Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Mark de Jager

Mark de Jager isn’t sure if his love of writing led to his love of gaming or vice versa, but his earliest memories involve both. He now spends his time trying to find a balance between these and working a full time job in banking, a process made slightly easier by his coffee addiction. An ex-MP in the South African army, de Jager now lives in Kent with his wife Liz (herself a published author) and their lazy dog in a house that is equal parts library and home.

His novel Infernal has just made its US debut.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Settling on the title took a bit of work!

My original working title was Beast, but that doesn’t carry as much weight, whereas Infernal alludes to the main character’s belief that he is demonic in origin, which drives his perceptions for much of the story.

The tagline ‘The Chronicles of Stratus’ underlines that this is his story, and ties in with it being written in a first person perspective.

What's in a name?

Stratus, my main character’s name, was the first thing that came to me and didn’t change from that very first draft. It’s a strong name, but it’ll make more sense when you get to book two (which is out in May 2021).

I was conscious that the names for the people he interacts with and places he goes would add a lot of flavour to the setting and themes, in the same way that names change as you travel across borders, or sometimes even within the same state.

For example, names in the kingdom of Krandin have softer consonants than those in the opposing empire of Penullin, which tend to be shorter and ‘choppier’ and help to colour them as more aggressive.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage self was equally geeky so probably not so much! I put of lot of the stuff I love into Infernal so I’d like to think he’d be cheering as he turned the pages.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings, on both counts.

I knew the ending when I started, but the beginning changed several times. I know I’m guilty of scanning the first page of a book when I go browsing, and always have it in mind that first impressions count. It’s hard to strike the balance between too much and too little.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

That’s a dangerous question given what Stratus gets up to! There is however something about his loyalty and thirst for revenge that sits very well with me, the constant homicidal rage notwithstanding.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I’m an avid gamer, and played home-brew D&D with almost religious zeal throughout high school (to my mother’s enduring horror) and still play today, although on a much reduced basis. I enjoyed writing the background for our games, which is where all this started.

Movies helped too, and I remember that the original Wrath of the Titans and Highlander each blew my mind in different way. They made it feel like it was okay to like fantasy and that thinking about things like that wasn’t a waste of time.
Follow Mark de Jager on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Infernal.

--Marshal Zeringue