I’ve been writing for over ten years and won the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards in 2016, and I plan to write until I no longer have the body or mind to type.
Mark Boutros – 13 July 2017
The Back Flap
An epic fantasy comedy featuring magic, monsters, morons and more.
Below average twenty-year old Karl has never really fit in. That’s okay though, because he lives in Flowforn where people are encouraged to live their dreams, and having failed at so many jobs he lives his dream of doing absolutely nothing. However, when the tyrant Man-Hawk, Arazod shows up and claims Flowforn, Karl flees and his quest begins. His life will never be the same.
About the book
What is the book about?
Karl’s Kingdom is about a below average twenty-year-old whose life is changed in a matter of days. He goes from being a loner, content with wasting his days in a castle, to someone with a death sentence over his head who has to explore an unknown world and evade capture. It’s about survival, love, friendship, and the true meaning of home.
When did you start writing the book?
I started writing the book about three years ago, but for work reasons had to stop and then start again.
How long did it take you to write it?
Once I’d planned it, got into it and redrafted, the process took about a year. Some of the characters grew a lot more as I wrote them so subplots I hadn’t planned formed and I needed to make them work with the wider narrative so that added time, but it was all fun and I’m really happy with it!
Where did you get the idea from?
I always wanted to write a fantasy comedy and felt there wasn’t much out there. There are funny fairy tales, like The Princess Bride, and I wanted to write a fantasy that didn’t take 30 pages to describe a tree. I also wanted to write a hero who isn’t fit to be one. It was risky but I think I just about got it right!
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
As it was my first novel I’d say all of it! My background is screenwriting so it was a different discipline and I had to learn new habits and break old ones.
What came easily?
I found the characterisation the easiest part as they were clear in my mind and the silly world gave me the freedom to push some tropes that otherwise would not have worked.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
One character is inspired by a friend of mine and that is Questions. My friend asks so many inane questions it’s exhausting. If you’re tired and just want to relax he will throw questions at you to the point where you’re dizzy or want to run face first into the wall, so I thought, ‘I’m going to write a character that only speaks in questions.’ It was a challenge with Questions’ dialogue and the rules of what she can and can’t do, but it was worth it in the end and gave her a great little story arc.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
My favourite authors are all in different genres! I love Stephen King, especially Misery. That taught me how to keep the pace of a novel. I was hooked and I would read even a paragraph when I had a spare minute because it got in my head and gripped me.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman is probably my favourite book of all time and heavily inspired Karl’s Kingdom. It made me believe I could write a fantasy comedy, keeping the threat and drama high while adding laughs. It balanced danger and humour so well and the narrative voice was also hilarious without taking away from the other characters.
I also love the crime novels of Tom Rob Smith. I knew nothing about the time and country he wrote about, but he managed to give me all the information I needed without going into so much detail that it slowed down the narrative to the point of disengagement. It made me confident that I could write a fantasy world that I could give enough information about but not bore people with.
Do you have a target reader?
My target reader is new adult. I think the character is young enough and inexperienced enough to relate to young readers, and his sense of identity is a big theme which I remember struggling with when I was young. I think older readers will enjoy the story and the pains Karl goes through to ultimately learn his lesson.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I read a great book called The Artist’s Way, and it mentioned doing morning pages. It’s where you write 3 pages about any garbage in your mind. It gets out all the self-doubt and negativity, and allows you to start the day writing so you can get to your desk and start your work. I wake up around 6am, start writing, then in the afternoon I do my admin or re-reads to rest my tired mind.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I do outline. I think it’s important to have a framework, especially to know where your story is going. I think once you start writing it’s normal to deviate from the path a bit, but as you know where you’re headed, you know where you need to come back to. Every story is different, and I’ve found sometimes a thorough outline helps, but others, I need to start writing to get further into my characters and their problems.
I think starting with sentences helps, then if you’re not sure, expand to a big outline to try to spot logic problems. I think outlines are important, but don’t let them bind you so tightly that you don’t write with freedom.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
It varies. If I have a clear run for a week or two I’ll write, keeping in the back of my mind logic flaws and noting down things I need to look over on a second pass.
If my time is squeezed by other work, I’ll edit as I go, rereading to get a sense of where I left the story. Again, each story is different. If I know it well, I’m pushing through until the end. If I’m uncertain, I’ll edit as I go.
A lot of people say you should do a vomit draft and just get it down, but I think that can be dangerous as sometimes as it leads to an even heavier redraft because you’ve not paused to think.
Did you hire a professional editor?
I do as I think a different eye that isn’t a friend is important. I edit novels as a freelancer, but it’s always different with your own work, as there are bits you are attached to even if you deep down know they aren’t right. Therefore, I like to get someone else to do it so they can tell me that thing I’m attached to has to go!
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
I prefer not to listen to music so I can focus, but if I do it’s instrumentals. Sometimes classical piano or hip hop instrumentals.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I have an agent for my screenplays, but I did submit my work to get an agent for this but had no luck.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
I realised Karl’s Kingdom wasn’t a commercially attractive proposition to people. It’s not a familiar genre, so it has a smaller reach and is the kind of book someone will pick up and be surprised by, rather than think, ‘I want a new book, how about a fantasy comedy?’ I’ve kind of backed myself into a corner where I had to self-publish and hope it becomes successful through word of mouth, nice reviews and sharing.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
I got a guy called Lewis Moorhead to do it. He is awesome and had to listen to my stupid ideas before doing what he thought was best and making something I love.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I have made a trailer which you can watch here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LEAeWOZpkQ&t=28s and I’m going to do countdown deals and giveaways. Mostly I’m promoting it by sharing positive reviews. As you can tell from this answer, marketing isn’t my strong point so I’m going to research more about it as it is crucial with self-publishing
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Learn about marketing! Also, don’t lose heart. Write what you love, get it out there, but be prepared for it to not make you rich! Write because you love it. I’ve read some articles that suggest you put the first book out for free, then charge smaller amounts for the next one and the one after that. Win over a readership then start charging once they trust you and your writing.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in London and my parents are Lebanese.
Where do you live now?
I’m still in London and working on my plan to leave. I’m done with big cities. I like quieter places and in the UK wherever you live you have access to things so the city isn’t as much of a draw to me as it is to others. I’d like to breathe clean air one day.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I love what I do, and I want my writing to make people smile. Every month I write a short story for someone chosen at random, so if you want one head over to my website www.mark-boutros.com and hit I’ll Write You A Story. I’ve been writing for over ten years and won the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards in 2016, and I plan to write until I no longer have the body or mind to type.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m writing a sitcom script for an independent production company and am about to write another fantasy. I’m also developing a series of shorts. I’m always working as you have to have multiple projects on at the same time to make writing a fulltime job.
End of Interview: