Friday, April 12, 2013

Interview with Gothic Writer Mark Carver

Flipping through facebook the other day, I came across a fellow Christian horror author who has penned a very interesting new book. It's called The Age of Apollyon, and here's the description on Amazon.

"Notre-Dame Cathedral lies in ruins. The mangled corpses of the possessed are scattered in the shadows beneath the pulverized Gothic towers. This is the aftermath of the Manifestation....

Satan has revealed himself to the world, which falls trembling at his feet. Religious genocide sweeps Europe and Asia, and the world's greatest fortresses of faith are smashed to the ground. The New World and Australia become safe havens for refugees fleeing Lucifer's wrath.

Heaven remains silent. The followers of Christ cry out: Where is God?"

Wow! That sounds like some pretty heavy stuff! I was immediately struck by the idea and hunted down author Mark Carver, asking him to stop by the blog and share some of his thoughts behind the creation of this terrifying new vision in Christian Horror. 

Greg Mitchell: Hey, Mark, it’s great to have you here. Tell us about yourself. Born in Queens and moved to China! That’s got to be an adventure. 

Mark Carver: I spent the first ten years of my life in Queens, NY. My family then moved down to Atlanta, GA, where I lived until I graduated from college. After finishing school, I wanted to see a bit of the world, so I took a teaching job in China. I was only planning to stay for a year, but I enjoyed living and working in China, so I decided to extend my stay another year, and then another year, and another… I’ve been here almost eight years now. I’m married, have a son, and another baby is due next month. It’s been quite an experience here, and it’s had its positives and negatives, but I like where my life has taken me.

GM: Tell us about The Age of Apollyon! Reading the description on Amazon, it sounds crazy! We’ve got Satan manifesting himself and visibly ruling the world, with the Church of Satan the predominant religion! 

MC: I wanted to imagine what the world would be like under Satan, but I didn’t want it to be (too) cheesy and exaggerated. It’s easy to go overboard with supernatural/occult themes, especially for shock value, but I wanted my take to be a bit more serious. The book isn’t about Satanism as much as it’s about a world where God is little more than a memory. True Satanism isn’t about sacrificing babies and drinking blood from goat skulls…that’s Hollywood. Satanism is about simply following one’s carnal instincts without any concern about morality or consequences. A quote at the beginning of the book sums up Satanism quite well: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

GM: Take me back to the beginning. Whatever possessed (ha) you to write this book? What was that initial seed of inspiration? 

MC: I’ve always been drawn to atmospheric melodrama in the dark/Gothic vein, and I wanted to write a book that I would love to read. It started when I saw an electric transmission tower with four points, and I thought it resembled a pentagram. I thought: “What if Satan ruled the world and people built monuments to him, as if he were a god?” That was where it started, and movies and music fed the fire, until finally I just had to get it out.

GM: Needless to say, this isn’t your typical “Christian fiction” fare, as the book is touted as being very dark and Gothic. What has the reception been like from readers? And might you say to those, perhaps, more timid readers who are hesitant to read a book about a world outright ruled by Satan? 

MC: Many people are a bit cautious initially, but I have been very upfront and clear that the book presents Satanism in a very negative light, and that reassures people who might have reservations. I know that it’s not the kind of story you’d find at a Christian bookstore, and I didn’t write it with an inspirational message in mind, other than to plumb the depths of mankind’s depravity when God is totally removed from the equation. It’s a Gothic action thriller, first and foremost, and you can’t get any more Gothic than a Satanic world :) But the hope of redemption is present at all times; it just remains to be seen if the characters in the story will realize it before it’s too late.

GM: I find the concept fascinating, with lots of different directions you can take it. What I think is most interesting is that, especially in America, it seems Christians think that things are as bad as they’ve ever been—at least as far as Christianity’s place in America goes—but I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that having Satan visibly walking the Earth and a Church of Satan on every corner has got to be a new low. I would think it puts things in perspective. Was that something you were shooting for—an exaggerated sense of “Christianity on the decline” and how maybe we’re not so far gone yet? 

