At the request of this weeks interviewee Mark Scioneaux, owner and proprietor of Nightscape press, I delayed our regular "Sunday Night Sit Down", so that we could help Mark promote his new project "Hollow Shell." Enough from me, I'll let him tell you about it!
1. All right, Mark, separate the public Mark Scioneaux from the private. What brought you to a career dealing with the written word?
The public Mark Scioneaux is very different from the one who sits down at a computer and bangs out words in hopes of entertaining and terrifying people. By day, I work as an industrial hygienist, which is a type of health and safety engineer. I do consulting for chemical plants, refineries, agriculture companies, and many others. It pays the bills, and in a way makes me a better writer. I write stress-free. On one hand I’m doing all I can to turn the corner and burst onto the scene, but on the other I’m happy where I currently am. I write as a hobby and it’s a hobby that’s rewarded me very well. I’ve met some great friends, travelled to cool places, and experienced things I never thought possible. I’ve always had it in me to be a writer, but I repressed that urge for reasons I’m not sure why. It wasn’t until 2006, the year I graduated from LSU, that I pursued it seriously. I challenged myself to get a short story published, and I did. So I tried again. And again. More success followed. I then sat down and penned and novel and it too was published. It was a great start, but I wanted more. I’ve slowly been scratching off things on my personal lists of goals, and at the moment I’m pretty damn happy.
To answer your question more directly, I write because I love to entertain and tell a story. I chose horror for reasons unknown. It just appealed to me to write for this genre. There is something inside of me that screams to be placed on paper, and for other writers, I think they share the same feeling I do.
2. How does your experience as an editor help you as a writer? How do you juggle the work required for both fields? As an editor, what do you look for in a body of work? Give us some do’s and don'ts.
It can help, but it also hinders me at times. I used to just write, and then worry about revising when the project was finished. Now, I write a little, then revise, and repeat. In the end, what I’ve written I’m pleased with, but it’s a slow process. I still can’t edit my own work though. Not professionally, anyway. I’ve made many connections and I always use a good editor to revise my manuscripts prior to submission.
If I had to choose one role, I’m more of a writer than an editor. Even with my company Nightscape Press, which I co-own with Robert Shane Wilson and Jennifer Wilson, they do most of the editing for our books. I’m more of the face guy, chatting it up at conventions and handling other business aspects. I also consult with artists for our book covers and address non-editing/formatting issues with our authors.
As an editor and publisher, when I read a submission or new novel, I need it to grab me immediately. A slow build can be done well if the pacing and writing are tight, but I can tell rather quickly if this book will do it for me. For people submitting their work to companies for publishing consideration, proofread your book and make sure it’s as flawless as can be before submitting. It speaks volumes of you as an author and professional.
As far as do’s and don’ts are concerned, I’ll leave you with this list:
“Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing”
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
I have to check and see how many of these I’ve broken in my own writing!
3. Mark, tell me and the readers about your involvement with "Horror For Good: A Charitable Anthology." What brought about a desire to do such a gracious piece of work and what cause did it benefit? Who helped you and what authors gave freely of themselves and their work?
I remember it vividly. I was sitting inside the break room for a local chemical plant where I do consulting, playing around on Facebook, chatting with people and such. When I checked on a group I stay active with, the Kindle Horror Books group, and noticed the number of talented authors, I thought it would be neat to put together a book of short stories featuring them. Someone encouraged me to pursue the idea, and suggested donating the proceeds to charity. That made the most sense and the idea was born. Robert Shane Wilson approached me almost immediately and expressed interest in doing this. A budding editor at the time, he knew how to format and sell his own books. He was also a nice guy I had gotten to know through Facebook conversations. It went from there, and we worked together to solicit stories from well-known authors and set up a Facebook fan page, which became quite popular. The sales from the book benefit amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. For me, the project is dedicated to my uncle, Setchie Scioneaux, who passed away from AIDS complications in 2002.
