Interview with Mark Boutros Author of Heroes of Hastovia

Hey guys! Today I have a slightly different post for you. It’s a collaboration post with the awesome Lauren over at Readers Enjoy Authors’ Dreams For Part 1 of this awesome collaboration check Lauren’s blog out. 

Me and Lauren actually met officially at the MCM Blogger Brunch (thank you Jamie) back in 2019. We had only been talking on Twitter for about a week before we actually met each other in person and we’ve been pretty much glued together ever since. 

With the release date for Heroes of Hastovia Book 3 the final instalment rapidly upon us we thought we would take this opportunity to not only tell you guys how much the Heroes of Hastovia Trilogy means to us (check Lauren’s post) but also take a moment to ask the author Mark some much-needed questions. 

Could you please introduce yourself

Hello, I am Mark. I’m a screenwriter, creative writing teacher and independent author. I’ve written for CBBC, Sky, and a series I co-wrote on called Urban Myths was nominated for an International Emmy in 2018. We didn’t win. I didn’t go to the ceremony either as I don’t own a tux and refuse to rent someone else’s clothes to sit in a chair and sweat in.

How did you get into writing and did you always intend on becoming an author one day?

I was working on comedy panel shows as a member of the production team and I used my spare time to write scripts, but they were all bad. But you keep writing to get better, so I spent a long time improving. Then I quit the TV production side of things and went to do a creative writing masters and from there I kept sending my scripts around. Eventually, finally, after a million rejections I had a script picked up by a company. It never got made, but they liked working with me and asked me to pitch in ideas which is where i found the Muhammad Ali story about him saving a man from jumping from a building and we turned that into an Urban Myth and my career really kicked on from there. I always thought about writing books, because TV can be so limiting and you have notes from so many people. I wanted the creative freedom of writing books where I could embrace my weirdness and then hire editors and other people to help me make that weirdness better. 

What inspired you to write Heroes of Hastovia?

I love fantasy computer games, RPGs and DnD, and I grew up on Roald Dahl and my favourite book is William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, so I’ve always wanted to write something like that. But I wanted to write about an utterly useless hero exploring the world for the first time. It’s hard to stick with a character who is useless, but I wanted to try and see if i could achieve it. I think I’ve done an okay job with him.

Have you based a character on someone you know in real life?

There’s a character called Questions and she’s based on a friend of mine who never stops asking inane questions. They just keep coming, and they’re nonsense. It’s like they can’t sit in silence so just batter you with endless questions. So she started as a joke, but then became one of my favourite characters across the series. 

If you could swap places with any character from your books, who would that be and why?

That is a really good and very hard question to answer. I love them all for different reasons, but if I have to pick one, it would be Oaf. He’s stronger than I could ever be, looks for the good in people, and he’s an awesome sculptor. So on all counts he’s just a much better person than I will ever be in terms of health, personality, empathy and skill. 

Do you have a favourite character within Heroes of Hastovia?

It has to be Questions. Her friendship with Karl and story with Oaf became the heart of the first book, and then her character grew from there. I love her backstory too and the love she has for people and her loyalty. Plus she is so much fun to write because she can undercut the seriousness with her innocence and curiosity. 

Of all the places you created within Heroes of Hastovia was there one in particular that you enjoyed writing about the most?

That’s really tough. I think I enjoyed Reech the most, because of all the sculptures, the sea, the sand, and the scary creature that was there. I love the reverse tower too and a couple of places from book 3, but I don’t want to give anything away with those! My least favourite was the Bog of Shizneh, that changed about 84 times. 

How much did the power of the Lauren’s love for Questions change her story?

The Power of the Lauren’s did have a pretty big impact. It made me have to make sure she was a stronger presence so you didn’t throw the book in the bin. I knew you’d be paying close attention to her so it really added the pressure. 

Within your books you have a number of different races do you have one in particular that was a favourite of yours while you were writing the story?

I love the Inquisos. Innocent people whose undoing is their inability to communicate. Kind of reflective of a lot of problems in the world today where communication doesn’t exist, just people shouting a lot and not listening. The Inquisos grew as I wrote, which is probably why I like them so much. They weren’t planned too deeply, they decided how they would exist. The Fools are a close second.

Mythology seems to be key within Heroes of Hastovia, so what inspired your choice of mythology for the Land of the Dead?

Parts of it were inspired by the story of the Minotaur. I remember being terrified of that thing when I was growing up, then I thought it was cool, and I’ve always had it in my head. It’s probably also behind a lot of the weird creatures I come up with. 

What authors do you like to read? And what five books do you feel really shaped and inspired you as a writer and a person?

This is really tough, but I love reading Stephen King, Pixie Britton, Adam Croft and Gytha Lodge. I have pretty mixed tastes. In terms of books that shaped me:The Princess Bride by William Goldman: Absolutely adore this book and the film. Inigio Montoya is my favourite character from any book and inspired my revenge story. The whole book just has lovely touches of imagination and the author’s voice shines.Misery by Stephen King: This book had me hooked from the first words and I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s brutal, brilliant, and gripping all the way through. There are images that still haunt me today.The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: This book changed my life. It’s a self-help course for writers. I was scared to really commit to writing, always thinking that if I didn’t throw everything at it, then it would hurt less if I failed. A terrible approach. This book helped me to stop letting fear get in the way and I’ve been a lot more serious ever since. I’d rather fail having tried than do something half-hearted.Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias: This book on screenwriting was like a comforting hug that made me remember why I write. It’s all about the emotional experiences, and characters are the heart of that. All choose your own adventure books: I would lose myself for days in these and it’s probably why I love DnD so much now as every choice has an impact on your character’s path.

Thank you so much to Mark once again for taking the time out of his busy schedule to allow the Power of the Laurens to Interview him. Once again don’t forget to heard over to Lauren’s blog to check out part one of this awesome collaboration. You can also find both Lauren and Mark over on Instagram.

(Photos are the property of both me and Lauren so please do not copy/take without permission first).

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