Interview with Mark Leslie author of Haunted Hamilton

Interview with Mark Leslie author of Haunted Hamilton

Posted on August 10 by admin
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Mark Leslie joins us this Friday in an interview about his new release Haunted Hamilton!

Caitlyn: Tell us about your book.

Mark: Haunted Hamilton is not just a book that explores the ghosts and mysteries of Hamilton and the surrounding area, but it is a celebration of the unique history and culture that makes Hamilton special.

When putting the book together, as I expected, I had fun exploring the legends and tales that have been passed along through generations, shared around camp-fires and are continually shared by tour guides and residents alike; but I also took care to dig into historic fact and detail; in particular, researching a bit of the background of a building, from the construction, to the residents and history

For that reason, Haunted Hamilton is likely to appeal to two sets of people:  those who love revelling in true ghost stories and enjoy the special thrill that comes when discussing things that go bump in the night; but also those who appreciate local history and lore and want to learn a little bit more about what makes this region so unique.

When researching and putting this book together two things happened to me.  First, I scared myself silly. But second, I fell deeper in love with the beautiful city that I live in; with the people, the history and the culture of Hamilton and all of the people involved in making it what it is today.

Caitlyn: How did you research your book?

Mark: I spent a great deal of time talking with Daniel and Stephanie, the owners of Haunted Hamilton Ghost Walks & Tours.  I also attended most of their local ghost walks and other events so I could experience the special chill of standing in the places I was researching and listening to the wonderful guides as they shared wonderful verbal tales that sent shivers down the spine, but at the same time educated people about unique historic events and details.

I also spent a lot of time at the central branch of the Hamilton Public Library in the archives division, digging through special files, old newspaper stories and the many wonderful books that have been written about Hamilton and surrounding area over the years.

It was particularly interesting to me how so many books, events and people seem to cross-over with one another in my research.  Certainly, Hamilton’s proximity to so many events involving the War of 1812 turn up in stories about Dundurn Castle, Stoney Creek’s Battlefield House Museum, the Armouries and event one of the haunted pubs; but even Alma Dick Lauder, who is a central character in the tales surrounding the Hermitage Ruins in Ancaster, also wrote about Albion Falls and Auchmar House in her 1897 book Pen and Pencil Sketches of Wentworth Landmarks.

Hamilton, and this book, are filled with an incredible number of meta references like this, making it unique in that, while each tale is told separately, there are so many interesting and intriguing cross-overs between the various legends and tales told about a person or locale.

Caitlyn: What was your first publication?

Mark: The very first story I sold was a YA humour story entitled “The Progressive Sidetrack” – it appeared in a small press magazine called “Chapter One” in 1992 and readers have commented that it reminded them of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

“The Progressive Sidetrack” was about a senior high school student who, while saddled with responsibilities as student council president and slipping academic duties, is trying to get close to a young woman he has a crush on in order to ask her to the dance. With every action he takes in an attempt to get her alone just for a few minutes so he can speak with her in confidence, he finds himself thrust into tangential activities that take him further and further away from her.

My very first horror story (since most of my writing is a little darker or considered to be within the “Twilight Zone” style of fiction), was called “Phantom Mitch” and appeared in Wicked Mystic magazine in October of 1993.  This story is about a man who lost his left arm and his wife in a tragic car accident — with his phantom limb he is able to reach out into the world beyond our own and touch his dead wife. He finds himself more concerned with maintaining contact with his wife in the afterlife than in healing in the real world.  The story received honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror # 7 (edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling), and was reprinted in my self-published story collection One Hand Screaming, which I released in 2004.

Caitlyn: Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

Mark: The most memorable response I received from a reader had to do with a science-fiction story I wrote for editor Julie Czerneda in an anthology entitled Stardust that was published in 2001.  Stardust was part of the Tales from the WonderZone series which was based upon science being taught in the Ontario curriculum from Grades 3 through Grade 6.  Each story included scientific fact that would be taught at various levels and applied that special “what if” great science-fiction involves.  The idea was that teachers could use the books for teaching either English (creative writing) or Science  – in teaching Science, since the stories include elements being addressed at various grade levels, it would allow the teacher a chance to demonstrate the science “in action” as interpreted by a science-fiction writer.

My story, “Looking Through Glass” included details involving the properties of light – in particular, how light is slowed down when passing through other translucent objects.  It was a mystery story in which an experimental window slowed down the light enough that it allowed people a window into the past.

Because the anthology was used in classrooms, we heard back from many teachers who enjoyed being able to use them for engaging with their students.  And that’s where the most memorable response comes from.

I received a letter from a teacher that included a piece of writing by a boy from her grade 4 class.  This boy was a reluctant reader and had never finished any story he had ever attempted to read before.  However, when he picked up my tale in Stardust, he read it through to completion and was so delighted with the way the story made him think, that he sat down and wrote a lengthy book review about it.  (Again, this is something he’d only ever done before under duress from instructors, and this time he was doing it because he was moved and inspired).  I still have that wonderful piece of writing from this young boy, and love the fact that I helped a reluctant reader discover the wonder and joy of reading.  It is among the most cherished pieces of reader response that I have.

Caitlyn: What is your new project?

Mark: 2012 has certainly been a year for writing projects.  Before I pitched Haunted Hamilton to Dundurn Press, I had already signed a contract with a small Canadian publisher from Western Canada, Atomic Fez, to publish my novel I, Death.  I, Death was initially a novella length story that I rolled out in real time via blog format back in 2006.  Reader response was so strong for that project that I ended up turning it into a full length novel.  It will be released in November 2012 at World Fantasy Con. In the meantime, the unedited first third of the novel is being rolled out live on a blog.  But it does contain extreme horror and adult content, so is not appropriate for anyone under the age of 18.

I was also asked to be editor of Edge Publishing’s Tesseracts Sixteen, a long running Canadian science fiction and fantasy anthology series that features Canadian writers.  This year’s theme for the anthology is “Parnassus Unbound” and is an exploration of art, literature, music and culture through a speculative lens.  I am delighted with the amazing stories I have been able to gather, including two ground-breaking things that haven’t yet been done in this series yet.  T16 includes an epic poem in the style of Gilgamesh and a tale co-authored by a non-Canadian.  Kevin J. Anderson (the non-Canadian) and Neil Peart (the Canadian lyricist and drummer from Rush) have a story in this collection.  While I’m a bit biased about the quality of all the stories, I have to say I am tremendously proud of each and every piece that I selected for Tesseracts Sixteen.  The book is due out in September 2012.

I have another ghost story book in mind (a theme that explores well beyond the Hamilton area) that I have been noodling over and will begin working on later this summer.  And I also have a few other projects and novels that I am still shopping around.  A contemporary fiction novel called Morning Son and a tongue in cheek thriller called A Canadian Werewolf in New York.  There are also two more story collections that I am looking at, including previously published short stories.  One is another adult horror collection and the other is a collection of speculative fiction geared towards a YA audience.  For me the challenge really is about finding time to work on each of the fantastic projects that I have queued up.

Mark Leslie is the author of One Hand Screaming and the editor of North of Infinity II, Campus Chills, and Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario.