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 latest novel, WHEN SILENCE SCREAMS is the third book in the series was published on August 31.
Connect with Mark Edward Langley
Show Notes and Resources
Author influences: Robert B. Parker, Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald, Ernest Hemingway, Tony Hillerman
Actor Bronson Pinchot narrates the Arthur Nakai novels. He has narrated many audiobooks.
Book Trailer for WHEN SILENCE SCREAMS
Please note, I used an automated software program to generate this transcript, not a human. I only do a light edit so it might be choppy and have mistakes. Accuracy according to the software is 80%. To learn more about the Happy Scribe software that I use click here.
You are listening to Meet the Thriller Author, the podcast where I interview writers of mysteries, fillers and suspense books. I am your host, Alan Petersen, and this is episode number 176. In this episode, the podcast will be meeting award-winning author Mark Edward Langley, who writes the Arthur Nakai mystery books set in the American Southwest. His latest novel in that series, When Silence Screams, was published on August 31. Really enjoyed chatting with Mark about his work, about setting his mystery novels in the American Southwest. So stay tuned for that interview coming up here in just a moment.
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All right. Here is my interview with Mark Edward Langley.
Welcome to the podcast. Mark.
Great to be here. Thank you very much.
Yes, thanks so much for coming on here. And so just to get the ball rolling here, can you tell us a little bit about your background before you got into writing?
Oh, my going back 30 years, I was in the automotive aftermarket industry, from anywhere from behind a parts counter when I was like 20 years old to managing a store and ended up my 30 year career as a division head for a company close to where I used to live and then all the time doing that the last 20 years or more of that writing the first book, Half of the Dead. Once I retired, I had more time to focus on that at the end of 2016.
Right there for 2017. I got things going and submitted several letters of query and some sample chapters. Then I got 15 rejections and one agent actually called me and became my agent. And then two weeks after that, I had a two book deal.
So there was, like 30 years of the making. And then all of a sudden, it just went into a hyperspace when the dominoes fall. So obviously you’ve always wanted to be a writer. It’s always been something you’ve dreamed about before I worked in a bookstore a long time ago.
Back in the early would have been 80s. And at that time, the television show Spencer For a Higher, was on Robert Europe, on TV based on Robert Parker’s books. And one of the persons I worked with a woman. She said, Well, if you like the show, you should love the books. So you should read the books. So I picked up his books and started reading those and collecting all those. And then that got me into reading Mickey Spleen and Ernest Henryway and John D. Macdonald and so forth and Tony Hillerman, of course.
So they all kind of, I think without knowing it by reading them, shaped the way I would write and what I would do because I told him. And I said, Your father taught me about description of landscape, and Robert Parker taught me about dialogue. John D. Mcdonald taught me about story. And then Mickey explained, of course, about action. So I kind of melting pot for that to become the person that I am trying to write these novels. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job.
And people seem to agree.
I guess the great authors to learn from some of the best. How did the series come together for you? What got you interested in the settings? I know the setting is a really big part of your books. How did that all come together for you when you decided to write these books back when I was I’m 61 now.
So back when I was twelve, my parents took me on a vacation out to Colorado and New Mexico and Arizona, and I fell in love with the land out there then. And then when I got to be in my early mid 30s, I took a two week trip plotting out the first book, and I drove the roads that are in the first book from New Mexico to Montana and then dictated off into a tape recorder, came back and transcribed it all down, sort of them developing characters and backstories and so forth and putting things together, plotting out my chapter.
I like to plot those out, so I know where I’m going at some point on the first and second book. Not so much with the fourth and the third one here yet, but I had an idea of where I was going. So I wrote the ending, so I knew I had a place to get to and then just did the story up to that point and picked up and finished the book. But the land itself, I love the land itself. I love the people that are out there.
I’ve been lucky enough to gain a lot of Nova whole friends on social media and a few of my met out there doing research for both books. It was incredible to talk to them and learn a lot more than I knew.
Did you base the character of Arthur Nakai on the people that you interviewed that you met and talked with? Are they conglomerated people that you’ve met?
No, actually, it’s a funny thing with it. I tried several different names for the main character and then finally settled on Arthur because it just naturally rolled off the tongue and it felt natural to say that name. It was actually based on a gentleman I worked with who was a Navajo person, and his name was Arthur, and then my favorite Native American flute pair player, Carlos Nakai. So I kind of merged that and then I had in mind shaping his features and so forth. So I kind of loosely based it on McLaren back when he was younger.
