Novelist Mark Lowery, a man of talent and faith, shares his journey to publication with us today. Mark’s debut novel, He Promisd Nvr 2 Leav Me, was published by Lion’s Roar Press, a new Ohio-based independent press. Please check it out and pick up copy.
Born in the Bronx, New York, Mark is an award-winning journalist. He’s reported and edited for national magazines and major newspapers, including Newsday, the Detroit Free Press, and The Plain Dealer. He lives near Cleveland, Ohio.
He PromisD Nvr 2 LeaV Me tells the story of Taran Johnson, a writer whose serene lifestyle is derailed when he tries to honor a pledge made years earlier. His past and present collide, taking him back to a town he’d tried to forget, reintroducing him to a people and a culture he no longer recognizes. Can his growing faith save him?
Please welcome Mark to Write Despite.
Tell us about your “breakthrough” publication—that first publication that felt really significant to you.
Although not my first publication, March 2014’s release of He Promisd Nvr 2 Leav Me (Lion’s Roar Press) is the one that has felt most significant. My byline and work have appeared in many newspapers and magazines, but that always seemed more work than pleasure; a man has to eat. With the release of my debut novel, I’ve experienced a control over the writing that, up until now, had largely escaped me. It definitely is a catch-22: You decide the beginning, the middle, and the end, what’s important, and how it needs to be expressed. But many others have to believe in the vision to make the project a reality. A novel is a leap of faith that readers will follow you to the end.
How long had you been writing before you published a piece?
I’d been writing journalism pieces for about eight years before I had a first-person piece published in the Sunday magazine of Newsday. That was well received and led to some similar assignments. That gave me the confidence to begin sharing my short stories. The fiction work provided a voice that I craved. Taking nothing away from journalism, the fiction was more artistic and liberating for me.
What was your reaction upon learning your piece was accepted? Disbelief? Joy?
My first reaction was fear when Newsday gave the go-ahead for the first-person piece. I wasn’t sure what would be enough information and what would be too much. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to put myself out there like that, share my innermost feelings. It’s impossible to present your work without being vulnerable, inviting criticism. The great thing about fiction is that parts of you can be displayed in many characters. In a first-person piece, there is nowhere to hide.
How do you go about trying to place your work? How do you choose markets?
My process is the opposite of what it should be. I create the work and then look for a landing spot. I keep telling myself that a better way would be finding specific needs, then tailoring projects to fit those needs. But even if I did it the more logical way, placing the work would still require making the contacts that you need to make to get the work read. And read in a timely fashion. If only it were as simple as forwarding the work to an editor!
Any advice for writers still working for their “breakthroughs?”
The dedication in my novel reads: “To all who try and try again.” Years ago, I was part of a reading and writing group. I had those folks in mind when I came up with the dedication. We would meet, usually once every two weeks or so, and we’d critique each other’s work and share resources. This was useful for many reasons. First, it’s always good to take advantage of different sets or eyes and ears. Secondly, there was so much valuable information that we shared, ranging from agent information to outlets for our writing. We worked in various fields, but we all shared a love for writing. The group also provided the encouragement I needed to force myself to make time for writing because I knew at each meeting someone would ask: “What have you worked on since we last met?” It wasn’t so much about any specific breakthrough. Rather, it was about what are you doing to create a breakthrough?