Interview with Mark Skinner, author of The Amber Child (currently a free download on Amazon kindle)
Q. Sum up your book in twitter length.
A. Set in any place that is everywhere, the story of the Amber Child builds from a foundation of social deterioration, requisite desires, religious misgivings, commercial rape and fantasy designs for parallel worlds.
Q. You have a distinct style - can you tell us a little about how you write?
A. I like to write as I might see, or watch. Creating pace, and presenting a person, a moment or a situation with either a word, a short sentence, often using mini and micro paragraphs, even chapters, to affect pacing. Aim to have an almost filmic style, so to speak.
Q. You have experience writing screenplays. What makes writing a novel different?
A. More description – added to scope to paint/ colour the story. Not that a screenplay is simply a bland instruction manual for the actors, director, production crew – far from it. A screenplay simply needs to be more streamlined – descriptions can be equally explicit, enchanting, just not long and full of flowery language.
Ultimately, as a screenwriter you write what you see and hear on screen, something that can be translated by the director and actors.
The rule of thumb would be, create a fast read. In terms of scenes, enter late and leave early.
Q. Which books have influenced your writing the most?
I was never really an avid reader – aside from film and surfing magazines (and the film guide in the Radio Times) – until the late 90s. The more I travelled, the more I read, sometimes as a result of my own curiosity, other times thanks to suggestions from people I met and encountered. For example, received ‘Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone’ from a customer in a coffee shop I was working at in Edinburgh in 1999. At the time I had no idea about it, though such soon changed.
The book that most influenced my reading, and thereafter my desire to write was it ‘All The Pretty Horses’ by Cormac McCarthy. More than books, and aside from Cormac McCarthy, I would say several authors have affected the way I want to write. Examples of such authors are, Kurt Vonnegut, Aldous Huxley, Denis Johnson, Chuck Palahniuk, Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane, James Sallis, Michael Chabon, and Hunter S. Thompson.
Clearly, there are also several screenwriters who have also influenced what I do, though they have less to do with how I might write a novel. A couple I must mention are Vince Gilligan and Nic Pizzolatto, the writers of Breaking Bad and True Detective respectively.
Q. How do approach the writing process, and how do you feed your creativity?
A. Absorbing what is around me – people, places, sentiments, and situations. Travelling has also played a large part.
Scrutinising the everyday - what and why.
Films, sometimes TV shows (especially recently – Braquo, Luther, The Sopranos, Justified, Breaking Bad, True Detective).
Music often soundtracks my thoughts - helps drive the creative process. Some lyrics, and melodies/ harmonies/ beats even inspire ideas.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for the Amber Child?
A. Holed up in a hotel in Sydney, Australia, running a fever, reading Moby Dick. Somewhat delirious, jotted down the outline to the characters, based on the beginnings of a screenplay I had attempted to develop, and then wrote down chapter numbers and a sentence or two as to what might happen on each.
Q. Did your ideas change over time, or did you stick to your original plan for the story.
A. The spine of the story remained, though bits were added and revised as I wrote – sometimes influenced by where I was at the time, new experiences, places, creative ideas.
Q. Who do you most identify with out of the characters in your book?
A. Both Chipper and Jimmy, who are, in effect, one and the same person.
Q. What’s next from Mark Skinner?
A. A couple of screenplays, one in the early development stage (associated with conservation), a crime drama needing rewrites, and a western halfway done. In terms of a novel, it’s early days but a possible sequel to The Amber Child is on the cards, as well as look to develop a coming of age, road-trip story.
The Amber Child is currently available free on amazon kindle until 7th March, 2014.