Interview with Mark Leslie, Author of Fear And Longing In Los Angeles

08 Jun 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Fear And Death In Los Angeles?

It’s an urban fantasy thriller that plays between spotlighting the darker elements of modern-day America with a touch of wry humor from the novel’s narrator, who observes that if New York is the city that never sleeps, then L.A. is the city where you’re best to sleep with one eye open.

In addition, it’s a werewolf novel where you never see the main character, Michael Andrews as a wolf. This novel, and the series in general, explores how this man lives with the side-effects of being a werewolf, which include having supernatural powers that include enhanced strength and senses while in human form. He has gotten into the habit of leveraging these supernatural abilities to enact vigilante justice and help those in need. But his penchant for being a bit of a “boy scout” usually ends up getting him into trouble. In this case, he’s in a city where the bad guys themselves seem to possess their own heightened supernatural abilities.

This is the third book, or second full length novel in my “Canadian Werewolf” series. It can be read as a stand-alone but is most likely best enjoyed by those who have already read A Canadian Werewolf in New York (Book 1), and the novella Stowe Away (Book 1.5). The “Fear” element from this novel is plainly clear from the neo-Nazi bad guys wreaking havoc on L.A., but understanding the back-story of Michael’s recently lost love, ensures readers can appreciate the depths of the “longing” that Michael is experiencing.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always enjoyed reading and sharing stories. My favorite thing about camping when I was a kid, and even now, as an adult, is when people are sitting around a campfire and sharing wondrous and imaginative tales.

Perhaps the first time I realized that imaginative tales could move and inspire people would be from the pages of the Spider-Man comics that I grew up reading. Stan Lee, and so many of the writers that followed in the footsteps of penning the tales of a geeky teenager with the proportional strength, speed, and agility of a spider, inspired me to want to share my own tales.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Oh, now that’s a really tough one, because I could likely name 50 and still not stop. But the top 3 are likely the easiest.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Different Seasons by Stephen King

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Once I move beyond the top 3, I’m likely looking less for books I’ve re-read multiple times, and more looking for books that influenced me as a writer. And I’ll stick with fiction titles, just so that top 5 list is consistently fiction.

The Poet by Michael Connelly. I adore everything that Connelly has written, but this one makes the list mostly because it was the very first of his novels I read, which turned me into a fan.

On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony. While I haven’t read Anthony in years, this was the first of his fantasy and science fiction novels I read when in my early teens, and which turned me onto reading most of his novels at a time when I first started my own early attempts at writing.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

This is another tough one since, over the years, I’ve met so many amazing authors that I’ve had the chance to talk to and ask questions of in person, not to mention the fact that I host my own weekly podcast (Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing), and also hosted the first several seasons of the Kobo Writing Life podcast. I have, for example, already had the pleasure of interviewing two of my favorite authors of all time, Michael Connelly, and Richard Laymon.

But I’d be curious to sit down with both John Irving and Stephen King and engage them both in a conversation that would allow fans of one to consider, if they hadn’t already, picking up the work of the other.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

When it comes to the process of the actual writing itself, it’s the discovery along the way. There are multiple times when I sit down to compose a scene or story, and, prior to starting, I only have a vague idea of what I’m about to write. It’s the process of starting, of actually stringing one word in front of the other, and enjoying whatever is unfolding that’s the real magic. Because, when I finish for that session, I can push my chair away, look back at what I created, and be thrilled that the writing took me to some unexpected place. This is a fine moment of creative accomplishment.

With respect to writing in general, it’s learning that something I wrote actually had an impact on someone else. That’s the real magic and beauty of writing – the way it can fundamentally connect two people (the writer and the reader) together in a beautiful collaborative dance. Because the magic only happens when there is synergy in their respective moves; when it all fits perfectly. When something I imagined and wrote entertains, compels, moves, inspires, frightens, amuses – whatever that deep-felt emotional response that resonations with them happens to be – someone else, that’s my inspiration for having written.

What is a typical day like for you?

It’s difficult to define a typical day since I don’t write full-time and have to balance my writing time with time spent as a book industry consultant. That work, depending on the season, might have be planning or participating in either virtual or in-person (pre and post-pandemic) conferences and workshops.

But one thing that is consistent is that, Monday through Friday, when I’m home, I’m up at 5:30 AM. After feeding the dogs and cats and getting the coffee on, I’m at my desk and ready to start writing from 6 AM until 7 AM. I like to try to get in a solid hour of writing prior to doing email or any other administrative tasks. And if I’m on a deadline with a publishing contract, or a commitment with an editor I’ve hired, I’ll schedule longer stretches of time for more dedicated writing sessions.

What scene from Fear And Death In Los Angeles was your favorite to write?

I always have a lot of fun writing scenes that include Mack “the knife” Halpin, Michael’s literary agent (Michael happens to be a writer). Mack’s blunt and rude manners and no-BS approach is such a stark contrast to Michael’s polite “people-pleasing” and constantly apologizing Canadian push-over ways.

What’s fun is having Mack go on verbal tirades where he is demeaning to Michael, while Michael is sitting there and quietly taking it; but all the while, because he is an introspective introvert at heart, Michael, the narrator for the novels, is mocking Mack in his descriptions. It reminds me of the way that silent person in a crowded and loud room likely has the absolute best come-backs and one-liners, but never opens their mouth to share them. In these scenes, Michael has an upper hand that Mack never sees, because the readers are taking in the scene entirely from Michael’s perception.

So it’s fun to write about Mack being so domineering and yet powerless at the same time. And, based on comments from readers about those moments with Mack, especially when he’s launching into one of his impassioned rants, they also enjoy this character’s bold and unapologetic manners.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Having been a huge fan of Stan Lee and Spider-Man since my earliest memories, I would be tempted to say that the motto “With great power comes great responsibility” would be right up there. But it was a different fictional character whose personal motto I’ve adapted in numerous ways into my life over the past ten to twelve years.

Harry Bosch, one of the main characters in a series of novels from Michael Connelly, lives by the personal creed that “everybody counts, or nobody counts.” I can apply this in virtually all aspects of my life and in the way I interact with, treat, and respect others.

Both of those elements live within me, but also within the character of Michael Andrews who is, in many ways – except for the lycanthropy issue – quite a bit like me.

Mark Leslie is the author of the new book Fear And Death In Los Angeles

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rebecca