Sunday, July 1, 2012

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: MARK BOUSQUET

Derrick Ferguson: Who is Mark Bousquet?

Mark Bousquet: I was raised in a small town in central Massachusetts called Winchendon (the only town so named in the entire country). Back then, the town population was 8,000 people and the entire high school was only 200-something kids. I played baseball and basketball in high school, acted in the yearly play competition, and generally had a great time. I attended Syracuse University on two separate occasionsand earned Bachelor's degrees in Public Communications and then inLiterature, then went to the University of New Hampshire for a Mastersin Lit, and then to Purdue University where I earned a Ph.D inAmerican Studies (a dual degree in 19th century American environmental Lit and History).

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?

MB: I've been living in Reno, Nevada for almost a year now with my coonhound/beagle Darwin, where I'm the Assistant Director of Core Writing at the University of Nevada, Reno.

DF: How long you been writing?

MB: Almost as long as I can remember. When I was in the first or second grade, I can remember getting a creative writing assignment and just absolutely loved it. Since then, I've always been thinking of stories to write when I get some free time.

DF: What writers have influenced you?

MB: My biggest influences were the mid-80s Marvel Comics' writers: Walt Simonson, Roger Stern, Steve Englehart, and Mark Gruenwald. I love the way they told long-form stories using the monthly format to their advantage. Beyond that, as a kid I gravitated towards series of books: the Hardy Boys, Lord of the Rings, the Three Investigators, Narnia, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Old Mother West Wind series. As I grew older, it was writers like Elmore Leonard, William Goldman, Nick Hornby, Robert Parker, and Edward Abbey. And I love the 19th century: Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Stephen Crane.

DF: What's your philosophy of writing?

MB: Simple: If I'm not having fun writing it, then you're not gonna have fun reading it. Beyond that, I'm always trying out new things. In my career as an academic, I've got to write articles that are largely written in the same style and format, no matter the subject, so in my creative writing, I like to try new things, which is why I've gone from a contemporary fantasy, to a kid's book, to a sci-fi actioner, to now aweird western.

DF: Before we get into GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC let's talk a bit about your earlier work.  Tell us about DREAMER'S SYNDROME.

MB: It started with a simple idea: what if everyone got to be as adults what they wanted to be as kids? I came out of the fan-fiction ranks, working at Marvel Volume 1 on just about every single Marvel characterI'd wanted to write. I was in the home stretch of my "original"series, ALL GOD'S CHILDREN, which was an "end of the Marvel Universe" story that jumped all over the timeline. I loved working at MV1 but I was ready to try something new, so I propped DREAMER'S to the Frontier Publishing website and luckily, they accepted it. The narrative focuses on Austin and Kelly, a young couple who get split apart by what I called "the New World." The story starts on the morning of the Reorganization, where the whole world wakes up and finds themselves transformed into their childhood dream. Austin goes from being a lit professor to a pirate, and Kelly is horrified to find herself transformed into a Disney-esque Princess. They get split and the story is about the two of them finding a way to come back together inside a New England that has been transformed into a half-Middle Ages, half-contemporary setting.

DF: HARPSICHORD & THE WORMHOLE WITCHES was a book completely different from DREAMER'S SYNDROME. Tell us about how and why you wrote that book.

MB: One of the complaints I received about DREAMER'S was that there was too much talking and not enough action, so I set out to write a straight-ahead action story where I'd have to fit the characterizationin alongside the action. (I didn't time to make these changes for mykid's book: ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE: THE COMING OF FROST.) 

The wholeproject was designed to be an antithesis of DREAMER'S. Because it was written for Frontier, DREAMER'S was a serialized novel, where each chapter had to tell its own episode, but with HARPSICHORD, the whole story is designed to move fast and hit hard. Harpsichord is a student at a military academy who gets shunted off to the Deep, the far end of space, and forced to fend for herself. I wrote the whole novel in a month while I was waiting for my dissertation adviser to get back tome with some feedback on the latest diss chapter I'd turned in. The whole project popped in my head and out onto the computer screen faster than any project I'd ever written.

