Interview with Mark Underwood
Welcome back to another blog entry. Today, I’d like to introduce Mark Underwood, author of the excellent ‘The Lives of Nobody Important’.
Here’s the blurb:
I can’t die, at least, not in the traditional sense. Every time I’m killed, I wake up with a new body, in the same place. Over and over and over again. How did I discover this? I was forced to kill myself by the evil bastard who I used to call my boss. He knew the struggles I was facing, and he exploited them. But he didn’t know I would be coming back. This is my story. This is my revenge. This will not end well.
I’m sure you’ll agree the book sounds superb. And to whet your appetites even more, here’s a small excerpt:
I fucked up. It was a stupid plan, stealing those drugs. Like it would make a goddamn difference anyway, they were too big, too powerful. Who was I? Just one man, one man against a Company that could crush me in a heartbeat.
So here I found myself, pacing down a narrow, cobbled street. Every groove and mislaid cobble reaching through my trainers and caressing the soles of my feet. French Lane, hidden behind Saint Helier’s central market, a shadow lifeline for the beating heart of commercial materialism.
By day, it’s a bustling cut-through leading to a treasure-trove of shops, restaurants and bars. Not tonight though.
By night, it becomes dark, quiet and foreboding. Barring the occasional kid making his way to McDonalds, there wouldn’t be much foot traffic. Maybe a couple pissheads, getting in their last supper, with me, their own personal Jesus.
I could feel the cobbles underneath my feet, every step an uneasy stumble towards the safety of my home. But home was so very far away, and I was sure that somebody was following me. Ever since the first time, I had developed a kind of ‘sixth sense’ about this sort of thing.
The streetlights flickered, a warning of the demons that were approaching. A snap, crackle, pop. Glass exploded and pieces fell to the floor, their impacts a symphony of despair. They must have caught up with me.
A gloved hand clutched a butcher’s knife, cold, hard steel. Must have been nine inches from base to tip.
Rust and dried blood. Signs of previous malice. A dark presence, stalking down the alley, remaining unseen. Waiting for the right moment, the perfect time to strike, to take my life.
That time was now. It’s a strange feeling, a cold, sleek sensation, almost distracting from the pain, shooting from my waist straight up my spine. A taste of dirty steel, an unwanted flavour in my throat making me wretch and gag a little, and then the warm, thick blood started flowing and the cold was gone.
How many victims had fallen at this blade? He had been sent for me, that much was clear. He must have been a professional. Nobody should have been able to get the drop on me that easily. Then again, I had been getting a bit sloppy recently. I’d been watched, ever since this whole sordid affair started. Surely it was just the black ones following me, it couldn’t be the Company as well, could it? Do professionals re-use their tools?
The blade twists, jerks, thrusts deeper, cuts through sinew, muscle, and blood vessels. My back exploded in agony, as the blade severed the nerves. The blade continued, scraping back and forth against my spine, its motion carving a notch that would be with me forever. One more triumph.
The metallic taste intensifies, creeping up my throat. Some more gagging, some more wretching, but I have to keep breathing. Just get a look at his face. Just one look.
Why is he taking so long? Is he enjoying this?
As soon as the thought enters my head, he pulls the knife from my back. It rips out a chunk of flesh, a gaping hole left behind in it’s place. An emergency exit: the escape route for my life. My blood flows out of the wound, a torrent of crimson, my own personal red-carpet.
My life appears to be slipping away. My consciousness evaporates and for one, slim second, my cold, lifeless corpse is lying on the ground in front of me. Finally, I’m free.
It’ll have to wait until morning before someone stumbles past on their way to work and discovers my body. Hoped it would be some evil bastard who’d been treating his wife badly, maybe a child abuser. A dead body would sort ‘em right out.
Chances are though, it would just be some fresh-faced kid, out to earn a living, out to change the world. Not much to be done about that really. I should probably feel sorry for the poor bugger, it’s not right for good people to find a murder victim first thing in the morning. Or any time of day, for that matter.
Their boss, assuming he isn’t a complete bastard, will probably give ‘em the day off, maybe some counselling. The police will be interested, what time they found the body, why didn’t they call straight away. Probably take ‘em into custody for a while, for questioning. Find a murder victim, you’re the first suspect. “Whoever smelled it dealt it.”
This whole street would be shut down, taped off, a crime scene. The shops, pubs, bars, they’d all make a loss today, a lack of customers will do that to you. And people will think twice before using shortcuts at night. Collective fear.
Like one murder will make it more likely that you’ll get murdered. Your time is your time. Stop fucking worrying about it.
Forensics will be swarming before the sun has fully risen, trying to glean some kind of clue as to what happened to me, another John Doe. It’s all just pissing in the wind – they have no idea whats going on and I don’t half doubt they ever will.
