coffee-guzzling journalist turned novelist and occasional poet, Mark
Cantrell has long-since taken a fancy to the literary life - but he was
gobsmacked to discover it actually demands hard work.
Nevertheless, he's stuck it out. The result is a respectable body of work. To date he's written four novels, a host of short stories, a smattering of poetry, and let's not forget those journalistic exploits.
One might say the staple diet of Mark's writing life is the journalism; well it's how he earns his keep, after all. As a workaday hack, he's largely written for B2B trade journals, but in an 'extra curricular' capacity he writes about matters a little closer to his heart, whether that's the worlds of literature, culture, politics and current affairs, or just local matters that catch his eye.
The journalism has taken him
into some odd situations: he's found himself taking part in grass-roots
campaigning; smelling the vinegar in the midst of a major
anti-capitalist protest; in the thick of it when a riot kicked off; and in the wake of an international terror scare,
an article he wrote for an obscure local history magazine once got him
interviewed on BBC radio as an 'expert' on anthrax. Yes, it can be a funny old game can
The main thrust of Mark's writing life is the novels and short stories. In terms of his short fiction, Mark's work has appeared in a number of small press 'zines and websites, as well as a couple of multi-author anthologies. Many of these short stories have since been released in his own collection, Isolation Space (2009).
with his fiction, so with the poetry: examples of his poetic ventures
have appeared both online and in print 'zines, as well as in
collections, and in 2007 he released his first full-blown volume, Deus Ex Insomnia.
Prior to that, he released a handful of 'chapbooks'. These were staple-bound and
photocopied affairs that tend to be passed around at poetry gigs like
To this day, he confesses to being somewhat baffled by poems on the page. As a former member of the Interchange (Bradford Writers' Network), he came to the form through his exposure to performance poetry. He writes his words to be read aloud at open mics and poetry gigs, so that's always worth bearing in mind when glancing through his printed words. These are not poems intended for the intimacy of the page and the privacy of a single skull - they want to raise their voices to the crowd.
Mark's first published novel, Citizen Zero, appeared in 2010. The decision to go Indie and self-publish the novel was a reaction to the General Election that year. For some time, it seemed that Britain was living the 'prequel' Mark says, but when the recession struck and then the newly-formed Conservative/LibDem Government took shape to launch its intensive austerity drive, it really did feel as if Britain was living that 'prequel'. Citizen Zero had found its moment. The rest, as they say, is history in the making.
(coming soon from Inspired Quill) is far removed from the kind of
dystopian science fiction thriller that Citizen Zero represents. The dark urban
fantasy is steeped in horror and the supernatural and should suitably
chill the bones.
On more mundane matters, Mark is a 'Tyke in
exile' or an 'ex-pat' Yorkshireman if you prefer. He was born and bred
in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where he got his first journalism job,
writing about the global textile industry. He took a degree in political
theory and institutions at the University of Liverpool, before heading
off to the capital to train as a journalist at The City University,
These days he lives in Stoke-on-Trent and commutes to work in Manchester, where he makes his living writing about the terrifying world of Britain's broken housing market. It's not quite as grim as it sounds (the job, that is).
As writing careers go, Mark has probably had something of an oddball progression - but is there ever such a thing as a 'standard' writing career? This probably reflects the origins of his writing life. Way back when, he took his first curious steps into creative writing by crafting text adventures for the ZX Spectrum home computer. One of these early 'indie published' efforts even won an award, which can't be bad. From such humble beginnings, a writer was born.
Mark's poetry, too, has appeared in a number of small press magazines and a few multi-author collections since he first put poetic pen to paper in 2001. In 2002, his work was included within the collection Sundoves, Bumblebees & Bluestreak Bananas (Bradford Poets4Peace); and in Not Quite Opposite Morrison's Enough (Beehive Poets, 2003). He has also had poems featured in Awen, Bard, Decanto, Horace, the 4th Dimension and others.
On the journalistic front, Mark has made occasional contributions to a number of publications, including Your Sinclair, Lexikon, Old Yorkshire Magazine, The Yorkshire Journal, Morning Star newspaper, Route newspaper, Print R@dio, Telegraph & Argus newspaper (reviews), Decanto, Linkway, Aesthetica Magazine, Writing Magazine and others. Between 2000 and 2006, he regularly provided freelance material for Writers' News magazine.