The Power of Storytelling
With Mark David Gerson
By Samantha Skelton
Mark David Gerson is a Montreal-born author whose unique journey into the world of writing has been influenced by so many colorful life experiences.
From his early exposure to the vibrant arts scene of Montreal to his career in filmmaking and world travels, Gerson's path to becoming an author has been far from conventional.
In this interview we delve into his latest novel, "The MoonQuest," and explore the themes of self-expression, storytelling, and creativity that are at the heart of his writing.
Mark discusses trusting one's inner wisdom and breaking free from societal expectations, the creative process and owning your voice, and the importance of storytelling in a world where silence threatens to extinguish its light.
Can you tell us about your background? I’d love to hear where you're from and your educational journey.
I grew up in Montreal, Canada, and attended Concordia University, one of the largest universities in the country. I pursued a business degree, which initially didn't align with what would later become my creative aspirations.
At that time, I never imagined becoming a writer, and I was uncertain about my career path. My decision to study business seemed like a practical choice.
However, I eventually transitioned into a career in public relations, which unexpectedly paved the way for my writing journey.
How did you make the transition from PR to writing, especially considering you never thought of yourself as a writer?
While in college, I dabbled in freelance PR work, and after some time working in Montreal, I decided to take the leap and freelance full-time as a writer and editor.
I eventually moved to Toronto, which is Canada's English language communications hub, and continued my freelancing.
However, the pivotal moment came when I reluctantly enrolled in a creative writing course. This decision changed my life.
What was it about that creative writing course that made you reconsider your path and embark on a writing journey?
Looking back, I realize that in school, I shied away from creative expression because I feared getting things wrong. Math, with its definitive answers, felt safer to me.
But my journey into writing began when I got involved in writing press releases for my high school's musical productions. Later, I took on more writing tasks, even as I pursued a career in PR.
Ironically, it was the creative writing course I mentioned earlier, which I initially resisted, that unlocked my creative potential. The class encouraged me to trust my inner voice, and it was a turning point. It's as if my muse tricked me into becoming a writer.
Step by tiny step, I discovered my true calling. My early jobs in PR also involved writing press releases, news articles and features, gradually solidifying my writing skills.
Your journey from PR to creative writing is truly inspiring. Can you tell us more about the moment you realized you could be a novelist and the role of guided meditation in your creative process?
My path to becoming a novelist began during a meditation session in which I was guiding a group through a writing exercise.
I unexpectedly found myself starting a story that I knew nothing about. It was a story that emerged from my unconscious mind, and I couldn't consciously plan it. This experience was both bewildering and exhilarating.
Day after day, I continued writing, not knowing where the story was headed. It was a process of letting go of control and allowing the characters to guide me.
This creative journey was, in essence, a reflection of my personal growth as I faced my own fears and inner demons. It was a leap into the unknown, and I learned that letting go could lead to profound discoveries.
Your book, "The MoonQuest," is a captivating fantasy story. Can you give us an overview of the book and its major themes?
Certainly. "The MoonQuest," begins with the idea that storytelling is forbidden in the land of Q’ntana. People are not allowed to imagine, dream, or tell stories; they must focus only on official facts.
This oppressive silence has persisted for generations, leading to the disappearance of the moon's light. The moon itself is said to have grown sad due to the loss of stories and cried tears that extinguished its light.
The central quest in the book is to bring back storytelling to Q’ntana, thus rekindling the moon's light.
The protagonist, Toshar, a member of a community of storytellers that’s in hiding to escape death, is chosen to lead this MoonQuest. Reluctant at first, Toshar embarks on this journey, accompanied by three companions.
However, he is given minimal guidance and must rely on stories to guide him. Not the stories he’s been taught, but new stories, stories that emerge as he tells them, stories that come from his heart.
Throughout the book, readers follow Toshar's adventure as he faces the brutal king's army, his personal demons, and the challenge of reviving storytelling in a land where it has been silenced.
Themes of self-expression, vulnerability, and the power of stories to empower both storytellers and listeners are at the heart of the narrative.
What do you hope readers will take away from "The MoonQuest," and why do you believe storytelling is essential in our world?
My hope is that readers will be inspired to trust themselves and follow their hearts. "The MoonQuest" is, at its core, a story about trusting one's inner wisdom and breaking free from societal expectations.
It encourages readers to embrace their unique paths and not be swayed by conventional wisdom or conformity.
Storytelling is vital because it empowers both the storyteller and the listener. When we tell stories, we invite others to have their own personal experiences and discover truths for themselves.
It's a form of self-expression that fosters wisdom and discernment. Stories have the power to reach us on a deep level, often unconsciously, and help us navigate life's complexities.
Can you share which character or section of "The MoonQuest" you had the most fun writing about?
The character I enjoyed writing the most in "The MoonQuest" was a very minor character—the ferryman. This character added a delightful sense of humor and levity to the story, providing a refreshing contrast to some of the story’s more intense moments.
The ferryman's eccentricity and unique personality brought an element of surprise to the narrative, and to me as its creator.
Additionally, I enjoyed writing about Toshar's companions, who each had their own complexities and depth. Exploring their individual stories and character development added richness to the overall narrative.
Are you currently working on any new projects?
I'm a writer who likes to juggle multiple projects at once. Currently, I'm working on the fifth story set in the Q’ntana universe, even though the second one is due to be released in the spring.
I'm also working on a new memoir and an expanded edition of one of my books on writing.
Lastly, what advice do you have for aspiring writers who are hesitant to embark on their creative journeys?
My advice is to trust your inner voice and take the first step, even if it's a small one. Don't be discouraged by self-doubt or the fear of getting things wrong.
Writing is a process of discovery, and the act of writing itself will lead you to unexpected places. Embrace the unknown, and don't be afraid to let go of control.
Allow your creativity to flow naturally and remember that every piece of writing starts with a single word. So write that word…and another and another. Just keep writing, and trust your imagination.
Thank you so much for this wonderful conversation. Where can people find your book and read more about you as well?
“The MoonQuest” is available in both paperback and ebook from online booksellers everywhere, as well as in some bricks-and-mortar bookstores.
It’s also available directly from the books page on my website at www.MarkDavidGerson.com
And it’s coming out in audiobook this fall — initially on Amazon, Audible and Apple Books, with wider distribution in the new year.
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