You’re a 9th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. What drew you more to martial arts: the physicality, or the philosophy?
It was a bit of everything really. I was bought up in a place called Slough, not far from London, and used to hang with a rough gang of lads and we were always in trouble with the old bill (police). Taking up a friend’s offer to attend Aikido classes, I saw martial arts as a way out and was immediately hooked. This was before Bruce Lee hit the UK cinemas. For me it was the whole ethos: I loved the scent of sandal wood from the joss sticks, the air of tranquillity, hard physical workouts and the confidence the techniques gave us.
To what extent do these influences impact your character Selena Dillon in PRIDE OF LIONS?
I joined the military in ’74, where I then began studying Taekwondo. I incorporated the martial arts and military experience (plus that of others) into my writing. Ironically I didn’t realise what I’d done until a couple of years ago. I found I’d subconsciously discovered an outlet for the horror of war, what my friends and I had been through. Discovering I’d found some release through my writing was a light bulb moment.
As the title ‘PRIDE’ implies, Selena is part of a team that must work together or die. How does team work compare to the lone wolf character in fiction? Is an ensemble a more satisfying dynamic for the writer to transcribe?
In the military you’re taught to be confident in your own abilities, so being part of a team doesn’t mean you stop when you find yourself on your own, you go on and do what you can. This trait and her personal history reflects in Selena Dillon, the Key Character in my novels. I find both dynamics satisfying, and for me the story basically writes itself.
PRIDE OF LIONS is a science fiction action adventure and I understand the follow up THE CULL OF LIONS has also been published. What can we expect in book three?
‘CULL’ was released two years ago and it continues Selena’s journey. It also reveals why the war started and Selena’s dismay when the bad guys come back, this time with allies. Through books I and II there’s conflict with the key character and the monarch of her home world, who’s responsible for the death of her parents, as well as Selena’s servitude in the regiments. In book III, ‘ROAR OF LIONS’, there’s both resolution of conflict and development in Selena’s character.
I get emails and messages asking when book III’s coming out, and the answer is hopefully the beginning of next year – if not sooner.
Book III answers many questions and ties up loose strings. For me the whole story depicts people’s cruelty yet also their love, two sides of the same coin – or, if you like, our yin and yang.
Tell us a bit about your novellas. Do they have common themes running through them?
Most of my fiction and poetry is SF, horror and fantasy – so in that light, yeah. You see I love the ‘what if’ factor, the twists and turns that keep readers gripped right to the end.
I’m a firm believer in the paranormal; it’s what started me writing. During the Falklands, I dreamt about an orb of fire flying through the air and awoke bathed in sweat. That day, the Sheffield was hit. The night before 25th May, I had a similar dream and even spoke to my divisional officer about it, and he told me that date was special in Argentina due to the May Revolution. That day we came under attack again and our ship turned into the missiles, which missed us and hit the Atlantic Conveyor. Both sets of missiles were meant for our ship, HMS Invincible, so to me the dreams were warnings, a premonition if you will.
During Gulf War 1 a missile missed the ship I was on by 300 feet and yet I had no warning, but then it wasn’t meant for my ship. Make of that what you will, but I’m told such things run in my family. Incidentally, I wrote up that first dream and sold it, so that’s where I really started to write.
I’ve also had ghostly experiences, but those are tales for another time. So, as you can see, my writing reflects my life, beliefs and interests – all tinged with the ‘what if’.
(Fun question) At what degree do you achieve invisibility?
That’s an easy one, tenth! That’s the honorary rank which you get when you die. You see, nine is a special number in the orient – the last one before double figures. There are nine coloured belts (white again being honorary) and so likewise the black belts, a mirror image of where you start. So I guess I’d have to be invisible to reach tenth degree.
I have to say, however, that there are a few living tenth degrees – which makes no sense to me.
Ed-So there’s something in the room with me after all. I knew it!
And Jackie Chan? (see photo)
I was based in Hong Kong back in ’83 to ’86, and used to write features for a variety of magazines. I was asked by Combat (the martial arts mag’) to go and interview a rising star who’d recently made a film called ‘Police Story’. Yes, it was Jackie Chan. Unfortunately I couldn’t go, because there was a disaster in the Philippines and our patrol boats had been sent out there to provide disaster relief. This meant our teams were basically ‘watch on, watch off’, providing the communications and so forth.
