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Listen or download a podcast of Mark discussing his career as a writer (via the Sydney Writers' Centre)
Read a Q&A with Mark at Career Confessions
When did you start writing?
I was first published by my campus newspaper at Victoria University of Wellington in the 1980s. My first attempt at a novel was on the Gold Coast in 1991 (it wasn’t very good).
What was the inspiration for you to become a writer?
I read Dr No when I was nine, on a tip-off from a friend, and I subsequently churned through all the James Bonds in a couple of months. Later in life, I was at uni and I had to admit to myself that the only part of it I enjoyed was writing the essays.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Hunted, Elmore Leonard. The Age of Extremes, Eric Hobsbawm. Where Men win Glory, Jon Krakauer.
Who are your three favourite authors and why?
Ian Fleming, because he got me reading at a time when Narnia, The Hobbit and Robert Heinlein were the big things. Fleming made me a reader.
Robert Ludlum: when I first read The Matarese Circle I loved the sensibility and it made me think I could try writing my own stories.
Elmore Leonard, because when I was a teenager I thought it didn’t come much cooler than this.
What inspired you to write this book?
Counter Attack came about after a conversation with a history academic who made the comment that the disputes around the Sea of Japan – between China, Japan and the Koreas – was potentially the most dangerous situation on earth, and certainly a massive threat to Australia’s economy and wellbeing. It fit well with the theme of private intelligence contractors doing deniable jobs for governments. I had a lot fun blending fact into fiction as Mac visits Indochina.
Are any of the characters taken from real life?
Yes, I have vivid memories of my first visit to Saigon in the early 1990s and some of those weird people and their methods made it into Counter Attack. Many of the people Mac deals with in Cambodia are absolutely real, although I changed the names. And of course, the military people Mac encounters are based on real Aussie soldiers.
Where do you do your writing?
I generally write on a laptop at a large dining table. Counter Attack was written at a table in my fiancée’s farm house in southern Ontario.
What’s the last piece of writing you hated and threw in the bin?
I’m currently writing a novel called Arctic Floor, and one of the transitions wasn’t handled very well. I had to go back and rewrite several chapters, and a lot of material went in the trash.
When you’re not writing what do you do?
I read a lot of books. I don’t have TV so books – not newspapers – are my big downtime. I also spend as much time as I can with my son and daughter.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently finishing Arctic Floor – an action-conspiracy-thriller based in North America – while researching the fifth book of the Alan McQueen series.