Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Little Time Travel with Mark Pryor

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Do you ever wish you could go back in time and have a word with the YOU of a few years ago? What great revelations would you impart? What wisdom have you acquired? (In my case, I have no doubt it would be "Write faster," no matter how far back in time I went, but I digress...) 
Today we are chuffed (I'm feeling very British, in honor of our guest) to have Mark Pryor, author of the Hugo Marston series. If you haven't had the privilege of meeting Mark before, he's English, but he works as a DA in Austin, Texas, and writes books featuring a Texan former FBI agent, set in Paris. And London. And Barcelona. As you will see. That's the latest book, out today, called The Reluctant Matador. To see just how much I like these books, take a careful look at the cover.
Then see what Mark Today would say to Mark a Few Years Ago.

Writer Peter De Vries, said: “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” As a man with a job, I’m not able to plug myself into scheduled inspiration so I find that it hits me at certain times. When I go for a walk, or sit in the hot tub. And when I swim.
The ideas I pay closest attention to often come when I’m swimming laps. Clips of Kafkaesque movies spooling through my head, coming out of nowhere. Honestly, I swim so slowly that my mind has to free itself otherwise it might die of boredom. Throw a rock into the pool and it’d reach the other end before I will. Anyway, and as an example, I had this one idea for a story where the guy swims laps like I do, but when he finishes and pulls off his goggles and unplugs his ears, he notices the lifeguard giving him a dirty look, and that his swim shorts are tattered and bleached almost white. He realizes with horror that an entire year has passed. He goes home and his wife is beside herself with joy but also anger and confusion, and doesn't believe he was just out swimming laps.
Weird, eh? Especially since I don't write supernatural things. Anyway, that's the way my mind works when I'm swimming: oddly. I bring it up because when Deborah Crombie offered me a coveted slot here at JRW, I pondered long and hard what to write about, and the answer came to me as I was swimming. So now you know, it’s gonna be weird.
In fact, it’s a touch more time travel, if you’ll indulge me. See, it's been almost three years since I was first published, four years since the first novel in the Hugo Marston series, The Bookseller, found a home. And so much has happened in that time. Not just the books, but the travel, the people I've met, the trousers I no longer fit into. It occurred to me, as I flapped my way up and down that pool, that it'd be awesome if the Me of pre-publication could chat with the Me of today. You know, ask a few questions, get some advice, that kind of thing. So that's what I'm doing. I've taken myself back to 2011, I thought it'd be fun for the Mark that didn't even have a publishing deal, just an agent and a hopeful heart, to talk to me now.
So, picture a weird time-bubble, a chamber of chronological confusion that's occupied by two people, both me--one from 2011, the other from today.
2011: Hi.
Now. Hello.
2011: This is weird.
Now: But kind of cool.
2011:  Sure is. Right, so I'm in 2011 and you're in 2015?
Now: Correct.
2011:  I don't suppose they actually have technology that lets you go back in time, do they?
Now: Don't be stupid.
2011:  Sorry. I had to ask, you are in the future, after all.
Now: Four years, not a hundred. Now, do you have any not-stupid questions?
2011:  Fine, yes. We're doing this so I assume my agent... our agent... found a home for The Bookseller.
Now: Correct. Actually, you got a three-book deal.
2011:  Holy cow, that's awesome! Who's the publisher?
Now: A new mystery imprint called Seventh Street Books, part of an existing publisher, Prometheus.
2011:  New imprint, eh? Bit of a risk we're taking there.
Now: For you, yes. Turns out extremely well, though. In four years they've taken on a dozen or so authors and had half that many nominations for major awards. They also partnered with Penguin Random House for distribution, which is huge.
2011:  Sounds impressive, although I don't know what that last sentence means.
Now: That they have huge distribution and Random House reps read and promote your books. Trust me, I didn't get it either, but this is a fantastic publishing house and you love it.
2011:  Okay, I'll believe you. Me. Whatever. Say, you mentioned their authors have won and been nominated for awards...
Now:  Not you.
2011:  Bugger. Are all three of those Hugo books out? 
Now: Actually, the fifth in the series has just been released. That's why we're doing this, to mark its release.
2011:  Whoa, really? Five books in three years? Did I lose my job or something?
Now: No, you just neglect your family.
2011: That doesn't sound like me...
Now: I'm kidding. Apparently your sense of humor develops over the next few years.
2011: Hilarious. So with book five out, they obviously extended the series beyond the three-book deal?
Now: You can count, well done! Yes, obviously. 
2011:  What's this new one called? And are the covers cool?
Now: The Reluctant Matador, it's set in Barcelona. The daughter of a friend of Hugo’s goes missing in Paris, and the trail leads him to Spain. And yes, they are, have a look at this one.