In all I’ve missed three interviews with Jackie. Methinks I’m doomed to never get that one, which is as a shame because I bet he’d be fascinating. Ironically, one of the guys (Chen Kai Chong) who posed for the photos in my Taekwondo book now works with Jackie all the time. He’s basically one of the bad gangland guys in each movie, but he only gets fleeting images.
Any last words?
It’s quite hard writing a series of novels. Everything has to be exactly right and in line with the first book, from the weapons people use, the colour of their eyes, what they drink, how they act – not to mention each character’s personal history. Get it wrong and readers will pounce on you, so there’s a lot of cross referencing and checking needed – let alone research.
The thing I like about writing is the comaradery. Writers support writers and it’s great.
A special thanks also, by the way, to my readers and followers. Cheers guys, you mean a lot and without you it wouldn’t happen.
Ed-Well put. I couldn’t agree more!
Mark decided to lead off with A PRIDE OF LIONS TODAY. His other titles with links follow…
When Selena Dillon is caught in an assassination attempt on her planets ruler, she finds herself sentenced to 25 years servitude in mankind’s most feared military force, the Penal Regiments. Much to her surprise she enjoys the harsh military life and is quickly selected for officer training.
But something’s wrong, worlds are falling silent. There’s no cry for help and no warning, just a sudden eerie silence. When a flotilla of ships is despatched to investigate they exit hyperspace to find themselves facing a massive alien armada. Outnumbered and outgunned the flotilla fight a rearguard action, allowing one of their number to slip away and warn mankind.
As worlds fall in battle, and man’s fleets are decimated, Selena is selected to lead a team of the Penal Regiments most battle-hardened veterans, in a last ditch attempt to destroy the aliens’ home world. If she fails then mankind is doomed. But little does Selena know what fate has in store for her, that one of her crew is a psychopathic killer and a second the husband of one of his victims.
Can she hold her team together, get them to their target and succeed in the attack? Selena knows that if she fails then there will be nothing at all left to go home to.
There were angry growls from the crowd and the robosec bellowed, “Silence in court!”
A slim dark-haired woman stood up and banged her fist loudly on the wooden barrier in front of her, her face working in fury as she shouted, “This is a farce. If they’d succeeded you’d be giving them medals now, instead of punishing them. This sucks! Everyone here knows that those who should be on trial are the Queen and the Royal Family. They’ve murdered thousands of people, and these guys only tried to rid our planet of that tyrant. They’re heroes, not criminals!”
Selena looked over and grinned broadly, as she recognised her old school chum Linda McKenzie.
Catching her eye, Linda added, “Tell them to shove it up their arse, Selena. You guys did the right thing, and we’re all damn proud of you. Others will try the same thing, you’ll see, and sooner or later someone will succeed and we’ll finally be rid of those murderers.”
“Get that woman out of my court!” the judge roared, watching angrily as guards dragged Linda away, although the audience continued to protest. “The next person who makes any noise will be dragged outside and whipped on the spot!” he bellowed, eyes widening as he glared at them. Gradually silence fell once more. “However,” continued the judge more collectedly, turning back to the accused and ignoring the rumpus, “it’s in my power to offer you an alternative. We’re currently upgrading the military, as we do from time to time. This allows me to offer you the option of serving in the Penal Regiments, until you either die in their ranks or are discharged after twenty-five years’ service under their terms of contract. You each have three minutes to decide.”
Selena was stunned. None of them had expected this, and in the shocked silence of the courtroom she began to think furiously. The Penal Regiments! They were the most feared and respected military force in all of humanity. Only the insane or desperate would even contemplate joining their ranks, and those who simply had no other choice.
Those who joined had the details of their previous lives completely erased; it was as if they ceased to exist. They lost their past, family and sometimes even their personalities. If anyone actually survived the duration of their contracts they could have their faces and bodies surgically altered at the cost of the Federation, so that prior enemies and friends wouldn’t recognise them and they could live out their retirement in peace. But that was if they survived that long and very few ever did. However, Selena mused, there were those survivors. Hope glimmered for the first time since the raid.
Suddenly she heard a voice calling for her attention. “Selena Dillon, your choice?”
The time had gone and the question seemed to come from nowhere, but Selena knew that she had no option. “I choose the Penal Regiments.”
The others of her team turned to stare at her with blank expressions, but she could hear their breath catching in disbelief. One by one, the others chose martyrdom. As they were marched off, Sam turned to stare at her in disgust.
She would never forget the look on his face. Poor Sam, she thought. You just don’t understand, do you? One day, when you’re long gone and nothing remains of you but dust blowing on the wind, our crimes will have been forgotten and I’ll be able to come back. Can’t you see that?
