V. Mark Covington, Author of Homemade Sin

Meet author V. Mark Covington, author of the fascinating book Homemade Sin, in this in-depth interview.

1. Tell us a little about Homemade Sin, what inspired you to write it?
When I write a book I take two or three things and figure out how they are connected then I write about it. Everything is connected in some way. With Homemade Sin I was on a trip to Florida and someone told me about this town called Casadega. It is supposed to have the most psychic energy than any other place in the country. A man named George Colby established it as a “Spiritualist Camp” in 1895 and now it is full of psychics, mediums, Crystalmancers, etc. So I went to see it and I noticed the one area of magic they didn’t have was voodoo. So I imagined a Voodoorine living in the town, and that led to Mama Wati the Casadega Vooderine, her apprentice Hussey and Hussey’s boyfriend Cutter and so on. On the next leg of my trip I stayed at this semi-seedy hotel in Madera Beach for a few days, the beach was awesome but the hotel had seen better days. As I looked out at a group of retirees in the pool, floating on those Styrofoam noodles I was reminded of zombies, which connected back to Mama Wati and Hussey. Stinky the cat, I met in a bar in Key West…

2. Do you have a favorite character you have written?
My favorite characters are not usually the main characters, or at least they don’t start out that way. Some characters are just so strong, quirky or colorful that they steal the show and I come to realize that they have become the main characters so I give them a starring role, they’ve earned it. I think my favorite character is Stinky the cat in Homemade Sin. Stinky is a former god demoted to muse for causing the bubonic plague. He has been the muse to many writers over the years. He helped T.S Elliot write Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. He was the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black. He named Vonnegut’s book Cat’s Cradle and Tennessee Williams once kicked him down a flight of stairs.

3. What are you currently working on?
I always have lots of stuff going on. Right now my big project is a southern gothic novel in the tradition of Flannery O’Connor and John Kennedy Toole. It’s about a tough, big boned, southern, roller-derby queen and tow truck driver named Belle. Belle drags a car up out of the river one day and finds an 80-year-old pickled baby in a big, blue Ball Mason jar. The name of the tow truck company, as well as the name of the book is Khamel Towing (Belle’s boss, owner of the towing company/truck stop is Joe Khamel). I also have a play Shakespeare in the Trailer Park going into a full production run in 2013. It debuted in Philly last April and showcased in Richmond this April. I am doing various writing blogs, panel discussions, etc.

4. How long have you been writing? What influenced you to start?
I wrote my first poem when I was seven. I wrote a play when I was twelve. I edited two literary magazines in high school and the school newspaper in college. Then I went to work for a management consultant and college professor in business and I didn’t write for about 7 years. One day I had an idea and just jumped into writing my first novel. That was 5 novels ago. I think it was a person who inspired me more than a what ‒ Tom Robbins. I have always read. I cut my teeth on Bradbury as a kid. I dove into Orwell, Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner, Vonnegut, Steinbeck, and Hemingway. They all intimidated me. I thought I could never write as well as them. Then, in college, I read Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins and thought “I can do that.” My twisted sense of humor and bizarre prose is very similar to Tom’s.

5. How do your family/friends feel about your writing?
My family consists of a very patient wife and two Australian Shepherds. My wife provides input on my novels when I’m stuck on a plot line I can run it by her and she usually comes up with something that triggers something else. She is also the first reader of my stuff so she sees all the warts and blemishes in the manuscript and takes a red pen to them. She is very helpful. The dogs are not. The boy dog takes his nose and tries to lift my hand from the keyboard to be petted and while I am distracted, the girl dog, all sixty three pounds of her, climbs into my lap. I have an agreement with my friends, they always read my books and attend my plays and I don’t call them up at three in the morning and ask “what is another word for synonym?”

6. Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
Let’s just say in 5 years I want to be 100% supported by my writing, living near a beach where it never gets below 50 degrees.

7. Do you have any advice for new or aspiring author?
Read! Read everything you can get your hands on. If you aspire to be a sci-fi writer, read westerns and historical fiction, if you want to be a romance writer, read plays and sci-fi. Don’t just read your genre, stretch out. There is something to learn in every genre. Build a literary toolbox from what you learn. If you slam into a dead end, or your characters mutiny, or the plot just heads off in a different direction, you’ll have the right tools to build a bridge across it. But you have to have lots of different tools, if all you have is a hammer, all your problems will start looking like nails. Also, join a writer’s group if you can find one in your town, they are a great support system. I’m a member of the James River Writers here in Richmond, and I really look forward to our once a month meetings at a local bar. You will find that a lot of people are facing the same writing hurdles you are and you can help each other get over them.

8. What is your favorite book? (one that you have read) and why?
There are so many great books and authors, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Lamb by Chris Moore, but if I had to pick one it would be Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. It is one of the funniest books I have ever read. You start out hating the main character, Ignatius Riley, and after a while you can’t stop turning pages to find out what he will do next. It is set in New Orleans, one of my favorite cites, and they actually have a life-sized statue of Ignatius on Canal Street, in front of the Chateau Bourbon Hotel.

9. On the fun side, what is your favorite television show and why?
When I was a kid I loved The Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits and Night Gallery. Now I mostly stick to HBO or Showtime. Once in a while the comedy channel. I like shows with good writing. I never miss a new episode of True Blood and I think I’ve seen all the episodes of Six Feet Under at least three times.

10. Where can readers find you, Mark?
Sometimes at the bar at Café Guttenberg, or the bar at Can Can French Bistro, or the bar at the Conch Republic … I think there’s a theme here. I do hang out at bars but only to watch people and get ideas for character development (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). When I’m not at a bar you can find me at:
My web page – vmarkcovington.com
My Blog- vmarkcovington blog

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  1. Hi, Stacy & Mark! Thank you, Stacy, for having Mark visit. Mark, enjoyed your post and learning more about your process. You do have a dab hand at creating unique characters and then pitching them into fascinating plots. Looking forward to seeing you at the bar next month with JRW! You always spice up the gathering.

  2. Thanks so much for coming by, Denise! Glad you interviewed Mark’s interview!

Stacy Juba