I “met” Mark A. King on the Flash! Friday weekly flash fiction contest, and quickly came to look forward to the pieces of writing he submitted each week. He had (has) a way with words that sort of wrapped around my imagination, and it was a treat to get to co-judge with him for the same contest for a few months.
Since those days, Mark has started the Flashdogs, a group of writers with some awe-inspiring skills, as well as published several anthologies of flash fiction. Just this month, he’s released his very first novel, Metropolitan Dreams, and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you.
Mark is stopping by my website to say hello and intrigue you with his plans for post-apocalyptic world restructure. Just because a genie is involved doesn’t mean it’s easy…
1.) Go ahead and sum up Metropolitan Dreams for us in three sentences (because that’s always fun).
In the aftermath of a violent crime we follow the connected stories of an injured nightclub bouncer, an ageing crime-lord, a conflicted police hacker, a traumatised Tube-driver, and a vulnerable twelve-year-old girl as they fight for survival, purpose, and redemption in the fractured city of London. Along the journey we discover lost rivers, abandoned underground stations, mysterious forces, and angels (perhaps).
2.) What first pulled the idea for Met Dreams into your head? Where did you find the seed of your idea, and what made it grow into what you now have on your pages? Ten years down the road, when you’ve made your millions and have topped every international best-seller list, what will you look back on as being the inspiration that began this adventure?
I’ve always had a fascination with major cities–how they can be tourist friendly during the day and turn into completely different places at night. There are so many things hidden in places and within people. I wanted to set the tale in London, not just because it was where I was raised, but also because there have been so many fantastic SF/Fantasy stories based in the city that I felt like I owed it to myself to start there. Many of the ideas were formed or experimented with in flash fiction competitions, and a significant number of ideas can have their history traced back to Flash! Friday
(which my fellow judge and kind host today knows only too well) or The Angry Hourglass
. It is fair to say that these competitions were like fuel that fired the engine of story creation. I’m so very thankful to Rebekah Postupak
who dedicated so much of her time and energy to the community. There were many fine writers there, too, who not only inspired with their writing, but also their spirit and encouragement, for example Tamara Shoemaker. 🙂
*Editor’s Note: Aww, thanks!
3.) Name your favorite character in the book, and tell us what made that character so special/difficult/fun/annoying/challenging to write.
This is a really hard question. Metropolitan Dreams
, like a city, is told from the points of view of many characters. While most books have one or two main characters, Met Dreams
has many. Will they know if I’ve picked a favourite? What if they then won’t do what I want them to do in future?
*Editor’s Note: My characters NEVER do what I want them to do. They are like willful children. If you discover the secret of making them obey, please let me know. 😉
Okay, I’ll risk it. Cal McKinley. We find him suffering from trauma and self-doubt from the very early stages of the book. He is a Tube-driver who has witnessed a death and is struggling to cope with it. Cal starts to experience unusual events, and he is not sure if he is suffering from a mental illness/disorder such as PTSD. As the story progresses, it becomes clear to Cal that not everything is as it seems. As he progresses through his journey of discovery, he gets to meet many interesting characters and visit some unique locations.
4.) What are some of the challenges you’ve faced–and overcome–to take your story from your computer and put it out into the big, wide world of readers? What were your fears/concerns, and what were you looking forward to? Is anything like you hoped or dreaded?
There are too many to count. The English school system was not interested in teaching grammar to school children when I was younger. Despite the fact that I seem to have coped fairly well without it, it has always been something I have been very ware of, and I knew full well that I needed to seek a great deal of help to write a novel. This is where Emily June Street
came in. However, it would be unjust to say she ‘just’ helped in this aspect. A great editor–and Emily is one–will tease out central plots, act as a voice of reason, and even help with last minute adjustments to story continuity. Emily has been a blessing. If you can find a wonder editor like Emily (or Tamara), then I would urge you to do so.
*Editor’s Note: I bow to Emily’s far superior skills. Absolutely agree. She is truly the best there is.
I was very nervous about sending the draft to Emily. When it left the walls of my e-mail server, it was like sending a child beyond the city gates and having no idea what might become of them.
Few of my friends knew about my writing, and the entire thing has been one long journey of slowly letting go and facing the fears I have.
5.) And, because you did it to me, here’s payback. Think fast, put your first impulse answer:
London or Paris?
London (I couldn’t really say anything else, could I? 🙂 )
Book or Movie?
Peanut butter or Marmite?
PB – although I do have an allergy to peanuts, but I’d rather that than Marmite.
Disney World or Universal Studios?
This question should be disallowed. Can’t I pick one park from each?
Universal because of Islands of Adventure, or Harry Potter, if I had to choose.
A pic of Disney on our trip Dec 2010, to balance this out a bit.
London Tube or double-decker bus?
Tube – have you been on a double-decker?
*Editor’s Note: Yes, in both London and Dublin. One thing was for sure: it wasn’t boring… 😉
Mountains or Beach?
This question is really not fair. I choose both. I’ve attached a picture where my family are from. The picture is on the Atlantic coast, a straight line all the way to the East coast US (apart from some rugged islands where they recently filmed Star Wars).
Instrumental or W/ Lyrics?
Cats or Dogs?
Twitter or Facebook?
Early bird or Night owl?
Umm. Early bird.
Tolkien or Lewis?
Dragons or Hippogriffs?
Dragons, of course.
6.) Say the world has ended in a colossal explosion, and you and three others are the only survivors (who apparently now live on an alternate planet). You have the chance to rebuild it, but all you have among you is a train ticket, a ball of steel wire, a dusty old lamp that may or may not include a genie inhabitant, and a piece of Ever-Last gum. How would you proceed? (New world must be built. I look forward to seeing what you do with this). 😉
This is possibly the hardest (and strangest) question I have ever been asked!
I’m assuming the three others would be my wife and two children. 🙂
I’ve also assumed I can’t ask the genie for unlimited wishes. That would be cheating. You normally get three, right?
I’d ask for the world to be returned to the way it was.
I’d ask for more equality and justice in the world (I’m not asking for much, am I?).
I’d ask the genie where they would like to go, and I’d gift them the train ticket to that destination.
I’d craft a gift for the genie from the steel wire, lamp, and gum and wish him/her a wonderful life of freedom and happiness. And I’d remind them that they should remember my gift the next time they think about doing something mischievous (it might remind them that bad things happened before, and it might help to avoid them becoming captured again).
This is a tale of two cities.
Darkness and light.
Sinners and angels.
In the daylight, London sparkles, beckoning tourists, optimists and dreamers from across the globe. The sunlit city weaves together the lives of repentant crime-lords, altruistic nightclub bouncers and resolute detectives.
In the darkness, London festers, drools, tempts and corrupts. It is a world where the desperate are lured, the weak are exploited, and good men wrap themselves in the blanket of criminal rewards. In the seething streets, the hissing underground stations and lost subterranean rivers, the metropolitan dreams of ethical hackers, desperate criminals and traumatized Tube-drivers unfold.
Maria, a vulnerable twelve-year-old from Kerala, India, has travelled half the world in search of her past and hopes for the future. Within hours, violent chaos engulfs her. Maria is tracked, hunted and pursued—she can rescue the city, but first she must save herself.
Mark is one of the founders of FlashDogs, a global community of talented flash fiction writers. His flash fiction stories have been published in a number of anthologies and magazines. Mark was born and raised in London, works in Cambridge, and lives in Norfolk, England.