Q&A with Charles Markee, Award-winning Author
Please welcome Charles Markee to our Featured Q&A series at Writer’s Fun Zone. He is one of the Honorable Mentions to the 2016 Genre Novelist 1st Chapter Contest, I sponsored (Beth Barany) in conjunction with the 2016 San Mateo County Fair Literary Arts Stage. Charles’ story, “Otherworld Tales 3,” along with all the winners, is featured in the book, Carry The Light. I really enjoyed his tale!
If you’d like to be considered for an interview, check out our guidelines here.
ABOUT CHARLES MARKEE
After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Charles enjoyed a 41-year career as a technical manager in Silicon Valley, California. Retired, he began to write and became a volunteer coordinator and meeting moderator for the Sonoma County Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). He has published three middle-grade novels as well as short works in four literary anthologies and the Santa Rosa PressDemocrat newspaper. He was co-editor of the Redwood Writers 2012 anthology, Call of the Wild, and is a member of the Redwood Writers a branch of the California Writer’s Club (CWC).
On to our interview!
1. Tell us who you are and what inspires you to write in 100 words or less.
I’m a husband, father of nine, retired tech manager, outdoors person, Ping-Pong player, exercise junkie, and author of middle-grade children’s novels. When I discovered that boys don’t read and that derails their education, careers and lives, I set about writing a book that would entice them. That’s how the Otherworld Tales series began. Later, when my wife told me she lost her best friend to kidney disease at age twelve, I wrote Maria’s Beads, a story of a girl coming-of-age and using her power to save her friend. So, yes, I’m inspired to write about kids as our future.
2. How did you get to this place in your life? Share your story!
Facing retirement, I needed a new vocation. My first love, classical ballet, was out due to age and injury. Writing was a strength I had used to become a successful technical manager in Silicon Valley. Friends had encouraged me to do something with my writing skill. For practice, I wrote a 300-page autobiographical draft while on vacation on Molokai, Hawaii. It was terrible. So, I went back to school to learn how to write. Ten years later, I published my first novel for middle-grade readers, an action-adventure fantasy novel set in the mythology of ancient Celtic Ireland.
3. What are you most passionate about?
About age twelve, my dad set up my first small wood shop, where I built play versions of forts, airplanes, grocery stores and hospitals for all my neighborhood friends. I organized the games and our playtime. (I‘m sure that a portion of my brain is still 12-years-old). So, it’s no surprise that my passion is creating fantasy worlds that are filled with good, evil, magic, and mythology. But today it’s much more complex. And since all my novels are steeped in mythology, a fair amount of research went into each. It has added another dimension to my creation process. As an additional benefit, writing fantasy also provides me with an outlet for my idealism, which is not readily accepted in our cash and carry world.
4. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, routine, and/or rituals around your writing?
I have a large extended family that requires attention, so I squeeze in writing wherever and whenever I can, for example, walking the road, taking a shower, and staring at a blank page. Occasionally, it all comes together and I burst through a whole chapter in a day. Those are rare days. Most sessions begin by reading the previous chapter so I can enter the world I’ve created and engage with the characters. Some days my characters are stuck; they can’t figure out how to overcome the next obstacle. Then it’s time to abandon ship for a few days and catch up on maintaining my property or finishing an outdoor project.
5. What are a few challenges you faced in creating, marketing, or publishing your creative work? And your solutions to them.
Characteristic of unwritten, orally communicated history, Celtic mythology was a mess. It was disorganized, inconsistent, repetitive and disconnected from any kind of timeline. I spent many hours in frustrating research. Solution: I discovered Lady Augusta Gregory’s treatise Cuchulain of Muirthemne. Her work was a ray of light that saved me from chaos. In contrast, Mt. Shasta mythology and Kauai mythology were easily accessible.
Without the marketing channels of the traditional publishers, I find myself limited to local fairs, festivals and bookstores, and personal contacts. Even the little marketing I do, as the author, director of marketing and retail salesman, leaves less time for me to write. Solution: None yet.
Publishing is easy compared to research and marketing.
6. What do you wish you had known before you started writing fiction?
It would have been helpful to understand the marketing of children’s books. You must market to parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and bookstores as well as to the end user, a child reader.
Click to tweet: You must market to parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians+bookstores… @charlesmarkee
(You can edit the tweet before sending.)
7. What’s next for you in your creative work?
Several people have asked me to write a sequel to Maria’s Beads. I have some thoughts and a few paragraphs in that direction. I’ve also entertained the idea of a fourth Otherworld Tales book in the series. Basically, I’m going to keep reading and let the muse strike. In the meantime, I have some ideas for short stories.
Irish, Streak, and Frost began their Hawaiian vacation hiking the dangerous Kalalau Trail in the dark without a light. A Menehune saved them, but hinted at a prophecy and warned them that Abaddon, the most evil being in existence, was building his power. None of this concerned them until they went to bed in their rental beach house and woke the next morning in a grass hut on the beach in a Hawaiian Otherworld, 1,000 years in the past.