Interview with Mark Carlson

Author of I don’t have one yet…coming soon


Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?

I grew up the first 10 years of my life traveling around, as my dad was in the Navy. However, we ended up residing in San Diego, CA in ’71, where most of my upbringing occurred. After college, I got married and ended up moving to N. California. We ended up in and are now living in Orangevale, CA, a small suburb of Sacramento.

If you currently reside somewhere besides where you were born, what’s the story that lead from there to here?

Again, growing up in a military family, we moved around several times. Jobs took me from San Diego, California to Cincinnati, Ohio, and ultimately to Roseville, California (a suburb of Sacramento). I ended up going back into the landscape (Green industry) business in the late ’90s and then finally launched my own business in landscape lighting design. We spent about 15-years in Roseville and then moved one city over to Orangevale, which I love. It’s very rural, and it is more of a farming community. There’s plenty of open land, farms, and it feels like the country–I like that. I really enjoy the quietness of the trees and farms, listening to the sounds of roosters and cows in the morning, and having open land. It’s a place of peace to me.

What made you decide to write and publish your first book?

Actually, my first book was a re-publication effort with a colleague and good friend, Michael Gambino of Gambino Landscape Lighting. We were both passionate about preserving the history of our founding father–Frank B. Nightingale, the “father of garden lighting.” Frank wrote the original book in 1958, but it ended up in the public domain, so we wanted to keep it preserved for another 100+ years. It was a limited edition, and we re-published it in its entirety, while providing commentary and current day photos of works we have done in the landscape lighting profession. Our effort was called, the “Original Garden Lighting Book” (2013).

My current book that is almost done is one that is completely different from all other landscape lighting design books. It will provide understanding into the psychology of humans, human nature, and how light, shadow and nature impact the ‘affect’ or feeling of a garden space. Additionally, I address the importance of lighting composition and the principles of art, which provide an objective understanding of it.

How would you describe your books to first time readers?

I think the best way to describe my book(s) is to say that I am passionate about my discipline. I treat my work like an art-form, because it is. Too many have allowed this practice and craft to become a DIY’er project, but it can greatly impact mood and emotion. Therefore, I am providing both history and relevance to the importance of landscape lighting. My new book is unlike the rest, because it addresses human issues and our relationship to light and shadow within natural, outdoor settings.

Who do you feel is most likely to connect with the topics you write about?

One would think the profession–those in the trade. But, it’s interesting, as I have found more interest by those outside of this work to be encouraged to learn more about this subject matter. My goal is to provide insights towards how people “feel” within these spaces, and I want the reader to appreciate ‘why’ it’s important–the work I/we do.

What unexpected or surprising thing did you learn during the process of writing and publishing?

During this current round of writing with the new book, I’ve found a deeper appreciation of what it is I am exploring and writing about. I thought I knew quite a bit about this topic and because I am spending time to write my thoughts out, it’s allowed me to gain more insights about the subject matter. It’s very encouraging to me and I wish to express this for others to expand upon. Yes, I’m a complete landscape lighting “geek”…the more I explore, the more I see how I/we can all benefit from this observation.

If you could, what advice would you give to your past self before embarking on this journey?

I wish I would have had the courage earlier in my career to write…to explore thoughts and ideas to this extent. It’s invigorating and it takes you to a new place…a higher level of understanding because it allows you to express thoughts on paper or computer. When one writes, it develops thoughts…it’s a process that develops faster. I love that!

How many people would you ideally like to reach with your books?

This is a tough question because we all wish to reach everyone. Ultimately, my wish is to reach those that are equally passionate about this art-form…to encourage them to write, to share, to express their ideas towards advancing the profession. But, I will say…the landscape lighting industry is behind…most do not think like I do and they always say, “I’m too busy to do these things”. It’s really sad, because there are a lot of really good professionals and practitioners out there…they just don’t challenge themselves to “give back”. Most of the lighting professionals only think of themselves by what they’ve accomplished financially. They do not put any emphasis on the art-form, and giving back to the future generation that will be once they are gone. In other words, they will just do their thing and die! It ends there. To me, that is a sad thing.

What has been the biggest challenge and frustration during the process to date?

Obviously, my answer is Time and Finances. One must commit the time and money into these projects, and most won’t do it. I believe it is important to do so, in order to give back to the next generation. It’s a legacy type of thing. Most operators and business people only think about today and the upcoming year…that’s it! If you ask them, “do you have a plan for succession or what would you like to leave behind for the next generation?”, then you’ll see they haven’t really thought about it. It’s scary to me, because there are some great designers out there…some great business people that are doing well, but they fail in this aspect. This is frustrating to me.

What’s your biggest strengths when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?

My biggest strength in any of this is experience and content. My weakest strength is in publishing and marketing. I am a visionary…and content person…a leader, but I lack the ability to get my content to the market…the consumer and the professional.

I don’t make a lot of money, but I live a good, wholesome life, and I want to give back. I just need help in doing so.

What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?

I explained it in the above question–publishing and marketing are my weakness.

When do you think you will write your next book?

I’m almost done with my current book. I’m hoping within the next 2 months, I’ll have everything written and then it’s just editing and finalizing details…providing photos, images, etc. My goal is to launch in early ’21.

Are you self published or did you use a hybrid publisher, or a traditional publisher?

I’ve used self-publishing in the past effort, and I think I’ll do the same with this new book. However, it depends on costs and what I am willing to make on each book. My goal is to make enough, overall, to help sustain my works. Most of these deals always benefit the publisher…I just want to gain something in return for what I’ve produced, so that I can continue on my quest. It’s like the musician in a band…so many have taken advantage of them…they produce the music that affects/impact the consumer, yet they are the last one’s to gain any benefit. This is why it’s all an “art-form”…the artist needs to benefit for a change.


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