Author Interview: Mark Cain

Today I’m hosting satirist Mark Cain, a colleague author and friend, to talk about his book, Hell’s Super.

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Hello, Mark! Welcome to my blog! Pull up a chair and get comfy. Can I get you anything, a cup of coffee, some nachos, maybe even a beer? (Virtual beer: completely calorie free).

 

Mark: No, thank you. I’m good. Well, I see a bag of pretzels there. Thanks. Delish!

Aprille: Right. Well, let’s get started then. You’ve written a book. What’s it called, what’s it about, and why, with all due respect, should my readers be interested in it?

Mark: The book is called HELL’S SUPER. It’s a comic fantasy, a satire actually, about a fellow named Steve, who is in Hell. His eternal damnation is to serve as Hell’s Superintendent for Plant Maintenance, a sort of Mr. Fixit for the entire underworld. Ergo the title of the book, HELL’S SUPER. You see, it’s a play on words and…

Oh well, it seemed funny to me at the time. Actually, many people think the whole book is very funny, which is why your readers should be interested in it, but they will have to determine that for themselves. Fortunately, having the opportunity to decide shouldn’t be too hard. The Kindle edition is a cheap date at 99 cents American. (A free Kindle reader is available for computers and Android and iOS devices.) The paperback costs about $13 with shipping. I won’t take the time to do the different exchange rates for your various readers, even though I know you draw an international crowd.

But I digress.

Steve hates working with his hands. He also sucks at it. In life, he’d been an economist at a university. Now instead of being an intellectual snob, he’s a blue collar worker with an impossible workload (things break a lot in Hell).

In HELL’S SUPER, Steve has to fix Hell’s Escalator, which travels from Gates Level (Pearly and Infernal) to the depths of the Underworld. Foul play appears to have been involved, so aside from being a comedy, there’s a little of the mystery novel to this book. Oh and a love story. I think of HELL’S SUPER as a genre mashup.

Aprille: Sounds pretty weird. Is this a dark comedy?

Mark: Actually, no. A dark comedy about Hell seemed too predictable, so I took things in a completely different direction. This is, in fact, a very bright, almost screwball comedy, full of silly sight gags, one liners, and lots of poking fun at popular culture.

Aprille: Are there any interesting characters here?

Mark: Well, there’s Steve, of course. He’s cynical, which seems appropriate, since he was damned for reasons he can’t determine. Yet for all that, he’s a pretty nice guy. Then there’s his assistant, Orson Welles (yes, THAT Orson Welles), and his girlfriend, Florence Nightingale (yes). In fact, there are lots of famous historical figures who play major or minor roles in the book. There’s a rather lovable giant vampire bat, a couple of mythical creatures, and the usual assortment of devils and demons. Satan and Beelzebub are particularly interesting takes on the Earl of Hell and The Lord of the Flies.

Aprille: Does the book have any meaning beyond just trying to tell a story?

Mark: I think so. Whether or not one believes in a Hell, we all believe in the human condition and know that despair, torment (whether self-inflicted or otherwise), and hopelessness are very real. That’s a version of Hell to which we can all relate. But HELL’S SUPER is about the indomitability of the human spirit, in spite of everything being stacked against you, and the nature of hope.

Aprille: How did you come up with the idea for Hell’s Super?

Mark: Okay, here’s my dirty little secret. Like my main character, I personally HATE home improvement jobs. I’m slightly more competent at them than is Steve, but there’ve been many times when, after breaking a faucet that I’ve tried to fix or dumping a can of paint on new carpet, I’ve thought to myself, “This is Hell.”

I went with that idea. I envisioned a Hell which is like your worst day at work, magnified by a 1000. You’re in a job you’re lousy at, your boss screams at you a lot, you have too much to do, and not enough time in which to do it. Oh, and the coffee is lousy.

Aprille: Is this your first book?

Mark: No. HELL’S SUPER is my third novel. I have two others out there, DEMON IN THE FLAMES, a sword and sorcery fantasy, and BOOMER AT MIDLIFE, my one foray, other than my short stories, into mainstream fiction.

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

Mark: Yes. The publishing industry is in a great deal of flux right now. Self-publishing has been enormously liberating for the would-be writer, but the downside is that we all risk getting lost in the crowd. So, for new writers, I would say, “Write because you love writing,” not because you expect to get famous or make vast sums of money doing it. If that happens, great, but it’s icing on the cake. Write out of love or compulsion or a genuine desire to liberate the story from the back of your brain. Just don’t get hung up on being the next Stephen King. Remember: there’s only one Stephen King.

Aprille: So what’s next for you as a writer?

Mark: The sequel to HELL’S SUPER, A COLD DAY IN HELL, is all but done and should come out in 2014. It’s about a breakdown of Hell’s HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning for the uninitiated) system. Another stupid handyman job, and it puts Steve and Orson in some pretty ridiculous situations.

Aprille: And how can my readers find more on your book/your wonderful self?

Mark: Check out the reviews on Amazon. No I didn’t pay anybody to write them, so there! Seriously, you can find the book on whatever version of Amazon you use. Here’s a link to the U.S. version:

http://www.amzn.com/B00FNFZ8LS

The U.K. version:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00FNFZ8LS

And the Australian version:

http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00FNFZ8LS

There’s an author page about me up there on Amazon as well. You can also order the book through a traditional bookstore/bookshop.

Thanks, Aprille, for giving me the opportunity to tell you about my book. Now, I have to fly! Gotta catch the last electron home!

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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 this fall 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.

HELL’S SUPER has been variously described as satire, comedy and comic fantasy in the spirit of Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt and Douglas Adams. The entire CIRCLES IN HELL series, including A COLD DAY IN HELL, takes the everyday frustrations of modern life and expands them to Hellish proportions. You never know who you will run into in Cain’s cracked Inferno. You might encounter a great inventor, a movie star and, of course, more than the occasional devil and demon.

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