Here's a picture of the others. One of them is blue because it's a prequel, just so you know.

As well as these, you're already contracted for number six and all signs are positive for more to come.
2011:  Wow, and when I woke up this morning all I wanted was a deal for The Bookseller! Very cool. Do I still have my day job as a prosecutor?
Now: Oh yes. Thanks to all the student debt you racked up in law school, otherwise you could leech off our wife and stay home to write.
2011:  Hey, that's your debt, too. How're the kids, by the way?
Now: Fine. Cute. Wanna see a picture?
2011:  Yes, but this is gonna be weird.
Now: Like this whole conversation isn't? Here you go:

Let's get back on topic, we're here to talk about your books. 
2011:  Oh, right. But first, can you tell me who won the Superbowl each of the last three years, and maybe the Kentucky Derby winners? We could get rid of those loans...
Now: No, it's not allowed.
2011:  Meanie. So have I met anyone cool, like at conferences and stuff?
Now: Oh, wow, yes. Loads of cool people. Did you know this interview stems from meeting Deborah Crombie in West Texas?
2011:  Get out! The Deborah Crombie??
Now: None other. She's about the sweetest person you'd ever meet, and she's a fan of our books. 
2011:  That's amazing. We have a fan!
Now: Hush, we have at least five. Anyway, you've eaten barbecue and shot AR-15s with Philip Kerr, hung out with Laura Lipmann, Megan Abbott, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and loads more. That's one thing I wanted to tell you: this writing gig, the people who do it are so unbelievably friendly. Genuinely nice. It's not a club you've found yourself in, it's more like a family. But one without all the drama and conflict, and that one uncle who gets hammered and snores on the couch.
2011:  I love to hear that, I can't wait to meet them all.
Now: What else do you want to know?
2011:  Hmmm. Have I done anything stupid?
Now: Plenty when it comes to life in general but as far books, nothing too bad yet. Although I will say, when you attend Bouchercon in Albany next year, go easy on the whiskey. Those events are known for their boozing but meeting so many of those amazing authors is already intoxicating, so tread easy. That's all I'll say.
2011:  Fair enough. Hey, who won the 2014 World Cup?
Now: You're going to bet on it, aren't you?
2011:  Maybe. Just tell me it wasn't Germany.
Now: Hush. We're running out of time, what else? Book related, please.
2011:  Am I working on the Hugo series exclusively?
Now: No, actually, I'm very excited about a new stand-alone that comes out in September. It's called Hollow Man and is about an Englishman who's a prosecutor here in Austin.
2011:  Wait, it's an autobiography?
Now: Just listen. He's also a musician and a sociopath, but not one of those stabby ones, he actually tries to hide that part of him and live a normal life. It can't be an autobiography because we both know you’re tone deaf, and cry when you watch those videos of soldiers coming home to their kids, so it's clearly fiction. Anyway, his name is Dominic and he finds himself desperately short of money so he hatches a plan to steal a car from a slum lord, knowing there's a load of cash in it.
2011:  Hey, that's a true story! 
Now: Yep. But in our version things go horribly wrong and Dominic then has a decision to make: either go back to being the meek musician and risk getting caught, or let his true nature come out to play.
2011:  Oh, I like it.
Now: Good, because you have to write it. But I agree, I think it turns out pretty well. Here's the cover.

Anything else?
2011:  Nothing springs to mind.
Now: Well, it's been fun. And hey, do a little more exercise will you? I keep getting injured playing soccer and I think it’s because you’re a little, you know, pudgy.
2011:  Hey! I don't have time to exercise, writing all those books.
Now: You find time to eat, chubby, so go work out. You'll thank you. Now, if that's it, I'm off.
2011:  Parting words of wisdom?
Now: Sure. Enjoy the ride. It's a blast. Don't fret over sales and rankings, even though I know you will. But you can't control them, so just have fun with it all. Getting published really is a dream come true and I don't want me missing out on the joy because you're worrying about silly stuff.
2011:  Got it, I can't wait. And thanks for stopping by, I can't think of anything else to ask you. Oh, wait, can you tell me who wins the NCAA basketball finals next year? I promise, you can trust me.... Hello?

