Award-winning author MARK EDWARD LANGLEY was instilled with a love for the American West by his father at a young age. Upon revisiting it throughout adulthood, his connection to the land and its people became that much more irrevocable.
After spending almost thirty years working for companies, he retired at the end of 2016 and began to focus on writing his first Arthur Nakai Novel, Path of the Dead, which was released August 14th, 2018 by Blackstone Publishing. His 2nd novel, Death Waits in the Dark, was released August 4th of 2020. Mark’s third book in his Arthur Nakai series, When Silence Screams, is slated for release August 2021.
He and his wife, Barbara, live in Indiana and spend their time between there and New Mexico. Mark is currently working on his fourth book in his series, BROKEN GLASS.
Books by Mark Edward Langley
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What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
Given all the radio and podcast interviews I've done, I think I've been asked everything possible.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
I've often been told that I do things backward. Instead of coming up with a story idea first, I come up with a title and then create a story around it. And it seems to work. I have three novels published currently in my award-winning Arthur Nakai mystery series and am working on books 4 and 5. When I do sit down to write, I like to do it in the morning. I used to write at night, sometimes past midnight, but that has transitioned into mornings.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I have often suffered from writer's block. Right now, I am writing books 4 & 5 of my series, writing a new series and a short story for an anthology to come out later this year. In this case, if I get stuck, I just go to the other project. Before I was so busy, I simply did what my father told me "Just get up and walk away and come back later with fresh eyes,"
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Research, research, research. I do an ungodly amount of research for my books. I have 3" ring binders for each of them full of research. Aside from that, I would say perseverance. Never give up on your dream. Shove aside all those who do not understand because it is not their dream; it is yours. And try to stay away from self-doubt. Nothing can cripple your success better than self-doubt in your abilities.
What are your current/future projects?
As I mentioned, I am writing books 4 and 5 of my Arthur Nakai mystery series, as well as beginning a new mystery series. My Nakai series is based in New Mexico on and off the Navajo Reservation. I love the people and the land, and they are a central part in my books. The second series is also based in New Mexico but concerns very different characters with different and sometimes conflicting pasts. I love a character-driven narratives. Readers fall in love with characters. They cheer for them, weep for them and live through them.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
Yes. I chose the mystery genre because that is what I have always read and been enticed by. I learned from the best Robert B. Parker, Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald and Tony Hillerman. It was while reading them that I first told myself, "This is what I want to do." It took over 25 years, but I did it. When you're working and married and have a family, other things are more important, but when you get the chance to realize your dreams, you take it.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
I hope it will continue to grow. I also hope it will become more recognized as a valid way to become a published author. There is still an industry prejudice against authors who self-publish. That somehow, they are less professional, less legitimate. Some literary awards still do not accept self-published authors, which I find completely infuriating. Being self-published does not make you inconsequential. The stigma is still there, lurking in the halls of the literary establishment.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
Initially, I was a traditionally published author. I acquired an agent, who then found a publisher. My first two books were published by a house that assigned a publicist and a marketing person to me but did very little to publicize or market my books. I was also never told that I was the one who needed to do all the that work. When I asked what more I could do, I was told to keep doing the little that I was doing. Upcoming writers need to be aware that having a publisher does not mean you will be a success. You may get a nice advance, but if your books don't sell, you will not see a royalty. Don't be enamored by the glare of hitting the NYT best seller list on your first go. It is a marathon, not a race. It is up to YOU if you win.
My 3rd book, When Silence Screams, I self-published. a new writer should know that it will take money to do so. There are costs. At least $10K. You have to pay an editor, a publicist, a graphic designer (for your covers), a person or company to format your book, and don't forget the fees involved. My 3rd novel look exactly like the first two my publisher turned out. The ONLY thing missing is their logo. As I was told by a well-established author, look to spent at least five to ten thousand dollars to self-publish.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
Yes. Reluctantly. My debut novel, Path of the Dead, began as Navajo Wind. But, according to market research, the title would have to be changed because I was not Native American. Which was ridiculous. The publisher also had someone read my novel in house who found 25 things that were questionable. I won the argument of 99% of them and they stayed in the book. Beware of this literary direction of not wanting to offend. A writer does not need his/her work to be modified to fit society's constantly transforming whims or judgements. A writer's work needs to reflect society. Expose it, share it. Not conform to it.
