Mark Terry

Sunday, December 10, 2006

10 Questions

December 10, 2006
If you've ever watched James Lipton and "The Actors Studio," you know he ends his interviews with ten questions. I figured, what the hell, I'll answer them myself. Feel free to view this as a meme and ask them yourselves.

1. What's your favorite word?
Well, I don't know, but the one that popped in my head was: onomatopoeia

2. What's your least favorite word?

3. What turns you on?
Good stories well told.

4. What turns you off?
Pretentious people who think they're experts on every subject.

5. What sound or noise do you love?
The sound of my dog deflating. Yeah, weird. Just before he goes to sleep or relaxes, he'll kind of "ssiiiiiggghhhh," and my wife and I'll say, "Oh, the dog just deflated."

6. What sound or noise do you hate?
The telephone ringing in the middle of the night. It's always, ALWAYS bad news.

7. What's your favorite curse word?

8. What profession, other than yours, would you like to try?
Jazz pianist.

9. What profession would you not like to try?

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Your Dad's waiting for you at the golf course ready to shoot the front nine.

Mark Terry


Blogger Aimless Writer said...

11. What would you say was the biggest thing that helped you get published? (besides the "write a great book" answer)
12. Do you make all your deadlines?
13. How many times do you rewrite?
14. How do you know you're finished?
15. How much research do you do and are the technical details in your novels fact or fiction?

3:12 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

11. What would you say was the biggest thing that helped you get published? (besides the "write a great book" answer)

Persistence. I'm reasonably certain that at least some of my earlier, unpublished manuscripts should have been published and were publishable. What eventually got me published was just keeping at it. Sorry, I wish there was a magic formula, but this seems to be the biggest part of it.

12. Do you make all your deadlines?
Yes. Deadlines are vital to me.

13. How many times do you rewrite?
The flip answer is: As many times as necessary. My procedure for fiction is to write out the chapter, tweaking as I go, then printing it out, marking it up with colored marker, making changes on the computer, then moving on. Then, once I get the novel completed, I go back over and proof it with an eye toward flow and inconsistency. Then I go back over it chapter by chapter with a colored marker, getting really ugly with it. Then, if I have time, I'll go over it one more time, looking for those pesky things like a character named Halloway in one chapter nad Holloway in another. My agent may or may not have suggested changes and my various editors may or may not have suggested changes. I have basically two editors, Barbara, who is the acquisitions editor, and Wade, who takes it to publication.

14. How do you know you're finished?

There comes a time when there's a balance to be made concerning further work necessary (or possible) and my inability to face another rewrite (until an editor or agent asks for changes). There's also a point where you just have to say, I've done the best I can, move on.

15. How much research do you do and are the technical details in your novels fact or fiction?

I do a lot more research than I used to. Are the technical details in my novels fact or fiction? By that I assume you mean the Hot Level IV scenes, etc. Those are, as much as possible, 100% accurate, based on my research. The spacesuits and the company that makes them in the U.S. are accurate. The Kevlar-reinforced spacesuit is made up, but spacesuits do cost a lot of money and they do wear out, especially in the feet, shoulders, elbows and knees. Frighteningly enough, a lot of scientists who work in Level IV units patch their suits with duct tape rather than buy a new one. I didn't think it would be unreasonable to think of a prototype suit with Kevlar reinforcement in the high-wear areas.

Yes, it's absolutely true that in 2002 scientists at NYU Stoney Brook (I believe it was) using a $300,000 DoD grant, ordered materials over the Internet and created a poliovirus from scratch and injected it into laboratory animals, who then came down with polio. My scenario in Pitchfork was to go to the next step.

Are scientists capable of doing what I described in the book at this moment? I hesitate to say no. It wouldn't be easy, and there are some real technical hurdles in melding those types of viral components. But if it's not possible today, it's entirely possible it will be tomorrow.

I keep in mind a lesson I learned through experience. When some technologist friends came back from a meeting discussing a new bit of genetic information called uniparental disomy and "imprinting" (essentially, if a chromosome deletion is inherited from mom the child has one distinct syndrome, but if they inherit the same deletion from dad, they have a different, entirely different syndrome) the PhD lab directors flat out said, "I don't believe it." They ate their words. It's real and accepted and far more common than they thought when it was first discovered.

Also, when "Dolly" the first sheep was cloned, I personally thought it was scientific bullshit and compared it to "cold fusion." I was wrong.

So I'm very hesitant to say something can't happen in biotech, especially with today's advances.

Hope that answers your questions.


6:37 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

My first thought is to invent and patent that kevlar spacesuit cause its probably only a matter of time....
As for the rest of the research I do think anything is possible eventually. I know a chemist who made lab rats glow in the dark. (why did they need to do that?) I actually have a novel written and sitting on the shelf where I wiped out almost all of civilization due to a lab error and noxious gas. I believe I need to flesh out the research in it before I send it anywhere. Research is sometimes the hardest part for me. Especially when its not the main thrust of the book.
That and knowing if I'm done or not. I can never stop the rewrite!
#11: Persistance. I appreciate this answer as it tops the "write a great book" answer. Everyone thinks/hopes they wrote a great book! Duh! I think persistance is the hardest part.
Another question: What happens if you do miss a deadline?
Not that I think I ever would because I'd probably forsake eating and sleeping to make a deadline!

6:05 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I've known a number of authors who've missed deadlines, and I assume you're talking missed deadlines for novels, not nonfiction.

Hopefully the publisher has built in some slack into their production schedule, so if you're late in hitting a deadline it can be made up later.

That said, if you really miss a deadline, the publisher may have to change their production schedule or even the publication date--pushing it back! This won't make anybody happy, and it can really screw up things if there were subrights deals pending--paperback, foreign rights sales, etc., because things like audiobook and paperback editions (if you're published in hardcover) are usually scheduled a specific time after the publication of the hardcover. So not only are you inconveniencing your publisher, you're creating headaches for all sorts of other people.

The key, I guess, is first, don't miss deadlines. And two, if you're going to, give them a head's-up so they have time to deal with things.

4:38 AM  
Anonymous spyscribbler said...

Hey Mark!

I'm curious. How important, if at all, is it to be early for one's deadline in non-fiction? Does it make a difference?

5:33 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I have a rule in nonfiction that works for me--be early, but not too early.

By early, I mean a day or so. That way, your editor knows it's there and can work on it if they have the time.

Too early--and I've learned this the hard way--and editors have too much time to lose your piece (it happens) or dick around with it. I've had editors who have had 3 weeks to edit an article that really needed no editing, but because they had plenty of time, couldn't help themselves and start playing around with it. At first I thought it was just because the pieces needed work, but I started seeing a pattern--if I sent them in too early, the more changes they made.

Editors appreciate a little early, but if they're like me, the deadline they gave you gives them plenty of time to do the work, or rather, ENOUGH time to do the work. Late makes them panic (although if you're like me, you create cushions in case of crises) and can screw up their production schedule.

And I'm enough of a pessimist (in this case I think it's realist) to realize that shit happens and it always seems to happen around some sort of deadline. There's nothing like a good case of the stomach flu around the time of a deadline that you have to meet despite the illness to convince you that having the work ready a couple days early is a good idea.

6:46 PM  
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