Conversation with writer Mark Fine by Fiona Mcvie of “Authors Interviews”

Hello and welcome to Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

Thanks for inviting me, Fiona

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name.

Mark Fine, though I wish I had a few more syllables in my name. I envy your four: Fi/ona Mc/vie.

 Fiona: Where are you from?

Born in the City of Gold—Johannesburg, in faraway South Africa. I now live in sight of Catalina Island, south of Los Angeles.

 Fiona: A little about yourself (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

I’m a veteran of the record industry; worked with wonderful artists like Sheryl Crow, Boys II Men, Bon Jovi, and Bryan Adams. It was tremendous being around such creative artists, on a daily basis, and help them achieve their creative aspirations.

Unfortunately, my late wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I quit my music gig to care for her, and raise our two boys. Frankly, I surprised myself at how well I took to becoming ‘Mr. Mom’.  In reflection, the most rewarding mission of my life. My sons have really prospered. The elder is a real rocket scientist at SpaceX. The younger is conquering it at business school. Both grateful and proud. Thankfully, romantically speaking, life has afforded me a second chancewith a wonderful soulmate.

 Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

I just released the audiobook for The Zebra Affaire on Audible.com.  For someone who spent a major part of his career in the recording studio, it’s odd it took me this long to co-produce this recording. Almost 10 hours—unabridged. Truthfully, I needed a voice actor with South African roots to do the narration. When I chanced upon the talentedDennis Kleinman, everything then changed; I had no excuse to not move forward with the audio project.

Dennis is familiar with the dialects and colloquialisms that make The Zebra Affaire so authentic. And for the listener—through my words and Dennis’s voice—Elsa and Stanwell’s struggle to preserve their forbidden love against extraordinary odds (the full force of the apartheid regime), is vividly brought to life in this audiobook. HEAR an excerpt of Dennis Kleinman’s compelling narration HERE. Briefly, let me set the scene. These are the events leading to Elsa and Stanwell’s fateful first meeting. She being white, and he being black, their relationship proved to be cruely complicated in segregated South Africa. Enjoy the Listen!

Every author should treat themselves to the tremendous experience of hearing their book read back to them by a gifted narrator. Dennis Kleinman certainly did that for me. The way he seamlessly transitions from character to character, by adding his personal vocabulary as an actor to my plot, is extraordinary. An outstanding performance!

This week, I also published a small folio of short stories. It’s titled Two Short Shorts: Short Stories of Strangers in Strange Lands.Two Short Shorts Cover Though the book cover is an ancient picture of me, as a little tyke, wearing embarrassingly short shorts, it is not at all biographical.  However, it is a commentary on being a ‘square peg in a round hole’ which I personally find relatable.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

It’s a natural evolution of my ‘Mr Mom’ role. My sons were growing up andmoving off to college. I expected becoming an empty nester would be hazardous to my well-being, so a new sense of purpose was needed. Coming from the music world, I saw writing as a natural evolution. However, my intent was to write songs. Failed miserably! Instead, I wrote an 86,000 word novel. My, I do admire those songwriters. The ability to compress such massive ideas—filled with emotion and rhythm—into three minutes of lyrical rhyme is a gift that I wish I had. Still, I am going to keep trying…

 Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

The moment someone else read my words; and that these same words resonated with them, challenged them, made them weep, made them angry, and compelled the reader care for the characters I had created.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

My paternal grandmother ran a library. Hence, I always admired the printed page. The next step was deciding which story to tell. It took time and distance—from the country of my birth—to better understand the complicated social dynamics there. It is not simply a black and white story. But I could see patterns begin to repeat themselves here in the United States and elsewhere, so I felt The Zebra Affaire could serve as a cautionary tale.

 Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

“The Zebra Affaire” speaks of a forbidden romance across the color divide in a malicious, racist society. Elsa and Stanwell’s affair was not only socially unacceptable, but it was illegal—with seven yearsimprisonment as a consequence of being discovered by the authorities. However, stepping away from bigoted manmade laws, whether black or white—we are all truly equal—as are the black and white stripes of a zebra.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

I’m a patient writer. Research is a key element. It may elongate the writing process, however, the knowledge I gain is well worth it. Better still: I’m the vehicle that transfers that same knowledge to my readers—but in a far more entertaining way. It is satisfying, when I meet with a book clubs, to find The Zebra Affaire has past the Google test. Nowadays, it’s so easy to be fact checked that I do my best to be a diligent researcher.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The canvas on which I paint the lives of my characters is totally realistic. I guess 1976 South Africa isn’t quite long ago enough to be categorized as Historical Fiction, but setting the apparent ‘youth’ of the period aside, the book has all the bones, and authenticity, of historical fiction. As I was raised during those torrid times, there are certainly echoes of my personal experiences throughout the novel.

Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

No doubt. The grand finale in Zebra is a safari sequence. I used that as an excuse to go on safari; a field trip to the magnificent, Londolozi game reserve.  With camera and pen, I documented the setting and behavior of animals, humans, location and weather, in order to bring a heightened sense of immediacy to my writing. I’m a big believer of exploring our full senses in storytelling. I needed to hear the chuff of a lion, smell the char of a brushfire, feel the grit of the parched earth, taste the organic nature of a rustic meal, and see the splendor of an African night sky—unspoiled by big city light pollution—to better articulate these pure moments for my reader.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

I did. Not that it was my intent. As a remedy for writer’s block; rather than walking away in frustration, I chose to change my creative focus. Rather than struggle to get twenty-six letters to march in cogent order, I pivoted to pictures, graphics, fonts, and layouts. I taught myself Photoshop, thanks to YouTube, and almost organically designed the cover as the book’s manuscript was shaped.

 Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes. The only up-front way to fairly evaluate the world around us, specifically people, is on the basis of merit. As guiding criteria, merit, is inherently colorblind, nor is it swayed by creed, race, gender, tribe, religion, etc. Also, merit is contextual. You do not apply the same metric to both subsistent farmer and billionaire. From personal experience, frankly, merit was the only sane way to navigate through the arcana and social distortion of the unfathomable, cruel apartheid laws.

Merit sweeps away the emotion of ideology, the prejudice of fear, and the foolishness of ignorance. In an imperfect world, merit is the purest way I have found to deal with folks on a person-to-person basis, without preconceived biases. That said; merit expects everyone to contribute to the greater good, to the best of their individual ability. To some that may seem harsh; to me it is both fair and dignified.

 Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

Similar to the record biz, with its vibrant Indie Scene, I feel the publishing world has a comparable pool of extraordinary emerging talent. I’m a fan of Elizabeth Horton-Newton (The View from the Sixth Floor), Julie Mayerson Brown (The Long Dance Home), Geoff Nelder (Aria: Left Luggage), Eric Gates (Outsourced), Jack Kregas (Choice Cruise Lines), Jean Gill (Song at Dawn).

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Perfection, and the pursuit of it, is so costly—both in emotions and treasure—that I have learned to let go. Nevertheless, I do regard my books as living documents. The process of producing the audiobook was most informative; I found I had to tweak some of the dialog sequences to make them more natural for the narrator to articulate.

 Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Stanwell should be played by Boris Kodjoe. Margot Robbie would be my definite to embody Elsa. However, I am interested in hearing suggestions from our readers. Hey, let us know in the comments section below.

Boris Kodjoe Stanwell look

Boris Kodjoe as Stanwell?

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Margot Robbie as Elsa?

Fiona: Any advice for other writers?

Write your ending first. It may seem counter-intuitive; however, consider it to be like a lawyer’s closing argument. Everything that happens before leads up to that dramatic wrap-up at the end of a court case.  Switching to another metaphor, by knowing your destination, you increase your odds of getting there in one piece.  Your early draft of the book’s conclusion is like a sign post  guiding the way. Of course, go back and review your closing, tweak, then repeat; especially as your writing muscles develop, the further you get into your WIP (work in progress).

Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

I am deep into my next novel; it is an interesting collaboration. If songwriters can collaborate, why not authors? Again, the focus will be on Sub-Saharan Africa, though it will be a decade later than the 1976 setting of The Zebra Affaire. Our working title is “The Spy in the Hyena Den”.