We started to receive a favorable number of stories from well-known authors. Robert and I were nervous, and the project was becoming much bigger than anticipated. I put out a feeler to various publishers, and RJ responded with interest. Cutting Block Press and RJ Cavender have a great name and reputation in the horror industry, and the chance to work with them was a dream. RJ and I set up a phone conversation and it couldn’t have gone better. We hit it off and talked for a few hours. RJ committed, but as an editorial consultant at the time. As the anthology began to take shape, and RJ began to work just as hard as Robert and me, it was only fair he was brought on as the third editor.
All the authors who agreed to be in the book readily gave a story and were happy to help. I’ll never forget the feeling when Jack Ketchum gave us the story we had asked for—I was so excited I called RJ immediately. Or the feeling I had when I opened my email and sitting there was a story directly from Ramsey Campbell! I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. We are editors and creators, but we are also fans, and when these titans of the industry want to work with us, it’s a very humbling feeling. The table of contents is a great mix of established authors and rising stars.
4. Mark, what is your take on the resurgence of the living dead in the media? How do you see Hollywood's current obsession with zombies playing out? Tell me how you take your horde? Is it traditional shambling with a side of slow terror, or running dipped in infected scream?
I think it’s great, but everything is cyclical. First we had the obsession with vampires, then they tried pushing werewolves, and now it’s zombies. The only difference is you can’t “sexy” up a zombie. It’s a walking corpse trying to feed on you. There’s no twisted romance angle that could be played, and if there was, it would end tragically. What will be the next big thing? I have no idea, but I believe zombies are going to surge again in popularity, and that is due to the show The Walking Dead and some really great zombies books set to hit the market soon.
I’m a bit 50-50 with my preference of zombie. I’d say ultimately I love the slow, shambling ghoul that overwhelms you with their numbers. The fast zombie has their place, and they were good in movies like the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later (I know, not technically zombies, but close enough). For my writing, I like to make the zombies slow, because it lets me develop characters and scenes better, I feel. There wouldn’t be much time for conversation if you were being chased by sprinting zombies. And let’s take a second to discuss how unreal that is. I know, I write fiction and I’m talking about reality, but biology would prevent a corpse from running. The slow zombie is the best, but the fast one can work.
5. Now for a Mark Scioneaux tale. Without giving away too much, bait the hook for my readers. Why would you recommend "The Glass Coffin"? What does this tale have to offer the reader in the way of zombie action and story?
The Glass Coffin was a short story I’d written for an anthology years ago, and to this day I think it was one of my better pieces. It was pretty long, and when Kindle Direct Publishing became more popular, I decided to give it a try and chose The Glass Coffin as my piece to put online. Reception has been positive, and I’ve received some nice blurbs and reviews.
The story is simple, and the way I like my zombies. It’s character driven, and the zombies serve as the backdrop for the various people trapped in the condominium when an outbreak occurs. I have characters you will hate, love, and pity; and I think readers like characters they can relate to. It is balanced with plenty of zombie action and gore, but deep down there is a very real human element that shines through. If you enjoyed The Glass Coffin, you’ll like Hollow Shell; and vice versa.
6. Now let’s talk Insurgent Z, your newest novel co-written with HWA-member, Dane T. Hatchell. Can you tell us a little about it? What was it like co-writing with another author and would you do it again?
Insurgent Z is a novel that takes place in a small town in Louisiana. A former Army Ranger, Mason Guillot, is trying to move on with his life and put a fractured past behind him, when a dark figure from his times in the military comes back to haunt him. The mayor of the small town has given permission for military experiments on inmates serving life sentences. This new serum will make soldiers impervious to biological weapons during battle. But something goes wrong, and a serum meant to save lives damns an entire town. Now Mason is in the middle of a zombie outbreak, and he needs to save his friends while working toward the truth, and ultimately atoning for his past. It is currently being considered by a few publishing houses, and I hope to hear good news soon.