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
The oddest and most wonderful things have been people buying my books in stores and bringing them to me to autograph. The other astounding thing is being in hotels and having the staff pay more attention to you. One of the astounding things that happened was while my wife and I were on a research trip to New Mexico. The hotel we were staying at compted our breakfasts each of the ten days and the bar tender offered me free beers (Santa Fe Nut Brown) while having dinner. We are not used to it.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
I had a three-state book tour set up going into 2020, but then Covid hit, and everything closed. So, I like every other author, scrambled to get on every podcast or radio show they could. I was lucky to be interviewed on radio stations and podcasts across the country. They do give you exposure, but the fact that they may have an effect on book sales is negligible. Then there are social media ads. I have used them, but again did not see any real correlation to book sales. I do get 5K views for my book trailers, so don't forget how important they are. I hired a publicist, as well at a cost of $5K, and got more recognition with reviewers and magazines, but not a lot of gain in book sales. The one thing I did myself was to contact newspapers. I contacted local papers and papers in New Mexico, where my novels are based. Nothing seems to spur sales better than a full or 1/2-page article in a local or major newspaper. I find it comical that the Chicago Tribune won't give me the time of day, but three papers in New Mexico cover my novels.
Paying for reviews is one thing, and something that should be looked into, but not relied upon. You must be careful. There are scams out there. Just as there are with so-called book awards. You will need to focus of the best ROI (Return on Investment) for you. Focus on well-known awards and not ones you never heard of. Just as with reviews. Focus on magazines like Publisher's Weekly and the like and not ones that seem suspicious. My latest book is up for 13 awards; all of which are verified. Be careful. Spent your hard-earned money wisely.
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
Amazon, hands down. It is so easy to navigate and only has a few problems that they need to correct. There is NO COST to the author; they simply take a cut from every sale, and you get paid a royalty each month! I am hoping they will make the hardcover they started last year will be able to be the pre-order. I have not looked into Ingram, so I cannot speak about them. Amazon is the Goliath, but it works perfectly.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
My novels classify as mystery. As I mentioned earlier, I loved reading them and simply gravitated to writing them because of a love for them.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
All I can say is, "Thank God for the NOTES section on my cell phone!" It is a writer's best and most trusted friend! Use it.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
I don't really have a target number of words but find that over 75,000 words for a novel is a good place to begin. That puts you at around 277 pages, so if you have a more involved storyline, you'll be over 300 pages when you're finished. But keep in mind that it isn't the size of the book that counts, but the quality of the story inside it.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
If you read my first two novels and then my third, you will definitely see how I have improved with each book. My main goal is to hope that my stories raise awareness of the Navajo people and the struggles they face every day. I don't want readers to feel sorry for them, but to understand that they are really no different than they are. I have met with some Navajos and have several as social media friends. They love that I am telling stories that are bringing to light things they are dealing with daily.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
I believe strongly that everything hinges on the title, then cover design, then the synopsis and the size of the book. For some reason perspective readers see the number of pages as the sign of a good story. I believe that is because since the early 1970's books have progressively gotten thicker. Tony Hillerman's first six novels were as big as my first two. Robert B. Parker's first twelve novels were also the same size as mine. It seems as though book publishers changed the width and height of books in 1986. Ever since then they have grown exponentially, and readers have the impression that thickness is quality kind of like how kids think musical volume means quality.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
There is some value in it. I have had publicists who have issued press releases that gotten me noticed enough to get the release published in newspapers. No telling what effect it actually had.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, overrated, or don’t matter at all?
