C.S. Marks prefers the classic epic tale, told in a slightly more contemporary voice. Her work may be read and enjoyed by all ages and on many levels of complexity, from the superficial action/adventure to the deep, thought-provoking level appreciated by the more serious and introspective reader. I’m honored to feature her on No Wasted Ink.
I’m C.S. Marks, best known in the writing world for the Elfhunter trilogy. I hold a Ph.D. in Life Sciences, I am a life-long horsewoman and competitive long-distance rider, and I have spent the past 23 years as a Professor of Equine Science. My other interests include art, archery and bow-making, songwriting, and filk-singing. (I also have thirteen dogs on the farm. Ye gods.)
When and why did you begin writing?
I don’t remember when I first began writing; my dad was a Professor of Literature, and he instilled a love of words, reading, and writing at a very early age. Serious writing began the year he died suddenly…to fill a hole, I expect.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
I’ve just released Outcaste, which is the first in a new Alterran series. I’m currently working on the second in that series, entitled Anastasi. Also starting work on an unrelated novel.
What inspired you to write this book?
Let’s go back to the beginning, to Elfhunter.
Actually, it was the villain, Gorgon Elfhunter, who inspired me. His is a story that just needed to be told.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I probably do, but not sure how to describe it. As with any writer, it has evolved over the years. I like well-written narrative, I hate infodumps, I try to include enough description to fire the readers’ imaginations without overdoing it, and I love dialogue. Others have described my stuff as “Martin-esque with a bit of Stephen King influence.” I find that interesting, as I didn’t read anything of Mr. Martin’s until after the trilogy was long finished. My love for Tolkien is obvious, but my style is quite different.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
It is the story of Gorgon Elfhunter. There could be no other title. Sometimes the title of a book won’t reveal itself to me until the book is nearly finished, as was the case with Ravenshade.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That is a vast question, and there are many ways to answer it, depending on the reader. Over the course of five novels, the “message” has developed with the story. If I had to condense it, it would concern themes of good and evil, love and hate—and what happens in between when the lines are blurred and the path is no longer clear. It would focus on the choices we make, which define our character, and that we are not at the mercy of circumstance if we choose to defy it and remain true to who we are. The newer series really focuses on the nature of prejudice, and how it may (or may not) be overcome.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Yes, some are. The horses, for example, are all based on horses I either have owned or currently own. I have been told that I write some of the best horse characters in fantasy, which is not surprising considering my life-long obsession. There are countless other examples of events and characters based on experience…I’ll keep them to myself for now.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
I adore James Herriot. From him I learned to write what I know and tell my story from the heart. I admire Stephen King, who taught me the rules of writing and how to break them. I will always love Tolkien…the man who defines what epic fantasy is, and should be, at least to me.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
My dad would have been a great one. It is one of my greatest regrets that he did not live to see my work in print. He was editing my stuff since I was about eight years old; from him I learned to loathe exclamation points and not fear the occasional adverb.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Concept by me, artwork by Hope Hoover (Elfhunter) or John Connell (Fire-heart, Ravenshade, Outcaste). Hope and John were chosen for the quality of their work, and because they are willing to work in close cooperation with the author.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Of course—don’t we all? In a few words, “Try to be realistic in your expectations, hire the best editor you can afford, and realize that not everyone will love your work…and that’s ok!”
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
You guys know how much I appreciate you. If you loved the Elfhunter trilogy, wait til you read Outcaste. And if you loved Outcaste, wait til Anastasi comes out. (You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.)
Cover Artist: John Connell
Publisher: Parthian Press