DEBS: Now if I can just have a word with Mark Future. Keep writing those Hugo books!  And for those of you who haven't met Hugo Marston, Mark is giving away three Hugo books to readers who say they'd like a book in the comments. His three (adorable) kids will each pick a winner from those who put their names in the hat.

Mark grew up in Hertfordshire, England, and now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three young children. 

Here's more about The Reluctant Matador: A nineteen-year-old aspiring model has disappeared in Paris. Her father, Bart Denum, turns to his old friend Hugo Marston for help. Marston, the security chief at the American Embassy, makes some inquiries and quickly realizes something is amiss: Bart’s daughter was not a model, but rather a dancer at a seedy strip club. And she headed to Barcelona with some guy she met at the club.

With his friend and former CIA agent, Tom Green, Marston heads for Barcelona. The two sleuths identify the man last seen with the girl, break into his house, and encounter a shocking scene: Bart Denum, standing over the dead and battered body of their mysterious stranger. Though Bart protests his innocence, under the damning circumstances, Spanish authorities arrest him for murder.

The two American investigators are faced with their biggest challenge ever: find the real killer, prove Bart’s innocence, and locate his missing daughter—without getting killed along the way.


  1. Happy book Birthday, Mark. “The Reluctant Matador” sounds like an exciting story.
    It’s certainly a pleasure to meet you . . . both your earlier self and your present self.
    Oh, and I’d love to have a book, so I’d be pleased if you put my name in your hat.

  2. SO terrific! And what a wonderful interview--I can't decide which Mark is more charming and winning and clever and talented!

    Seriously--!!--this conversation with past-you is really touching. And I have to say--it's something we should all do. I think sometimes we forget what we'd hoped for and wished for--and we're always strivingly looking ahead to what's next. You've given us a wonderful reminder to remember how far we've come, and how lucky and hard-working we've been-and what an amazing journey it is.

    End of sappiness for the day.

    Cannot wait to read your books! And welcome!


  3. I love the idea of having a conversation with your past and future self. And YES crime fiction writers are the best, the absolute best and most welcoming.

  4. What a fun interview! Now I must read this series.

    Boy, that chubby thing happens when writing, doesn't it? Gluing butt in chair = bigger butt. Sigh. Good luck with the standalone, Mark.

  5. Welcome to both Marks, and congrats on the newest book! I have THE BOOKSELLER coming up very soon in my TBR pile, thanks to Debs' endorsement.

    What's so funny, thinking back to my first book--there was no twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram, no nothing. I'm not sure my earlier self would ever believe this new world existed.:) And who ever listens to the wise old ones anyway...but you and Hank are right, we should celebrate how far we've come!

  6. Great interview. So true what you, Hank and Lucy say about remembering how far we've come.

    I love the cover of The Reluctant Matador and your family is beautiful. Oh, and I'd love a book, too. Just saying. =)

  7. Mark's books rank very near the top of the list of books that I am sorry I have not had a chance to get to. So many folks have been encouraging me to give them a shot. And because of who THOSE people are, I just know that I am going to love them when I do read them.

    This delightful blog post has only increased my anticipation of these books - both the series and the stand-alone. So much fun and very clever. Thanks for stopping by Mark!

  8. looking forward to reading your next book. 2011-2015, put my third (and last) child through college, wrote my first novel, and published some short stories. The ride continues...

  9. Hank, you are so right. This was a wonderful reminder that we should take time to remember how far we've come, instead of always worrying about what comes next. And Lucy, when my first book was published, we barely had email:-) Debs of Yesterday would be blown away by all the stuff now. Or maybe she would just want to go read a book...:-)

    Mark, the cover of The Reluctant Matador is absolutely gorgeous! Prometheus has done a great job on your covers and your book design. Do you have any say?

    And have I mentioned how much I like it that Hugo wears a hat??? (And they suit you quite well, too!)

    Happy Book Birthday!

  10. I do look forward to reading your books, and have added them to my TBR list. Kindly add my name to the list of those hoping to win a copy of any of them!
    Gail, in nearby Seguin, TX

  11. I have enjoyed the Hugo Marston books so much. And it doesn't hurt that the hero is a Texan! Hope you were well away from the floodwaters. More Hugo, please.

  12. Thank you all for the kind comments. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to pop by but after being at Book Expo America in New York last week (two flights, three hundred hands shaken) I've picked up a frightful cold. I just slept for 12 hours!

    Hmm, I should get a cold more often...

