Interview with Mark Anthony

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Last Rune series?

A: There really wasn’t a moment when a little light bulb popped into being over my head and I thought, “Aha, that’s what I’ll write about!” Instead, the first bits and pieces of what would eventually become THE LAST RUNE were odd little things I scribbled in the margins of class notes while I was in college. Then, over the next six or seven years, as ideas occurred to me,I’d jot them down.

Eventually I had enough to start writing, but even so I made a number fitful starts. It wasn’t until 1995 that I really began to write the first book in earnest, and even after that it was often put away for half a year at a time.

So the series really grew more organically. A lot of ideas got lost or were discarded along the way. But some of those very first fragments I wrote actually made it into the published first book. My only guiding idea was that I enjoyed reading epic fantasies, and I wanted to write one myself.

Q: Can you give us a sneak preview into the next novel, The Dark Remains?

A: I’m very excited about this one…I think I’m learning more as a writer with each book of this series. THE DARK REMAINS isn’t quite so dark and intense as THE KEEP OF FIRE. Don’t get me wrong–there are still scary moments–but I was working more toward a sense of mystery. In addition, this time more of the story takes place on Earth, as well as the otherworld of Eldh.

On Earth, while the knight Beltan lies in a coma in Denver Memorial Hospital, Travis Wilder and Grace Beckett must try to avoid the gathering forces of Duratek–the sinister corporation that seeks to exploit the otherworld Eldh. As Duratek closes in, Travis and Grace must choose whether to ask the Seekers for help. Meanwhile, on Eldh, the gods of Tarras are being murdered by an unknown evil, and it’s up to Aryn, Lirith, and Durge–along with the immortals Melia and Falken–to try to solve themystery.

Of course, in the end, all the characters come together, but to tell you how would spoil the surprise!

Q: What do you see as the main themes of this series?

A: I think there are a lot of themes I’ve been exploring–the power of friendship, the nature of evil–but I think the overriding theme you’ll see through each of the books is the idea of making choices among differing possibilities.

Everyday in our lives we’re forced to make so many choices, some great, but most small. I’m interested in where all those choices lead us–and how they can take us places when we don’t even know it’s happening. I think, in the end, THE LAST RUNE is about choosing whether to be good or evil. It’s a choice all of us have to make. And if we don’t actively make it, often the choice is made for us.

Q: What types of obstacles have you overcome to get where you are today?

A: That could be a novel in itself–although not one that would be much fun to read! :)

Writing is a struggle on so many levels. There’s the personal challenge, for one: finding the time and energy to actually sit down and write, then struggling with the words, trying to get that vision in my head onto the page, and finding that once I set it down in words it’s so much less perfect than I imagined.

Then there’s the business of writing itself: there’s no magic to getting published, it just takes a lot of work and perseverance. My work has been rejected, then published, then rejected again. But no matter what happened, I knew I couldn’t give up.

In all, it took me over ten years of writing to get to the publication of BEYOND THE PALE–and I know I still have many challenges ahead. But as difficult as writing can be, I love it, and I know I’ll never stop.

Q: What drove you to write fantasy fiction in the first place?

A: I think I gravitated toward fantasy simply because I loved to read it so much growing up. And I owe that to a pair of older sisters who loved reading science fiction and fantasy, and who pushed all sorts of great books–books by Tolkien, McCaffrey, LeGuin–into my hands.

But it’s more than just that–I’m very interested in how myths and archetypes provide mirrors to our mundane, everyday lives. I think there’s a lot in myth that we can learn from, and fantasy provides a wonderful means for exploring those ideas.

Q: What’s your plans for the future, more books in the same series or do you have something completely different in mind?

A: Well, the good news is that I’ve just signed with Bantam to do three more books in THE LAST RUNE series. That will bring the total number of books to six, with the sixth volume being the last, and bringing it to (I hope!) a satisfying conclusion.

That should keep me busy for a few more years. And beyond that? Who knows! I have so many ideas for things I’d like to write, but I won’t know which I’ll focus on until it comes time to sit down and pick one.

I have another idea for a fantasy series, an idea for a series of novels about modern day wizards, and several ideas that probably fall more under the mainstream “thriller” category than they do fantasy. One thing I’m certain is that mythic themes will figure prominently in whatever I write.

Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?

A: It’s definitely made it interesting! The Internet is all about instant, immediate communication. Rather than being distant, shadowy figures, writers are now people with websites and email addresses.

Because the Internet tends towards chaos and casualness, people seem to think nothing about stepping right up, saying hello, and telling me to write faster. Or they cheerfully let me know they hate the series and proceed to list the thirty-seven reasons why.

Sometimes the forwardness with which people address me can make me blink in surprise when I open my email. But I wouldn’t trade the electronic contact with my readers for anything. Writing is a participatory art–a book isn’t really complete until it’s been read by someone. One of the themes I’ve explored in THE LAST RUNE is the idea of the power of circles. So having a chance to hear from those who read my books really gives me a sense of completion, of bringing things full circle indeed.

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