Mark Charan Newton is the author of the genre bending Legends of the Red Sun series, which started quite strongly with Nights of Villjamur (reviewed here). It is a world of the far future that has the feel of a Fantasy with some magical-like technology. Newton's stories often play with themes of sexuality and society at war with itself while also mixing in Epic style strife of evil politicians and an invading race of monsters bent on the local populations death. The second in the series City of Ruin is one of my favorite books of the last couple of years that ups the world by leaps and bounds from an already high point. Newton's latest The Book of Transformations has just been released in the UK and as a kindle book in the us while the first two books in the series are now available in the US as trade paperbacks.
MH: Thanks for joining us today. What has Mark "The Hair" Charan Newton been up to lately?
MCN: Well, quite a bit it turns out. Here's a brief sample: writing books, writing book reviews, growing vegetables, making wine, drinking whisky, reviewing whisky, running, yoga (something I'd recommend to anyone who writes all evening and works at a desk). Yet I still manage to find time to look at absolute nonsense on the Internet.
MH: The Book of Transformations is your third novel or fourth if you count The Reef, which you usually don't. Now correct me if I am wrong, but the action of TBoT is just about concurrent with City of Ruin. What made you want to structure it this way? Was it out of a sense of not relying on some of your better known characters?
MCN: The storyline really demanded it, I think. I wanted each book to remain focused, and not lose any sense of standing on its own. And that pretty much meant splitting those events into two separate novels. What that did was also help me think creatively, and to make each of the books more interesting (why should anyone have to read all the books in a series? Why not jump in and have fun wherever?) I like to think of the storyline like points on a diamond-shape, splitting off at the start and joining up at the other end.
MH: What has been the reaction thus far on having a transgender character in The Book of Transformations? Were you at all worried about how it would be perceived?
MCN: It's too early to tell for the wider reaction - it has really only just been released - so we'll see what people are saying in a month or two, or even months down the line. Generally, the reaction has been positive from the genre crowd who haven't yet read it - I mean, that people are very open to the idea, almost excited about seeing a novel which features a transwoman, which says many positive things about fandom right now. I'm worried, of course, but not how it's perceived by wider fandom - more how it's perceived by those readers for whom transgender issues are a big concern, or a big part of their life. I had, however, been warned in advance that it might upset some folk - but you have to take a few risks as a writer from time to time. Plus, if no one writes about minorities at all, then how are things going to become more balanced?
MH: Well, I can tell you going in I had no problem with the concept and the execution fit in perfectly with the story, which lives up to the title in quite a few ways. The Book of Transformations successfully subverts the idea of Superheroes in that you create these very powerful people and build them up into icons only to have their lives torn apart around them. Do you secretly hate superheros?
MCN: Ha, no - not at all. Suffice to say, though, that I subscribe to the Watchmen school of heroes - that beyond the powers, superheroes are still people with stuff going on in their own lives. But power happens to be a central theme to the novel - it's contrasted with political and democratic power (such as with the anarchists, who choose to decentralise to minimise the negative impacts of power). If anything, it's structures of power that are what I choose to tackle, and superpowers are an extension of that metaphor.
MH: You're currently at work on the fourth and final volume of Legends of the Red Sun. Is there a title yet and are you planning on doing something else in this world or move on? You've certainly create a world with a rich history.
MCN: After book four, I'm drawing a line on this series. Four books that are all connected is quite the strain, so I think for my own sanity I need to move on to something fresh. I want to try something with different aesthetics and a different style of storytelling, because there's nothing duller for me than standing still and churning out the same thing each novel. I won't go into any details on what's next, but I will say that the setting is going to be a heck of a lot warmer!
MH: Ah, you tease. Can't wait for the ending to this series and to see what you have in store for us next. Thanks for your time and enjoy the whiskey.
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