It worked out that way and started developing characters like his wife Sharon was actually based on a television reporter for NBC locally by where I live, but I convert back with them on messages and so forth and talk to her about what she had to give up to have that job. So I could make Sharon more real in the things she gave up to have that anchor job that she’s got. So a lot of things worked out really well, and it turned out good. So there are people in the books that are conglomerations of people, mountains of people.
But the major police captain in there is loosely based on my grandfather, who is a large barrel chested man. But outside of that, just people are made up. Like most authors, sometimes they will search online for photographs and see somebody that to them fits that image. And then that’s who you pick to choose having to look like.
So how many books do you have in the series so far?
There are three so far. When Silence Creams is the third book that came out August 31. I’m currently writing right now, the fourth and fifth books of that. And then I’ve kind of started playing around with at the best of my agent, a new series based in New Mexico as well.
Is that going to be like a thriller.
Mystery series again, mystery, same kind of thing. It’s a different area I looked to not to be like anyone else. I didn’t want to be a Park Ranger and so forth for a long and that kind of thing. But I looked in New Mexico for someone that I thought would be able to have the powers of the police and do their job as well. And there’s a cross certification process that goes on. So it is applicable to this character, but I think it’s going to turn out really well.
I did a Zoom meeting with Department head of the business reveal too much, but the business might have been. We talked for a long time about certain things, so I got a background on how they do their work, so it should come along nicely. I think I’m not sure when it’s going to come out, but it should come along nicely nice.
And so it sounds like you really put in a lot of research beforehand, like on the characters and location. Can you tell us a little bit about that? You’re actually reaching out to people to talk to them?
Actually, yes. I went out there for the second book and did research, spent ten days in Santa Fe and then went up north to Farmington in that area to Bloomfield and down 550 because it dealt with a lot of fracking and oil drilling out there on Navajo land. And I talked to some people. I was lucky enough to meet a man, Arnold Clifford, who pretty much is like the Encyclopedia of the Four Corners. He knows everything about the geology and the flora and fauna out there. So I talked with him for a day and he took me around to the places I had to go in the book and taught me about what plants are here, the novel history of the place, the geological formation of the place.
So I got a lot of information from him that I constantly refer back to and meeting the people that are out there. I love that they are the ones that I’ve met with and talked to on Facebook and so forth. They are appreciative that I’m actually trying to discuss things in the books that they deal with on a daily basis, not just create a story, that’s a fictional story. It has a bit of truth through it in that, and at least 98% of the locations in my books are real.
Only about 2% are ones I made up to push the story along, but it’s up to the reader to figure out which one of those are.
Can you tell us a little bit about the story? And when silence screams, what’s the book about? What can readers expect reading it?
Sure, it came to be when I realized and I read about the 5712 missing and murdered Indigenous women that went missing on the reservations in the USA and Canada in 2016. I thought that’s a crazy number. It’s a wild number. How can that be so big? And that was just the first year they started actually keeping track of those missing girls. So I researched that as much as I could so much. I watched every dissertation given in a Stadium or auditorium. I watched the interviews of families who had had their daughters and so forth taken away.
Some were found, some aren’t and then thought, Well, what better way to bring this awareness to people than to have a story about a fictional 19 year old Navajo girl that goes missing after falling for a fake profile on social media and meeting the person that has never seen from again.
That’s incredible. You’ve been reading about this, like all over the world, about the massive graves of Indigenous people. It’s just kind of incredible the stuff that’s coming up recently. So this is pretty kind of like what’s been mirroring what’s actually been happening out there. It’s kind of scary.
Yeah. The school thing, the bodies they found in Canada, it’s all schools back in the day and so forth. And there should be may be something like that found here, you never know. But if it happens there, it happens everywhere like that. But I wanted to kind of at least raise awareness a bit on this. And at least I put in the forward of the book there. That the sales of this book. I’m going to donate a portion of it to Missing Murder Indigenous Women organization to further the work that they’re doing right now, because they take care of a lot of the families with these girls and women.
