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Archive for October, 2015

Please give a big welcome to MARK DAVID GERSON.

 

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rem: Thank you, Mark David for being on my blog this week.

Tell us three things about yourself.

MARK DAVID:

  • I have set foot in 48 of the 50 U.S. states and eight of the 10 Canadian provinces. (I have also lived in four U.S. states and three Canadian provinces.)
  • I can’t whistle.
  • I have no formal training or credential for anything I have ever done professionally, including writing. (I have a business degree.)

 

rem: Sometimes the best credential and pedigree is from the University of Life. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

MARK DAVID: For someone who spent all but the first three months of his first 21 years living in the same house, I’ve sure made up for it! I grew up in Montreal, but have since lived in Toronto, on the shores of Lake Huron, in three different towns in Nova Scotia, in three distinct communities on two Hawaiian islands, in Northern Arizona, briefly in Southern California and, now, in New Mexico. Mingled among those moves were three open-ended road odysseys that carried me across the U.S. multiple times: The briefest journey lasted eight weeks; the longest, 30 months.

 

rem: That’s a lot of landmarks. Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read?

MARK DAVID: I’m reluctant to list particular authors as I have so many favorites and I’ll just get myself in trouble by forgetting some. My absolute favorite, of course, is whatever I happen to be reading when someone asks me the question! Right now, I’m on a Nero Wolfe binge, reading for the first time all 72 novels and short stories featuring Rex Stout’s corpulent detective.

As for genres, my indefinably eclectic taste over the years has ranged from literary fiction to fantasy, mysteries and thrillers and from biography and memoir to books about film, theater, architecture, design, photography, creativity and spirituality.

 

rem: I’m hard pressed to name a single favorite author, also. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?

MARK DAVID: Although I haven’t reread them in a long time, C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books would probably take the prize.

 

rem: Good choice. What was / were your favorite book(s) as a child?

MARK DAVID: I don’t remember a whole lot from my childhood, including what I read. But given that I have returned to them off and on over the years, I’d guess that it was the Narnia books.

 

rem: If you could chose to be a character in a book, who would it be and why?

MARK DAVID: Today, I would choose to be Bernie in my new novel, Sara’s Year. Not surprisingly, I identify with his journey. Also, I envy his happy ending! If we’re talking about someone else’s book, I might choose to be Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, for his humility and great wisdom.

 

rem: I did wonder if there was some connection between you and he. What is your most treasured possession?

MARK DAVID: Having rid myself of nearly all my possessions seven times over the past two decades, I have learned to be very detached when it comes to “things.” There is much in my life that I’m grateful for and much that I treasure; none of it in this moment takes the form of an inanimate object.

 

rem: I understand that “less is more” is actually rather healthy. Perhaps I’ll get there someday! LOL What is your greatest fear? Your greatest regret?

MARK DAVID: My greatest fear is one that dates back to my childhood, although I’m grateful to say that it has been largely tempered over the years. It’s a fear of being harshly and unfairly judged, which is probably why helping others to deal with judgment and criticism in their lives and in their creative work plays such an important role in both my coaching work and my books for writers. Come to think of it, it’s also a minor theme in all my fiction; it shows up both in my Q’ntana Trilogy books and in Sara’s Year.

 

rem: That, sir, we have in common, although mine has been tempered as well by being accepted for who I am and learning to love myself. What is your favorite quotation and why?

MARK DAVID: As with all other “favorites” questions, this one is hard for me to answer. There are so many that touch me from so many inspiring people. If I can’t bring myself to choose an all-time favorite, I will offer up one that was meaningful enough for me to include as one of the two Sara’s Year epigraphs. It’s from Canadian author Robertson Davies: “To ask an author who hopes to be a serious writer if his work is autobiographical is like asking a spider where he buys his thread. The spider gets his thread right out of his own guts, and that is where the author gets his writing.” Like Davies, I write from a deep inner place, and every situation and every character in each of my books is, in some way, a reflection of me.

 

rem: That’s deep, pun intended, and I agree. What do you most value in a friend? What quality do you most admire in a man or woman?

MARK DAVID: Compassion. Honesty. Spiritual openness. Optimism. Sense of humor — about themselves and the world.

 

rem: What do you do as a hobby?

MARK DAVID: I don’t really have a hobby, but I do have other creative pursuits apart from writing. I’m an avid photographer and an occasional sketcher. You can view some of my photography and artwork at www.mark-david-gerson.artistwebsites.com as well as on Instagram (markdavidgerson).

 

rem: Great photos, I’ve seen a few. What would you do if you weren’t writing?

MARK DAVID: I’m not sure I could be not-writing! However, if my time and energy were not filled with book-birthing, I would probably spend more time traveling and on my other creative pursuits.
rem: How can a writer not write, right? Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?

MARK DAVID: If forced to choose, I would choose dogs. I love cats, too, but I’m more of a dog person.

