Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Mark Wheaton

Born in Texas, Mark Wheaton worked in a computer factory before getting his start as a writer for such movie magazines as Total Film, Fangoria, Shivers, SFX and several others. After leaving journalism, Wheaton worked as a writer for video games, comic books, and movies, including writing scripts for New Line, Sony, Universal, Miramax, HBO, A&E, Syfy, Legende, Disney Channel, and others while working with filmmakers such as Sam Raimi, Michael Bay, Steven Soderbergh, George Tillman, Gavin O'Connor, Janusz Kaminski, and Clark Johnson.

Wheaton's new novel is The Quake Cities.

My Q&A with the author:

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

Hopefully the whole thing? My hope is that when you read the title, The Quake Cities, you imagine multiple cities where earthquakes have become so prevalent they warrant such a collective description. I’m hoping it evokes high adventure in a sci-fi setting and draws anyone seeking such a story right in.

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

I hope not at all or, at least, that they'd enjoy it. Some of my favorite stories as a kid were the serializations of John Christopher’s post- apocalyptic series, The Tripods, with art from Frank Bolle that were in the old Boys Life magazine. It was very cliffhanger-driven with their heroes up against impossible odds trying to re-order society following a cataclysm (in Christopher’s case, an alien invasion). I’d hope I’d grow up to write the kinds of things I loved to read myself. I was also a nut for Anne McCaffrey’s Dinosaur Planet books at that age which I hope to emulate in some minor way here as well.

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

Hard question. Both change quite a bit to service the other, I find. I write draft after draft, yanking one side of a story up while lowering another. I’ll get to an ending I really find satisfying, as I feel I landed on with Quake Cities, and adjust everything before to fit. I like how Agatha Christie worked. She’d write a mystery with no idea who committed the crime. Finish the draft off once she determined the single least likely and most satisfying villain. Then go back and rewrite the thing to bolster that. But I’m not married to anything. I’ve ripped out the beginning of my current work-in-progress half a dozen times now while the ending has stayed relatively the same. The opposite held true for my previous sci-fi book, Emily Eternal.

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

I see parts of myself in the main character of Quake or, at least, would aspire to be like her. She’s an accidental hero unlike her rough and tumble comrade-in-arms, Este, but has a pretty straight-forward morality when it comes to the big picture. In our time of plagues and political upheaval, it feels downright revolutionary to say that if one person doesn’t matter then no one does. That people are not numbers. Are not statistics. And that this is something worth fighting for. Alice believes this and so do I.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Pre-COVID, a life spent in disaster areas has certainly influenced this book. I grew up in Houston, Texas where hurricanes arrive in the late summer like clockwork with increasing fury. Now that I’m in Los Angeles, earthquakes are common enough but it’s the annual wildfires that are far more disruptive to life now. Understanding that the wealthy and resourced don’t care as much about climate change because they won’t be as affected by the great migrations to come having seen that in action here in California as well as in Texas, certainly impacted the writing of Quake.
Visit Mark Wheaton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Emily Eternal.

The Page 69 Test: The Quake Cities.

--Marshal Zeringue