Author Mark Robson led a writing workshop and gave a motivational talk during a visit to Brooke Weston. Mark, a former RAF pilot, started writing when a colleague challenged him to pen a book. Now, 12 titles later, with a 13th due out this autumn, Mark’s subjects span magic, spies and dragons while his latest is a thriller about the Bermuda Triangle. Mark, who has piloted many planes, but notably VC10 tanker aircraft, draws on his military experience and love of outdoor pursuits to make his books adventurous and fast-paced:
‘I hate being bored and we had nothing to do in the Falklands because the weather was too bad to fly. My navigator turned to me and said “oh, do something useful like write a book,” so I did! As my background had been very adventurous coming up with storylines was relatively easy because I had done so many things; fencing, archery, survival courses and lots of stuff in the wilds. I loved The Lord of the Rings when I was younger so I wanted to do an action version with a military twist, the sort of thing I would have loved as a teenager.’
His first book, The Forging of the Sword, took 18 months to write. Now, as a full time author, it takes Mark on average between four and six months to complete a book. ‘I am inundated with ideas and there is not enough time to write them all. Inspiration comes from all over the place and I would love for one of my books to be made into a film one day!’
Mark keeps on track by setting himself targets, writing for either five and a half hours a day, or producing 2,000 words, whichever comes first. ‘I normally plan the story in chunks. I basically write a series of short stories that all link together to make one big one. Sometimes characters do take over, they pop up and grow in your mind and they are so exciting, it is fresh and great.
‘I challenged myself to get better and improve different aspects with every book I write. It is a matter of comparing myself to other authors and analysing what others do. I always try to be the best I can be at whatever I am doing, it is all down to a goal-setting mentality.’
He led a short story workshop with 30 Year 9 students: ‘There are lots of common traps that student writers fall into. Most young people don’t write stories, they write lists. Some will be disguised with beautiful language but the trick is turning that into something that will engage the reader. For every description there must be a reaction by the character, the character must always be interacting with the environment that they are in, there are lots of tricks in order to make the story come to life.’
He finished his time at Brooke Weston by delivering a lecture to Year 10s and 12s. Its theme was to follow their dream with hard work and dedication. Mark told them that the odds of him becoming a pilot was roughly 1 in 750, while the chances of becoming a published author were greater at 1 in 1,250. He told them of his determination to become a pilot and his battle to get his first book published. Such was his tenacity that he printed and promoted it himself before being signed to a major publisher. Mark, a black belt in taekwondo, punched an inch thick piece of wood into two as the finale to his talk, demonstrating how practice and intention can achieve tangible results.
‘My message to people is have a dream, something you are working towards. Every day I have something I want to achieve. I am constantly challenging myself to do new things. Possibly my finest moment was going to do a book signing. I popped out and there was someone sat reading one of my books, which he clearly hadn’t bought that day because it was really well-thumbed. To see someone being completely engrossed by one of my books was amazing. I am motivated by all the emails and letters that I get from people who have enjoyed my work; that constant encouragement to keep going is brilliant.’