Mark Conard


1. What made you want to become a writer?

I started writing somewhat by accident. I started working on a screenplay in grad school with a friend of mine. When we began, we didn’t have any particular genre in mind; we just wanted to come up with a story, and it turned out to be a suspense/mystery. We came up with the outline of the plot and some character sketches, and he left it to me to put it into screenplay format, which I didn’t know how to do. I left it sit in my desk drawer for a couple of years, then decided one summer to turn it into a novel. I wrote, rewrote, edited, read in the genre (I’d never read any suspense or crime literature until I started writing it), and finally came up with a complete draft. I enjoyed the process so much, that I started right away on a second one. I never stopped.

2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?

The genre is suspense or crime fiction. My style changed insofar as it took a number of years for me to find my voice. At first, I wrote an Elmore Leonard novel, and then a Jim Thompson novel, and then a James Ellroy novel. I was consciously imitating those authors I liked the most. At some point during the process, the writing started sounding like me. I’ve worked on it since then—mostly paring it down, making it more minimal, but the big change was finding my voice.

3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?

The obvious thing that has helped me is reading those authors I like and appreciate. My biggest influences have always been Elmore Leonard, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, James Ellroy, and Raymond Chandler. But I also like guys like Dennis Lehane and Lee Child.

After that, another important thing is finding good critique partners, other readers who read my work and give me feedback. For a long time, I didn’t fully realize the importance of that. I just thought when I finished writing a book it was done. I put it away or sent samples to agents, and started working on another one. But it finally dawned on me how important that process is of critique and revision.

4. How would you describe your writing practice?

Obsessive, in a word. I obsess over everything, and I’m not sure there’s any other way to do it. If you’re asking about more practical matters, I try to write every morning before I go to work. I try to make time to read what I’ve written later in the day.

5. What are you writing now?

I just finished a thriller and I’m starting to send it out to agents. I’m still tinkering with it, and I’m also trying to get some ideas together to start something new.

6. Where can someone find out more about your work?

Check out my blog: It’s not just about writing. It’s also about philosophy, film, and various other things.