Mark R. Wilson is a marine biologist and author based in the U.K. who started his adult life without direction or passion. “Irma: Life Lessons from the Worst Storm in Atlantic History” is not only the story about some sharks, the impulse to swim with them, and a hurricane, but about finding ourselves in the choices we make in between.
Recently, we connected with Mark and got to know him a little better.
In your bio you mention that swimming with sharks changed your life. What made you decide to jump in with them in the first place?
Up until that point I had what you might call an armchair fascination and innate interest in sharks. Being as I was at that time very un-ambitious or even stifled in what I believed I could or should do I had never thought about actively pursuing my fascination with the ocean and sharks. But then out of nowhere, sharks had come to me. They were right there and I was simply overcome with the need to get into the water and get close to them. I almost had no choice, it was like some kind of calling and it felt like the most natural and right thing to do.
This is your first book and a memoir, what was it like for you to write it? Did it come naturally or were there things in the process you needed to work through in order to tell your story the way you wanted to?
This is a great question. I enjoyed the process immensely. So much so that I felt a sense of loss when it was finished. Writing for me was not a conscious decision. After experiencing Irma my head was full of so much and I was questioning everything that had gone before and I had an overwhelming compulsion to write. Despite the fact that any suggestion of writing a memoir prior to Irma would have been laughable and ridiculous. On the first day I sat down and decided on most of the chapters and to my surprise once I began to write the words just flowed out of me. I couldn’t believe how much I wrote on some days. Some of the content was difficult to write from an emotional point of view, but cliché or not writing them was very therapeutic. The most difficult aspects were dialogue and description, which I was actually complemented on in my manuscript assessment. So I guess staring at photographs for far too long and then sitting down and closing my eyes and taking my self back to the place and time in question was worth it.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this book?
This is hard to answer clearly, because I am still figuring out who I am and what I want post Irma. So you could say the first thing I learnt is that I still don’t really know who I am or what I want. I definitely learnt all over again that I often don’t like myself. Coupled with that is the feeling I should try harder to do so.
What advice would you give someone who wants to share their own story?
First of all, just start. Grab that pen and paper or open that laptop and start. After that don’t put any pressure on yourself and don’t worry too much about trying to be perfect. Just get the ideas down and polish, refine, edit, add to and improve them later. It will come, the more you write, the more you will find you have to say.
If there’s one thing you hope a reader walks away with after reading your book, what would it be?
To understand the importance of getting to know oneself and even more important being true to that self.
If you’re up for an adventure that will take you across the world and back to your Self, check out this sneak peak of Mark’s book, “Irma,” here.