This week’s “10 Questions” go to Mark Myers of Life in Portsong. If you’re not familiar with Mark’s fun and folksy style, well what are you waiting for!
Mark, your April Fools’ ploy might be the ultimate ruse with readers. Yet you seem to unintentionally trick people into believing that Portsong is not only a real place but you are its mayor. How great is that for a writer! From where do Virgil Creech and this fictional world derive?
I’ve been plotting and scheming stories for years. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I sat down and began writing. A mentor of mine by the name Jack Frost—I kid you not—struggled and eventually passed from cancer. He had pushed me to pursue my passion.
The world of Portsong evolved as a story about the old man Colonel Birdwhistle relating to a new environment where he continually crosses paths with some boys he can’t shake. My original intent was to have the colonel be a little bit of a huckster; but I fell in love with his character and changed course.
How seriously do you take your writing? What is your writing process?
I love to write and I take it quite seriously. That said, I can only do it a few hours in the morning because it has yet to pay the bills…even the little water one. I don’t know how to describe my style. I typically chart the story, main theme, and moral I’m trying to display; but I wander like a Beagle after that. Nothing turns out the way I started.
The word humorous will probably be used by most readers to describe you. What’s your take on Mark Myers? Was he ever the humorous son or class clown, or was he altogether different?
Remember that scene from Good Morning, Vietnam where Lieutenant Steve says, “In my heart, I know I’m funny,” but he isn’t? I’m probably that guy. I caused a good deal of trouble as a lad. My report cards bear out that I talked too much and was too stupid to keep from getting caught. I’m told now that I am incredibly immature. My daughters say I act like a seven year-old, which I like.
Many readers may not know that you are a Desert Storm veteran. Have you chronicled your war stories, or do you use writing to process your feelings from that time?
My service was anything but distinguished. I love that I was in the Army, but I didn’t always love being in the Army at the time. I had been out for a year when Desert Storm came up and got called back to serve. I never did more than defend the shores of South Carolina. I got orders to go over when the ground war started; but since that only lasted a couple of days, my unit got sent home instead.
You’ve recently shared with readers about your daughter’s serious illness, something many people might choose not to do. Why did you feel you could share that news and how are you dealing with it?
My blog is all about what is going on in my life and my warped take on it. As I say in the “About Me” section, I find humor in most things and God in everything. There is no way I can blog about my life without sharing about the cancer that has forced its way in. There is no manual on how to fight this thing, no playbook. So we are fighting cancer with a smile in our house. If you haven’t checked out her site—smileyforkylie.com—I think you’ll see what I mean. The kid averages about 2,000 hits a day on a two week-old site while I am happy with a fraction of that. (Note: If you’ll recall, Mark is “newly bald” in the video. He cut his hair to support his daughter.)
You live in Georgia and seem to have a good handle on all things Southern. What do you like about the South?
I like the gentility of the South. It’s still here, especially when you go to some of the smaller towns. People tend to have a little more time to speak and acknowledge each other and use manners. Also, being a believer, it’s nice to be in a place where we still have a foothold.
Are you a big reader? Who is your favorite author?
I am a huge reader. I’m the nerd who reads through his lunch. I typically have two to three books going at a time. I love classic English and Russian literature. Charles Dickens is my favorite author; a close second is Leo Tolstoy. And if you go modern, I love the works of Markus Zusak.
Tell us about your publications and where we can find them. Further, what are your writing aspirations? How actively do you query publishers?
I have written five books. Thus far, Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption is the only one in publication. I should be releasing the rest of Virgil’s trilogy this year. The others probably aren’t ready.
As for publishers, I have queried agents but not seen success there. But I’m a take charge type of person and don’t mind doing it myself. I like the fact that I have control over what goes into the book. I would love to find my niche with a publisher; however, it hasn’t happened yet…maybe someday.
Mark, what does Heaven look like?
Oh! Heaven will be a wonderful place: new colors, [musical] notes, smells…things we can’t even dream of. All of our frailties will fade away, and we will see Jesus and sing his praises for eternity. I’m sold!
What are two things people would be surprised to know about you?
First, I have sung onstage wearing a coconut bra and grass skirt (in the South Pacific). Second, although I consider myself a confident man and am a salesman by trade, I am deathly afraid of car salesmen.
What questions do you have for Mark?
Read more by Mark at his blog Life in Portsong.