Killing Thoughts w Author Mark Hunter
So, since we last spoke (literally) in 2019 when your first book, Shift Change, came out, you were…secular? I think is more appropriate to say since we spoke about religion and God but I don’t think you labeled yourself any particular way. Has anything changed in that respect since then?
I ask because Time’s Incinerator is categorized as “metaphysical”, and as someone who has faith in God myself, I saw it as a deeply spiritual book. Lol, but it could just be that’s how I see things by default since my default is spiritual now.
I still definitely consider myself to be secular. I don’t really believe in much of anything […] As for the ‘Metaphysical’ genre, the fact of the matter is that I’ve been experimenting with different genre categorizations. I suppose the best genre to leave this book in would be Literary Fiction. It’s not quite Science Fiction enough to appeal to the sci-fi community. While some of the things in the book happened to me and those around me, it’s not close enough to anyone’s life to call it a memoir or a biography. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny. It’s not really a romance. The trouble is that Literary Fiction is a very general term, and I wanted to say more about the book with the genre selection just that. So, from month to month, I’ll move it around various subgenres. With the emphasis on the time travel and the self-improvement and the light sci-fi, I thought that ‘metaphysical’ might be a good place for it to stay for a couple of months.
What I find interesting […] You seem to be explaining the concept of God without realizing it. Was Time’s Incinerator […] revelatory in any way? Did you learn anything by what you wrote? Or, were you shocked by anything that you wrote? What did you get out of the character Tom Donner, if anything?
I think that for me, the kicker is that I can write something like Time’s Incinerator, with all of the potential for revelatory experiences and change, and come out no different than I was going into it. Rather, not much different. These are concepts that I’ve been wrestling with for a long time, and as time goes, the evidence continues to stack up against my backwards way of thinking about these things, but it never actually convinces me to change my life for the better. I may take the lessons I learn to heart but at a certain point there is a conscious decision not to change because I like who I am and somewhere, I feel like I’m staying more true to myself by thinking about things the way I do. Progress and growth be damned.
I did not go into Time’s Incinerator looking to write about god. I write a little more about god in Middle Seconds, though perhaps not as ‘deeply’. The truth is that I’m very self-centered and I know that better than most people realize. I find myself endlessly fascinating and maddening, and only when others open up and talk about the sorts of things I talk about in my books do I really find them interesting. So one of the things I do is I take a version of myself or an aspect of my personality and write a book in which the main character is a manifestation of that aspect of who I am. There will be other smaller traits that inform the character […], but make no mistake – the main characters tend to be ways for me to grapple with certain things. I think that some of the religiosity that may have come shining through likely came by way of Jordan Peterson’s Bible lecture series. It’s probably impossible to watch him talk about religion as much as I did during the writing of this book without it influencing me in some way.
I think about my past a lot. Constantly. I never stop, and as a result, I don’t think I ever get much distance from it. The way I am acting right now is only a millionth of a percent different from how I acted a second ago, turtles all the way down. But I realize that incremental changes lead to big results over time. I have plenty of proof of that – my life is happier and more fulfilling today than I ever would have thought […] But, it’s hard to say that I’ve learned anything because it’s just been so gradual. And it’s hard to say that I learned anything by writing Time’s Incinerator, because so many of the things in it, I’ve known for a long long time. I’ve talked about them on tape for decades. There has been a sort of closure from writing it, though, as putting words to the page seems to make some things final. I guess the small lesson there would be that we really do have a huge hand in creating our reality, and things won’t necessarily just work out for the best. You have to actively create the world you want to live in and you have to keep gratitude at the front of your mind at all times. Things might not have turned out how you wanted, but they might have turned out better – will you be able to recognize that? Will they be good enough to outweigh any sort of regret you might have for them not staying the same? That’s up to you. Mindset and frame, as always, are key, and there isn’t really any way around that. There will always be a Rutabaga there to remind you, but at some point, you have to choose. I’m still not sure I’d make the right, or ‘best’ choice.