I value reviews greatly, as all writers should. Especially the cover blurbs from other authors and literary magazines. At the same time, Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub and other platforms are equally valued. A writer thrives on reviews. The more the merrier!
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
As I mentioned earlier, paying for a review can be tricky. Swapping is okay if the writers share a genre or readers. I would never use a review that does not seem right for the book. A prospective reader will see right through that. I would stay away from those.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
I can't say I have run into that. They may exist. but I have not come into contact with them. Most authors have been very cordial and welcoming when I contact them.
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
Not really. It pays to know what you're talking about and have a sheet ready with all the points you want to make sure you mention during the interview.
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
There are a lot of books out there. It is up to the author to make sure they stand out. Never over-hype your book. if you have spent time doing marketing in your previous career, you will benefit from that knowledge. Look at other ads from major publishers and do you best to make your ads resemble their professionalism and style. Promote, promote, promote! But I do find that once a week on social media may be enough. You don't want to saturate. Don't be like a tv commercial that keeps inundating the viewer until they are no longer interested in the program.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
Like any writer, I would think that it would be ignored. People don't like to fail. But sometimes failure spurs you on. One way to keep that fear at bay is to join online book clubs. Ask if you can do a Facebook club page takeover as a way of introducing readers to your books.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
Currently, I have three novels published, a short story and an article. I think my best work is my latest novel, When Silence Screams. It shines a horrific light on the missing and murdered indigenous women from the reservations in the USA and Canada. What sparked this book was when I read about the 5,712 that went missing in 2016 alone. I knew then I had to write a story of a fictional 19-year-old who gets innocently caught up in sex trafficking as a way to raise awareness of this tragedy. I am extremely proud of this book.
What is the intended audience for you book?
Adults 18 to 55, which seems to be the demographic I'm getting when I read my Google and website reports.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
I like to include snappy dialogue between Arthur and his Wife so readers can relate to them as a married couple. Everyone has little conversations like they do. It makes the characters realistic if people can laugh a little and see themselves in them.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
That we are basically all the same as people. With all the manufactured strife being shown on the airwaves, if human beings could see each other as that--human beings--and not by any other means, we would all see we have so many more similarities than we do differences.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
There is no doubt that social media helps in connecting with readers. I use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn (because of my days in business). They have been especially important since the creation of Covid that put a stop to all live book signing events. As a writer, you must use every tool in your toolbox. As with anything, the web is a blessing and a curse. Use it wisely.
What makes a good story, why?
As I said in a social media post once, "In stories, as in life, conflict moves things forward."
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
When choosing names for my characters I consult many areas. I have a data base of Native American names I go through. Otherwise, I look at social media, and I have even been known to seek out obituaries. I never use someone's actual name, but I do combine names. And, yes, they do have to roll off the tongue easily. The have to sound good.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Robert B. Parker often said that he never read reviews; he let his wife do that. If there was something she felt he should see, she would show him. Otherwise, he said, you have to read the good with the bad. I will confess that I read them. I have been very glad to see only a handful of negative reviews. Mostly they have been four and five stars. I am simply glad people are reading them and liking them!
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
I have done many book signing events and love them! I can't wait to get back to them. You don't sell books every time, but you meet people and have a chance to intrigue them about your work enough so that they might pick one up. Meeting people face-to-face is the best way to enjoy readers and for readers to be introduced to writers.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
Anything my villains do. I do not think that way, so researching helps get myself into their minds. In my book When Silence Screams, I had to research a serial killer, a low-end porn director and a human trafficker. I know nothing about their worlds, but with enough information I could create people that readers will love to hate. The easiest scenes to write are between Arthur and his Wife Sharon. I draw from personal experience. The banter between them is partly what my wife and I go through and a bit of what everyone hopes love would be like.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
A family saga. I found some papers in my mother's things after she and my father passed away, and they really tell a story that I had no idea of between them and my family history. Perhaps, someday ...
