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An Interview with Author Mark Reps

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Mark Reps has been a writer and storyteller his whole life. Born in rural Minnesota, he trained as a mathematician, acupuncturist and chiropractor but never lost his love of telling or writing a good story. As an avid desert wilderness hiker Mark spends a great deal of time roaming the desert and other terrains of southeastern Arizona from December to May. A chance meeting with an old time colorful sheriff led him to develop the Zeb Hanks character and the world that surrounds him. Mark returns often to SE Arizona for inspiration, information and to maintain the general feel of the area, learn its history and understand the local residents.

When Mark started writing he became pen pals with Tony Hillerman who offered up tips, criticism and ideas on some of his early novels. His books are often compared with the Longmire television series and books by Craig Johnson. Welcome to the series.

My experiences and interactions with human beings, the world and time and space all have led me to where I am at this moment. I hope you all feel great about your own lives and that by reading these books your life becomes something more.

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Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

When I first read Mark Twain and later listened to Hal Holbrook do a one-man show about Twain’s life I decided to write. There was also a lengthy string of people who suggested that the stories I would tell them were interesting and enlightening. These folks thought it would be a good idea to try my hand at novel writing. But along they way there were an untold number of teachers, storytellers, incidents, happenstances and the like that triggered an ever-increasing love of telling a tale.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

I was in the midst of a ten-year internship in transformation acupuncture and simultaneously undergoing personal transformation as well as witnessing change in many different components of the world around me. Is life pre-determined? Is it fate that guides our destiny? Do we have a choice? What do we control, even in our own lives that makes us become what we are? These are but a few of the questions I was seeking answers to in and around the time of the writing of book 10/14 (to date) of the ZEB HANKS series.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

It fell into my mind like a whisper from the greater universe. I had no thought of a title when I wrote this book and then, poof, the title presented itself.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

“Not Fade Away” (Grateful Dead version), “Digger Dave’s Crazy Woman Blues” and “Incarcerated” (Todd Snider), “Darkness at the Edge of Town” (Springsteen), “Ain’t Love Strange,” “Burn Down the Trailer Park,” “Sister Ruby’s House of Prayer” (Paul Thorn), “Broken Arrow” (Robbie Robertson), “Suspicion” (Elvis), and about a hundred others.

Describe your dream book cover.

This is the favorite of my book covers as it tells the story in a picture, more or less anyway. But ideally I love a book cover that pulls the reader deeply into the tale without them even knowing it.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Began as a paperboy, moved onto mowing lawns, and eventually became a grocery store clerk. Then as a college student I was a painter, carpenter, janitor, and waterfront instructor. Good jobs one and all. Also worked in the president’s office during college and learned how a college is run. Insightful. Became a Doctor of Chiropractic and the 13th person in Minnesota to become a certified acupuncturist. Phenomenally good gigs. Also had a natural health care column for five years.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

Every book and website I could find on Apache history, Arizona history, local Graham County history and any well-written book that would help me learn. Far too many to mention by name.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader? Second question first. The perfect reader is one who reads all the books, catches any errors, and knows the characters as well as I do. I hope they take away a sense of the integration of the old west with the new west and the relationships between Apaches and Whites with each other and with the world. I trust they will learn at least a few things in each book to make them one little bit wiser.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.