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About the Author

Mark, smirking at camera
Mark A. Rayner (me) looking very cheeky for some reason.
Photo by David Redding Photography

How I became a writer

One day a radioactive baboon bit me.

mandrill looking to bit a seven-year-old
Pretty sure this is mandrill, so not the baboon that bit me. Also this one isn’t glowing. Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

It may have been a mandrill with telekinesis, I can’t be sure, because I was only seven years old at the time. In any case, the angry primate chomped on my finger at a sketchy petting zoo outside of Union, Ontario. And that is how I gained the power of storytelling!

Okay, your spider senses may be tingling. This isn’t the whole story. I was a storyteller from the time I could talk, which my parents inform me was at the time I was three. This was a huge relief at the time. You see, I didn’t burble the occasional word before that; I just silently and creepily observed the world around me. Frankly, my parents were starting to worry that I was developmentally challenged. But then I just started talking. In complete sentences. About some imagined encounters with pirates and talking animals. And, as I matured, and learned about the possible existence of ghosts, aliens, and philosophy professors with untrimmed toenails, I added them to my repertoire of characters.

Learning the craft

Time passed, and eventually, I started sharing these stories outside of the family. First with friends and bemused teachers. Then, our university arts newspaper published a series of short stories I wrote called “Time Bugs.” This series was about an undergraduate science student who was infected by a virus that caused him to move through time, learning history and solving the problems of the people he met. (This idea was later stolen by the producers of Quantum Leap.) I also wrote skits and plays, and one of these, The Spy Who Bugged Me, was produced by Queen’s Players. This show was a spoof of the James Bond films, and I’m pretty sure Mike Myers had a ticket to see the show, ‘cause, you know … The Spy Who Shagged Me.

The Charles Bridge, leading into the new town. I used to walk over this on my way to the radio station. Believe it or not, that is not very crowded. In August, I’d just avoid the bridge because it would take an hour to cross on foot. (Prague has an excellent transit system, one of the only good things the Dictatorship of the Proletariat did for the city.) Photo by JÉSHOOTS from Pexels

After few years of work and travel, I decided to go to journalism school, because I was too middle-class to imagine being a starving artist my whole life. As it turned out, I was not psychologically made for journalism – I’m much more interested in “what if” than “what” – but I did learn how to write quickly in j-school. It also caused me to leave Canada and live in Prague for a year, as there were no journalism jobs to be had when I graduated. This led me to a fruitful year, working for the Czech National Radio English language Service doing a weekly column called “Observer.” My brief was to wander around the Golden City and “observe” things. So I did. I broadcast columns about pivnice (pub) etiquette, drunken plasterers, Prague’s baffling late-night transit system, and many of the oddities of a country switching from a Dictatorship of the Proletariat to a Capitalist Democracy.

I also had my first play, Duet for Killers, professionally produced. This was the event that convinced me that baboon had prophetic abilities as well as a red butt — or was it a red-faced mandrill with telepathic powers — because I discovered that I was actually pretty good at entertaining people with my words.

Since then, this has been my quest. I’ve written scores of short stories, two more plays (one produced) and a baker’s dozen of novels, five of which have been published. (And there is more on the way.)

Writing now

image of table in garden where the author writes
The garden where I write. (Not nearly as romantic as a cramped garret in Paris, but conducive to scribbling.)

I’m still hopelessly bourgeois – I enjoy owning a house that I can fill with books and dogs and cats — so I have a day job teaching at Western University, which is in London, Ontario, Canada. (Sometimes known as the “Other London”, but that seems unfair to London, Ohio; London, Arkansas; London, Kentucky, and the village of London, in France.) And no, I don’t teach writing, at least not as my main subject. As a front-line fighter in the Browser Wars of the 1990s, I became an early “expert” on the web, so I teach that — how to create information architectures that won’t become self-aware and destroy the universe. And so on.

I hope you enjoy all the stuff here on the website. If you liked this little autobiographical frippery, some of which is even true, you’ll probably get a kick out of my regular newsletter.

If you want to know more about me, then there’s lots to read in the blog, including my thoughts on how I learned to write by reading. Plus, there’s tons of free fiction, essays and commentary to read in my writing section. And hey, I forgot to mention you can get a free novel – your choice of either The Fridgularity or Marvellous Hairy – just for signing up for my newsletter.


cover art of The Fridgularity and Marvellous Hairy, both by Mark A. Rayner

Get a free ebook!

If you’d like to check out one of my previous novels, before you buy, I’m happy to just give you one. Not only that, you can choose between Marvellous Hairy and The Fridgularity. (They’re both great in their own ways.) Just join my newsletter to get started!

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Publications

Novels

Collections:

Plays:

  • Cordially Entertaining Emily Chesley.  (Suitcase in Point: Toronto Fringe Festival, 2003)
    with Cole Lewis & Company.
  • Duet for Killers (Small & Dangerous Theatre, Prague, 1993)
  • The Spy Who Bugged Me (Queen’s Players, 1989)
    with Gary Wagner

Short Stories and Flash Fiction:

There’s a selected list here