Author Mark J. Rose, was in the studio recently to share his writing journey for the Matt Miller series, Journeyman, The Prophet, and The Virginian released this May.
Mark J. Rose is a scientist, author, and screenwriter. He lives in an equestrian community in Simi Valley, California, with his wife, three kids, and two dogs. He holds a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry and is the director of research and development at a major biotech company. He has been fascinated for many years with exploring the intersection of man’s basic humanity with the challenges of a rapidly changing technological world. Working primarily in the science fiction and thriller genres, all his writing deals with some aspect of the interaction of technology, science, and society.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
My dogs. I have two standard poodles (cut like normal dogs). Standard poodles are ridiculously smart dogs. We run on the horse trails around my house. They gang up on me when they want to run and won’t leave me alone. Both dogs are getting up in years, so I’m very conscious of the time I have left with them. If they want to go running or for a long walk, then I drop my writing and go.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I went to visit Ben Franklin’s house in London. It’s a central setting of the third book in the Matt Miller in the Colonies series. It was humbling to walk up and down the same creaking steps that Ben Franklin walked on and to touch the same railings and doorknobs. I also visited the Black Hills of South Dakota a couple of times specifically to do research for my second screenplay, West Dakota. I’m planning a trip to Taipei, Taiwan, sometime this year. I have a friend who has wanted me to go anyway. I’ll be able to stake out one of the settings in the fourth Matt Miller book.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
The Matt Miller in the Colonies books are a chronological series, so they are connected. I try to make sure I put enough explanation in each to allow someone to pick up anyone and not be lost entirely.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Write with confidence! Trust that some people are going to want to read what you write. I still wouldn’t have believed it, though. Unfortunately, writing is like everything else; success begets success. It’s what economists call the Matthew Principle. Matthew 25:29: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him, that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,” or as my dad would have said, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” You think they would have edited that out of the New Testament. They should start calling it the Kardashian Principle.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
As the books became more successful, my confidence grew enough to make me feel comfortable with investing both time and money into writing. Good editors, book-cover people, and publicists are expensive. I created the covers for my first two books. They were horrible, but I thought they were brilliant at the time. They still pop up on the internet when you do a search
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
1. I was a student of World War II and communism starting in grade school. I read every book I could find. Media, imagery, and propaganda were essential in swaying some societies to tragic consequences. There should be more education, in the age of the internet, to help kids learn to distinguish news from propaganda.
2. Ronald Reagan was my childhood hero. He was the Great Communicator. The United States was in a horrible funk in the late 1970s, and Reagan’s message was for us to believe in ourselves. We all stood a little higher. He carried forty-nine states in the 1984 election.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
1. I started writing a “how-to” for young married couples back when my marriage and family life was a perfect picture. I’m glad that one never got published. I would have been the laughing stock of the world; it’s become evident that I don’t know a thing about making a marriage work.
2. I make museum-quality Tiffany lamp reproductions as a hobby. I started a technical book on stained-glass lamps that I gave up. Too boring!
3. I began another science fiction novel after I wrote Prophet, the second book in the Matt Miller series. This new novel is about genetically-modified humans who conduct a revolt against artificial intelligence. I set it down so I could focus on Matt Miller again. I want to know what happens to Matt before I start anything else.
What does literary success look like to you?
I currently make a good living as a scientist. I want to be able to say that I could quit my job and make the same living as a writer. Surprisingly, there are not many fiction writers who can say this. I wouldn’t quit my job as a scientist, though. I get too much inspiration from the brilliant people I work with.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good Ones?
I think everyone reads their reviews, right? Some can be soul-crushing, especially when they come early in a book release. My golfing buddies have had to talk me down after a few bad reviews. Now, I have enough good reviews to buffer the bad ones. I still get irritated when people leave one-star ratings and don’t give any specifics Really? The majority of people think it’s a five-star book and you think it deserves a one-star rating? At least give an explanation! I loathe Twitter for this reason. Some reviewers have scolded me for not hiring a professional actor for the audiobook because they liked the story and wanted it performed by professionals. They probably have a good point.
What did you edit out of this book?
My first book was originally twice as long. I was trying to pour my heart out through the man character and deal with some personal demons from my childhood. You write your pain. It was all nonsense. There was some therapeutic benefit in expressing all the angst, but it was making my main character weak and whiney. That’s not who a hero should be. We can all look back and find suffering in our early lives. Move on! I deleted all the personal-demon nonsense.
Hear our recent interview with host C. Stene Duckworth and Mark J. Rose
You can connect with Mark J. Rose at his website.