So let me ask you as a secular person:
What can a person ever actually achieve? Tom Donner was able to “change” himself but only behaviorally. Do you believe that a person is ever able to make any permanent change to themselves beyond what is superficial, behavioral? For example, becoming more muscular, abstaining from drugs or alcohol, etc. [What you’ve actually expressed in Time’s Incinerator is that revelation, what profoundly changes a person’s “being” and not “doing”, is out of human control] That thin slice of what happen[s] between [Tom] waking up in the graveyard and going home…to see his wife and family in a whole new way suddenly […]
But the knowledge of it is just not enough is a deep spiritual principle of God that happens to be expressed throughout the book. It’s what happened in the garden which is applicable to humans evermore. That is, God told people to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thereby gaining only the knowledge of good and evil and losing God [the actual discernment between good and evil]. And in that, humans came into their own minds, their own intellect, and the world has regressed look around. Humanity fell, because man is limited. Because Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of what was right and wrong, but that still couldn’t save them from doing the wrong thing. This is why I say Time’s Incinerator is deeply spiritual. (For a number of reasons) For all of what Tom Donner knows (societally, of the world), he is still not at peace spiritually. He can change outer things, but nothing inner. And when he finally takes an action to try to get rid of the inner turmoil, the thoughts, his choice is understandable but batshit crazy and stupid. Having the knowledge that murder is bad doesn’t stop or save one from being a murderer. Knowledge is dumb. The Bible is simply an observation of human behavior, spiritually. Without the right spirit, humans choose the wrong thing repetitively, or Satan.
There’s no bones made about the fact that Tom was looking for a shortcut, and he found it. It only took him so far – as […] there is still the matter of the cat. There will always be something else. He pulled as many of the most important threads as he could and almost got where he wanted to be – rather, where he needed to be. It still wasn’t quite enough. So, the question, what can a person actually achieve… Well, from all of that self-help literature, there have been a lot of things that have stuck with me. Excellence is a habit. Discipline equals freedom. Control what you can control. Practice outcome independence. Love and trust the process. Before people get into self-improvement, they tend to talk about just wanting to be happy and how if only they had X then they would never ask for anything else and all of that, and none of that is true. Most brain science points toward the idea that it is goal-directed behavior that generates the most positive feelings. There’s a huge dopamine hit from achieving the goal, but it dissipates quickly. It serves no purpose to last very long at all – there are more animals to hunt and more mountains to climb. There’s always another conquest. People win marathons and after a brief celebratory period, they’re ready to plan the training protocol for their next one – looking to shave a few seconds off their time. So as far as what people can achieve, I guess the main thing people should seek to achieve is some sort of optimal balance between being true to their own values while continually moving forward in some way. This starts to get into the ‘Love is a verb’ territory. Living purposefully and mindfully. You don’t get somewhere in your life and then, having earned the title, stop having to do the things that earned you your place, unfortunately. You are your habits and if those habits suffer, so does your life. It can all go away, just like that. I think that scares a lot of people, and maybe it should, but I think it’s great – you mean I have control over what I am? I’m not doomed to be X just because I’ve let myself become X? I don’t think anything is permanent. To say that behavioral changes are superficial, well, I don’t know if I buy it…. If I give money to a good cause every week without fail out of habit, does it somehow mean less than if I thought about it every week before doing it? The end result is the same – I just don’t get to pat myself on the back every time I do it when I do it out of habit.
Why do I feel like we’re in some sort of meta matrix circular logic convo? And actually looking over the first half of your response to question 2, my question seems kinda duh. I’m like, so a major (spiritual) theme in your book is “the knowledge of it is just not enough”, so do you realize what you don’t realize?
