25th Trillium Award

The Dirty Dozen, with Mark Leslie

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Mark Leslie

Self-confessed book nerd Mark Leslie has been a bookseller for two decades and worked within virtually every aspect of bookselling — indie, chain, campus and online — before becoming Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations for Kobo in 2011.

Mark?s latest book, Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers (Dundurn Press), explores the rich history, the culture and the dark shadows that lie beneath the surface of a seemingly normal blue collar city in Southwestern Ontario. Haunted Hamilton will be in stores on August 4th.

Today this fearless man of letters takes on the Open Book Dirty Dozen, revealing secrets about GO Trains, student politics, teddy bears and mullets. Haunted Hamilton is available in stores this week.

  1. I am afraid of the dark, afraid of heights, afraid of the monster under the bed and his cousin who lives in my closet. Seriously. I find it strange that I have to constantly lie to my seven-year-old and tell him that there?s no such thing as the boogeyman when I?m deathly afraid that one night the boogeyman is going to get all of us while we?re sleeping. (And I often wonder if the reason I regularly write dark, Twilight-Zone style fiction is as a sort of way of dealing with these fears)

  3. Between 1999 and 2000 I completed the first draft of a contemporary novel called Morning Son while writing in the mornings during a GO train commute from Hamilton to Toronto. I have re-written the novel several times since then and still haven?t sold it to a publisher.

  5. I hammered out my very first novel on an Underwood typewriter over the course of a summer when I was fourteen. While my friends were riding their bikes, swimming and playing baseball, I was pecking away on an epic fantasy adventure called The Story of Aaron Boc — a tale derived from characters and situations experienced during the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. As you can easily imagine, it was an epically forgettable novel. It was followed by another two novels over the next few years. One was a sequel to the first, and another was a fantasy/science-fiction novel. I look back at those terrible ?trunk novels? as critically important learning experiences for a writer.

  7. When I was a kid I was a really picky eater. Now I?ll eat virtually anything, particularly if there is beer involved. I haven?t really met a beer I didn?t like.

  9. When I was in Grade 8 I wanted to be Student Class President. I worked my butt off trying to get voted in. But the girl who won was one of the only people in town whose family owned a VHS player, and she got voted in by promising to bring it to school once a week so students could watch movies during lunch. (Or at least, that?s what I like to believe it was, rather than my unpopularity) This experience was made up for when I became President of the Student Council in Grade 13 &mdsh; a role that I enjoyed the experience of, but definitely did NOT want.

  11. My first published short story ,?The Progressive Sidetrack,? was inspired by my experiences as Student Council President. It was a contemporary humour tale I originally wrote for a Grade 13 Writing class. My teacher said the story reminded her of Ferris Bueller?s Day Off. The story appeared in a small press literary journal in the USA called Chapter One in 1992. I earned a copy of the magazine and $5 US.

  13. In high school, I desperately wanted to be editor of the school newspaper. Someone else got the job. But when a month passed and no paper came out, I took matters into my own hands and, with a tech-savy friend, Greg, re-invented the school newspaper, transforming it from a Foolscap-paper-sized quarterly reproduced on a mimeograph machine and into a Letter-sized monthly created on a computer and reproduced by photocopy. I also increased the price from 10 cents to 25 cents and turned the newspaper from a Student-Council sponsored money-losing venture and into a self-sustaining one. I like to think of that as my first real embrace of change and evolution within publishing and sometimes think back to how that act in Grade 12 set the stage for much of what I ended up doing in my career as a Book Nerd.

  15. The song ?Teddy Bears? Picnic? creeps me out. However, I did sleep with a Teddy bear until I was 20 years old. And I still have him, though he?s a bit worn out and frightens my wife and son. I still love him dearly. Good old Teddy.

  17. I had an amazingly kick-ass mullet back in the early 1990s. I was trying to look like Mel Gibson?s character in the Lethal Weapon movies. (See, I never really abandoned my love for epic fantasy). The frightening thing is that I met my wife, Francine, while I had this mullet and she actually found it attractive. I cut it off when we got married in 1996 and she would actually like me to grow it back again. The main reason I haven?t grown it back isn't because people will laugh at me, but because my receding hairline will make it less of a mullet and more of a skullet.

  19. My decision to write under the name ?Mark Leslie? is partially due to the fact most people can?t spell or pronounce my last name (Lefebvre), and was partially inspired by how Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob truncated his own name. I also quite enjoyed the ?Author Notes? at the end of his books which inspired similar types of personal background notes and anecdotes in my 2004 story collection One Hand Screaming as well as in several other publications I have done.

  21. A few years ago I had the chance to play poker with Science-Fiction legend Larry Niven on the eve of his 73rd birthday. It?s one of those special moments for this book nerd and sci-fi fan.

  23. I like silly songs. Elton John sang about how ?sad songs say so much,? but I like to think that silly songs say even more. One of my favourite musicians is Weird Al — I admire his ability to re-adapt existing structure and music into new, funny meaning. My poem ?With Apologies to E.P.? was an attempt to do the same to the Elvis song ?Are You Lonesome Tonight?? which, instead of being about a lonely lover, is about a man fearful that his dead lover will return, in zombie fashion, to seek vengeance — thus ?Are you lonesome tonight? transforms into ?Are you vengeful tonight??


Mark Leslie grew up in Sudbury, spent a number of years in Ottawa and now lives in Hamilton. He is the author of One Hand Screaming (2004) and the editor of North of Infinity II (2006) and Campus Chills (2009). He edited the latest in the award-winning anthology series Tesseracts and will be releasing Tesseracts 16: Parnassus Unbound in the fall of 2012. Mark sits on the board of directors for BookNet Canada and is president of Canadian Booksellers Association. You can visit Mark at markleslie.ca and at his blog, and follow him on Twitter: @MarkLeslie.

For more information about Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle and Other Steeltown Shivers please visit the Dundurn Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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