How Sheffield-born journalist has achieved a lifelong dream with debut novel
It has taken Mark Eklid until he is 57 to achieve his dream of becoming a published novelist – and now his first novel is in print, he couldn’t be happier.
Born in Sheffield, he has spent much of his career as a journalist on the sports desk at the Derby Telegraph, but relished the opportunity to immerse himself in creative writing.
“I loved it,” he says. “It’s very liberating. As a journalist you do have to be very disciplined – you’re dictated to by events and truths. Here you’ve got full rein.”
His book, Sunbeam, is a psychological thriller set in Sheffield. It tells the story of John, a middle-aged man whose world falls apart when he witnesses the murder of his best friend, Stef – however when Stef miraculously comes back into his life John is offered the chance of a fresh start, but at a price, as his friend wants revenge against his killer.
The process of constructing a novel, Mark says, ‘starts with an idea’.
“In this case, it was a speculative thought about what someone would do if they were suddenly faced with irrefutable proof that there is an afterlife. Your brain is processing different scenarios all the way through, but ultimately the story writes itself.”
Sheffield still feels like home, he explains, hence the book’s location.
“Most of my family’s still in Sheffield, most of my friends and my youngest son is studying there. I’m a fanatical Blades fan. When we go abroad, I always say ‘I’m from Sheffield, but I live in Derby’.”
Mark, who grew up in Intake and Frecheville and went to Frecheville Comprehensive School, wrote stories as a child but becoming a journalist put him on a different path.
“I went into journalism in 1984 when I was 22 and as you can imagine when you're writing for a living it leaves very little time and appetite for writing for leisure as well,” he says.
“I had lots of half-written stories on my computer. This one is one of the novels I had that was quite well on the way.”
A character who reports for The Star crops up in Sunbeam at an important moment.
“There’s a big charity event, a fire walk, set on The Moor where I’ve got a big Hollywood superstar who might just bear a slight resemblance to Sean Bean. He’s agreed to become part of this, and I build a Star reporter into that. They are part of the aftermath of what happens at the fire walk.
“The Star means a lot to me. My mother worked there for years and years, she was the secretary to the editor Colin Brannigan. Spending time in the newsroom was what made me decide I wanted to be a journalist.”
He says he was ‘always attracted to sport’. “Tony Pritchett, The Star’s United writer, was the reason I wanted to be a sports reporter. He’d write with insight and give you a flavour of the game, he’d never use a cliched intro.”
Mark, who has two sons and lives in Derby with his partner Sue, joined the Derby Telegraph after a spell with the South Yorkshire Times, finding his niche as the Telegraph’s award-winning cricket writer. He contributes to cricket’s historic Wisden Almanack.
Sunbeam will be followed by another novel – Mark is already 10,000 words into his next book.
“It took me until I was 57 to write the first one,” he says. “I’ve got to get on with it now.”
Sunbeam is independently published and available via Amazon here, priced £7.99.