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Author Mark Piesing talks about his first book N-4 DOWN and the writing process.
I interviewed author Mark Piesing about his life and career, what led him to start writing, and the work that went into his first book.
Tell Mark Piesing who you are:
I am a freelance journalist and writer specializing in technology and aviation. I live in Oxford.
N-4 DOWN: Arctic Airship Hunt is my first book.
When did the first want to write a book?
Like a child!
When did thou decide to start writing?
I started writing my first “book” when I was 7 or 8 years old and I kept trying, even while traveling in India.
I remember writing rough notes for a book about an overnight bus ride from the foothills of the Himalayas to New Delhi. Unfortunately, what I wrote didn’t make much sense in the cold light of day!
How long did it take thou to complete the book, from initial idea to publication?
Difficult to say because I came across the story of the airship disaster in Italy while writing the screenplay for my next book.
From the time my agent, the publisher, and I called about the history of Italy, it took about 22 months to complete the manuscript—but only about half of that time was written.
My publishing contract had a deadline – and that really helped me focus!
What made thou write N-4 DOWN?
I love aviation, history, innovation, and inquiry so when I discovered the story of the Italia airship crash near the North Pole I had to write.
What were the main difficulties in writing N-4 DOWN?
That’s a good question! The biggest challenge I had was figuring out how to start it and then how to say it. I was really stuck and aware that the contract deadline was approaching.
Then I flew to Svalbard on the Arctic ring, near the site of the aircraft crash, and saw this epic everlasting landscape of bright white mountains and a frozen sea, and realized that this is where the story had to start and, moreover, it should be the same Svalbard hero of this story that hopefully succeeded.
How was thine research process for N-4 DOWN?
I read a lot about the accident. I then focused on aspects of history, such as the origins of Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen, and examined them in more detail, particularly through reading eyewitness accounts, sifting through newspaper archives (which are now mostly online), and traveling to book places such as the Arctic to Location determination and search for forgotten manuscripts, for example in a neglected archive in Tromsø.
I will never forget the feeling of holding a manuscript by Umberto Nobile in my hands and then seeing his handwritten corrections on the page. I even tracked down one of the final living in a community who knew Umberto Nobile, the protagonist, in a suburb of Copenhagen.
How did thou design the structure of N-4 DOWN?
The story is told! I just followed the chronological order of events. I can’t add anything!
Did thou receive assembly help and how much assembly effort was required for the N-4 DOWN?
Yes, my editor at HarperCollins in New York spent some time creating an old pencil montage line by line of my manuscript and then shipped it back to me via DHL. I learned a lot from reading his comments and watching his changes.
The published book was a manuscript created in this process; relatively little has changed since then.
What is the first piece of writing advice thou would give someone who inspired you to write a book?
That if you really want to write a book, you have to write it every day, even just a few lines.
Can thou tell me which books you would like to write in the future?
I will write another compelling and passionate book about the men and women who are pushing the boundaries of technology to pursue important goals.
And finally, are thou proud of your result? It was worth it?
Yes, that’s me. The great response to the book from reviewers and readers made it interesting for me. But my wife may have a different opinion!
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