MC: Certainly, but I didn’t want to pen a diatribe against “the sleeping church” or anything like that. I’m in no position to judge the church, American or otherwise, in its present state, but I did want people to take notice of the many faces of Satanism that they might not think about. As I said, Satanism isn’t theatrics and rituals – it’s the conscious decision to turn one’s back on God and be one’s own master. That kind of idea is easy to fly under the radar of many Christians but it’s just as dangerous for a person’s soul.

GM: What were the challenges of writing in this world? It’s a world where evil is lawful and considered “good”. Were there lines you were hesitant to cross in terms of what you were willing to describe? If so, was it hard defining those lines?

MC: I had to do a lot of research into Satanism proper - its rituals, symbols, etc. It’s a very, very dark world, and I had to pray constantly to keep my mind in the light. And since I wanted to use Satanism explicitly, rather than simply paganism, I had to incorporate a lot of unsavory elements that were unpleasant to dwell upon, but I had to think about them long enough to write them down. I did intend for the story to be shocking at times, but the purpose was to expose the ugliness at the center.

GM: No doubt you’ve got to be a horror fan. What were some of your inspirations growing up? Favorite monsters, movies, stories?

MC: Actually I’ve got a weak stomach for horror. Little-dead-girl-in-the-hallway movies really creep me out, and I’m not interested in the ultra-violent “torture porn” that’s the rage these days. I’m a sucker for atmosphere though, and films like The Crow and Underworld threw a lot of wood on the fires of my imagination. I like films that are eerie but not freak-out scary. While writing The Age of Apollyon, I watched a lot of films that dealt with the occult and Satanism in a fairly realistic way, such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, and other classics. I also fed myself a steady diet of Gothic classics, such as Stoker’s Dracula, Lewis’ The Monk, Bowen’s Black Magic: A Tale of the Rise and Fall of the Antichrist. I had to keep my mind in a dark place in order to write my story, and I was glad when it was finished.

GM: It’s a question I’m constantly faced with as an openly Christian horror writer, so I’ll hit you with it. What role, if any, do you see the horror genre playing out in the life of a Christian? Is it something to be feared and avoided, or are there things we can learn from it? 

MC: As long as evil is presented as evil that can be overcome with the love and grace of God, then the sky’s the limit. Everyone loves a good scare now and then, and that’s fine. But it shouldn’t be glorified or revered, which I see in a lot of serial killer/torture horror stories. A black current of evil and terror runs beneath our world, and there’s plenty of real life horror if one looks closely. But in the end, light always overcomes darkness. Not every Christian horror story needs a happy ending, but it should point to God in one way or another.

GM: Tell us a bit about the sequel, recently released, correct? 

MC: Black Sun just came out, and it’s a bit more intimate than its predecessor. The Age of Apollyon is much more broad in scope, setting the stage and fleshing out the world the story inhabits. Black Sun is more personal, focusing on the characters, and it has a lot more action. The horrific elements are not as prominent, but the focus shifts to the horrors that people inflict on each other, regardless of religion. I suppose I would say that with Black Sun, the tables have turned, but the darkness grows deeper.

GM: Do you have more books planned in this series?

MC: I just finished the rough draft for a contemporary fiction story that is not part of the series. After that’s edited and cleaned up, I’ll start working on the final book in the trilogy. I’m also going to release a short story series about the events leading up to The Age of Apollyon at two or three month intervals, beginning in late spring/early summer. The final book will be called Scorn, and I expect it will be out early next year.

GM: Where can folks find you? 

MC: Here’s my homepage:
On Amazon: 
I’m also on Goodreads and Facebook, so give me a shout. I love hearing from readers and other writers.

GM: Thanks, Mark, for taking the time to sit down and talk!

MC: Thanks for having me.

Thanks, everybody, for tuning in. Mark's books are available for Kindle at his Amazon page for $4.99 a piece. Give 'em a shot!


Dark Side of the Cross said...

When I get the money for my card, I'm getting both stories, both sound too good to pass up. Can't help but love dark stories.

Mark Carver said...

Thanks Jason :-)

And thanks Greg for having me on your site. I'm looking forward to my interview with you.