This week: David Mack!David was very interesting to interview. Mostly because of his work with Star Trek. But take a look at the answers he provided to The Writer's Pane, as they may surprise you!
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/David-Mack
Wherever I can, to be honest. In the news. In unanswered questions from other stories. In rhetorical questions that spark unexpected connections in my subconscious. In my hopes as well as my anxieties. In my desire to avoid bankruptcy. In my fear of vanishing into obscurity while still alive. In my anger and disappointment that the human species has failed to live up to my lofty expectations.
Which character in literature do you associate yourself with the most?
I’m not sure I could reduce this answer to a single character. When I’m working on a novel, slogging away in unsung solitude for months at a time, I feel not unlike Sisyphus. When a book-release day results in a general yawn of apathy from the world, I feel like Charlie Brown, once again deceived into trying to kick the football. When opportunities for professional success slip away, but I’ve catapulted another writer to glory in the process, I feel like Mad Max at the end of The Road Warrior, left behind and forgotten amid the wreckage, lost to memory. In my best moments, when I am closest to living in accordance with a Zen ideal, free from attachment and desire, I feel like the protagonist of Richard Brautigan’s classic novel In Watermelon Sugar, the character who does not have a regular name.
Which piece of your writing was the most entertaining/enjoyable to write? Why?
Nothing is ever truly “enjoyable” for me to write. Writing, for me, is hard work, full of anxiety and second-guessing.
That said, I think the closest I have ever come to enjoying the process occurred while I was writing my original short story “Our Possible Pasts,” which was published in the anthology 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of RUSH, edited by Kevin J. Anderson and John McFetridge.
It was a story concept that had marinated in my thoughts for a long time before I finally took the time to sit down and set it into form. Seeing that story finally take shape on the page was, I must admit, deeply gratifying.
Was the first novel you published the first you ever wrote? What was?
Heavens, no. I first tried my hand at writing narrative prose when I was barely into my teens. That led to several abandoned works. During my college years, I studied film and television production, so my focus shifted to screenwriting. That taught me a lot about structure.
My next attempt at a novel occurred when I was around 23 years old. Having struck out several times with scripts submitted via the “open door” policy at Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I was encouraged by a friend to try my hand at a Star Trek novel.
I was certain that my idea for a Star Trek novel would be so cool, so original, so unlike anything that anyone else had ever thought of, that they would snap it up in a hot second. I was well into writing it when I finally got my hands on the official writers’ guidelines for Star Trek fiction from Pocket Books. As soon as I read them, I knew I was in trouble: my would-be Star Trek masterpiece had violated every single thing the guidelines say clearly NOT to do. Not most of them—ALL of them.
I deleted that manuscript file and burned its printed pages.
My first published short novel, Star Trek: S.C.E. – Wildfire (originally released in 2003 as a pair of eBook novellas), was probably closer to the fourth or fifth novel I had attempted.
When I’m not writing I’m usually…
Washing dishes (or so it seems). I spend a fair amount of time asleep. When I’m awake, I’m usually managing the business of the household (paying bills, dealing with car maintenance, planning our social calendar, etc.). Late at night, after my wife goes to sleep, I retire to the living room to watch TV.
If you could tell or ask any character in literature or film anything, what would it be?
I would like Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Ph.D., to explain to me how the hell he avoided being drowned while he was towed at the end of a rope by a submerged u-boat in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
If you had lived a different life, made different choices, what would you be doing now?
I’ve sometimes thought that one potential turning point in my life (though I didn’t realize it at the time) came during my senior year of college, when I let my parents sell my car. Because I was going to school in New York City and suspected I would stay there after graduation, I didn’t think I’d have any need for a car, and I didn’t want the hassle of maintaining it and moving it around to keep up with alternate side parking.
Had I kept the car, however, I might have taken a very different path in life.
Many people have asked me why I didn’t move to Los Angeles after I finished film school, since that’s where the TV and film-writing business is based. The answer is, at the time I literally could not afford to make that move. I didn’t have enough spare cash for airfare. I was buried in student debt.
Remember, also, 1991 was before the age of commonly available civilian GPS, smartphones, and the Internet as we now know it. I’d have had nowhere to live, no job prospects, and I’d have been in a town where I didn’t know the streets.
Had I kept my car, maybe I could’ve posted on the old corkboard at NYU film school, “Driving to L.A. - Looking for Ride Share / L.A. Roommate”. I don’t know. Might have been a bust. But part of me thinks that if I could only have gotten to L.A. in 1991, I might have had a very different career as a Hollywood TV writer.
Alternatively, I was a pretty good restaurant cook. Between my junior and senior years at NYU, I worked as an assistant chef at an upscale restaurant in Northampton, MA. So maybe I could have been a chef. Who knows?
What are five things you couldn’t do without?
Coffee. Wine. Liquor. Air conditioning. Music.
What do few people know about you?
I live with trichotillomania (obsessive-compulsive hair-pulling, mostly from my beard and eyebrows). The disorder is relatively rare among men. I’ve had it since childhood (when I tended to pull from the top of my head or the nape of my neck).
Are you working on any current projects?
Presently, I am working to finish the manuscript for The Shadow Commission, which is book three of my Dark Arts series from Tor Books. The first book, The Midnight Front, is out now, and book two, The Iron Codex, is coming out on January 15, 2019.
After I finish The Shadow Commission, I’ll be writing a new media tie-in novel, which is due in the early spring. After that, my schedule is not yet set. I might seek out some new tie-in projects, or I might tackle a new original novel that has been gestating in my imagination for the last few months.
What work of fiction made you want to be a writer?
I don’t think that any one work bears responsibility for this life decision of mine. I grew up an avid reader, thanks to long afternoons I spent in my local library. When I was as young as 11 or 12, I used to draw imaginary book covers with my name in the byline. So I guess the desire to see myself as a published author is one that I’ve harbored most of my life.
What tools do you use for writing, organization, marketing?
I draft most of my work in Microsoft Word. Sometimes, for larger, more complex projects, I gather my research and do some plot-development work in Scrivener. Some authors extol the virtues of writing manuscripts in Scrivener, but after decades of working in a linear manner (first in Final Draft and later in Word), I find the fragmented approach of Scrivener confusing. I’m a creature of habit; I stick to what I know works.
Why do you write?
A host of reasons. To get paid. To exorcise my demons. To entertain. To serve my vain desire to see my name on book covers. But mostly I write because I’m good at telling stories and I enjoy doing it — and also because, after having done it full-time for the last ten years, I am no longer psychologically capable of returning to a typical office environment. This is all I have left, and I intend to make the most of it.
Beyond prose, Mack’s writing credits span several media, including television (for produced episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), film, and comic books.
Mack’s most recently published novels are Star Trek: Discovery – Desperate Hours, Star Trek: Titan – Fortune of War, and The Midnight Front, the first book of his new Dark Arts series published by Tor Books. His upcoming works include The Iron Codex (2019) and The Shadow Commission (2020), books two and three, respectively, of his Dark Arts series.
Mack resides in New York City with his wife, Kara.