Interview with Mark de Castrique
Today I'm joined by Mark de Castrique.
What genre do you write and why?
I write mystery and suspense. Although most of my books are set in the western
mountains of today, I’ve also written stories occurring in the past and the
future. I find there is no subject that
can’t be explored through a mystery novel, and I enjoy learning about incidents
and issues that provide a motive for murder. North Carolina
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book, RISKY UNDERTAKING, is the sixth in my Buryin’ Barry series. Barry Clayton is a part-time deputy and full-time funeral director. I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and draw upon the people and history of the region for the series. This particular story takes Barry onto the Cherokee Indian reservation where tribal culture and casinos clash. I based the plot upon real events and tensions, and I was able to speak with Cherokee on both sides of this contentious issue. I came away from the book with a deeper appreciation of Cherokee heritage. I hope the reader will first be engaged in the story, but also learn something of the rich Cherokee traditions.
What formats is the book available in?
I’ve been fortunate to have most of novels published in hardback, soft cover, e-book, and audio. All of my books are in print, and I think the e-book availability has enabled readers who are unfamiliar with my novels to take a chance.
What advice do you have for other writers?
The advice I would like to share can be summarized in one word: persistency. If you love writing and have a story that just has to be told, stay the course and keep at it. Always be writing something. As I get into the creative process, I find myself constantly thinking about my story, but I’d caution writers not to over-talk their story with others. For me, the danger in talking about what I’m going to write dilutes some of the spontaneity and discovery that comes when you’re alone with the blank page.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Since RISKY UNDERTAKING is part of a series, the main characters are well known to me. But there’s always some new character that appears and takes on a role larger than what I originally intended. Because Barry Clayton’s murder investigation crosses onto sovereign Cherokee territory, he must work with a detective on the tribal police force. This character introduces Barry to traditions and became very involved in the investigation. He also had a great sense of humor. These are the characters that can steal a scene and worm their way deeper into the story.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
Yes. The historical background of the Cherokee became my primary focus of research. I was familiar with the terrible story of the Trail of Tears when the Cherokee were driven from their mountain homeland to Oklahoma, and that the remnants that hid in the mountains became today’s Eastern Band. What surprised me was the U.S. government’s policy of termination that sought to abolish the reservations and force Native Americans to be immersed in the mainstream culture. Congress was dissolving tribes up until the Nixon administration, when Nixon abandoned the policy of his predecessors. I’m embarrassed to admit my ignorance that such actions persisted so far into the twentieth century.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I’m working on a novel in my Sam Blackman series set in Asheville, North Carolina. Sam is a former Chief Warrant Officer and wounded Iraq veteran who now works as a private investigator. A series of murders occurs that are re-enactments of some of the great ghost tales of the region. Underlying the plot is the theme of the consequences of a miscarriage of justice – not the innocent being imprisoned, but the guilty going free. My publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, has the release slated for November 2015 (if I finish on deadline).
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
My career has been in broadcasting, film, and video production. Storytelling with images is not far removed from storytelling with words. I enjoy the collaborative creativity that happens as all the components of a video production come together. But as rewarding as being part of a team can be, there is satisfaction in telling a story that’s just between you and your imagination. I wanted to complement my production work with something I could do on my own. I believe having a foot in each camp, video and novels, has benefited both of these endeavors.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Sherlock Holmes made such an impression on me as a kid that Conan Doyle has to be ranked as a top influence. I also like the lean style of Dashiell Hammett. His stories are so tight and controlled. And I look at an author like F. Scott Fitzgerald whose THE GREAT GATSBY is less than 200 pages. I admire someone who can write such an impactful novel with such brevity.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I still work full time producing video stories. Those that I find most gratifying focus on the children and families undergoing treatment at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’ve shot a heart transplant for a four-month-old boy, followed a child through chemo-therapy and a bone marrow transplant, witnessed the remarkable courage of children facing years of physical rehabilitation, and watched doctors and nurses give everything they had for the tiniest NICU baby. Being a part of those stories keeps me grounded in the real priorities of life. I feel very fortunate to be a storyteller in both worlds.