Obviously, people can say and do things that are in contradiction to how they actually live; that’s the great divide between the spiritual and physical/secular world, and as demonstrated by Tom Donner. He knows what looks “right” according to the outside world but it has no connection to what is actually right [true] in the spiritual, in the inner world. I think what I want to say is that life in God, in the spiritual, is without thought; this is art too. That’s why Tom Donner took the drug, because he wanted to kill the thoughts because the behavior is not the final thing: there is something that comes before the behavior. This is why he could make all these superficial outward changes to his weight and diet and that not change anything, because the original problem (as witnessed in the garden) is the thought, man’s mind, which is not God. It’s of the opposing spirit. […] That’s Tom Donner. He didn’t actually achieve a shortcut (as you noted […] ); you can’t cheat [deceive] God; you can’t cheat life as I stated in the review I did for Shift Change. Exactly because, like you said, there will always be something else [what you can’t control]. You can have all peace, all love at all times no matter the situation; that’s God. No matter how the outer seems to change, the inner stays the same. And because most people live without God, or in an illusion, they think the opposite because they have the opposing spirit of the deceiver [the mind of the deceived, and suffer for it]. They think what they do in the outside is going to change the inside. In Tom Donner’s case, he hated his wife: the anger is the block, not the memory itself, but the [spirit] behind the memory. The anger of the thought [and identification with it]. But I think we’re agreeing here (on a lot of things) in a weird kind of way, like I said in a way, for me at least, that I think you’re explaining God [and the spiritual] without realizing it. As you said, the mind and gratitude (for all things) is key, but the mind is not controlled by humans, and gratitude is of [the spirit of] God. The inner mind of the human and the outer mind of all things is out of human control.
So as far as what people can achieve, I guess the main thing people should seek to achieve is some sort of optimal balance between being true to their own values while continually moving forward in some way.
I feel this statement that you made is a great example of Tom Donner and the duality of the mind, and why we can’t trust it. In theory, it seems to make sense, but as how you described yourself and Tom Donner, you can’t move forward if your value is in the past. The value is in stagnation and regression, in a timeline that no longer exists [in a mind that stays deceived because it cannot accept reality of the present moment, God]. The past, as you […] pointed out, informs the present only in a practical way. Like being able to explain our present tense connections and states of behavior as what occurred before. But that’s about it. You can’t ride two horses at the same time. You can’t value the present and past at the same time. And all people are self-centered who are not of God. It’s either one or the other, right? You believe into yourself, your feelings and thoughts, or you don’t. You’re ego gratified or you’re not. […] But, again, “the knowledge of it…”
[I can see why (without having read Middle Seconds), but] Why is Time’s Incinerator your “favorite thing” you’ve done so far? Is it because of the “closure” you received? […] Can you expand on that?
I think Time’s Incinerator captures all of the best aspects of what I’m capable of as a writer. It’s funny at times and poignant at others. There is the spiritual aspect of it and the brutal honesty of it all. The book is full of references for me and the people in my life, none of which impede the storyline or are necessary to understand. It’s a little bit sci-fi and Vonnegutian without slavishly trying to imitate his style. I think my personality comes through in this book and the story is better than the one told in Shift Change, which I suppose makes sense. I like the way that it ties in with my other work, too – particularly Middle Seconds. Oh, and my editor absolutely knocked it out of the park on this one.
As far as the closure, yeah. I think that’s part of it, too. If not closure, then just being okay with how some things turned out. When I was younger, I used to see that sort of thing as a concession made by the weak-minded, but as I get older, there’s a lot more acceptance and understanding about how important it is […] To have the humility to know that you’re not going to be able to get past everything but to have gratitude about having the chance to do it, and not being so proud that you don’t take advantage of that opportunity. Maybe that’s all a bit too vague. Writing the book did give me a chance to gain some perspective – to step outside myself and become even more aware of my faults, but also to understand that I’m just a human being and my faults don’t mean I should be put to death like I may have thought in the past. They are there to be accepted and improved upon. At least they’re obvious.
[…H] ow long did it take you to write […] from draft to publication?
The truth is that I don’t spend a lot of time on my writing each day. I generally have about 45 minutes in me before I give in to self-doubt. So, I keep the sessions short and make sure I have plenty of chores or other more justifiable activities to bookend the sessions. I don’t know how anyone can write for more than an hour a day without wanting to scrap it all and jump off a cliff every day. So, as a result, it takes a while for me to write something. I don’t really do the thing where you get a super messy rough draft out as quickly as possible. For the first couple weeks that I write, I will read everything that I have written every day that I write and make edits as I go along.
Fortunately, I track my work pretty… religiously… From my spreadsheet, I see that I began official brainstorming for Time’s Incinerator on July 9, 2019, and I began writing on July 30. The first draft was finished on May 10, 2020, after about 153 hours of time spent writing, and it was around 70000 words – about 16000 more than it ended up being at publication.
