And that’s exactly what happened with one of the key scenes in his new book, No Place To Run.
“I just had a vision of a woman being chased through a forest and someone witnessing it from a train,” says the best-selling author from Wolverhampton. “I don’t know where it came from. This happens a lot, things just pop into my head. It was such an intriguing scene. I didn’t know who she was or what the story would be, but I thought it was a good opening for a book.”
No Place to Run, which is published on June 21, is the third in a row of Mark’s novels to be set in America and parts of the story were inspired by a rail-and-road trip he took to California in 2019.
“It’s about a British man, named Aidan Faith, who lives in Seattle and works in the tech industry. His 15-year-old sister, Scarlett, goes to stay with him and a few days into the trip, she goes missing.
“Aidan wakes up one morning and she’s not there. He can’t find her and she’s not answering her phone. There’s a huge man-hunt but she’s never found. Two years later an elderly woman is travelling by train from Los Angeles to Seattle.
“Just as dawn breaks and the train is travelling through a forest, the woman looks out the window and sees a young woman being chased through a forest clearing by a man. The woman is convinced that it’s missing girl, Scarlett, because it was a big story in Seattle at the time. Her face was on posters and it was all over the news.
“She contacts Aidan, who is sceptical about whether the woman she’s seen is Scarlett, but he has nothing to lose. He goes to Northern California and starts to look for her,” explains Mark, who has sold over four million copies of his books.
The book also has a strong environmental theme, partly inspired by Mark’s own trip to California where he witnessed first-hand the devastating forest fires. Readers of No Place To Run will learn that Scarlett is a keen environmentalist and vegan and they will be also be introduced to a group of green activists.
“Large parts of the state were burning. We saw scorched areas of forest and homes and businesses that had been destroyed. The ground was still smouldering in places and we had to change part of our trip because there were fires still burning,” he tells Weekend.
“Around the same time, the Extinction Rebellion protests were happening in London and Greta Thunberg was leading the school strike. Part of the book was inspired by that and my own interest in green issues and politics – I’ve smuggled some green issues to the book Trojan Horse-like,” explains Mark, who recently a signed another three-book deal with publisher Thomas & Mercer.
Although America has been the focus of his most recent three books, his next novel will be set in the UK.
“The one I’m writing now is set in England – and I think lots of people will be pleased to hear that. I decided to write these three books in America because I wanted to expand the world I was writing about. America gives me this huge canvas to play with. It gives me a new challenge and keeps it interesting. If it’s not interesting to the writer, it’s going to be very boring for the reader.
“But a lot of my British readers have asked me when I’m going to go back to the UK. The next one and those in the foreseeable future will be set in the UK. The next one is a domestic thriller, like Here To Stay and The Magpies, and it’s out in spring 2023,” says Mark.
He will also publish a novella, which is set in north Wales, later this year. “It’s a horror story about a creature that steals children and will be out around Halloween,” explains Mark.
To celebrate the publication of No Place To Run, he will be holding an online launch party on his Facebook page for his readers on June 21.
Appearances at Capital Crime Writing Festival in London and Bloody Scotland in Falkirk are planned for later in the year. But for now Mark, whose last book, The Hollows, was published in July 2021, is keeping his fingers crossed for publication day.
“It never gets any less exciting and it never gets any less nerve-racking. You just don’t know how each book is going to be received and it will perform. I think it’s a really good book – it’s very fast-paced and exciting – it’s a page-turner. It’s more of an action thriller than my other books and less of a psychological thriller. If people haven’t read any of my books before, it’s a good one to start with,” says Mark.
No Place To Run will be published by Thomas & Mercer on June 21