Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


A Writer at Work: Interview with Mark Roughsedge

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of conversing with the author, Mark Roughsedge, via the internet. The internet is a wonderful vehicle of communication, but I found myself making a cup of coffee or tea every time I saw an email from Mark, wanting to create a sense of sitting and sharing coffee/tea with him. Our conversations were warm, humorous, and insightful. When Mark sent me photos to include in the interview, he looked so much like my brother, also a dedicated father and lover of the Pacific Ocean, that I felt almost a kinship with this author I have yet to meet in person! Enjoy!

What are you currently working on?

I am currently stuck trying to figure which of two projects to pursue. Both are middle grade novels in various stages of completion, but both have plot problems I cannot seem to figure out! One is about a kid who starts a gold rush in the Old West, the other about a kid who works a summer job at a theme park in Alaska. I take turns brainstorming both stories and will decide which to pursue as soon as I resolve the plot issues for one or the other.

Do you work on more than one project at a time?

Usually not, in the sense that I focus completely on whatever I am doing until a draft is finished. Then I will work on something else—usually shorter projects such as poems or a short story—for at least a few weeks before I return to the original project with a fresh perspective. Though I have yet to publish a novel, a couple of stories and one haiku written during this interim period have been published. Now that I think of it, maybe I should be working more on the stories and poems!

What are the main problems you face in finishing a manuscript?

First drafts tend to go relatively smoothly. It is during the revision phase that my inner critic can get the best of me, bogging me down with defeatist thoughts. I know intellectually that revising is an essential part of the process; regrettably, my emotional side does not always “remember” this.

Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job like data entry?

Only when my inner critic gets the upper hand during revisions! Otherwise, no. I get such a kick out of creating things that I cannot imagine it not being a significant part of my daily life.

What keeps you sane as a writer?

Knowing the bad days will pass if I keep plugging away.

Do you admire your own work?

Like many writers, I enjoy the rush that comes while writing a first draft, when everything is fresh and new. Of course, when viewing the same work later with a more critical eye, I will frequently swing to the other end of the emotional continuum. Once I have finished my revisions, though, I usually feel proud of what I have done. And whenever I see my work in print, I definitely admire it!

Who would play you in a film about your life?

Probably depends who does the casting. Personally, I can think of any number of A-list, leading-men types that would fit the bill. If you ask my friends, however, I believe they would suggest a John Malkovich type: tall, skinny (nowadays!), serious hair loss, soft-spoken but possessing the potential for volatility.

While writing, what do you eat or drink?

Ice water only, continually replenished. And lots of Nicorette.

Do you do anything special to stir your creative imagination?

Over many years of trying various creative “jump starts,” I have found two that consistently deliver. One is driving (as long as I am not stuck in traffic). The other is reading. Of the two, reading—even just a few pages, as long as it is something I admire—never fails to inspire me. These inspirational readings can be new books or old favorites or even books on technique, depending on my particular mood. Currently I’m reading Mr. Wilmer, a novel from the 1940’s by Robert Lawson, and also one of my son’s Horrible History books.

What is the loveliest thing you have ever seen?

My wife holding our newborn son.


Edie Hemingway said...

What an interesting interview! I really want to meet everyone in One Potato...Ten in person. Still have Mark, Lauren, and David to go. And, Mark, I want to read both of those middle grade novels--about the gold rush and the theme park in Alaska! Good luck working through the plot problems.

Christy said...

I love the idea of interviewing over coffee or tea—having a real sit-down conversation.

Thanks for sharing your process, Mark—complete with the snags, which we all experience, but you have articulated so well. Your productivity when you give yourself breaks is inspiring. I'd love to read those short stories and haiku. Seems, only a matter of time before you unlock those plots for the middle grade novels and we subsequently buy them from the bookstore.

Great interview Lauren and Mark!

Stephanie said...

Those are great pictures! Well I can attest that Mark is a terrific person to meet in person. And a great writer. Super interview:)

john said...

Mark, I enjoyed getting to know more of you through this. I think both those books sound interesting and encourage you to keep going. Lauren, great questions.

David LaRochelle said...

Your photos help me "know" you even better, Mark. And I can sure relate to getting bogged down while working on a novel. I agree with everyone else's comments; both of those middle grade novels sound intriguing!

betsy woods said...

This was such a lovely interview. And Mark, I share you quandry: plot, plot, plot. I wish we could find a way to share our work and our lives as writers skipping down that creative path.