By: Alexia Helmer
Working at a coffee shop, it’s likely that you’ll meet a lot of interesting people that stop in for a cup of joe. One man caught my interest, as each day around noon, he’d come into the shop, sit his laptop at his favorite table, order lunch and a hot spiced chai, and then take a seat for the next three hours and do nothing but write. Mark Schelske is his name, and after not much prying and a lot of questioning I discovered that this guy is working diligently on a science fiction (Sci-Fi) novel. My adamant questioning eventually led me to interviewing him about his current and past work.
Schelske has always loved to write. A native of American Falls, Idaho, his desire to write led him to cover sports at his high school for the local newspaper, The Power County Press. This experience led to an Idaho State University sports editor scholarship at their weekly newspaper, The Bengal. From there, Schelske furthered his education, earning a bachelor’s degree in both political science and History, as well as a master’s degree in public administration. He eventually took a job at the University of Chicago and remained there in various positions for 11 years. He came with his wife, Caryn Riswold, to Jacksonville when she took a position as a professor of religion at Illinois College. “I basically left my job at the University of Chicago to follow her here,” Schelske told me, “we both support each other’s dreams. So she’s doing her dream and I’m following mine.” Nowadays, Schelske is doing nothing but writing and he loves it: “I felt like in the world of real work, my creativity was gone … so it’s really nice to go back and actually find a way to write … it gives me an outlet to be creative.”
Schelske started writing his current piece of fiction years ago, but like many writers do, he put it away on his shelf to collect dust, unsure if he’d ever return to it. “Writing itself is super easy,” Schelske told me, “What’s hard is making it compelling for someone else to read … making it a page turner; and that’s why I’ve abandoned so many different novels … I could never do any writing unless I wrote for myself … I have to write what interests me and excites me … but now I believe in the process of editing, that’s when you go back and try to make it readable for other people.”
Schelske is still working diligently on his novel, a romance that uses the awareness of artificial intelligence to help carry the story. When I asked Schelske why he chose Sci-Fi, he responded, “Science fiction is my favorite and the reason why is because at the age of seven I saw a movie called ‘Star Wars.’” Along with “Star Wars,” he’s also been influenced by authors such as Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke and George Orwell.
So, as Schelske continues his daily trek to the Soap Co. Coffee House in order to feed his stomach and his creativity, I will be certain to ask him what page he is working on until he’s typed the final period.