 Fiona: What book are you reading now?

Alan Furst, “The Spies of Warsaw”

 Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

Herman Wouk, “Winds of War” is the first significant book I read.

 Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Animals. I weep for the countless rhino and elephant slaughtered for their ivory and horn. Tragic waste; these magnificent creatures killed for mere trinkets and problems better solved with a certain blue pill.  Yet, watching baby elephants trying to learn to use their rubbery trunks for the first time is the funniest thing, ever.

 Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

Winston Churchill. Supreme writer, orator, statesman, and blessed with an extraordinary gift of foresight.

 Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Philanthropy. Especially wildlife conservation and breast cancer research.

 Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?

‘So Little Time (So Much to Do)’: the title of a 1938 Louis Armstrong song.

 Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?

Fiona, so kind of you to offer. I can be reached at www.markfinebooks.com and www.finebooks.coand my Twitter handle is @MarkFine_author

Blog: Mark Fine | RUMINATIONS https://markfineauthor.wordpress.com/


The Zebra Affaire [130 Amazon Reviews]

ebook: https://www.amazon.com/ZEBRA-AFFAIRE-Apartheid-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B011PXSEWG/

Audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/The-Zebra-Affaire-Audiobook/B076C1CVNS/

Download “THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE” Audiobook for FREE

When you sign up for Audible 30-day Free Trial

Click the link below for the Special FREE Offer:

http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B076C1CVNS

You Save $19.95 (100%)

Two Short Shorts (includes Bonus excerpt from “The Zebra Affaire”):

ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Short-Shorts-Stories-Strangers-ebook/dp/B0771X8VNC/

Amazon Authors Page:https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Fine/e/B00KOIP05S/

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/MarkfineAuthor


Thanks to Fiona Mcvie for this interview. You can view her original post here.

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CROOKED INTERVIEW with Author MARK FINE by ANITA KOVACEVIC

 

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CROOKED INTERVIEW with MARK FINE

BY ANITA KOVACEVIC ON 26/03/2017

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CROOKED TALES

The CROOKED TALES is another bountiful reader feast prepared for you by Readers Circle of Avenue Park and 15 extraordinary authors from around the globe. It contains 15 short stories on deception and revenge from all genres and walks of life, and is now available in kindle and paperback. It gives me a mixture of pride and humbleness to state that my story Beneath is also featured.

This spring I have an amazing treat for you as these superbusy authors have agreed to be my blog guests and do an interview. Crooked Tales inspiring my crookedness, I have also given them a task – in the second half of the interview they have to interview themselves:).

To open this series of Crooked Interviews, here is MARK FINE, a man whose autobiography alone would make for a stunning movie. Thank you, Mr Fine!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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The Author in his African Element

Mark Fine [Mark of the Hyena], a self-confessed, tone-deaf music executive, was born in South Africa, However, now Los Angeles is his home. There with his two sons—and Charlie, an affectionate neighbor’s dog—Mark wrote his historical fiction novel, The Zebra Affaire—the story of a mixed race couple and their struggle to survive under the racist regime’s oppressive 1970’s apartheid policies. Mark also takes a broader look at the travails of greater Africa; a topic that concerns him greatly. A charming aspect of Mark’s writing is how he looks to nature—Africa’s animals and wildlife—for inspiration and a solution to human shortcomings. In the process of telling the truth via the freedom fiction provides, a reviewer said, “Mark Fine has been brave like William Faulkner in his journey of truth telling – he has simply done it with a much different kind of Southern accent.”  For further info on Mark, check out these links— Website: finebooks.co and MarkFineBooks.com Blog: Fine Ruminations ~ or you’re welcome to connect on Facebook and Twitter: @MarkFine_author

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story  (Paperback)

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE  (Kindle Edition)


 

INTERVIEW

– What is your Crooked tale about and what inspired it?

MARK OF THE HYENA: ‘Fish out of water’ stories intrique me. The set up of an elite academic from New York City stranded in the Kalahari desert with a tribe of San Bushmen as his only means of survival was too tempting to ignore. In the telling we learn of hubris wrapped in first world arrogance, and simple grace in respecting nature’s lore.

