Harry Marks, author of The Prophet (now available)
"Max Barker’s trailer started to cook. Even at eight in the morning, the July sun had turned his little metal capsule into an oven. Not that he’d noticed. The bottle of scotch next to him had been full the night before and sunlight unraveled through the glass, casting drunken rainbows at his feet. Two inches of amber liquid idled at the bottom.
A knock at the door startled him out of his sleep and the Donald Westlake paperback in his lap tumbled into a squishy, dark patch of carpet next to an overturned tumbler. He grunted as he propelled himself out of his barcalounger. The knocking continued, the sound bouncing around the trailer’s walls with nowhere to go but Max’s reddened, hungover ears."
-Excerpt from The Prophet
What is your least favorite part of the writing process? Your favorite?
I love the drafting stage. I know a lot of writers prefer editing to drafting, but I think I prefer the latter because I enjoy the feeling of finishing the thing. Spending all those months working on it, coming up with characters and a whole world, and then writing “The End” is intensely satisfying.
The part I like the least is editing. I understand it’s necessary and that’s where “the real writing” happens, but ripping a thing apart and putting it back together is a slog for me. It’s not nearly as exciting as charting new territory.
In your eyes, what does it mean to be “successful?”
Success means different things to different people. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel truly successful. I thought I’d be happy after having some short stories and flash pieces published, but that didn’t do it for me. I still haven’t been able to secure a literary agent. Even having people buy and enjoy The Prophet doesn’t seem to satiate this need inside me. There’s always another mountain to climb. Maybe I’m broken.
Success is like getting a raise—it’s never enough, and when you feel like it should be, it’s still not enough. Which leads me to the next question...
Do you ever experience doubt or “impostor syndrome?” How do you cope with it?
Cope? What’s that? Everything I do is drenched in impostor syndrome. When someone compliments my writing or my podcast, I thank them and wonder what the hell is wrong with them. And it seems to get worse with each book I write. Every manuscript brings more rejection, which fuels my self-doubt and makes me think I’m wasting my time pursuing a traditional writing career.
It’s been 10 years and I’m still at it, so I’m either too stubborn to quit or a glutton for punishment.
Are there any authors who intimidate you? Any books?
Eric Shonkwiler and Beth Gilstrap come to mind immediately. These are authors who have honed their skills to a razor-tipped point. They are infuriatingly good at what they do and I will read anything they publish because I know it will be amazing.
Eric’s Above All Men and Beth’s I Am Barbarella have still stuck with me years after reading them.
I’d also add Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch to the list for their scope and emotional depth.
Do you write to music?
This is kind of a curse for me. I’ve been a musician for most of my life and yet I cannot listen to most music when I write. It’s too distracting. I don’t make playlists for my books either. The only thing I’ll put on is the BGM (Background Music) Channel on YouTube and listen to nondescript bossa nova. The songs aren’t recognizable jazz standards, so I can leave it on and write without trying to figure out what it is I’m listening to.