If their body is found out of state, they will pay to bring it back and have a ceremonial barrel. So everything they make goes toward the family. The one thing I want to do is make sure that they get a portion of the sales to continue their work.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. It’s something that just recently has been in the forefront, at least in my radar, because of that missing girl that unfortunately turned out that what was her name? Petito Gabby Pattito. Yeah. Yeah. That’s horrible. What happened to her. And you feel terrible for her family. But then all these other families are like, well, our girls have been missing, too, and no one cares that’s it like a character says in my book.
When it’s a nice, wet girl in a golf course, everybody hears about it, but nobody cares about these girls. Any girl of color, pretty much because it’s like they’re considered throw away or whatever. They’re not worth it. But every person, every life that’s out there is worth it to find out about and try to rescue. As long as it raises people’s awareness of it. I don’t push any thoughts about it, but I give people the information they can determine for themselves and choose for themselves. But I felt I needed to do a story about this in a fictional way.
And I’m kind of curious now about your writing process. I know you put a lot of research into this. Do you outline or do you write by the seat of your pants?
No, I do outline. Yeah, I do a lot of copious amount of research because so many things are going on that I have to find out about. As a writer, you don’t know everything. You have to learn it and discover it. But, like, I just got a 100 page document from University of New Mexico office of the Medical Investigator concerning some cases I’m dealing with out there that I want to kind of work into the book and what it does for me, then is it gives me the procedure they use in their investigation and what they do along with that.
I’m waiting for some police files to come in for some certain things that happened out there, too, to have the procedure on that and how things are followed in that area. But I do a lot of research. I have done a lot of compiling of things. I have mostly a three inch binders of research for every book that I do, where I pull things in and bring things around. So it’s all something that you have to do, and I enjoy the research part of it and then picking and choosing of that what to use and who’s going to talk about that or be in that situation at some point.
But I do plot out chapters. I try to do that ahead of time, because that’s why I know where I’m going. And occasionally every writer has that where as they’re writing and they’re maybe into a thought process from the character or a dialogue of the character. The characters kind of come to life sometimes, and they will leave me a direction I haven’t thought of.
Yeah. That kind of reminds the David Boldachi master class that I watched a few months ago. He showed all the binders that he uses for researching one of his books just like you. He had, like, I don’t know, like, five or six huge binders, just full of stuff, even though you might only use, like, one little paragraph. But it’s got a binder on it.
I may search for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, hour and a half 2 hours trying to find one certain thing to make even one sentence sound correct.
I was kind of curious, too, with this crazy year and a half that we’ve had with this pandemic, I’ve been asking my guests, did that change your writing style at all? As writers, we all been self isolating anyway, right. But I’m just kind of curious. How does that change your writing process at all?
It didn’t, really. I mean, you sit down and you’re right, you have your plan and you do that. But the only thing that really hurt me was before the second book came out last year. I had a three state tour lined up with bookstores, and then all this stuff hit and everything closed. So we’re trying to figure out what to do. And I jumped on trying to get as many podcasts and radio interviews as I could get. And same thing for this year. A lot of the major bookstores, unless you’re a big name, they’re not doing any live signing events.
They’re waiting for the information to come down from on high to have Barnes and Nobles open up here and there and do things and where I live right now in Indiana, there are certain areas that are going into different, say color coded deals that are just opening up or have opened up and do this, and they’re either maybe considering it or not doing it based on what they get down from the state government. So who knows when actual live events will take place? So you try to do the best you can and get the word out into newspaper articles and podcasts and radio as best you can.
A lot of changes, obviously. And I’m kind of curious too, with the are you planning to address the culvette and the pandemic in your future books? Are you going to ignore it?
I don’t think so because people have lived through this or living through this. I don’t want to beat it into the ground. People read novels and to escape things like this. They don’t want to be reading about it while they’re living through it. But I don’t think I’m going to ever mention it really in there because it doesn’t need to be talked about why I list it every day.
And so when you’re writing on a project, I’m kind of curious. Do you write in the same spot? Do you have goals like I’m going to do X amount of words today curious about your writing process?
Well, I do. I write in my office. I have a roll top desk with my desk. I write on that with my laptop, do research, there work in there and so forth. I tried writing outside, but there’s too many distractions of riding outside on the patio and so forth and things like that. So the less outside noise and disturbance I can get, the more I can be focused on what I’m doing. So whether I just write it out by hand, chapter for chapter, what’s going to happen in that chapter?
