Hey, y’all! This month on the blog, I was happy to have Mark Allan Gunnells stop by to talk about his new collection, Book Haven and Other Curiosities, which is fresh off the printers from Crystal Lake Publishing. I really enjoyed the collected tales, especially the titular novella, Book Haven. Last year I read the novel he co-wrote with Aaron Dries, Where the Dead Go to Die, which was also fantastic. Anyway, without delay, here’s Mark Allan Gunnells!
TIM MEYER: Hi Mark! Let’s get started by telling everyone a little about yourself and your newest release.
MARK ALLAN GUNNELLS: Well, I am a storyteller who has been making up stories and writing them down since I was about ten. I’ve been publishing for about a decade now. I write novels, novellas, but short stories are my greatest passion. Book Haven and Other Curiosities is my latest collection. The titular novella and I think about twenty short stories of various lengths.
TM: A personal favorite in the new collection is the titular novella, Book Haven. It had a very “Bradbury” feel to it, mixed with a little Twilight Zone. Did they directly influence the story, or did the inspiration come from elsewhere?
MAG: Funny you should say that since I did dedicate the book to the memory of Bradbury and Serling. I always say The Twilight Zone was one of the biggest influences on me as a writer, I just loved the surreal quiet nature of that type of horror. And when I discovered Bradbury, he infused everything with such joy and magic. I can’t say I was consciously thinking of any of this when writing the novella, but those two are major influences that I think flavor everything I write.
TM: I know it’s hard to choose, but which stories in Book Haven: And Other Curiosities do you feel are the best? Any that are more personal?
MAG: That’s like asking a parent to pick his or her favorite child. Sure, we may all have one but we it’s not socially acceptable to admit it. I will say, I’m particularly proud of some of the more emotional pieces in this collection like “The Sandbox,” “The Desk,” “The Little Boy Who Lived in the Library,” and “Waiting for the Fall.”
TM: You seem to be a writer that likes to experiment with different genres, which I totally love because I do the same thing. Is that a conscious decision for you or does it happen naturally?
MAG: Naturally. I just get ideas, and then I turn them into stories. Sometimes those are horror or suspense, sometimes more fantastical, sometimes straight dramatic, sometimes comedic. I don’t question it, I don’t worry over what genre it fits into, I just go with it.
TM: Which authors, classic and contemporary, have influenced your work the most?
MAG: I already mentioned Bradbury and Serling. I’ll add to that King, Barker, Lansdale, Matheson, and Rice. All for different reasons, but what I think unites them is that they all seem to have a real passion and love for storytelling that is obvious.
TM: Let’s talk a little shop. Describe your writing process. Do you write at night or day? With coffee or beer? Do you set goals?
MAG: I get up at 4:30 every morning to write before work. It’s a challenge some mornings, but it is important to me. I don’t drink caffeine so it’s all under my own power. I don’t set word count or page number goals though. The only goal is to write, and to try to enjoy myself.
MAG: I am not an outliner. Especially not for short fiction. I just start and let the story catch me up in its undertow and drag me along.
TM: Do you find it difficult to balance life and writing?
MAG: No, mostly because I have a husband who is very supportive and encouraging. And he loves to take me out into the community and on trips because he figures that will increase my inspiration for fiction.
TM: What’s one piece of writing advice you’d give to a new writer?
MAG: Write what you love. Don’t worry so much about markets and what’s selling, because that is fleeting and ever changeable. Just write the stories that bring you the most joy.
TM: What’s next for Mark Allan Gunnells?
MAG: Well, late in the summer I have yet another collection coming out, this one from Unnerving Press. It will be titled The Daylight Will Not Save You and contains only my most recent short story work, tales written within the last year.