Meghan: Hi, Mark. Welcome back… well, welcome TO Meghan’s House of Books, but welcome back to the interview couch. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?
Mark Reefe: So the bad news is my publisher (Burning Willow Press or BWP) recently closed up shop. It’s tough because I worked with the owners and other BWP authors for years. In many ways we were more like a family than a business. Fortunately, I still keep in touch with many of them, and we continue to support one another and sometimes collaborate on writing projects.
The good news is that I’ve found a new home for my first novel, The Road to Jericho, with Three Furies Press. We’re still working out the details and a release date, but it’s tentatively scheduled to come out sometime in 2020. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well with the release as there are two more novels in the series that need a home too. Wish me luck!
Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?
Mark Reefe: A lover. A fighter. But mostly a half-assed handyman who thinks he can fix anything with some duct tape and a little gorilla glue. When I’m not busy gluing and taping, I enjoy spending time outdoors with the wife, two boys, and two devilish dogs.
Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
Mark Reefe: I get a real kick out of it. Having that personal connection with the reader and knowing a little about their likes and dislikes gives more meaning to any feedback they have to offer. Also, there’s nothing quite like making a friend or family member bawl while reading a particularly moving scene. The problem comes when they’re crying and the part they’ve read isn’t supposed to be sad.
Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
Mark Reefe: Depends on the day of the week and how picky my editor’s being. But seriously, when it’s all said and done, I guess it’s a gift. It’s just hard to see it that way when a deadline’s fast approaching and you still have a couple of hundred pages of track changes to sort through. I hate editing.
Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?
Mark Reefe: A fair amount since I tend to put my characters in places that I’ve lived. I love the stark contrast between the lush forests and flowing rivers of the Shenandoah Valley and the haunting desolation of the South Texas shrublands. I’m actually putting the finishing touches on a manuscript that takes place in my hometown of Bowie, Maryland during the late 1970s. I’ve always wanted to capture that location and time in a story and share it for the world to see. Now if I can just get the damn thing published…
Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?
Mark Reefe: Can you be charged with drunk driving while mowing your lawn? Wait a minute. That research was for personal reasons. For books I’ve done a fair amount of homework on black magic (Palo Mayombe to be specific). I’ve also perused the finer points of how to make pipe bombs in the kitchen (cinnamon is key) and the names of the nine circles of Hell (turns out the ninth circle is actually referred to as Chuck E Cheese’s by scholars).
Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?
Mark Reefe: The middle. Most times I know where I want to start and how I want everything to end, but getting there often turns into a tremendous pain in the ass. Pacing and continuity are so important to good storytelling that I find myself constantly rewriting middle portions of my manuscripts and obsessing over them. Did I mention that I hate editing?
Mark Reefe: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?
Meghan: I’ve done a little bit of everything. As crazy as it sounds, I had a great deal of my first novel planned out in my head before I started writing. For the second and third books in the series, I found outlines were necessary to get everything organized the way I wanted. I tend to focus much more on the characters during the initial stages of any story. I want to know their backstories, motivations, likes, dislikes, etc. If you have well-developed characters you’re off to a good start with any story.
Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?
Mark Reefe: I go with the flow and try to enjoy the ride. I think it’s great when one of my characters takes control of their destiny and changes the narrative. The clean up afterwards can be messy, but it’s usually worth it.
Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?
Mark Reefe: Two shots of Elijah Craig with an espresso chaser. Not a joke.
Meghan: Are you an avid reader?
Mark Reefe: Absolutely. Reading a good book is not only a wonderful escape but a great way to exercise the brain. Unfortunately, I don’t have the discipline to carve out specific times for reading, but I always try to keep a book close at hand.
Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?
Mark Reefe: I like reading a variety of books, but I lean towards horror, fantasy, and a little science fiction. If the author does a good job creating another world that I can get lost in, I’m happy. If I read a little bit of a story and find myself thinking about it the next day and visualizing the characters and scenes, then I know I’m into something good. Tolkien does that for me.
Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?
Mark Reefe: I’m good with it. Sometimes Hollywood nails it (e.g., The Lord of the Rings). Other times you get movies like The Dark Tower (who farted?). It seems to me the big studios get into trouble when they lose faith in the actual story and make changes in an attempt to appeal to the masses. They fail to realize there was a reason the book was a best seller to begin with.
Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?
Mark Reefe: You bet. What can I say? Sometimes a little blood needs to be shed to move the story along. I tried explaining that to one of my readers after he flipped me off for having killed one of his favorite characters. I’m not sure he bought it.
Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
Mark Reefe: Enjoy isn’t the right word. Suffering is a part of character growth. If it’s done right, I believe it can bring the reader closer to the character and get them more invested in the story. If characters don’t experience pain or hardship along their journey, why would the reader care whether they triumph in the end?
Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?
Mark Reefe: A half-horse, half-dog sidekick that can talk. It was for a short story contest that I didn’t win.
Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?
Mark Reefe: A beta reader once said my writing style reminded him of Ray Bradbury’s. That was pretty freaking awesome. I honestly can’t recall the worst. I try not to harp on that kind of thing.
Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?
Mark Reefe: Both of them are super. Thanks Elizabeth and Jeanette – you rock! All joking aside, it’s always a pleasure to know someone has enjoyed my work. My fans are very important to me. Reading a nice review of one of my books on Amazon or Goodreads will easily keep me in good spirits for the rest of the week, so please keep them coming.
Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?
Mark Reefe: Huck Finn because he’s awesome. He’s dirt poor and a hot mess, but he owns it. Also, he’s willing to go to Hell to help out a friend. I could come up with a few dozen storylines for someone like that.
Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?
Mark Reefe: Maybe I would take a stab at writing about Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewellyn and their adventures in the next life. I always felt there was more to explore with the series, and I need to fill the void left in my soul from Odd’s departure. Dean Koontz really hit a home run with that series!
Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?
Mark Reefe: Fellow BWP Alumni Sarah Dale and I have been kicking around the idea of collaborating on a story steeped in Appalachian folklore. The history of the region is just packed full of war, strife, love, betrayal, etc., and is excellent fodder for a ghost story. Also, I’m a huge fan of her Zodiac Cusp Kids novellas, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s something we can work on in the near future.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Mark Reefe: The rerelease of The Road to Jericho will be coming in 2020 with Three Furies Press. The book is the first in a planned trilogy that was initially released with BWP. I’ve also been working on a story regarding the mysterious and terrifying Goatman that I’m hoping to get published sometime soon (fingers crossed).
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?
Mark Reefe: Don’t forget to like and follow me on social media for updates regarding the release of The Road to Jericho, and have a cool and creepy Halloween!
Raised in Bowie, Maryland, Mark Reefe moved his homestead to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley some years back where he now resides with his lovely wife, two boys, and two devilish dogs. After a quarter century in federal law enforcement catching drug smugglers, money launderers, terrorists, and other nasty fellows, he decided it was time to scratch the itch tickling him and start writing. His Hell Walker Trilogy incorporates his experiences along the southern border with supernatural elements in a haunting yet riveting series that has received numerous accolades and five-star Amazon reviews. The first book in this trilogy, The Road to Jericho, will be rereleased by Three Furies Press in 2020.
When he’s not writing, Mark enjoys woodworking, camping, breaking small appliances when they don’t appear to work, apologizing to his wife for breaking the previously mentioned appliances, and bourbon (not necessarily in that order).