Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Mark S. Bacon author of Write Like the Pros, Do-It-Yourself Direct Marketing: Secrets for Small Business, Mysteries and Murder.
And his latest novel, Death In Nostalgia City.
Mark began his career as a newspaper reporter covering, among other beats, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Glendale (Calif.) Police Department. After writing news and features at two newspapers, he moved to ad copy writing when he joined the advertising department of Knott's BerryFarm in Buena Park, Calif. Bacon wrote commercials and ads for the Orange County theme park and he directed special events.
Later his career moved into other forms of communication but his early background covering a daily police beat and working for a theme park was part of the inspiration for his theme park mystery. Bacon later wrote TV commercials for an advertising agency, was public relations manager for a financial trade association, marketing director for a southern California financial institution, and later managed his own marketing consulting firm.
For nearly 20 years Bacon had a parallel career as an adjunct college professor teaching business writing and journalism. He taught journalism at California State Polytechnic
University - Pomona, UNLV, the University of Redlands and the University of Nevada - Reno. He taught business at Fullerton (Calif.) College and Truckee Meadows Community College.
His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Denver Post, USAir Magazine, Trailer Life, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express-News, The Orange County Register, Working Woman, and other publications. He is a former columnist for BusinessWeekOnline and most recently was a regular correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle where he wrote on travel, outdoors and entertainment.
Norm: Good day Mark and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
Mark:I took journalism and creative writing classes in high school and I was hooked. I sold my first article—to a men’s outdoor magazine—when I was 16.
I love to write and so I never think about “keeping going.” I just write. When I’m working on a book or other project I begin each day reading and editing what I’ve written the previous day. The reward of seeing that I can create coherent sentences drives me to do that day’s work.
Norm: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a writer?
Mark: Biggest mistake? Hard to say. I’ve made plenty. One mistake at the start of my career was taking a job at a weekly newspaper in Southern California where a major part of my work was to rewrite stories out of the Los Angeles Times. I quit after three days. In a news story I once wrote that a fire completely destroyed an apartment building. That’s redundant. I clipped the story and had it stuck on my desk for months.
Norm: What's the worst advice you hear authors give writers?
Mark: “Don’t quite your day job.” By definition, getting paid for stringing words together is being a writer. Therefore, if you want to be a writer, look for a 9-5 writing job. Perhaps some successful novelists have gone right from flipping burgers or waiting tables to the New York Times best seller list, but I can’t name any. Many successful authors began as journalists, copywriters, technical writers, English teachers, newsletter editors, website content specialists, and many other related professions. Writing successful books--nonfiction or fiction--requires skill and practice. The more you write, the better you become. Why not get paid for writing while you’re honing your skills? You can still work on that novel at night.
Norm: Which of your books/stories are you most attached to and why?
Mark: My first book and my last one. My first book, a how-to about business writing, was a dream come true. I wrote a proposal and a sample chapter and sold the book to a big NYC publisher in a very short time. Contract and advance in hand, I proceeded to write the book. It was about the most fun I’ve had writing.
My current book, Death in Nostalgia City, is my first published novel, and it’s an important milestone as most authors will agree. My main characters, Kate and Lyle, are, in a sense, my children.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Mark: I was raised to value education, but perhaps more for making a good living rather than creating things of value. I became a writer because it’s what I loved to do. Although my parents perhaps didn’t realize it, I wrote—and still do—in part because it’s the most difficult (and thus rewarding) work I know how to do reasonably well.
Norm: Which fictional character would you most like to have a drink with, and why?
Mark: I’d like to meet Sam Spade and see if he looks anything like Humphrey Bogart.
Norm: Are you a plot or character writer?
Mark: Some writing--and writers--can be categorized this way, but most successful novelists must be adept at both elements of fiction--and others, such as dialog, plotting and descriptions. I often start with a plot idea, but it’s usually framed around a particular and necessary type of character. The character from The Old Man and the Sea, needs his quest, his sea and his big fish to make a complete story.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Mark: Knowing I’ve done my research and have a clear idea of where my story is going, thanks to a detailed outline, makes composition easier. I always find it easy reading back my own work. That doesn’t mean I’m always satisfied with it; usually I’m not. But I write by revision and love the process.
Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Mark: That many people don’t realize how much time and energy, in revisions and rewrites for example, it takes to make a book.
Norm: What would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read Death In Nostalgia City?
Mark: I wrote the book to be the kind of mystery/suspense story that I like to read. I like a challenging puzzle that is possible to solve and I also like a fast-paced book with likable protagonists put in peril so that I worry about them. In other words, Death in Nostalgia City is a book appealing to the head and the heart.
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for the book?
Mark: Death in Nostalgia City takes place in a retro theme park, so two thing inspired the setting. Early in my career I was a copywriter at Knott’s Berry Farm, a large theme park down the freeway from Disneyland. I got a chance to see how a huge operation like that functions. It’s controlled chaos at times. When I looked to pick a theme my for fictional theme park, I was influenced by the largest annual special event in Reno where I now live. Hot August Nights is a celebration of classic cars and classic oldies, thus Nostalgia City became a place to relive the early 1970s..
Norm: Could you tell our audience a little about the book?
Mark: Death in Nostalgia
City is the story of Lyle Deming, an anxiety-ridden ex-cop who wears
a rubber band on his wrist for stress control and would rather do
anything other than police work. He takes a job driving a cab at the
retro theme park as an easy esacpe. Nostalgia City is a
recreation of an entire small town from the early 1970s, complete
with period cars, clothes, hairstyles, music, food, shops, fads,
restaurants—the works. But when sabotage and murder threaten
to destroy the park, Lyle is drafted to investigate and told to keep
a low profile.
As the violence escalates and employees get rattled, Lyle gets help. Kate Sorensen, the park’s PR director--and former college basketball player--becomes another incognito investigator. Keeping a low profile for Kate is difficult because she’s 6’ 2½” and drop-dead gorgeous.
Norm: It is said that writers should write what they know. Were there any elements of the book that forced you to step out of your comfort zone, and if so, how did you approach this part of the writing?
Mark: I’m a firm believer in critique groups. Although I wrote a practice novel years ago and I’ve published a number of other books, this was the first novel I thought had possibilities for publication. Working with two different groups of writers helped me improve my writing even though some of the critiques were, at first, wake up calls.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Mark: Please visit MY WEBSITE
Norm: After your success as an author and , what, if anything, remains "undone" for you? What is the one thing you haven't done, that you are still "itching" to accomplish?"
Mark: I have many more adventures for Kate and Lyle, more books. I’m heavy into writing the next one right now.
As to “itching to accomplish,” I’ve always wanted to write a book with a coauthor. Likely this would be some form of nonfiction. A research-heavy book could lend itself to collaboration and I’d love to do that some time. I love novel writing, but it’s solitary work.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Mark: You could have asked me how much of myself is in the character of Lyle. My answer is, only the insecurities.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
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