Author Interview with Mark David Gerson
Imagine a world stripped of its most enchanting treasures: stories and storytellers. Without them, our lives would lose the magical threads of inspiration, leaving us disconnected from our own history and the shared dreams of humanity.
Enter the captivating realm of "The MoonQuest" by author Mark David Gerson, where this very notion unfolds, and the words "Once Upon A Time" could get you killed. In a world where storytellers and their stories are exiled, and the moon itself remains unseen, Toshar embarks on an uncharted and perilous journey. His mission? To reignite hope in a land ravaged by darkness and restore the moon's lost radiance.
Mark David Gerson, an award-winning author with a global readership, has penned over twenty books that traverse the realms of spellbinding fiction, insightful personal development, and self-help guides, as well as riveting memoirs and enduring classics for writers. Beyond his novel, Gerson has adapted his work as a screenplay. Readers can soon hope to watch his captivating tales come to life on the screen.
Continue reading to see what Mark David had to say.
Tell us a bit about your background.
Once upon a time, there was a kid who hated writing and was convinced he wasn’t creative. When it came to school, all he wanted was to get through English class and its writing burdens as painlessly as possible.
His Muse had other plans. His Muse had always had other plans. How else can you explain his first typewriter? A gift in his freshman year of high school in Montreal, it was a sleek, green Hermes — an unusual brand. Hermes, of course, was the Greek god of communication…and, thus, writers. And how can you explain why he agreed, a few years later, to be in charge of publicity for the senior high school musical? It was out-of-character for him to take on anything that involved not only writing but making his writing public.
I like to joke that my Muse tricked me into becoming a writer, and that’s how it began — with that typewriter and the publicity gig.
From high school musical press releases, I graduated into college musical press releases, gaining enough renown in local theater circles that I found myself freelancing as a theater publicist. Suddenly, I was being paid to write!
From college, I went to work at a dynamic p.r. startup. It was still mostly press releases, but I was writing. Unfortunately, the startup wasn’t dynamic enough. Less than a year later, I was laid off.
It was my next p.r. job that accelerated my transformation into a full-time writer. Not only did I prepare press releases, I wrote news and feature articles, something I had never done before. And thanks to the media contacts I gained on the job, I began freelancing on the side, thrilled to see my byline in major metropolitan dailies and national magazines. After a few years of that, I converted my side gig into a full-time one. To my astonishment, I was supporting myself as a self-taught writer and editor.
My writer’s story could have ended there, but it didn’t…nor did the behind-the-scenes machinations of my Muse.
You see, I still refused to see myself as creative. A skilled artisan with words, perhaps. But certainly not creative.
That changed one Monday morning during a simple water-cooler conversation. I was working in Toronto as an in-house freelance magazine editor when one of the staffers corralled me.
“I’ve just taken this amazing creative writing workshop,” she gushed. “You’ve got to take it.”
In a moment as out-of-character as the one when I agreed to run publicity for my high school Hello, Dolly!, I said yes.
Nothing was ever the same for me after that workshop.
Thanks to the instructor — to both her workshops and her mentoring — I discovered that I was creative. I started to go deeper with my writing, to write from my heart instead of from my head. And soon I was teaching my own writing workshops.
At what point did you decide to be an author?
I never really decided to be an author any more than I decided to be a writer…or a writing instructor. Just as, without me being consciously aware of what was going on, my Muse steered me into becoming a writer, it was The MoonQuest that, in a sense, determined that I would become an author.
What was your impetus for writing “The MoonQuest?”
It was in one of the workshops I mentioned earlier that my Muse gave me a gigantic push. After leading participants through a writing exercise, I did another out-of-character something: I did the exercise myself, in class.
This wasn’t just any exercise. This was one orchestrated, no doubt, by my Muse. And it was one sparked by an unlikely experience…
It’s March 28. I’m teaching a writing workshop this evening and I need to come up with some ideas. I settle into my favorite armchair and shut my eyes in meditation, but when I open them a while later, I still have no compelling program. Then my eyes light on The Celtic Tarot. It has been sitting across the room for several days, ever since I brought the deck of card home from a bookstore, where it so seduced me that I couldn’t not buy it, even as I failed to understand the impulse.
Now I do. I will have each student draw, closed-eyed, one of the deck’s cards. Then, with their eyes open to the chosen card, I’ll lead them through a guided visualization into writing.
That evening, once my students are writing, an inner imperative (the voice of my Muse?) insists I draw a card of my own. I reach into the deck, pull the Chariot and, without full awareness of what I’m doing, begin to write. What emerges is a tale of an odd-looking man in an even odder-looking coach that is pulled by two odd-colored horses.
I have no conception of this as part of a novel. Yet the following morning, I pick up where I left off and continue writing. I do this every morning through the next months and, a year later on the anniversary of that workshop, I complete the first draft of my first book — a novel I never planned to write, a novel I knew nothing about except as I wrote it word-by-word, a novel that, about a third of the way through its first draft, titled itself The MoonQuest.