Then I follow that and go as things can be the personalities. The characters come out, so they lead me in different directions, but it still comes around to where it has to go. But I think when you can create a character that comes across to the reader as a person, they see them as people and not characters. So a lot of my readers, they love the husband and wife in the book. My wife loves the police captain in the book. A lot of people like my main character’s, Dog in the book.
So everybody is finding things they like and they are cheering for the people in the book. And that’s what I kind of hope to have is that when you read, like the third book here when silence Greens my wife when she reads all my stuff before I get sent to them. But she laughed. She cried. She cheered people on. So that’s what you kind of hope to have. People getting involved with the characters as people and wanting them to succeed.
And I noticed when I was doing some research for this interview was on your website. I noticed that your audiobooks are narrated by Bronson Pincho, who played Balky and Perfect Stranger sitcom. I loved that sticker when I was a kid, I didn’t even realize he was doing audiobooks, and I listened to the samples. That’s a fantastic job.
How do you get connected with him?
Well, actually, the publisher, I had sent me snippets of four people reading from the first book. My wife and I listened to them where they maybe seemed to be just reading it and not really having any inflections in there of the text. He was actually being an actor that he is creating that character. So if the person would drink something and swallow, you’d hear him swallow whatever it may be. He got into each character and formed each character as he read it. And it just turned out so well.
In fact, for the third book here, when Silent Screams, he actually contacted me and has offered to help promote the book by doing either a three way interview or interview with me back and forth, either on live, Facebook or whatever. So we’re trying to get that worked out in the publicist to get that done. So it’s great when the person that actually narrates your book wants to be there to help you promote the book.
Yeah, absolutely. Because usually once they’re done with the job, they just kind of move on to the next so that there’s a lot that he wants to help you promote it and everything.
Yeah. It was great that it was totally unsolicited. I was surprised to get the email. I go, wait a minute. What’s the email me for?
That’s pretty amazing. He’s done a lot of audiobooks. I didn’t realize that’s what he’s been doing, but this is a fantastic Chevy. He’s a great actor. So like you said.
That’S why he still does his acting on television and films, I guess. But he’s been doing this for a long time and there’s won awards at it. So he’s very good at it. I am extremely pleased with the third book and how he narrated that. It’s fantastic.
So you said you’re working on the fourth book now. Is that coming out next year?
Yeah, it should be next year. Next August. I’m working on doing both four and five. So it’s coming along really well. It’s good to have alternate choices. So if you get stuck on something else, you can go to something different and pick that up and go from there again and kind of just rotate around when you’re working on something. But at first I didn’t think that was possible, but the more I started doing it. If I’m on the fourth book and I get stuck somewhere, I just put that away, call up the next one and start picking up from there and get my research pile out for that and go and start doing that one.
So it’s nice to have alternative choices.
Yeah, it’s a good system. That’s actually something I like to ask my guest is because there’s aspiring writers that are listening to this podcast. Any advice from aspiring thriller mystery writers out there?
Oh, boy. I always tell anybody. Don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t become what you want to become. Self doubt is a terrible thing to have and other people who don’t have the same dream you have don’t understand what it’s like to have that dream. So always reach for that brass ring. As far as writing. I mean, do as much research as you can about things, sit down, figure things out, plot them out. It’s always good to have a direction of where to go and know where you’re going.
Let your mind go to don’t actually try to fit what you write into a certain way. Just let it flow. Do it, get it out there, go back and edit when you have to edit it. But don’t try to pigeonhole into things to satisfy some people, because in that way, you won’t be satisfying anybody like Rick Nelson said, you can’t please everyone. You got to please yourself. So I write for myself. I write the kind of books and stories that I want to read. So I love getting it out there and having people do that.
They just don’t try to fit in. Just be your own writer and let that just shine through.
Yeah, that’s a great advice. So where can the listeners find you on your website is probably the best place to connect with you.
They can do that. Markerwoodlingley. Com the books are all on there and certain things around there, but on that they can then find my social media accounts and pages on there and click on those and go to that. They can watch the book trailers, hear other podcast, radio interviews, read reviews and blurbs by other authors about my work on there. So you can find the books on Amazon, my website soon to be by the end of this month here at the stores. So it would be a great thing.
All right, Michael, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Really enjoyed talking with you.
Appreciate Allan. Thank you very much. I love talking to you.
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