 

rem: What is your Writing Routine? Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

MARK DAVID: I don’t do well with routine, whether it’s in my writing life or in any other aspect of my life. Rather, I do my best to respond in the moment to the demands of whichever creative project I’m working on. For example, the initial two drafts of my first book, The MoonQuest, wanted to be written first thing in the morning in total solitude in rural Nova Scotia…longhand. However, I wrote most of Sara’s Year largely in afternoons, often surrounded by the anonymous buzz of a cafe…mercifully, on my laptop. While time of day doesn’t often change from one draft of a project to the next, where I write and the kind of music I listen to sometimes does.

 

rem: Tell us a little about your writing journey.

MARK DAVID: I write about this in detail in Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir, but the short version is that “writer” would have been at the bottom of my career-choice list when I was growing up. I hated writing, I hated English class and I was convinced that I wasn’t creative. My Muse, however, had other plans for me, plans that were so subtle and devious that by the time I realized what was going on, it was too late to turn back. I was already a writer!

 

rem: My Muse, thankfully, didn’t leave me alone either. I’ve always loved words and etymology, but spent decades trying to fit in someone else’s idea of what my life should look like. Oy vey!

What makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?

MARK DAVID: After 12 books, three screenplays and various other works-in-progress, I’m grateful to say that I rarely struggle with the fine details craft anymore. I know I can write and I know that I write reasonably well. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own version of the full range of writerly insecurities. While I was writing Sara’s Year, for example, I knew I had a great story. What I couldn’t be certain of was whether I had the creative chops to do it justice on the page. From early feedback and reviews, I’m relieved to learn that, apparently, I do! Still, it’s always challenging to pour your soul onto the page and then, to mix metaphors, run down Main Street at midday, fully naked.

How do I handle it? But forging ahead. There’s a quote in The MoonQuest that really speaks to that for me: “Feel your fear. Then pass through it to the other side, where your destiny awaits.”

 

rem: Great quote. And you write more than “reasonably well.” Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?

MARK DAVID: Bits of both and bits of neither. I enjoy discovering the story. As you and I have discussed in the past, I never know what my books will be about when I start out. I never plot, and I never outline. I let the story reveal itself to me through the first and, sometimes, subsequent drafts. I like to compare the creative process to a road trip to an unknown destination, where the story is the driver and I’m the passenger.

Finding the words that do the story justice: That’s what can hang me up, and that’s where I sometimes feel frustrated and inadequate, which is why another of the issues I deal with in my books for writers is the futile quest for perfection. “Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it,” Salvador Dali said, and it’s a quote that applies just as much to the revision process.

What I like about revision is taking the rough raw material of the story and shaping it into something polished and refined. What I like less is the detailed fine-tuning that is so necessary but can feel so tedious.

 

rem: Ah! Another quote! Perfection is a cruel task master, for that very reason. What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

MARK DAVID: Touching others with the murmurings of my heart.

 

rem: Indeed. What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?

MARK DAVID: Hardest: All the tedious, picky details involved in the process. Easiest: Ripping open the envelope that holds the first copy of a new book.

 

rem: Easiest and most jubilant! No feeling like it! Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?

MARK DAVID: I don’t go looking for ideas. They come looking for me. The MoonQuest, for example, “happened” to me during a writing workshop I was leading. When I felt called to do the same exercise I had just given participants, what I wrote turned into the first scene of the first draft of a novel I knew nothing about. That novel became The MoonQuest.

 

mark david gerson - qntana series

 

Even The MoonQuest’s two sequels, The StarQuest and The SunQuest, weren’t so much ideas I had as stories that formed through the telling of them. Interestingly, that kind of intuitive storytelling is key to the plots of all three Q’ntana books.

As for my second book, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, I was writing it before I even knew I was working on a book. The Voice of the Muse began as a series of morning pages-like writings that I thought were only for me. As it turned out, they weren’t!

With Sara’s Year, I had a vague idea for a story based loosely on my mother’s life. But when I began to write, what emerged (and continued to emerge) was altogether different from anything I had imagined.

 

rem: I like that, they come looking for you. Glad you’re receptive when they do. Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?

MARK DAVID: Until Sara’s Year, it would have been The MoonQuest, which was my first novel and my first book. It also represented a huge creative breakthrough for me after so many years of resistance and blockage. Now, although it comes in close second, The MoonQuest has been nudged out of first place by Sara’s Year. Why? Perhaps it has only just been released. Perhaps, too, because it represents another creative breakthrough: It’s the most complex story I have ever written. It’s also the most personal.

 

rem: Tell us a little about your latest book. What is your current project?

MARK DAVID: Sara’s Year emerged from a series of health crises early last year, when I felt compelled to ask myself what I wanted to be certain to do if I were going to die sooner rather than later. To my surprise, the answer that emerged from a very deep place was “write another novel.”

Sara’s Year takes place mostly in my hometown of Montreal between the 1930s and 1980s, with some key scenes in postwar Halifax, and it tells a story of dreams abandoned and reclaimed. Esther and Sarah share a single passion: to be the best they can be – on an epic scale. But “real” life takes over for the two young women, pushing those dreams aside. Fifty years later when death takes one of them, her son and her oldest friend must each decide whether Esther’s abandoned dreams will defeat them or spur them on to triumphs of their own.