Dane T. Hatchell is a great friend and a hell of a writer. I approached him about the idea of co-writing a novel, and he was on board from the go. We make a great team, and for authors to work together there has to be mutual respect and also a gelling of writing styles. Dane and I write very similar, and we were able to use our strengths to add to the story, while also helping each other with our weaknesses. What we have created is an awesome book, filled with thrilling zombie action with a smart military plot. I would absolutely do it again and we have been talking about a sequel.
7. You allowed me a privileged sneak peek into your new work, Hollow Shell. We talked about the recent influx of zombie serials and series. What makes Hollow Shell different than your traditional zombie serial? How can my readers partake of your offerings in Hollow Shell? Will it be done across multiple formats?
I can’t speak for any of the other zombie serials out there, but I wanted to make HS my own personal zombie nightmare. First, I wanted to create believable and relatable characters that the reader could get behind. I gave them a mission to drive the story forward and while zombies play a huge role in the overall plot of the series, there will be many times where the characters interact with other survivors, and the results are less than favorable. I enjoy reading gory scenes like the next zombie fan, but I need the character interaction to keep me hooked. This is where I believe HS shines.
The book will be available in parts, starting with Part One. Currently, it will be Kindle exclusive, but when enough parts have been accumulated, or the series is finished, then I will collect them all into one large book.
8. Where can your full length and short stories be found; both zombie themed and non-zombie themed? Give us some highlights what story of yours is perfect for your first time fan? What is on the horizon for Mark C. Scioneaux in the realm of the undead and other genres?
My short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies from various publishers. I have a story in Twisted Fish 3 by Severed Press titled, “The Demon in the Water” that I’m particularly proud of. I will have a new story appearing in the Blood Rites anthology by Bloodbound Books titled “The Lady with Teeth like Knives.” Another new story of mine, titled “Made to Order,” will appear in an anthology by Evil Jester Press. For a recent zombie story, I have a bit of flash fiction titled “A Very Trying Time” in the anthology Quick Bites of Flesh by Hazardous Press. I would as readers to check those out as they show how I’ve grown as a writer.
I currently have a few projects being considered for publication, so I will talk more about those when they come to fruition. For my current writing projects, my novelization of Dante’s Inferno, THE CITY OF WOE, is in the hands of a literary agent. I am also working on a shark attack piece and a fictional Salem Witch Trials tale.
9. Where can the readers dig you up, Mark? Do you have web pages, fan pages twitter or other places out in the big blue nowhere where you call home?
I have a blog that I try to keep up with. So far it has failed miserably as I get distracted by my other writing projects. I am still trying to figure out how twitter works as well. I am very active on Facebook, so I would ask for people to reach me there. I also created a fan page for the serial in hopes of drumming up some good zombie discussion.
10. Aside from your own work, whose zombie novels and shorts do you read? Any real page turners come to mind you'd recommend to us on the independent publishing scene? What are you currently reading and by who?
My zombie writing idols would be people I try to model my own writing after. Authors like Jonathan Maberry and Joe McKinney have set high standards for zombie fiction. I highly recommend Maberry’s YA Rot & Ruin series and McKinney’s Flesh Eaters, which won the Stoker for best novel this year.
I am also involved in publishing and my company, Nightscape Press, is doing very well distinguishing itself as one of the best in the horror and dark fiction field. We are blessed to work with talented writers like Peter N. Dudar, L.L. Soares, Trent Zelazny, and Richard Salter; who edited one of the most unique and best anthologies I’ve ever read. I strongly recommend checking out our website and their works. We will be releasing more books soon and continuing to carve our niche across the horror landscape.
Currently, when I’m not reading submissions for Nightscape or drafts of my own work, I’m reading The Sinner by K. Trapp Jones. It’s about a farmer who is summoned into a cave by God where he encounters a different demon each day, influenced by the seven deadly sins. It’s a great read.