Q&A with Mark Westmoreland, Author of A Violent Gospel
By J.B. StevensSeptember 24, 2021
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Westmoreland. He is a talented up-and-coming noir author. His debut book, A Violent Gospel, is available now from Shotgun Honey Books.
About A Violent Gospel, the author writes:
“The book is about two brothers, Mack and Marshall Dooley, who steal money from a snake-handling Pentecostal cult and what happens when all hell breaks loose. If you’re asking for A Violent Gospel’s recipe, it’s one-part Dukes of Hazzard with a pinch of Flannery O’Connor.”
When I heard that description, I realized I had to find out more. Below is our conversation.
Mark, tell me about yourself, have you always wanted to write, do you have a day job, what’s your background?
Should I answer this like I’m filling out a Tinder profile? On second thought, my wife wouldn’t be cool with that.
I didn’t actually start writing until I was 25. I read a fantasy novel with an ending that pissed me off so much I decided I could write something better. It didn’t exactly work out that way. I spent five years trying to reinvent The Wheel of Time and finally realized I sucked at writing fantasy.
Around this time, I discovered Brian Panowich, Peter Farris, Wiley Cash, and Tom Franklin. Those writers set me on a journey where I discovered my voice. I’m a displaced Southerner who misses home like hell, and writing stories set in North Georgia helps fill that peach-shaped hole in my heart.
I have a day job managing a fleet of shuttles for a local airport parking garage. It’s a fun job and is what I’ll do until I get offered a Stephen King-sized publishing deal. If you ever want to hear some great stories, buy me a Woodford, and I’ll tell you about the time I got dry-humped by a valet customer.
Tell me about A Violent Gospel.
Here’s the elevator pitch: the book is about two brothers, Mack and Marshall Dooley, who steal money from a snake-handling Pentecostal cult and what happens when all hell breaks loose.
If you’re asking for A Violent Gospel’s recipe, it’s one-part Dukes of Hazzard with a pinch of Flannery O’Connor and some of my Pentecostal raising sprinkled on top.
Mack Dooley is a recurring character of mine who I’ve been writing about for a while. He’s appeared in a handful of short stories, and I’ve trunked at least three novels where he was the main character. None of those books had all the right ingredients to get published.
At some point, his brother started appearing in the short stories along with a local crime boss. I knew they were what was missing from a Mack Dooley novel. I got the idea to pull the snake-handling preacher from an old short story and knew I had something worth publishing. Hopefully, it’s something readers connect with.
What is your goal with this book?
A better answer is that I’m trying to build off it. I’ve got more ideas for Dooley family stories. Nothing would make me happier than for readers to buy enough copies of A Violent Gospel, so I get to keep writing about the Dooley brothers.
I also wouldn’t be mad if the book made it into the hands of some big-time agent and they decide to snatch me up for representation.
Do you have any new fiction in the works?
Back in May, I finished working on a novel I hope to place somewhere. It’s titled Midnight Runner and is a love letter to Burt Reynolds. He’s my all-time favorite actor, and this book is my attempt at writing something he would read and want to star in.
Here’s my pitch to whet y’all’s appetite: A smooth-talking bank robber on the run from a deranged hitman falls in love with a woman after he accidentally puts her in harm’s way. Now their only way out is a high-speed run through the Deep South.
I’ve also got a project I’m working on now that I’m not talking about. Hopefully, I can get it finished by the end of the month and start talking people’s ears off about it.
If you must pick one book as your favorite, which book?
Put a blindfold on me and stand me in front of a stack of James Lee Burke novels, and whatever I pick up is my favorite. The man is a treasure and ought to be considered one of America’s greatest writers. He’s never written a bad word.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Buy my book!
Follow Mark on twitter @itsmarkyall, and follow Shotgun Honey publishing @shotgunhoney.