Walter E. Mark started his life's journey in north eastern Ohio in the city of Canton. Athletics was Walter's first love as a youth. He played football, basketball and baseball on the youth and school levels and achieved many awards for his skill as a baseball player, including the Federal League Most Valuable Player award in 1974. The love affair with baseball continues for Walter until this day, but a freak injury during practice shattered his knee and his participation in high-level baseball was at an end in 1975.
To fill the void created by the lack of playing sports, particularly baseball, Walter turned to other pursuits including reading. Mrs. Steffy, a high school teacher, asked him to enter a writing contest based on the promise that she saw in him through his writing in class. He was reluctant, but eventually entered. Walter won the contest. This encouraged him to write more and a love affair with writing developed as he studied at Malone College and followed him as he pursued the vocation of teaching.
Teaching was a driving force in Walter's life for twenty years. Along the way, he wrote for students and friends but did not pursue publication. In 1987, Walter married a fellow teacher. Wendy, his new bride, encouraged Walter to write. Once Walter retired from teaching, he became an IT consultant. In this career, he found more time to write. The added time and Wendy's encouragement as well as the encouragement of his daughter, Winona, resulted in his first published work, a book series called The Sixth World of Men. Currently, two books of the series have been published, A Beacon of Hope and Paths of Intimate Contention. A third book, The Beginning of Sorrows, is currently in publication and is expected to be released in the late summer of 2011.
In addition to the publication of The Sixth World of Men, he has been published in scholastic and local periodicals in Michigan, Ohio and New York.
Walter holds a Master's degree in education from Malone College and a Bachelor's degree in Theology from Massillon Baptist College. He currently resides in the community of New Boston, Michigan with the love of his life, Wendy, and two children, Winona and Benjamin.
Walter kindly agreed to be interviewed by Allan Fisher in February 2011.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate on your two books in your Sixth World of Men. Can you tell me a little bit about the storyline so far?
The first book of the series, A Beacon of Hope, sets up the entire series. Here you meet the principal character. He is a brilliant man who has immense empathy for others. His intellect combined with his compassion will play a large part in the story of The Sixth World of Men. This book also introduces five other main characters. A young, rather carefree woman at this point of the story, and her friend a driven career woman. A loyal second for an Emperor, but his conscience is compelling him to take a stand. You see, the Emperor appears to be going mad. There is a male character that is not quite human. That's about all I want to say about him. And then there's a more ephemeral character whose main goal is to destroy humans.
A Beacon of Hope also introduces you to a wondrous world that is also quite familiar. The plants are different yet familiar; the animals are similar yet familiar; and the people are quite familiar in their appearance and ways, but just not quite the same as here on Earth.
The second book of the series, Paths of Intimate Contention, starts to meld the life paths of many of the characters together. This melding is not a smooth process. The paths that some characters choose bring contention and chaos to their lives. Others remain isolated, yet affected by the choices of others, even if they don't yet know it.
Paths of Intimate Contention is a transition book leading to the third book of the series which will end the first part of the story of the sixth world of men. As such, it raises questions about the choices that are made and the consequences that those choices might bring.
What made you start writing and especially writing such an ambitious project?
I initially began to write regularly after winning a writing contest when I was a freshman in high school. I was into sports as a youth, but a knee injury sidelined me for many months. I was unable to play sports, so I began to fill my time with reading. After a couple of months of reading regularly, I found that I actually enjoyed the writing that I was assigned in class. Then my English teacher, Mrs. Steffy, encouraged me to enter a writing contest. I won the contest and that encouraged me to write from time to time. I wrote for the school newspaper, for a community magazine and I wrote short stories.
I continued to write the occasional article or short story during my years as a teacher, but my activities for the school never seemed to give me much time to write. During the summer, I found summertime employment at various jobs simply because I didn't get paid during the summer. This took up more time.
It wasn't until I retired from teaching and started IT consulting that I found time to write frequently. Even then, I wrote mainly short stories and dappled in poetry. I never considered writing a book until I read a few of books from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Then an idea hit me. I wanted to see if I could write a fantasy that could be viewed as a parallel to our modern day society. That idea became The Sixth World of Men.
I didn't start out to write a long series. My first idea was a trilogy. But the thought of a trilogy soon went by the wayside because I found that the story that I wanted to tell needed many life paths just to touch the surface of the multitude of possible outcomes that life-changing choices made in the lives of individuals and the people around them. I actually had to edit out several possibilities from my notes and settle on just a few major story lines that I wanted to include. The Sixth World of Men became more than just a story of individuals; it became the story of a world.
I understand faith plays a pivotal role in your life. Is this an element you want to convey through your work?
I am of the belief that faith or the lack of faith in something besides one's own self is a determining factor in the ultimate fate of a life. Faith is something that causes you to rise above your circumstances and gives purpose to living. There is only so much a man or woman can do by themselves. When a person reaches the end of one's self, faith gives that person some place to go to find the will to persevere. I tried to convey that aspect of faith in this book.
Do you hope one day to become a full time writer?
Anyone who enjoys writing hopes to be able to do it full time at some point in his or her life. I am no exception to that rule. However, I understand how hard it is to gain enough name as an author, particularly as an author of fictional books, to achieve a modest income. If fortune should smile on me and it happens, I will be thrilled. If it never does, I will be content if my work has brought any bit of joy and perhaps a bit of meaning to a person's life.
5) What do you think of the current revolution in E Books? Do you think it allows authors to become discovered easier? Is it a viable route putting a book on Amazon without a publisher? After all getting published is no mean feat? (Same again really one question)
The electronic medium for books is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it allows many authors to tell their story. This is great if that is all that an author wants to do.
The curse comes in the fact that eBooks have inundated the book market making it harder for any individual author to be noticed. In addition, the quality of books has suffered greatly with this flood of titles. This has made the average reader reluctant to buy a book by an unheralded author even though many of these authors are much better and far more original than better-known authors. This is a curse and a shame.
In conclusion, I found the second novel most entertaining. The storytelling is far crisper and the characterisation, now there are more parties, has also improved. There is also an appendix which allows the reader to understand the different words of Kosundo. The book has a strong underlying message of faith and choice, and the consequences that follow. There is also far more emotion and pathos in this book, as well as deception, ambition, betrayal and hope for the future. All in all a solid and entertaining read from a fast improving author. The future looks good for Walter E Mark.
With all the different threads combining, a more layered exploration of the Sixth World of Men is developed and a deeper world building and character development follows. Mark creates a stronger, more vivid and complete world, in which his story unfolds, bringing the first trilogy successfully to a conclusion. However, it is an ending which leaves countless questions unanswered and a need for future resolution, but it does bring a sense that something profound has changed. I have enjoyed this trilogy and was often reminded of Asimov’s Foundation books. I would recommend these books to anyone interested in fantasy or science-fiction.
All in all this is good debut novel with a gentle and unassuming approach, which works well for this modern day parable. It is the beginning of an interesting journey and one I will be undertaking. I am also interested in further exploring this world’s adventures and the nature of how choice affects all future events. I am looking forward to watching Walter E Mark develop as a writer. I think once you get used to the style, you will appreciate the simple act of just reading this book and letting the author do the work for you as he paints his canvass.