They don’t know the half of it: I’m no John Doe and this isn’t the first time I’ve died.
That’s a hell of an end to the Prologue. And now, on with the interview:
1. So, why don’t you tell us all a bit about yourself?
I’m a 27 year old, born and raised in the lovely island of Jersey. I’ve spent my whole life here, except for the three years I was studying at Nottingham University. Apart from writing, I also care for my disabled father which is more than a full-time job – I’m on call 24/7!
2. Can you tell us a bit more about your book? Where did the idea come from? How long did it take to write?
The book’s genesis is a bit of a strange one really. My father was at the time in a very bad state and I had just been assigned a new boss at my job, a boss that I really didn’t get on with. Soon enough the chance to move on and start caring for my father came to me so I leapt at the opportunity. This gave me the free time to start writing the book and vent at some of the treatment I received at my previous job (which legally I can’t go into I’m afraid). Peppered throughout the story are real life situations, which I hope help to ground the pretty outlandish storyline. The Lives of Nobody Important took around 6 months to write, with another 6 months of re-writing, polishing and fixing things. I then sat on it for a while before looking at it and giving it one final pass.
3. Who’s your favourite character in the book?
The protagonist. I’m not sure that it’s possible to have any other favourite. With his many references to pop culture and his penchant for ultra-violence I think he’s the character that most people will enjoy. It helps that the whole story is told through his perspective!
4. Do you have a favourite book or author? What are they?
Chuck Palahniuk is my favourite author, he’s most well known as the writer of Fight Club but I have to say I’ve enjoyed all his work so far!
For my favourite book, I’d have to say ‘Kill Your Friends’ by David Niven. I think it must be the only book to make me laugh out loud. It’s absolutely hilarious.
5. What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?
I have two main loves outside of writing – videogames (on any system!) and indie music. I run an indie music channel on IRC and also a facebook group for new music finds. On the gaming front, I’m currently playing through Castlevania – Lords of Shadow again (I never completed it first time round) and can’t wait for Darksiders 2 to arrive at the end of August.
6. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I’m working on another novel which is tentatively called ‘The Chaos Room’. It’s pretty different to ‘Lives’, as it is pretty grounded in reality with some sci-fi/conspiracy stuff thrown in. Project MK-Ultra fits into the storyline to give just a hint. Unfortunately work on this one is going a lot slower than ‘Lives’, and will probably take up to the end of the year to complete the first draft. It’s also a lot less violent and bloody than Lives was, so hopefully will have greater appeal to those who are squeamish.
7. What has been your favourite part of this writing/publishing experience? The scariest?
My favourite part has to be finishing the novel! The sense of satisfaction from seeing something to completion. The scariest part is setting it loose on friends and family to gather their feedback, as up until that point I had to wonder, ‘am I just absolutely mad?’ Fortunately the feedback was (mostly) positive – as are the reviews coming in so far.
8. Which character from your book would you most like to meet?
I wouldn’t like to meet any of them, they are all horrible, horrible people and I’m glad that they are limited to a work of fiction.
9. Do you have a favourite scene from the book?
My favourite scene has to be the ultimate climax, in the chapter called ‘Inferno’. To say anymore would be a complete spoiler but it takes a completely different style to the rest of the book and I think that makes it stand out, and all the more special as a thrilling conclusion.
10. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t be scared, just jump in and follow your gut!
11. What is the last book you read?
Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk. It’s about a girl who has been sent to hell.
12. What skills do you possess that would help you survive a zombie apocalypse?
I’ve watched enough zombie movies that I’d have the knowledge to help anyone out, if not the practical skills. I feel like I would make a good leader in a zombie apocalypse.
13. What TV shows do you enjoy?
Wow, I watch almost anything, as long as it entertains me. This can go from TV-fluff such as the new Hawaii Five-0 to more serious stuff such as The Wire. Game of Thrones is a current favourite, but my favourite TV show so far is probably 24.
14. Someone wrongs you. Do you get revenge or allow Karma to do it for you?
Karma will get them one day. I’m not one for direct intervention, despite revenge being the central theme of my novel.
15. If you could choose any one book to be made into a movie, what would it be?
16. What is your favourite band?
The Maccabees. I think they just get better and better with every album and their live sets can’t be matched in my opinion.
17. What’s your favourite drink?
I can’t live without Coca-Cola. I know it rots your teeth and it’s terribly unhealthy but so far my teeth are all fine and well, it’s my coffee equivalent. That said, I’m definitely trying to cut down!
18. You can pick one series to return to the TV. Firefly or Angel?
Firefly, and I will shoot anyone who chooses Angel. Wait, no. Karma will shoot anyone who chooses Angel.
Thanks very much to Mark for taking part. If you want to learn more about Mark an his work you can go to the below links:
Lulu Page: paperback