DF: Before we get into GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC let me ask you this: why a Weird Western? And what about that genre turns your crank?

MB: Russ Anderson invited me to submit a story for HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD VOLUME 2, and that's how I came up with Hanna and Jill, the stars of GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC. I'd been wanting to write a western for a while and luckily Russ presented me with the opportunity. What I love about the genre is the wide open expanse of the west allows for any and all kinds of stories.

DF: Okay, enough sizzle.  Give us the steak.  What's GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC and why should we read it?

MB: The core question of GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC is how far are you willing to go for the woman you love when you know she'll never love you back? Hanna and Jill grew up together as best friends in a whaling merchant's house in Boston, but on opposite sides: Jill was the merchant's daughter and Hanna was the servant's daughter. Along the way, Hanna fell in love with Jill, while Jill lives too much in each individual moment to probably fall in love with anyone. She had agreed to marry Dotson Winters in order to save her father's dying business but when he disappeared on the morning of their wedding, Jill and Hanna headed after him. They boarded a train in Kansas City and before that ride was over, they'd fought werewolves, vampires, special agents, and confronted Mary Todd Lincoln and Dotson.

Then the train crashed. Jill died.

And GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC: BLOOD OF THE UNIVERSE is the story about how Hanna gets Jill back. Bellingham, a time-traveling British secret service agent who was on the train with them, tells Hanna the real reason he's in 1866: to look for the Universe Cutter, a blade that can bring one person back from the dead.

DF: What does the future hold for Jill and Hanna?

MB: This "Volume 0" edition is designed to be a bridge between the story in HTWWW V2 and the upcoming GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC VOLUME 1: UNDER ZEPPELIN SKIES. I love these two characters and I'm really enjoying writing of their adventures in the weird west.

DF: Bellingham is a character that at times threatens to steal the book away from Jill and Hanna.  Can we expect to see more of him?

MB: Absolutely. He stars in a back-up tale in BLOOD OF THE UNIVERSE entitled, "Appetite for Appeasement," that sends him back to 1939 London. He's kind-of-obviously the answer to the question, "What if James Bond had a TARDIS?" and he's an absolute blast to write.

DF: You're also a movie reviewer.  Tell us about your movie review blog, ATOMIC ANXIETY.

MB: I love movies. Directors are every bit as influential to me as writers and I love to write and talk about movies. I'll write reviews for almost everything I watch, whether it's an all-time classic or a cheesy B-movie.

DF: What other writing projects do you have planned?

MB: Getting UNDER ZEPPELIN SKIES finished is the next project on the agenda, and then after that it's the next ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE story, a Christmas story that I hope to have out for Christmas. But you probably guessed that. Other than that, there's all kinds of other projects spinning in my head, but I like the stay flexible. Over the past year, I contributed stories to not only HTWWW V2 but BLACKTHORN: THUNDER ON MARS, and I'd really like to start writing more short stories for other people's collections.

DF: What's a typical Day In The Life of Mark Bousquet like?

MB: Get up, walk the dog, go to campus, deal with teaching and administrative work, then home to walk the dog again, eat dinner, and then settle down with a movie or catch a ballgame or get some writing done.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know about Mark Bousquet?

Mark Bousquet: Just that I'm always trying to get better and love any kind of constructive criticism, whether it's positive or negative. To try and build some momentum for UNDER ZEPPELIN SKIES, I'm offering a PDF version of GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC to anyone who wants one. It's free ofcharge - I wouldn't object to getting some feedback in exchange or apositive comment dropped at the Amazon page, or buying the $7 paperback or 99 cent Kindle version, but it's certainly not a requirement. I think I've given away a good 20 copies or so, so far, and I'm happy to send more out to anyone who wants one. The early feedback has been very positive, which is nice, since this is where I'm spending the next few months of my creative time.

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