I was fortunate enough to read an early version of I Am Fartacus. I live for funny and this novel delivers, twisting traditional ideas of hero and villain to hilarious effect. As Chub and his misfit crew set out to take down popular Archer’s evil empire, Mark somehow manages to make both sides sympathetic, pushing the reader to see the whole situation. Fartacus is a wonderful addition to any middle grade collection AND I got the author to answer some questions. Awesome, right?? Here we go…
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
Probably in part because stories were the only part of school that I enjoyed. Also, my mom was functionally illiterate. She read with me every night, but what I didn’t find out until much later was that she was learning to read by reading with me.
What was the hardest part of writing I Am Fartacus? (And how often did you crack yourself up in the process?)
The hardest part for me was remaining focused and just finishing the work. I believe that persistence beats talent any day.
How did you know I crack myself up? My wife is a writer too, and she sometimes has to leave the room when I’m writing because I laugh so much. The weird part is that I don’t feel like I’m laughing at my own jokes so much as I’m laughing at the characters and the things they say and do. I also laugh a lot when I’m revising and re-reading because I honestly forget most of the funny stuff right after I write it.
Chub is so relatable as a middle grade hero. Did it take time to get him right or did he arrive fully formed, albeit bald, in your head?
He arrived pretty much fully formed, but then he evolved during revisions. Early on he really fancied himself as Alanmoore’s resident supervillain against the resident superhero, the Arch (who was originally called “the Chad”.) My agent convinced me to tone down that part of his character to make him more relatable. I wasn’t super keen at first, since I’d always envisioned him that way, but she was right. He’s much more sympathetic now, which I think sweetens the emotional growth he goes through by the end.
Is Archer based on anyone you knew in middle school? Do you enjoy writing good guys or bad guys more?
Archer isn’t anyone in particular. He’s an amalgam of kids we all knew who got these seemingly superhuman powers years before anyone else.
I suppose I prefer bad guys, but they have to be relatable to be truly interesting. Although Chub is kind of an anti-hero, Archer, the ostensible hero, is actually the bad guy in this book. But I hope he becomes relatable enough that readers will feel something for him by the end.
Who are your favorite authors?
For adult works I like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Hemmingway, Tom Wolff, Tom Robbins, Chuck Palahniuk.
For Kidlit I love Neil Gaiman, Marcus Zusak, Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, Eoin Colfer, Neal Shusterman, Nancy Farmer, just to name a few.
What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?
I love to read, do crosswords, garden with my wife, and golf.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve heard from a lot of kids who are really into graphic novels, and wish Fartacus had illustrations. So, I’m working on a new book about a kid who thinks his dad might be a superhero. I’m hoping it’ll be illustrated, comic book style, to go along with the superhero/villain theme.
How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?