The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Stephen Mark Norman

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Stephen Mark Norman

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Summary: Stephen Mark Norman is the author of Meklyan and the Fourth Piece of the Artefact. We realised that there was more to the book than met the eye and we couldn't refuse the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Date: 22 March 2011
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Stephen Mark Norman is the author of Meklyan and the Fourth Piece of the Artefact. We realised that there was more to the book than met the eye and we couldn't refuse the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Stephen Mark Norman: I see ordinary people who yearn for adventure. People who want fantasy in their books with genuinely heroic characters. People who love their science-fiction and want to find something new to add to their list of favourite books or television programs.

  • BB: What was the inspiration for Meklyan and the Fourth Piece of the Artefact?

SMN: I wrote the book because of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. I wanted to write a story where the antagonists invade a foreign state for oil. I was a student at the time and lived in the midlands and my friend invited me to go on the protest march in London, which was held by the 'stop the war coalition'. We went on a trade union bus with discounts because we were students. I paid £2 for a return ticket to London from Wolverhampton. I suppose, rather foolishly, I believed the protest would make the government think again, but I didn't understand that our government had already pledged support to the USA. As for Tony Blair - I think ambition was the strongest emotion in his personality. The character of Arlow in the book is loosely based on Tony Blair.

  • BB: You're quite critical of the capitalist system in the book. Do you think capitalism is an engine of change or a harbinger of destruction?

SMN: A harbinger of destruction. The recent credit crunch is an example of how self-destructive capitalism can be. At the time of the credit crunch I worked for a large UK retailer. The consequence of the credit crunch was that I was faced with either a new contract of employment with a reduced salary or redundancy. I think that everyone who could pass the buck during the credit crunch did; only the people on the lowest incomes cannot pass the buck on to someone else. However, I think it's down to each individual to make their own mind up about the capitalist system and that's why my book will make you think.

  • BB: How far is humankind determined by its DNA?

SMN: DNA is the blueprint for life from which every living thing grows. Our behavior on the other hand is determined by other factors, such as nurture. DNA can describe us from a purely genetic point of view, such as two legs, two eyes and one heart for example. How we live and communicate towards one another is down to other things.

  • BB: How do you go about researching your books?

SMN: I needed plenty of resources for this book, because it is about science, history, politics and economics and although it is fiction, I wanted to be as accurate as possible with the facts behind the story. That means reference books, the internet and trying to catch useful television programs.

  • BB: Where do you write?

SMN: I prefer to write at home, where it is quiet, although I do need the odd distraction as you might imagine. I bought a smartphone to take to work with me in case I had a great idea when I was out-and-about. My day job, which was working nights, could be quite solitary at times and so it gave me plenty of opportunities to think about what I was going to write the next day.

  • BB: Who has influenced you most, and why?

SMN: From a literary perspective, I am most influenced by Michael Crichton. I appreciated his ability to work facts about science into his characters and scenarios. At school I was good at sciences and read all of his science-fiction books during that time. I found them fascinating.

From a life perspective there could be many people to choose from, but for me when I was young Liverpool football club had a big impact on my life. When I was nine I was struck down with Osteomyleitis. It was quite a serious thing, quite rare and it effects your bone marrow. I never really knew anyone else who had suffered from it. Later, I learnt that one of Liverpool's star players of the 1980s had suffered the same illness in childhood and had gone on to have a successful sporting career.

  • BB: What three books should everyone read?

SMN: Stories about childhood are really important to people and everyone should read them. Personally, I'd say A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. The novel Pather Panchali (literally: the song of the path), or you can watch the film of the same name. It was the first film made by Satyajit Ray. I think it's the ultimate story about childhood. Finally, I'd say any Roald Dahl classic, but my choice would be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the basis that I love chocolate.

  • BB: If you could only choose one book for life on a desert island, what would it be?

SMN: I would take the Complete Works of Shakespeare, because I would want some treasure on my desert island.

  • BB: What's next for Stephen Mark Norman?

SMN: Should Meklyan and the Fourth Piece of the Artefact be successful, I would like to continue the story with further books. I love montage and would love to make montage films.

  • BB: Good luck with all of that, Stephen, and it's been a real pleasure talking to you.

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