The second draft was finished on June 16, 2020, and I shaved off about five thousand words between versions there.
The third draft was finished on July 25, 2020, with about 223 hours into the total writing process and the total word count down to around 56000.
The fourth draft was finished on August 30, 2020, with about 265 hours into it and a word count around 54000.
I submitted that to my copy editor. She got things back to me on October 13, 2020, and we went back and forth over final edits before I gave the okay on the final draft on October 30, 2020 with about 281 hours into it.
I believe it went live on Amazon during the second week of November .
Woof about the draft tracking, wow! This actually brings me to the whole of what I wanted to say in relation to Time’s Incinerator. Thank you for writing it. It was [revelatory] for me in a way that put another piece into the puzzle. I appreciate [your work] especially because you do a lot of exploration into work, which has been a source of anguish pretty much my entire life. […] If I’m angry and resentful, there’s no other way to be but that if that’s all I know; I stay “true” to myself in that way by quitting even if it means constant financial ruin because [… what I realized without realizing it is that I’d rather be broke than around wrong spirits because the money’s not the real thing; I’m just being deceived into thinking that it is so I can keep destroying myself] And I didn’t know how to [endure it without succumbing to it …] because the same anger that I saw in others was only what I had too. And how can that work? [Spirit anger matching spirit anger is destruction Satan] The problem (and solution) was within me, but I didn’t know it.
That’s what I got from Time’s Incinerator, like whoa. I was changing all these things in the outer, job to job, apartment to apartment, but it was an illusion: it looked different; but the spiritual, what was inside of me, was [the same]. So in the physical it looks like I’m moving and shaking, but I just keep getting into the same situation over and over again [I’m stuck spiritually; you see people with anger they can’t grow; it’s an immature spirit] Time’s Incinerator came just in time that I overcame [the devil within] to be able to understand it [and the devil without in others]. This was Tom. […H] e’d done everything “right” in the eyes of the world (which is of the devil), but he felt wrong. And this is all things I really realized. Even his marriage. If you can’t get past the anger, you can’t live, free. You’re locked in your own inner hell [your mind where there is no love and peace] that you project to the outside. And God is all about coming back to the love, that’s it.
[…T] hank you so much for the continual praise. It’s nice to hear that something I’m doing is connecting with someone else – particularly, someone very different from myself in a lot of ways.
The “praise” is nothing since, to me, it’s what’s due. I’m a big fan of your writing […], and I will cheerlead the hell out of anything that really moves me in some way. I’m like a natural at PR [ha], because it’s just natural to love to promote what you love. So you’re welcome, but no sweat. I wish you the best as always. Do you have anything in the works that you’d like to share? Upcoming projects? Or anything else you’d like to share?
[…] I have been tied up with other projects. I had to put together some character notes for a narrator for an audiobook version of Time’s Incinerator, which is due to come out near the start of September .
Perhaps more interesting is the fact that I have been going over the first half of the final draft edits for my upcoming book, Rock Star: The Life, Legend, and Many Deaths of Dan Webster. It has been driving me nuts and it has taken me way too long to get this one done, but I can see the finish line. I don’t know how well it’s going to turn out or how much anyone will really care for it. It is around 80,000 words too long, haha.
The new book is fiction, once again informed by some personal experiences. It is part bad rock biography, part family saga, and part true crime. It is rounded out by some philosophical thoughts about being an artist, and it ties in with my other work in content and character. It’s certainly another vanity project, but I’m glad I did it. The people that will appreciate it should really appreciate it and I think that there’s something in there for everybody who likes my other stuff, too.
Hopefully it will be out in late August or early September [of this year], and then I’ll get to work on something a little less ambitious.
As far as anything else I’d like to share… Independent authors desperately need ratings and reviews. Bad reviews and ratings, well-thought-out or otherwise, are better than no reviews at all. So, if anyone reads any of my work, please, leave a rating or a review on Amazon or GoodReads or Google or wherever. If anyone wants to write, please reach out via email at [:]
I’m always up for it.