With Mark Noce
Tell me your story.
I write historical fiction with a passion, and eagerly read everything from fantasy to literature. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m an avid traveler and backpacker, particularly in Europe and North America. I earned my BA and MA from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where I also met my beautiful wife. By day, I work as a Technical Writer, having spent much of my career at places like Google and Facebook. In addition to writing novels, I also write short fiction online. When not reading or writing, I’m probably listening to U2, sailing my dad’s boat, or gardening with my family.
My debut novel, Between Two Fires, was recently published by Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan). It is the first in a series of historical fiction novels set in medieval Wales. The sequel, Dark Winds Rising is slated to come out this September.
Tell me about your latest book.
Between Two Fires
Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales’ last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King.
But this fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen herself becomes the target of assassinations and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan her world threatens to tear itself apart. Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.
Where do you get your information and ideas for your books?
Lots and lots of research and reading. I travel a lot too, but I find that my best inspiration comes from reading other fiction. I try to tackle about 3-4 books a week if possible.
Do you have a specific process when writing a book?
Mainly, I try to write at least 1,000 words a day, but I often give myself weekends off in order to let me brain rest. The key is to remember to have fun and really enjoy the writing. The more I enjoy what I’m writing, the faster I’ll write it and the better it will be.
Do you have a writing/reading quirk or ritual?
My wife is my secret weapon. I have her read each chapter as I write, and her feedback is invaluable. Once I’ve finished the book, then I show it to my trusted CPs for more feedback. After all, writing is often a process of rewriting.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself through the process of writing?
I’ve learned that I’m not always the one in control. What I mean is, that when inspiration strikes one way, I’ve learned to go with it, regardless of what I originally intended for a book. It may sound odd, but I sort of try a Buddhist approach whereby I try to get myself out of the way as much as possible and simply let the book write itself.
What do you think makes a good story?
The first line. It’s all there in the first line. If that works, the rest of the story will flow from there.
If you could only read one book over and over, which one would you pick and why?
Hmm, tough one. If I exclude “anthologies” like the bible and picked a single novel, I’d probably go with Lawrence Durrell’s Justine. His writing is just off-the-charts good, and I could read it over and over again.
What books are currently on your night stand?
A European Education (Romain Gary), Cairo in the War (Artemis Cooper), and Timeless (Crystal Collier).
How do you organize your books?
Autobiographically. Not by alphabet or genre or order of printing, but instead books are ordered based on when they first became important to me and part of my life. Only I can really navigate my bookshelf, because I go into my memories to identify when and where a book should be on my shelves.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Shakespeare, Lawrence Durrell, and Homer. Let’s open up a bottle of wine!
Thank you for joining me on Of Quills & Vellum today, Mark! It was a pleasure talking with you.
Find out more about Mark and his writing on his website.