What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
The Pages Festival—THAT was my literary pilgrimage. My other ‘literary pilgrimage was a trip to Israel where we “followed the Bible”, in search of the biblical Mt. Sinai. It was quite an experience.
What is the first book that made you cry?
The Diary of Anne Frank & To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t remember which I read first.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Descriptions of people and settings, I prefer to get to the point asap.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Both. I try to put myself in a reader’s shoes. I write about particular legal and political issues of the day. If a particular issue appeals to a reader, I don’t want to force a reader to read my entire list to be able to read about his or her chosen topic. As a writer, however, character interactions and introduction are contextually important, and I’d prefer that my readers read my series novels in order.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I wrote and published my first novel, Betrayal of Faith, from a personal case experience. The novel was about the ‘case of my life.’ I wouldn’t say it changed my process; I would say it created my process. It became more of a ‘springboard’ for future novels. Once I experienced the process of writing a novel and knew I could actually do it, the question was: Can I write novels about cases and/or issues I did not personally experience. For the second novel, I chose a topic that felt personal to me, the 2016 election. After I wrote Betrayal of Justice, choosing important legal and political issues of our time and writing about them became ‘my thing.’
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A legal eagle
What did you edit out of your books? (keep it family-friendly, please)
I try to make the law interesting, while still explaining the issues I write about in a reader-lay person-friendly way. Some people praise my work and say I’ve accomplished my goal of discussing legal issues in an entertaining way. Others have said I explain too much. I don’t know who’s correct, but I do want to make sure readers understand what I am writing about and why I am so passionate about a particular issue.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I’ve already done that. I published my first novel in my 60’s. My leisure time and retirement have been sacrificed, to some extent, for my writing career. On the other hand, my writing journey has been interesting and enjoyable, perhaps, enhancing my ‘golden years.’ I believe, going forward, that I have developed a nice balance between the two.
What is your favorite childhood book?
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
If you write to “sell” books (not everyone writes to sell) as I do, the most difficult part is developing recognition and marketing my books. Assuming that is not what is meant by the question, it is dealing with ‘fits and spurts’ or ‘writer’s block.’ If I’ve put a book down for a while, I won’t always remember where I left off, and I end up rewriting something that I’ve already covered. This isn’t always a bad thing, though, because, sometimes, I write it better the second time.
What is the easiest part of your writing process?
Topics. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are a plethora of legal issues, with serious consequences in the real world, for Zachary Blake to tackle in his fictional world. Hopefully, my novels and Zachary’s experience in dealing with them help readers understand their importance to our fellow citizens. It shouldn’t matter whether the reader is currently dealing with a particular issue personally. We can all have and/or develop more empathy for our fellow citizens.
A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
With all due respect, the question is phrased with an inherent bias. You declare that social ineptitude is a ‘common misconception’ and then ask if it is true. It can’t be true if it is a misconception, right? In my case, however, it is totally untrue. I’m a very sociable guy and I write very socially conscious stuff. Genius (not me—Hemingway, Shakespeare, Twain/Clemons, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, and the like) might appear to be socially inept because of their genius, if you get my drift. Could a mere mortal have a routine conversation with Albert Einstein?
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be an author?
After I finished my first book, I realized I had many more legal issues and topics to write about, and much more I wanted to say.
Who are your biggest literary influences?
All of the other legal-themed authors who came before me. Special mention to Harper Lee, because social injustice in our legal and political systems are of particular interest to me, which is reflected in my novels.
What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?
There are so many, this is a difficult question. If absolutely pressed to name one, I would have to say Gone With the Wind because of the sheer enormity of the project and the fact that the movie has stood the test of time. How famous would Margaret Mitchell’s novel be today, but for the movie? A similar statement might be made for L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or Mario Puzo’s Godfather Trilogy and other movie classics that were made from novels.
How did it feel when your first book got published? How did you celebrate?
I self-published. It was quite costly, not a good experience, and I almost gave up. I probably should write a book about how to avoid all the mistakes I made. I have learned a lot since then and I celebrate my entire body of work, the people I have met, the knowledge and experience I have gained as I have navigated the process.
What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about authors?
I don’t have tremendous insight to offer here. I would say the same thing I often say about celebrity worship in America. We are all people, doing our thing, struggling (or, in some cases, not struggling) to get by, just like you. No one is better than you or smarter than you, just different than you. We can all learn from each other.
When it comes to research for your books, are you a hunter or a gatherer? Talk about your research process.
Both. Probably more of a gatherer, though. I filter through mountains of information before I ever sit down and condense it all into a novel.
Could you be housemates with your characters? Why or why not?
It depends on the character. Some of my characters are pure evil and would make terrible housemates. I’d be envious of Blake; he’s a much better lawyer than I am, but I could certainly be his housemate. For some reason, most of my novels feature a strong female (or two or three) protagonist, and they are my favorite characters. I love them all and could definitely be housemates with them (but my wife would object).