    Debs, you're so kind, I love seeing that quote from you on the book. I'm so honored you like Hugo, really. So, you asked if I have input on the covers: on the first one, THE BOOKSELLER, my editor sent me two versions they were considering. I picked one, and then a week later he sent a third: "We'll be using this one!" I didn't mind because it's fantastic and you're right, they've done a great job with each one. I've come to realize that I have certain talents and other people have a lot more. Hence, I trust them with the cover art. :)

    Hank: sappiness excused. I think it's easy to always look forward, push forward, trying to improve our lot. But if we don't remember where we've come from, what our initial hopes were, we'll never be satisfied. I don't want to live like that, always pushing. I want to remember that moment my kids rushed into the bookstore yelping with delight at seeing THE BOOKSELLER on the shelf. Oh, fine, I yelped with them, I admit it. That was a good day, a great day, and all I'd ever wanted. And yet, here I am... :)

    Lucy: I'd not even thought about the development of technology as part of my time travel! But you're right - how the heck would one explain Twitter to someone even ten years ago! How funny to think about it.

  13. Well done! I like your humor.
    And your books.

  14. Mark, Diane Hale here. Congrats on the newest book. Deb has been singing your praises for some time now, not just as a terrific writer, but as a charming, wonderful person. I'm not surprised you and your kids yelped with joy when the first book hit the shelves--I would have been dancing around and thrusting them in the faces of perfect strangers!

  15. Mark, I am so happy to see you here on Jungle Reds today. I've read The Bookseller and loved it. If you're so inclined to read reviews, my review of it is at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/676972278 Now, my goal is to get caught up on the series before this year's Bouchercon. I have The Crypt Thief ready to go, but I would be thrilled to receive any of the others as part of your giveaway here. Hugo Marston is one of those characters who a reader knows is never going to be boring. He's a man of action, but also a man with deep layers of emotions and intriguing back-story.

    Debs is a great champion to have in your corner, not that I have to tell you that. I know that there are authors new to the book world that I just want to stop people in the streets and ask them if they've read that author's books. You are on that list of authors for me. In fact, I will make a more concerted effort to spread the word about you. If you would honor me by being on my book blog, I would love to feature you sometime between now and your stand-alone. I'll post the publication of The Reluctant Matador on my FB book page Bookaholics today. Congratulations on the new book and your rising star in the mystery/crime world.

    Oh, and I do think your book covers are so perfect for the content within. I'm excited about your stand-alone, talking about awesome covers. The time travel interview was so much fun to read. Your sense of humor is so delightfully apparent.

  16. Welcome, Mark (and Mark),

    I would love to win any one of your books. I read The Bookseller a couple of months ago and was so wrapped up in it that I began to believe I knew the characters and had followed them around from place to place. (It was weird, but cheaper than flying to France.)

    Whether or not I win one, I will continue to read your books.

    Good luck to you, Mark (and Mark) in the future!

  17. This sounds fabulous. My boyfriend's dad retired to Barcelona and we visited in February. What a wonderful city - and a wonderful setting for a book! I'd love to win!

  18. Thank you much much much to Debs for bringing Mark here!

    \And thank you, Mark! Is this me found speechless? Well yes it is, but there is no way to follow this.

  19. Libby: my humor predates my books, anyone will tell you. Thanks. :)

    Diane: Truth is, I still feel like doing that. But then I see gracious, sophisticated authors like Deborah Crombie acting all grown up and mature, so I daren't. What WOULD she think? Hmmm, actually, she'd probably giggle...

    Kathy: Wow, you are so kind. I did read the review, and you are too generous. Okay, not TOO generous, but... you know. ;) And yes, I would LOVE to be on your book blog, I'd be honored! Just let me know what you want me to do. In fact, I can have my publisher send you an ARC if you like, that way you can read it in advance.

    Deb: Cheaper than flying to France, but I encourage you to do both. A friend griped at me recently because his wife read THE BOOKSELLER and then made him take her to Paris. When they got back, he was no longer griping. :) Your name is in the hat for Matador..!

    Susan: you're in the hat, too. We were almost surprised by how much we liked it, being such ardent Paris loyalists. But we'd go back in a heartbeat. Hmmm, maybe Hugo left his wallet behind...

    Reine: Speechless? I've never tried that.... ;)

  20. More books, more books to read--keep 'em coming, Reds! Love the new (to me) authors I meet here! And I would have been turning cartwheels in the store had I walked in to see my book on the shelves! Yes to younger Mark--enjoy every wonderful moment--you earned it!

    And boy, Paris, Barcelona, that Hugo takes you to some interesting places, Mark! Can't wait to see where he goes next. Rome, anyone?