, but also jazz and classical. I have so much music on my iPod, itís getting ridiculous now. I could end up talking for days on this sort of thing. Oh, and I also find that Hans Zimmer film soundtracks are good w hen you want something less invasive.
When is the next book due out?
Iím pretty sure itíll be June 2010, a year apart from the previous one. Iíve nearly finished the draft, so I donít think thereíll be much of a problem with that. HopefullyÖRead our full review of Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton