Author: Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

The Need For Distraction: Sports

File under ‘stuff they don’t teach you about writing when you signed up’.

I’ve gone through a few ups and downs of being published, getting translation deals, or not, good press reviews, stinking Amazon reviews, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the more you think about writing and the Internet the less good it is for a stable state of mind. But it isn’t easy – the Internet and modern publishing seems to shape you into acting in a certain way. It makes writers competitive with each other (even if most of us won’t admit it) which is futile since we’re all actually on the same side. You can see the jealousy bubbling away if you know where to look. You also start to equate online activity with being proportionate to good sales, but it doesn’t really work like that in 2012 when everyone is clamouring for attention. And if you go down the route of seeking attention all the time, it can really impact upon what you’re here for in the first place: to write. (As an aside, Sam Sykes made a different point about the silence of being a writer, which isn’t directly related to this, but it’s also a good read.)

Anyway, for a while the whole thing was causing a bit of mental anguish. Concentrating on the correct parts of the writing process was replaced by focussing on the peripherals. I wanted to change that, and tried a few things.

But one of the biggest things that really has helped me out is sports. When I was younger, I used to be into plenty of sports, but in my 20s I pretty much got jaded with the British sports industry and drifted away. But, over the past few months I’ve utterly thrown myself – and I mean ridiculously so – into following a certain sport: American Football. I sort of followed it when I was younger, but not really – because being British, for years we got rubbish coverage. You’d find out about results way too late. Games were on at ridiculous hours. But it’s not the same anymore – there is so much more for international fans.

I won’t bore you with details, but having distractions, becoming emotionally invested in a team, statistics, tactics, the drama and so on, has remarkable impacts on my state of mind for writing. Over the months, it’s helped create conditions in which I can really concentrate on writing again and not all the external worries. Emotional ups and downs are invested in something else entirely, which means that the writing ups and downs seem less important. When I sit down to write now, I’m not concerned about what so-and-so said about this or that, or how my online sales rank is doing.

Buddhists among us would point out that thinking of others really is the path to peace, so thinking about sports teams is a no-brainer. I guess ultimately it’s all about not taking your writerly self as seriously as you think you should. So long as I’m writing books, that’s fine with me – that’s the serious stuff. The rest is all a game.


Drakenfeld Updates

For those wondering, the edits have pretty much been finished and handed back to my editor – who likes the changes (always useful). There may well be one or two very minor things to massage out, but the bulk of it has been worked on and we move on to the copyedit, which is marginally less humbling.


1. It’s definitely going to be called Drakenfeld.

2. We have a blurb – I’m not sure when we’re going to release it. It’s probably the sort of thing we’ll sit on until the right time, but then Amazon auto-updates and it gets out there anyway.

3. I’ve discovered Drakenfeld shares the name with some sort of ceramic glaze.

4. With distance (and you need distance to really assess these things) this is the book I’m most proud of – and that’s a personal perspective, of course. Other people might think it’s not as good as one of the Red Sun books, but I hope I’m now writing with much more subtlety and consideration. Each novel is a failure of some kind, but I like to think I failed less with Drakenfeld.

5. Still awaiting the cover art. Word on the street is that it’s going to be quite different to the previous series. Not a hooded figure in sight, you’ll be pleased to know. I think there’s going to be some sort of reference to the classical world – probably more inspiration than it being a fresco, but I’m looking forward to seeing the new direction.

6. There will be ARCs.


Book Staircase

Now this is a pretty good way of using space. The only thing is, you’d hardly ever make it to the top of the stairs, since you’d get distracted every couple of steps. (Via.)


On the Tor UK Blog

I’ve written a piece for the Tor UK blog on having my first two books receive new covers, and on being able to revisit Nights of Villjamur to make certain changes to the text:

Who doesn’t like getting a new coat? All right, I know that some of you will love to fester in the trendy / dodgy peacoat you bought over a decade ago, but fashions change whether you like it or not. (Admit it – you’re getting older and you don’t like the change so much.) Anyway, the world of publishing does have to change. What appealed five years ago to the average punter stepping into a bookstore on a wet Wednesday probably won’t work today. Sometimes, you need to freshen up book covers to appeal to new readers.

Read the rest.


Invisible Cities Panel

I was at Foyles in London on Saturday night for a panel called Invisible Cities. It was a discussion on cities and the fantastic, with Tom Pollock and Kate Griffin (with Tom Hunter as moderator), and which was hosted by The Kitschies and Kraken Rum.

I haven’t enjoyed a panel discussion so much in ages. Tom and Kat were on superb form, and we had some proper debate going on, whilst being thoroughly grounded in genre sensibilities. We covered all sorts of subjects about how we each approach writing cities, our relationship with urban spaces, cities as inspiration, what cities can represent, how they’re great at presenting a wide cast of potential characters, tensions, plots and so on. As you can see – a pretty wide-ranging talk. My slant was, pretty much, trying to prove that cities didn’t really exist on one level (I’m not sure whether or not I got away with it) as well as championing the non-city. And right at the start, Tom Hunter very kindly revealed my dislike of London to the audience made up largely of Londoners, but I think I smoothed that over…

There were some really interesting questions that the audience brought up, one of which I never felt got answered properly, so I’m highlighting it here. One man asked about working class characters in fantasy fiction, and why they were notably absent. What I think he was actually getting at was – and this is probably with regards to real world cities – why there is little interest in genuine social realism. To a large extent, I do agree with him – there is a particular M. John Harrison-esque kitchen-sink grunge fantasy that doesn’t really get done all that much these days, especially one that engages with social issues. I didn’t really have a satisfactory answer to that. Perhaps it’s a niche within a niche, or perhaps class is very different these days in Britain. Maybe it’s done in short fiction? Anyway, my lack of a satisfactory answer niggled me.

Other than that, great to see new faces, as well as more familiar ones – and lovely to have a panel like this outside of a convention. Thanks to all who came.