Monday, March 10, 2014

Interview with Mark Cain, Author of Hell's Super

Mark Cain is a writer and musician living in the Austin, Texas area. His third novel, HELL'S SUPER, a comic fantasy, has been published by Taylor Street Books. It is available as a Kindle eBook or paperback. HELL'S SUPER is volume one of a new series, CIRCLES IN HELL. Volume two, A COLD DAY IN HELL, will be published in the Spring of 2014.

Hi, Mark! I'm so glad you could join us here in the blog studio. Make yourself comfortable. Would you like some cider?  Freshly baked churros?  Help yourself.  And let me know when you're ready to begin. This is a combined interview and game show, where prizes may be awarded for great answers. The grand prize, should you win all of the questions, is a signed copy of my brand new sci-fi epic, “Grover Cleveland: Time Traveler.”

Churros, huh? Yeah, let me have some of those. Yummmm.

When did you start writing fiction? Was there anything in particular that sparked your interest?

I started writing my first book when I was 11, but it was really in my late 20s that I started writing seriously. Stephen Donaldson's LORD FOUL'S BANE, part of the CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT series, was really hot then, and it influenced my choice of genre and, at the time, my writing style. My first book, in fact, was a sword and sorcery epic fantasy called DEMON IN THE FLAMES. It's still in print.

For people who haven't checked it out yet, what's your novel about?  Twenty bonus points if you can fit in the word “turbulent” into the description.

Well, let's give the title out here at the forefront. HELL'S SUPER, the book is called HELL'S SUPER. And, well, it's about Hell. The title is a turbulent play on words. (Ten point penalty for gratuitous use of the word, "turbulent.") Steve, the protagonist, a former economics professor, is consigned to Hell after death, which I suppose is better than being consigned to it before death. His eternal damnation is to be HELL'S SUPERintendent for Plant Maintenance, essentially Mr. Fixit to the Underworld. (I hope all of your readers got this incredibly clever play on words. No? Sigh. Well, it seemed funny when I thought it up.)

Steve's challenge in this book is to fix Hell's Escalator, which carries damned souls from Gates Level (Pearly and Infernal) to the bowels of the Inferno. To do the job, Steve must fly through the turbulent atmosphere of the Nine Circles of Hell in the company of a giant vampire bat, the infamous Bat out of Hell, aka BOOH. Along the way, he spends time with famous historical figures, including Orson Welles, his assistant, and Florence Nightingale, his would-be girlfriend. Oh, and of course, there's more than the occasional devil and demon to make his turbulent afterlife even more turbulent. (turbulenter?)

The whole thing is really very silly, but it has some heart to it.

Which character of yours is the most fun for you to write?

Hmm. Tough one. I really enjoyed writing Flo (Nightingale), but I also liked Satan, Beelzebub, Putty Face (a spoiler, sorry, I can't tell you), and Uphir, who is a creepy little demon running Hell's Hospital.

What's your favorite (or favourite, if you prefer) book of all time?  And if that’s too difficult, then what’s the last book that really stuck a chord with you?  Double points if you have an answer to both.

Another toughie. I have lots of favorite books, though like many fantasy writers (HELL'S SUPER is sort of a comic fantasy, though many consider it a satire), The LORD OF THE RINGS is probably my favorite.

The book that moved me the most? Kurt Vonnegut's SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. I read it almost every year.

Do you have a preferred genre to write?  If so, what appeals to you most about it?

Epic fantasy. I get to use my very best prose in epic fantasy. HELL'S SUPER was a blast to write, and it probably has more appeal than anything else I've written, but I told it in first person from the prospective of the main character, so my prose is dumbed down.

I sometimes try to sneak in little inside jokes or references into my books which only a few people will actually catch (like the colors or mascot from my high school, or using birthdays in secret codes). Do you do this too, and is there an in-joke or a secret you'd be willing to share with us about your books?

Yes, I do this too, though usually the references are really obscure.

In HELL'S SUPER, there is a character named Tully who was the quarterback at Steve's high school. The quarterback at my high school was also named Tully. I didn't really know him, and he, as far as I know, is nothing like my fictional Tully, but I like the name Tully, almost as much as I like the word "turbulent."

If you could escape to any fictional setting, which one would you choose, and how long would you want to stay there?

I guess it's not fictional. Tahiti/Bora Bora circa Gauguin's time. It might be fictional though. In my mind, I have an image of complete calm for the soul, of cerulean waters, and of impossibly beautiful people who just enjoy this great gift that is life. And, if that's what it is/was really like, I'd want to stay forever.

What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked?  It doesn’t have to be about writing.

Standing at a service counter, ready to help the next person, and that person comes up to me and says, "Are you open?"

Is there any advice you would give to writers who are just starting out?

Write out of love.

Can you tell us a little about your next writing project?

Well, there's the sequel, A COLD DAY IN HELL, about a breakdown of Hell's HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. There are at least four books envisioned for the CIRCLES IN HELL SERIES, of which HELL'S SUPER is the first volume.

I also have a five volume epic fantasy completed plotted out. It spans over 500 years and deals with magic and immortality. Hey, what's not to like?

And the final question. This one's for one hundred points, and a chance to play for the grand prize. Remember that honesty is the best policy or whatever. On a scale of one to ten, where one is pretty awesome and ten is fully awesome, how awesome is Michael Matula?

Oh, gosh, and I know I'm going to lose the 100 points for this answer, but...11?

And now, please tell the folks at home about when and where they can find your books, and where you'd like them to look on the internet for your stuff.

The book is out there now. It came out in the fall of last year. The Kindle price is only 99 cents, American. My publisher and I did that deliberately, because it's the first in a series, and right now we want to build a readership. Profits are less important. The paperback is about $13. You can get it at some Barnes & Nobles, or you can order it through most major book distributor channels.

On, go to

And on

Thanks so much for joining us, Mark.  And congratulations on winning the interview!

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