As for me, old friend, I’m already a survivor.
OTHER TITLES BY MARK ILES
Selena Dillon and her team return to Loreen after their attack on Mantis, only to find the myriad worlds of Mankind once again plunged into war. As the Penal Regiments are betrayed by the Federation of Man, and fighting spills throughout the galaxy, the dreaded Manta raise their heads once again. Selena soon finds herself trying to track down her friends’ daughter, Hope, from the rabbit holes of Loreen and then fights to free her home planet from alien invaders. While a general amnesty means previous sins are forgiven, the Queen has not forgotten Selena’s attempt on her life. Selena soon finds herself torn between obeying orders to protect the monarch, and her ravening thirst for revenge. But strange forces are stirring amidst the stars and Mankind finds itself with surprising new allies, while a terrifying enemy that’s manipulated events from behind the scenes finally reveals itself for the very first time.
A carful of police officers swerves in the rain to avoid a shadowy figure. Detective Chets Owen and his two companions immediately recognise the local lunatic, O’Neal, but they’re shocked to see a gun in his hand. Then O’Neal mentions that he knows where a missing child is. Does he, or doesn’t he, and is O’Neal really who he seems?
Here you’ll find tales of the supernatural, betrayal and murder; the mistakes that lead to the fall of empires and the constant tug of war that haunts mankind. There’s a blend of science fiction, fantasy and horror – from a modern day detective facing a serial killer to a future utopia filled with disloyalty. Lovers of romance will find a little something for them too, but within these bright sparks of hope shades of darkness lurk.
Gripping tales from magical tattoos to a time when mankind has been decimated by aliens and the world is run by Androids. From where monsters roam our skies, a little girl waits patiently for Santa one cold Christmas Eve to a world haunted by the ghosts of the slaughtered inhabitants. Read it with the light on!
Escape Velocity, the science fiction magazine from Adventure Books of Seattle, was host to some of the most talented writers in the genre. Presented here are many of the best short stories from the magazine, as well as others specially submitted for this collection by authors from around the world. This very unique book contains forty-eight sci-fi stories, such as ‘Scream Quietly’ by Sheila Crosby, ‘Royal Flush,’ by Ian Whates, and Rebecca Latyntseva’s controversial time-travel tale, ‘Red Monkeys’. The stunning cover images only add to what is undoubtably one of the best science fiction collections of the year. Edited by Geoff Nelder of Great Britain and Robert Blevins of the United States.
About the Author
Mark works for Southampton University, and also as a freelance writer in many fields including copywriting. His short stories have been published in Back Brain Recluse, Dream, New Moon, Auguries, Haunts, Kalkion, Screaming Dreams, and the anthologies Right To Fight, Escape Velocity, Auguries and Monk Punk. With an 8th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo he’s also written non-fiction for Combat, Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts, Fighters, Junk, Martial Arts Illustrated, profwritingacademy.com and calmzone.net.
His first full length work was ‘Kwak’s Competition Taekwondo’, and he also has a short story collection entitled ‘Distant Shores’. His debut novel ‘A Pride of Lions’ was published by Solstice in September 2013 and is the first book in ‘The Darkening Stars’ series. Since ‘Pride’ was published Mark has also had 4 novellas accepted: ‘A Connoisseur of the Bizarre’, ‘Sally Jane’, ‘Nightshade’ and ‘Santa Claws is Coming’.
Having written features and fiction for over 30 years Mark applied to do an MA in Professional Writing. ‘Pride’ had been bouncing around in his head for some time, and he seized the opportunity to produce this first novel as part of the course. Mark says it’s without doubt the best choice he’s ever made, as it really focused him, and that getting this novel Accepted is the perfect conclusion to a wonderful experience. He’s now focusing on the second book in this series, ‘The Cull of Lions’.
Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Iles/279162705557698
Amazon Authors Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Iles/e/B004YZBP3I/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
A Pride of Lions: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pride-Lions-Darkening-Skies/dp/149425445X
Kwaks Competition Taekwondo: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kwak%60s-Competition-Taekwondo-Mark-Iles/dp/B000FTHGFI
A Connoisseur of the Bizarre: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Connoisseur-Bizarre-Mark-Iles-ebook/dp/B00HQOP54O
Santa Claws is Coming: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Santa-Claws-Coming-Mark-Iles-ebook/dp/B00HQOP0D0