What’s your typical writing routine or schedule?
I don’t have a routine or schedule. I write in fits and spurts, unfortunately. I try to find time to write every day, but it never works out. My real job, my family, and other things often get in the way. Having said that, I have managed to write six novels in four years. There have been lots of “spurts,” I guess.
Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. How do you recharge?
I compartmentalize reasonably well. The difficult part for me is that, while I write fiction, my novels are usually based on real events in America. My first novel was based on real cases and real people caught up in the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandals. 40 years after the fact, my clients and others like them are still suffering from the after-effects of these events. I’ve written about white supremacy, police shootings, school shootings, religious and racial discrimination, political gamesmanship, immigration tragedies, and the Holocaust, inspired by actual events. Real people have suffered real tragedy in America and abroad. I try to offer practical and sensible solutions, which helps a bit.
Do you prefer music or silence when you write? Do you have a writing playlist? What’s on it?
Silence is golden when I write. No playlist.
Which celebrity would you choose to narrate your audiobook?
0My novels are narrated by Lee Alan, a legendary radio personality in the Detroit area. He did a beautiful job and the audiobooks are compelling versions of my work. If I had an unlimited budget, however, I would have multiple voices for different characters. As I understand the question, however, the greatest voice in behind the character narration in the history of the world, is James Earl Jones. His is like the voice of G-d!
What well-known author, living or dead, do you wish could be your mentor? Why?
This is a very difficult question. As I indicated previously, I stand on the shoulders of all of the legal content authors who came before me. If I were to choose one author who I believe could make me a better author, it would be Pat Conroy. His words ‘sing’ to me.
What is your favorite of the six senses (touch, taste, smell, sound, sight, intuition) to write about, why?
Intuition? My word would be “feelings”. Something consequential happens to my protagonist in each novel. I want the reader to feel, in a very personal way, what that character is feeling. If a reader experiences a deep visceral connection to the character, perhaps that reader will help effectuate change in America.
What is a favorite location you’ve written about? Have you visited that place? How did you choose which details to include?
Detroit, Motown, the Motor City, Hitsville USA, the Paris of the Midwest, The D. Detroit is the most misunderstood and misrepresented city in America. Real people live here. As to details, I chose them as they seemed relevant to what I was writing, no rhyme or reason, but with the intent to convey what is real and wonderful about my hometown. Check out the skyline on my website, at www.markmbello.com. Beautiful! As I write this I am thinking about Sammy Davis, Jr.’s “Hello Detroit.” You’ve won my heart!
Travel back in time (without negative effects for you or the timeline) what year do you visit? Why?
The roaring 20’s. Sounds like everyone had a great time! I do believe, however, that reality might be somewhat different than historical reporting of reality. How true is ‘history’ and who is reporting it? Is it sugar-coated to make us feel good about ourselves? We all make our own life experiences. Who’s to say we aren’t living through the best times in history? Considering what the country has experienced in the past few years, that concept might be tough to swallow, but those who lived through other times, might just be envious.
What is something about your hero or villain that drove their character, but you didn’t specifically tell your reader?
I don’t believe this applies to my heroes or villains. I would say, however, that they are not all created equally. By way of example, some of my villains are pure evil and some are quite tragic. Likewise, my heroes get there on much different roads.
Have you ever resuscitated a project you'd shelved? What helped it work better the second time around?
Yes—Nothing more than a fresh look or a new perspective influenced by time.
What do the words “literary success” mean to you? How do you picture it?
Huge numbers of people finding and reading my work, spurring them to action to create more fairness, justice, and equality in our world.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
My latest novel, Supreme Betrayal will be released in the Spring 2021. It is about the political and legal battle waged to seat a United States Supreme Court Justice. Do character, morals, or good and evil matter? Or, have our politicians become so jaded, all that matters is political ideology?
I just finished a Zachary Blake novella, set in Detroit, near the time of Zack’s Bar Mitzvah, which recounts his grandfather’s Holocaust experience. The novella will be available on Amazon, but readers may choose to download it for free at my website.
Finally, I am currently writing a novel about our country’s immigration crisis, focusing on a Central American family who overstayed their visa and a Syrian Muslim who becomes a hostage when she tries to return home to visit her family in Syria. This has been a very interesting and enlightening experience. As the grandson of immigrants, I keep thinking “There but for the grace of G-d, go I.”
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring authors?
Find your passion and just write, baby!
Please provide links and/or instructions about how readers can purchase signed copies of your books.
Order the book on Amazon and mail it to me with a self-addressed, stamped media mail envelope to 7115 Orchard Lake Road, Suite 320, West Bloomfield, MI 48322 and I will sign it and get it back to you via the media mail envelope provided, or . . .
Purchase the book directly from our website at https://www.markmbello.com, request a signed copy, and I will sign it before I send it to you.
Thanks, this was thought-provoking and entertaining.
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