In one of her memoirs, Madeleine L’Engle wrote this of A Wrinkle in Time: “I cannot possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice.”
That’s how I feel about The MoonQuest. It was a story I had to write, even as I had no idea what I was doing or what the story was about as I was doing it!
How would you describe the book?
The MoonQuest is an epic fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and it takes place in Q’ntana, a mythical land where stories have been banned, storytellers have been exiled or executed and the moon, according to legend, has been so saddened by the silence that she has cried tears that have extinguished her light. As such, the moon has not been seen, except in the dimmest of shadow, for many years.
In the story, a young bard named Toshar is thrust onto the prophesied journey that will restore story and vision to the land and light to moon. He embarks on this MoonQuest reluctantly, picks up three companions along the way and— Well, for the rest, you’ll have to read the story!
Why did you decide to write it as part of a series?
I had no idea as I set out to write what would become The MoonQuest that it would be part of a series. After all, at the outset, I didn’t even know I was writing a book! Yet by the time I was nearly finished a first draft, I had a sense — more intuitive than anything else — that there could be two more books, even as I had no idea what they would be about or how they would fit into any kind of series. Later on, I realized that this Legend of Q’ntana series, as I came to call it, would comprise more than those two additional books.
Where does book take the reader?
When Toshar is launched on his MoonQuest, he is given little direction other than to let stories guide his way. Not the stories he has been taught and that have been passed down from one generation of bards to the next. Rather, the stories that emerge unbidden from deep in his soul, stories that surprise even him with their significance. It’s when several of these stories merge with the narrative — in other words, with Toshar’s on-the-ground journey — that he and, I hope, readers come to recognize the power of storytelling…the power of their stories. So, apart from carrying readers on the same perilous, action-packed journey as that traveled by Toshar and his companions, I’d like to think that The MoonQuest kindles within them an awareness of and appreciation for their own storytelling potential and for power of story in their own lives.
What was the most surprising part of writing the book?
Perhaps the most surprising moment was when I discovered that I was writing a book! Beyond that, though, was the recognition that this story was smarter than I was and that it knew itself far better than I ever could know it.
I wrote The MoonQuest without benefit of outline, plan or plot. In fact, I knew nothing about the story except as it revealed itself to me from day’s writing to the next…sometimes from one paragraph, sentence or word to the next. It was that journey of discovery — much like Toshar’s journey in the book — that was my most surprising, exhilarating and, at times, stressful experience with The MoonQuest. It was an experience of unconditional surrender to the superior wisdom of the story, an experience of abandoning control, absolutely.
Even as I got deeper into that first draft and began to gain a fuller sense of the story, I did not take control of its plot and characters. That became particularly challenging in those moments (and there were many!), where the story seemed to be taking off in a direction that seemed to make no sense to my conscious mind. Yet despite the temptation to rein in plot, characters or both, I let the story carry me where it would). Inevitably, the result was more compelling and true to the ultimate story and its themes than anything I could have forced.
Is there an underlying message you want readers to take away?
There’s a line toward the end of The MoonQuest where Toshar and his companions are told, “You either trust or you do not. There is no halfway in between.” He is being reminded that it is only by trusting the voice of his heart — his intuitive mind, if you will — that his MoonQuest can have any hope of beating conventional odds, logic and appearances to have any chance of success. At the same time, it was only by trusting the voice of my heart — the voice of my Muse, if you will — that I was able to write a book I not only knew nothing about but had no conscious desire to write.
“Your heart will guide you, always,” Toshar is told at another point in the story. I believe that when we listen to that voice, which is not the voice of our romantic heart but the voice of our deepest soul, anything is possible. I hope that’s one of the messages readers take away with them from The MoonQuest.
You also teach writing; how do you feel that informs your fiction?
Before The MoonQuest happened to me, the writing technique I was teaching in my classes and workshops was something I called “writing on the Muse Stream.” It was a technique I had designed to help writers get out of their own way, awaken their creative potential and write naturally, spontaneously and without struggle. But it wasn’t until I wrote The MoonQuest using that same technique that I realized that the Muse Stream could work as more than a creativity-priming exercise. It could also worked for a full-length novel! Since then, I have written all my books (nonfiction as well as fiction), screenplays and pretty much everything else on the Muse Stream. I can’t imagine writing any other way!
What is next on the horizon?
I have more projects, both in-progress and conceived, than I may have time left in this lifetime to complete! Quite a few more Q’ntana stories, of course. One more novel in The Sara Stories, my other (non-fantasy) fiction series. More screenplays. Another memoir or two (I already have three!). And at least one more book in my The Way of the Fool inspirational/self-help series. As time permits, I also continue to coach writers on an individual basis and run writing workshops.
For more information on Mark David please visit: https://www.markdavidgerson.com/