Mark Charan Newton’s, best known as one of the editors at Solaris Books, is making waves waves these days, but from the other side of the industry this time. Reviews of his debut novel, Nights of Villjamur (REVIEW), have been popping up around the ‘net and all the early buzz is mighty fine. Hell, I loved it, too. From my review:
Nights of Villjamur is being bandied about by reviewers and publicists as a literary fantasy, delving into the underused Dying Earth sub-genre and written to appeal to those looking for something more from their fantasy. While this is certainly true, I was surprised at how much more there was to the novel from the perspective of a Terry Brooks fan. I was worried I would find a dense, overwritten piece of philosophical literature hidden under a fantasy verneer (think Terry Goodkind’s Naked Empire, but not piss-poor), but what I found instead was a tightly plotted novel that worked just as well as a fantasy novel as it did a piece of introspective literature. In short, it would behoove potential readers to drop preconceptions of ‘literary’ fantasy and give Nights of Villjamur a fair shot. With a more than competent debut, Newton seems smartly poised to tackle a wide swathe of readers with Nights of Villjamur, and his future as a writer is bright, indeed.
So, read on, and find out why Newton means as much to the industry as an author as he does as an editor, maybe even more.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. You’re an editor with Solaris Books and yet your novel is being published by Tor UK. What’s the story behind this?
Well, I made sure the two remained mutually exclusive. I was writing long before I came anywhere near the world of editorial. (In fact, I have more to do with the backroom mechanics these days, rather than editorial work specifically.) I signed with my agent, John Jarrold, when I was about 22, and it’s taken me this long to get a deal. As far as my writing was concerned, it didn’t matter who I worked for.
And it’s just not ethical if I submitted anything to Solaris – I mean, that’s like self-publishing, right? I wouldn’t want it. Hell, the guys at work would slap me silly if I wanted to add to their submissions pile. In all honesty, I was conscious of keeping things very, very separate – for my own sake. It just wouldn’t have felt worthwhile. It would be cheating. So even though I work where I do, I worked through the submission process like every other wannabe writer – and that included getting rejection letters…
22? That’s bloody young to be picking up an agent and most authors don’t seem to break in until much later in life. How did you manage to find an agent at such a young age, and what’s it like to work in an industry where, even at 28, you’re still considered a young buck?
Young?! I don’t feel it. Every time I go in a bar or club I look around and wonder how I became so old so quickly. I groan when I sit in chairs. And that’s 28 at the end of March, young man – as of writing this, I’m clinging on to those last days of 27!
I found an agent when I heard that John Jarrold was open for submissions, pretty early in his agency career. I simply sent him my work and got an email from him that same night saying he’d like to represent me – hugely exciting at the time, although it’s seemed like forever since then to getting published.
But actually, being relatively young is intimidating. The older you get, the more wisdom you acquire, but the younger you are the more you think you know. This becomes apparent to many of us. So I wonder what an older person might think when they pick up my book – would they say: “What’s this immature nonsense – he’s too young to know about life, let alone write about it!” Or something like that. I actually think it might count against me to some extent, or maybe that’s just my paranoia.
Working at Solaris and juggling a writing career can’t be easy. How do you squeeze the time in to write and what’s your typical day look like at the office.
Oh, well a little know fact is I also straddle over the Black Library imprint as well, so I juggle time between working on both. These days I tend to be less hands-on editorial, which is a big big difference – being so close to manuscripts all day and night took its toll. But, it’s an office job much like any other, albeit fun. I’m usually at home writing by 5.30 for a couple of hours – no more. And do that every night, so I have the routine. It’s easy once you get used to it.
Read More »