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
I never have. I'm always awake when the muse hits. Again, I put every idea into the NOTES section on my phone so I can print it out later.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
I am creating another series set in New Mexico and thinking that perhaps I might have the new series main character show up in an Arthur Nakai novel, kind of like a new spinoff tv character(s) might show up in another show first.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
All may characters were created by me, but some were based on conglomerations of people I have come across in my life. Every writer does that. If they don't then their characters will seem flat, one dimensional. Characters need to be complex, just like people, to be interesting.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Sentence structure, punctuation, and storytelling ability; above all--imagination. Simple as that.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
I grew up reading Robert B. Parker's Spenser series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer series, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, Ian Fleming's James Bond series, and Ernest Hemingway novels. They all were my teachers.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
Myself, I love the feel of an actual book in my hand. I love the weight of it, the smell of it. My wife has a Kindle. So there ya go. I guess opposites do attract!
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
I view writing as all of the above. I would love it to become a career where I could make a living achieving my dream. We all do. To be successful as a writer and financially successful would be great. I just want to write and be happy doing it.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
For my first three books, I knew where I was going with them, so I had no trouble researching. For my fourth book (the one I'm' writing now) I actually had to contact Arizona and New Mexico police and ask for files so I could see how they addressed the case and learn procedure. I contacted the head of the Office of the Medical Examiner at the University of New Mexico for autopsy files so I could flesh out my medical examiner in the series. The challenge was in convincing them I was a writer and would treat their profession with respect and dignity. Once they understood what I was doing, they complied.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
I always proofread my work. Actually, like most writers, my wife will read my work and catch things my eyes don't see. With my first book my publisher I was assigned an editor. I was not pleased with his work for various reasons. The publisher also assigned a new editor for book two, and I loved her. Unfortunately, she passed away before she could read book three. For book three I asked another writer friend who she uses and used her. She did a great job. I will use her again. You owe it to yourself to hire someone who doesn't have any skin in the game to find the errors you missed and make your manuscript shine!
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
Self-publishing The main advantage is YOU have the control. You are responsible for every aspect. As far as royalties go, you get paid every month. You get distribution, too, but your book will not be listed as "returnable" so chain bookstores will be shy on ordering them because they cannot return them if they do not sell. That's a drawback. Indie stores will possibly buy them, but you will most likely have to take them to the store for book signings. Upside, they will cut you a check when the signing is done that you can deposit when you get back home.
Traditional you have control over barely anything. If you have a good agent, you will be paid an advance, but don't look for a royalty until the book sells enough to earn back what they gave you. It's been five years since my first book was released, and I have yet to see any royalty payments. It is up to you to do all the marketing and publicity for your book. Gone are the days when a publisher will do that for you. As the saying goes, "You get out what you put in."
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
Not really. I love mysteries.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
What motivates me is the need to write. My inspiration comes from tv news, print news, online news, and listening to people's conversations at restaurants. Shhh, don't tell anyone.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
It's angle. Yes, there are other Native American stories out there, but none of them are covering current affairs that the rez is dealing with daily. None of them may be handling a marriage or relationship by sharing true conversations and happenings people can relate to.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
When you have control as a self-published writer, and if you have the money, you can do it right. Sure, you can find stock photos to use and make something up, but if you want it done right, hire a professional. I was lucky that I tapped into the same graphic designer that did my 2nd book cover. We worked together then and worked beautifully together for book three. Plus, if you want to keep the continuity and quality from your traditionally published books, you need a professional. They are worth it.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
My most favorite thing is doing the research. I may look for 15 minutes to a couple of hours for information just to make one sentence be accurate. Compiling research is fun!
My least favorite thing is spending time creating advertising and contacting magazines, etc. I hired a publicist for book three and it paid off. They have contacts that you don't even know about. And if they don't work out, the updates they send you will give you a head start on contacting the same people.