Underground Treehouse: What draws you to writing, as opposed to other forms of expression? Specifically, what motivates you to write for the YA genre? What do you want your readers to get from your work?
Daniel Marks: I just really enjoy telling stories, whether in person, at events, around the kitchen table, over coffee, or writing them down, so I’d be doing that no matter what. I’m not particularly artistic, and, if you ask my wife, I couldn’t carry a tune to save my life. As for how I ended up writing for the youths (in my head that’s pronounced YOOTS), I blame my chronic immaturity. Also, I was a child and adolescent psychotherapist for twelve years, so the voice is pretty natural for me (filtered through blood and guts, of course).
UT: Can you give us an idea of your writing process? When you hit on an idea that speaks to you, what is your next step?
DM: I’m all over the place, process-wise. I’m primarily interested in scene. So, I may start with a general premise and jump to chapter 9 or some crap. If I’m writing from spec, rather than in-contract, I’ll start by making a list of scenes that I’d love to see as a part of the story, and then work toward a voice from those abstracts. Later, I’ll try as hard as I can to fit those scenes together into something that works. Alternately, outlining saps some of the creativity from my process. It’s definitely difficult for me to be that organized, but my publisher seems to demand it.
UT: What sparked your interest in vlogging? Why did you decide to join the YA Rebels?
DM: I started vlogging a few years back as a fluke: just something different, instead of a standard guest blog post. But it felt sort of natural. So, when I launched my YA career, I decided to make a Youtube channel as my primary author site and just start talking about books and reading and things that I love. I was shocked to find my subscriber base climbing rapidly. I joined the YA Rebels for the camaraderie of the group.
UT: How has your background as a psychotherapist for children influenced your work?
DM: I think when people hear that about me, they don’t get a clear image of what that entailed. What I did wasn’t specifically an office job. My line was crisis intervention and family preservation. The cases were extremely high risk: very unusual behaviors and often quite dangerous. Lots of child abuse, neglect, and violence. It was exceptionally dark work, and the only way that anyone survives longer than six months in the business is to develop a gallows humor. That, more than anything, influences my narrative voice.
UT: Velveteen wrestles with some deep, controversial subjects, specifically the nature of death and the existence of an afterlife. Was this choice of theme and setting a way for you to work through your own questions and ideas about the subject?
DM: The short answer is no. I don’t believe in a purgatory and am staunchly in the, “dunno” camp when it comes to any sort of afterlife. What I am interested in is gray areas. I’m not a fan of concrete answers. I love continuums and vaguery too much to write anything definitive. So, when I chose to write Velvet’s story, I was interested in creating a character who may have as much in common with her own killer as she does with her closest allies. The fact that the character lives in a world that doesn’t supply many answers and is, in fact, gray, is no mistake. It’s a metaphor for the way my brain works.
UT: Velveteen takes several familiar elements of horror films and literature, from possessions and hauntings to zombies and serial killers, and adjusts its perspective on them to give us a surreal, intriguing new look at familiar genre staples. What was it about this story that, in your estimation, demanded to be developed and written?
DM: There’s something innately understandable about the need for revenge. If there’s one thing that will unite a reader with an unlikeable character, even on a miniscule level, it’s the need to make things right. That was my entry point. The story, like all of them, popped into my cranium and wouldn’t go away. The world became so interesting and rich that all of my other ideas dropped away.
UT: Do you remember what first sparked the idea for the series? What process did you take to get your novel published?
DM: First off, it’s not a series yet. I did pitch three books to my editor, but the story is risky. It’s very dark and not easily quantifiable or comparable. The sales are going to determine whether people see the second or third book, so I’m just crossing my fingers, but I’ve moved on to another book. I don’t really recall the inciting moment that got the ball rolling on Velveteen, but it was definitely a laborious process: lots of revisions orchestrated by my agent, pre-submission. It was definitely the most effort I’ve put into any book (Velveteen is my fifth, fourth published). But once we’d gone to market, the sale was pretty quick (thank God).
Thank you, Daniel Marks for a wonderful interview! We will also cross our fingers in hopes that the second and third books get picked up. We encourage our readers to pick up Velveteen and take it for a test drive, you can thank us later (read our published review of Velveteen).
A Little More About Our Featured Author:
Daniel Marks writes young adult horror and fantasy, spends way too much time glued to the internet and collects books obsessively (occasionally reading them). He’s been a psychotherapist for children and adolescents, a Halloween store manager, a cafeteria janitor (gag), and has survived earthquakes, volcanoes and typhoons to get where he is today, which is to say, in his messy office surrounded by half empty coffee cups. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Caroline, and three furry monsters with no regard for quality carpeting.