Hello, Mark, and welcome! I understand your first novel, “Vida Nocturna,” was recently released. Tell us a little about the story, such as why did you want to tell this particular story? What was it that appealed most to you, and what was your inspiration?
It’s my answer to what the publishing industry has become. “Twilight” was a huge hit because it combined two huge sellers – vampires and romance. Then all the other publishers saw the numbers and suddenly everyone was putting out series – not just books, but series – about vampires in love. Some agents are now dictating what stories authors should write to gain representation. When corporations control the arts to that degree, with the market chasing whatever sold best before, we get the death spiral of creativity we’ve been seeing in publishing lately. In “Vida Nocturna,” the shy, innocent girl fantasizes her spooky new boyfriend is a vampire. By the time she realizes that he’s slender and pale, doesn’t eat, and stays up all night with lots of energy because he’s actually a cocaine addict, she has been “bitten” by the drug and become addicted, herself.
We worked together on the cover for this novel, and I'll admit that, at first, I found your vision a bit unusual for this type of story. Tell us the reason why you chose those images and colors, rather than other, more traditional, "horror" stock?
It’s not a traditional horror story but to me it’s still a vampire tale. She loses her soul and tries to fill up the space where it used to be. Was the “bite” really her reliance upon drugs and alcohol, or might it have been earlier, from her bullying, neglectful, personality-disordered parents? There’s nothing supernatural about the vampires in this story but they are still as soulless and desperate to fill themselves with what they need as any monsters in classic horror. I love how the cover turned out. You and I went back and forth on the colors a lot because I wanted it to indicate that there was something different about this book and link it partially to horror and partially to the ‘80s drug stories like “Bright Lights, Big City.” I think you captured the book’s feel perfectly: It is true horror, not supernatural horror, set amidst the decadent '80s club subculture.
I've been a fan of your Deadjournal blog for a while now. Your life experiences have made for fascinating reading. For example, you've been homeless in Japan, taught English in Korea, from where you and your wife had to escape to save your lives, you've been an attorney in the US, and more. What made you decide to get into writing at this point in your life?
I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, which is a mecca for writers from all over the world. Everywhere I went there were always people scribbling in notebooks or giving feedback to each other, and every crappy, dead-end job I worked in high school always had an aspiring writer or two. I ran around with the delinquents and hoods, hustling my way through life, and the only thing I was sure of was that I would never fall into the futureless trap of trying to be a writer.
Instead I ended up living overseas for a while, then found myself back in Iowa City, and broke. I applied to graduate school, not for writing, of course, but for real, grown-up sorts of things, telling myself I'd go to whatever department accepted me. I ended up getting into the University of Iowa's law school, dental school, and MBA program, and thought maybe it'd be cool to do all three. The dental school said no way, so I was gone. In orientation for the MBA program we had to work together in groups and learn to cooperate. I lasted two hours and escaped after having to build towers out of notecards. That left law school, and I spent the next three years with a bunch of cutthroat pricks, thinking law would be like it was in the movies where the lawyer with the most original and creative argument always won. Actually, creativity in law is limited to arguing how your case is most like one that won before, and though when I practiced in Chicago I won the majority of my trials the job felt incredibly suffocating. Eventually I dug a tunnel under my desk with a spoon and escaped to the University of Chicago's graduate program for creative writing.
Apart from the Deadjournal blog, where else can people find out more about you, your writing, upcoming books, appearances, etc.?
I'm afraid Deadjournal is, well, dead. I'm now blogging on my own website. Lately I've been narrating about how my wife and I were chased out of South Korea by her powerful family and the cops and stranded in Hong Kong. I post just a little part of the story every week and ask people to share it on social media so more readers visit my site, and I’m happy to say it has been quite popular. I invite anyone interested to friend me on Facebook, but please do tell me you saw me here so I know you're not a spambot.
What can we expect next from Mark Diehl? Any books in the works?
I have a few complete drafts that need a good scrubbing before they're ready for public view. They're quite different from this book in that they're all sci-fi, based on my idea that the medical profession is eliminating creative and independent thinkers from our gene pool, causing humanity to evolve into a corporate species. It’s an exciting concept to work on and I hope your readers (and mine) will be watching for them!
Great stuff, Mark! Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your writing! (Note: I’ve known Mark and his wife for a few years now. I highly recommend reading their story, which you can find on Facebook.)