Monday, April 21, 2014

Q&A with Author Mark Venturini

Hello everyone! I apologize profusely for my extended absence. College does keep you busy, especially when the subject does not come naturally to you. However, I'm here now, and I am so excited to share with you the Q&A with fellow-Colony Zero collaborator Mark Venturini. Enjoy!

1. I know from previous talks that you've been writing for quite some time now. Did you always want to write fantasy/sci-fi or was there another style you preferred before stumbling into our Narnia of a genre?


I’ve always been interested in science fiction and fantasy. One of the first books I remember owning as a child was The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey. There was also the classic, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle  


2. Your book "Whispers from Forbidden Earth" was written for middle grade readers. What made you want to write for that age group?


I didn’t purposely start out to write a story for middle grade readers. Whispers has a long, convoluted history. It started out as a short story until someone in a critique group mentioned that it would make a great novel. From there, the initial novel drafts were geared toward a YA audience. But I finally came to the realization that the overall plot and theme would probably appeal more to a younger crowd. So, the final version that is available through Amazon and B&N grew organically with no outline or game plan. I was essentially winging it with a lot of detours along the way. It was definitely NOT the recommended way to write a novel.  


3. The Collaboration for "Colony Zero" has been such an interesting process for everyone involved. We all must coordinate ideas, hammer out details (like spelling "Breneman" correctly), have a sense of our character's journey throughout the story. At the same time we have to remain open-minded about certain things and be willing to compromise when it comes to the essence and integrity of the story. Although it is far from over, what have you taken away from this experience?


When Helping Hands Press first contacted the group of authors about the Colony Zero project, I had my doubts. I mean, we had seven different authors with seven unique styles and seven different ideas. I think writing a sci-fi story made it all the more complicated. We had to get the scientific elements, if not 100% accurate, at least believable. I was very pleasantly surprised how well all of the different elements and voices came together to make a compelling origin story.


4. Where do you turn to when you need a bit of inspiration?


If you’re asking about inspiration for new stories, I have a VERY difficult time coming up with ideas. I really struggle with that. When the muse strikes, it’s usually by way of a single image or sentence. With my short story, The Passing of Things, it was a single phrase: the touch of my master’s hand. For my sort story, Severed Roots, I imagined a tree on a knoll with ribbons of sunshine spilling through the branches.   


5. I know you're involved with a lot of writer's groups, providing detailed critiques for various projects. At the same time you are doing your own writing and make a living as a software engineer. How are you able to find balance?


What’s balance? (LOL!) I’m answering your questions while on my lunch break at work. Unless you write fulltime, there will always be tradeoffs. The sad reality of the writing industry is, unless you’re an A-List author, or if you’re with a small publisher like we are, much of the marketing falls on your shoulders. If I’m writing, I’m not building my social network and promoting my stories. If I’m on Goodreads or Twitter, or one any of the bazillion other social outlets, I’m not writing. Then there’s the work thingy and the hour commute to work along with yard work in the summer. I am so lucky to have the best and most understanding wife in the world (I love you, Kathy).


6. In what way have past experiences affected your writing? Do they appear in stories or influence perspective?


Quite a bit in my short stories. Part of If Only to Say Goodbye takes place in a cave. That comes from my spelunking adventure through Bear Cave near Blairsville PA. My flash fiction Piece What About Louie? was written after a major layoff in my company. My flash memoir, That Place I Cannot Go, talks about my wife’s diabetes. I think you can still find most of my flash pieces online if you google my name and the title.


7. Which writers have influenced you the most?


Oh, gosh . . . George R. R. Martin for his Song of Ice and Fire series (without the blood-letting), Ann Rice (Interview with the Vampire), Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons (Hyperion), Connie Willis (Doomsday Book and Lincoln Dreams).   


8. If you could be a character in another sci-fi or fantasy series (television and video games included) which series would you be in and what would be your role?


I honestly never thought about that. I don’t play video games, so that’s out. For a series, I’d have to go back a few years. I LOVED the X-Files and wouldn’t miss an episode. My character would have to be Fox Mulder. I loved his never-wavering belief in the supernatural.


9. What's been your most rewarding experience as a writer?


When I received the check for my very first short story sale – If Only to Say Goodbye. It was only $47.00, but I can’t describe the joy and the sense of vindication.


10. What is your caffeinated beverage of choice?


Keurig coffee, especially Caribou Coffee and Newman’s Own Extra Bold.

And here is a link to Mark's personal chapter in "Colony Zero -Volume 3 -In the Midst of Sorrow":
Also, a link to Mark's collection of short stories, "Darker Passages":



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