 

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rem: And it’s a powerful story. What is one take-away from your book(s) that you hope readers identify with?

MARK DAVID: “It’s never too late to follow your dreams.” That’s the tagline for Sara’s Year, but it’s a theme that shows up in some form in many of my books. The other takeaway, this one from all my books, is how important, and healing, it is to tell our stories.

 

rem: You have been called the “Birthing Your Book Guru.” With titles like Birthing Your Book and The Voice of the Muse, you have addressed much of the angst and complications of the writing process. Any nuggets you’d care to share today?

MARK DAVID: I’ve touched on this indirectly in some of my earlier answers, but the top piece of advice I would offer would be to trust your characters (if you’re writing fiction), to trust your story (whatever the form) and to trust your creative process…which is a great segue to your next question…

 

rem: I can attest to that! Started college at the age of 50 (not writing, incidentally) and published my first novel at the age of 55! I can relate to Sara’s sense of accomplishment. What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer? What 3 things would recommend not doing?

MARK DAVID: My top three recommendations come from a chapter in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write titled “Trust. Let Go. Leap.” Trust past your conscious imagination, which has its own limits, and trust those unconscious creative sources that guide and inspire you. Let go all expectations and preconceptions, including those related to form, structure, plot and outcome. Leap onto the blank page or screen in total trust in your creative process and in unconditional surrender to the greater wisdom of your story. Your story knows best. Always.

mark david gerson - book images -

 

mark david gerson - book images -

 

 

 

 

 

 

rem: Oh, those are good, I need to write those down…

Multi-talented and faceted, you are also a photographer. How does that fit in with your writing?

MARK DAVID: Photography is another way for me of interpreting how I experience the world, using images instead of words. It also offers me the gift of near-instant gratification, something that writing never does. With a photo, the entire process from shooting, through editing and to finished product can be measured in minutes, not years!

rem: I’ve seen several of your photos and they are lovely. One final queston, Coffee or tea? Sweet or un? Flavored or not?

MARK DAVID: More coffee than tea these days, though I started out as a tea drinker. Tea is Twining’s Irish Breakfast, with just a dash of milk. Coffee is generally an eccentrically customized Americano. No flavors. No sweetener. (I generally avoid most of Starbucks concoctions as I find them too sweet.)

 

rem: What are we, twins?? I drink Irish Breakfast tea, Twinings, and prefer both my coffee and tea unsweet. Where can we find you online?

MARK DAVID:

www.markdavidgerson.com

www.facebook.com/markdavidgerson + www.facebook.com/markdavidgerson.page

www.youtube.com/markdavidgerson

www.pinterest.com/markdavidgerson

www.twitter.com/markdavidgerson

www.amazon.com/author/markdavidgerson

(Are you noticing a pattern here? LOL. My user name is markdavidgerson pretty much every online.)

 

rem: Indeed, and as it should be! Thanks for joining us today, Mark David. It’s been a pleasure having on my blog!

 

#markdavidgerson, #authorinterview, #sarahsyear, #moonquest, #starquest, #sunquest, #thevoiceofthemuse, #actsofsurrender

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When your life derails and your plans crash and burn before your eyes, what is there to do? You put one foot in front of the other and wake up every day with the life you’ve got, the life you’ve been given. And those dreams you used to dream, those plans you made so long ago? Are they dead and buried, or do they lie dormant, awaiting the clarion call, “It’s time. Now is the time.”

 

Synchronicity plays a significant role in Sara’s story. Threads from various sources and different times weave together to weave make this tapestry-story.

syn·chro·nic·i·ty ˌsiNGkrəˈnisədē/ noun

  1. the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.

 

Sara has known Bernie since the day he was born; she and his mother were life-long best friends. As Bernie walks away from his mother’s funeral, he leaves behind not only the Jewish shiva but unknowingly walks into a new life. Memories – Sara’s – mingle with reminiscences of Esther as both Bernie and Sara talk out their grief, and regret.

Esther speaks from the grave, it seems, urging them both to seek out their dreams, to breathe life into them, and to follow their hearts.

Does Bernie embrace the revelations Sara shares with him? Can he accept the self-discoveries he makes in his grief-borne wandering?

Will Sara pick up her pen, and be who she always wanted to be?

 

While the bulk of the story takes place over only a few days, the memories shared take the reader back fifty years, to the then-young and aspiring Esther and Sarah. What, then, is the year that is Sara’s Year? What makes the year so significant and life changing? Which begs the question, what synchronicities in my life have made a year or a day or a week significant and life changing? I should be an old Jewish woman? I should have a Bernie or an Esther stirring my dreams? The ultimate question is, have I picked heeded the clarion call in my own life? Have I owned the dream placed within me from the beginning of time? Why yes, yes I have. Because it truly is never too late to follow my dreams, wherever they may take me.

 

Mr. Gerson had created a vivid story world in which this reader readily entered. Relatable characters gave depth and dimension to Sara’s Year, making it a favorite read of this reviewer.

 

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#markdavidgerson, #sarasyear, #nevertoolate, #followyourdreams, #synchronicity

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