Welcome to another cuppa with interview – pop the kettle on a get comfy as we get to know Mark a little bit better…
1. Introduce yourself to us in one sentence ….
Hi, I’m Mark Anderson Smith and I’ve been a missionary, a mystery shopper, a health care assistant, and have crewed on a North Sea helicopter, but now make a living developing applications and databases for businesses.
2. What is it that you create?
I’m a writer and have published two novels: Christian thriller—Fallen Warriors, and political novel—The Great Scottish Land Grab
To read more info on these and find out where to buy visit www.dragonlake.co.uk
You can also read reviews of Fallen Warriors on Goodreads.
3. Tell us the story of how it all started.
It started many years ago aged eight when I realised I wanted to create worlds like the ones I was reading about and tell stories about those worlds. Fast forward a couple of decades to 2007 while I wrote short stories and articles, when something said in a church service sparked the thought that it would be great to create a TV series where the characters performed miracles like we read in the bible. I hadn’t a clue how to get a TV series made so decided I would turn the idea into a novel which became Fallen Warriors.
I jotted down ideas and made a start and then realised that an idea I’d had ten years previously—about a terrorist attack in York, England—could work really well if I joined the two stories up. The story turned out to be harder to write than I’d believed possible and I stalled a few times. Then on a business trip I had another idea.
I’ve always been interested in owning land and found a website called: Who Owns Scotland. The website highlighted that much of the land we think of as publically owned is actually owned in secret by a few wealthy people. Looking deeper into the history of how that land came to be owned by them revealed a sordid tale of greed and violence and deception. It got me thinking: what if we could grab that land back. Within a few minutes I’d turned that thought into a title: The Great Scottish Land Grab.
All well and good, but I was already working on one novel and knew I needed to finish that, until someone suggested I try the NaNoWriMo challenge – write a 50,000 word novel during November. I couldn’t use Fallen Warriors, but knew this was a chance to complete a first draft of a novel and so accepted the challenge. By the end of that month I had my very first draft completed!
The problem then was that I had no experience of editing a story. I now had two novels, one partially complete and the other with a few major flaws and didn’t know how to turn them into the gripping stories I wanted them to be.
In the meantime I was developing my career as a software developer. Early in 2014 it occurred to me that I spent all day, every day, writing and editing code and documents that were being used by hundreds of people. I’d never thought to link my day job to my fiction writing. While editing a story is very different to editing a computer program, I realised I did have editing skills and just needed to work out how to use them to improve my novels.
2014 was a crazy year in Scotland. We held an independence referendum on whether or not to leave the UK. As I started to get caught up in discussions about how to vote, I realised The Great Scottish Land Grab could be adapted to be set during the referendum and that I could introduce some cliff-hanger events that would propel the story along. I set myself the task of writing a series of four short books to be released in the months leading up to the referendum. The Great Scottish Land Grab was eventually completed in three published ebooks just a week before the vote was due!
Having successfully edited and published Land Grab I then turned back to Fallen Warriors which was published in March this year.
4. How do you include your faith into your work and what you make?
In Land Grab it was quite subtle. I wanted the main characters—Robert and Helen Castle—to have the same worldview that I have and so in my mind they are Christians. However, some of the choices that Robert makes are quite extreme. There was more than a little Mussolini in him! At times in the story, the way he faces off against the police and High Court judges and politicians is revolutionary, and I felt it was important to push him as far as I could, to get under the skin of what it might take to transform a nation
In Fallen Warriors I wanted to avoid clichés that I’d seen in Christian stories before. The underlying story is of broken and damaged people being called to do great things by God, yet struggling with real life problems. It’s been quite satisfying to find that readers are able to relate to the struggles and suffering the characters face and also find hope that God is at work even in the darkest places we find ourselves.
5. Do you have any inspiration or encouragement for us?
Probably since 2003 I’ve been very focused on goals. I had a mini mid-life crisis when I turned thirty, realised I couldn’t really support my family, that I had two children and no career. I made the decision to go back to school, got a Higher National Certificate and found that focusing on clear goals could have a transformative effect on my life.
I would encourage everyone reading this to think about what you want out of life, to think about what is really important, to think about where you want to be in five and ten years time. Set some big, scary, ambitious goals and start thinking about how you could achieve them, and asking God and discussing with friends. I found that as I did this, my priorities changed and that I found true friends who came alongside and helped me.
Recently I’ve been reading In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon. This is posing a new challenge to me…
6. Please share a photo of your favourite mug!
I’ve a few favourite mugs, but the one I’m holding in the picture means a lot to me. If you zoom in, you might just see the Microsoft Access database logo with a little wizard’s hat sitting on top. Recent clients gave this to me after I completed a project for them developing a database system that automated the creation of Power-Point slide decks. It meant a lot to have the work I did and the time I spent mentoring the team valued by them.
And that’s me!
Thank you so much Mark for sharing a bit of your creative journey with us! Praying all goes well with your two books (don’t forget to check out the links to where you can buy them!).