– What do you like writing and/or reading best? 

I now have so many stories within me to tell, I’ve shifted my focus to short stories. This permits me the time to write them, and affords busy readers the time to read them.

– What else do you do in life apart from writing?

I mentor aspiring talent in both the music world, especially songwriters, and print publishing. It is the joy of collaboration that finally motivates me.
– What are you currently working on?

An historical fiction/suspense novel based in sub-Sahara Africa. It is based on a true story, and has the tantalizing title, “THE CULTURED SPY”.


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Author Mark Fine

CROOKED INTERVIEW (In a ‘crooked twist’ Anita had the ‘victim’ of the interview, interview himself!)

A Conversation with Myself: The whys and wherefores that shaped author Mark Fine’s novel, “The Zebra Affaire”

Mark Fine: What was the genesis of Zebra Affaire? Was it a grueling process or did it write itself?

Myself: More complex, more a creative evolution. I originally wanted to write a biography about my father. But, despite his accomplishments, he remained a modest man. I began to sense that the notion of a biography would be awkward for him. So I scrapped the idea. However, a great deal of research I’d already completed about his life and times. Subliminally, my mind must have churned away at this problem, because one day—a true kismet moment—the idea of courageous love story between a white woman and black man in the land of apartheid manifested itself. Only then did The Zebra Affaire ‘write itself’.

Mark Fine: Did you find that, as the characters developed, they changed the trajectory of the story from the original vision of the book?

Myself: The arc of the story remained surprisingly consistent. Probably because I wrote the end of my novel first. Seems counterintuitive, but it made sense to have a final destination as a guidepost. Kind of like a closing argument in a legal trial, I instinctively focused on the book’s conclusion when I began. Of course, as characters assumed a life of their own, the ending was constantly revisited, and refined.

Speaking about characters, I enjoyed adding the animal world and their instinctive code-of-honor into the story. As allegories to the foibles of human behavior, the natural behavior of these creatures was rather instructive. I’m thrilled I found a place for Africa’s wildlife in the book. It makes the experience all the more authentic for the reader, and foreshadows the human narrative at the heart of the story in a fresh way.

Mark Fine:  Which of the characters, if any, did I shape from personal experiences?

Myself:  The patriarch, the DGF character, typifies the decent people that tried to make a difference within the discriminatory apartheid system. Despite onerous job restriction laws that prohibited people of color from any management position, the real DGF did in fact hire and mentor a black man as a senior executive for a public company—despite such a hiring being illegal.

Due to the real DGF’s mentorship and ‘civil disobedience’, Rupert Bopape became a legendary music producer and label chief. DGF’s philosophy was simple in a complicated color-shaped society: merit is the only sustainable litmus test, and surpasses all other things that divide, such as race, tribe, gender, and faith.

In the context of the times, DGF was quietly brave. Now for a confession, my late father David Gabriel Fine inspired the DGF character. Fittingly, by weaving his memoire within the tapestry of my historical fiction story I was finally able to pay tribute to a wonderful man, and terrific dad.

Mark Fine:  Your Zebra Affaire story deals with many areas of history and diverse ethnic groups. How much of the final work was a result of inspiration or research?

Myself: The schism between the various races and tribes was my motivation to write the novel, as it remains a cautionary tale. I felt the world tends to adopt a simplistic ‘bumper-sticker’ view of what in reality is a more complicated state of affairs. Things are invariably seen in stark black and white, when in fact it’s anything but immutable. For example, in South Africa the white clans hated each other (English speakers versus the Afrikaners from Dutch heritage), as do the various native tribes (Zulu, Sotho, Venda, Xhosa and others). It’s ironic that South Africa’s motto was “Unity is Strength” when it was such an intensely balkanized society.

But the challenge as a writer was to humanize this constantly shifting tide of societal unrest, and so the context—shocking for that time and place—of an illicit interracial romance. As such, the arcana of South Africa’s convoluted legal code needed thorough research.

However, my main goal is to entertain the reader. It’s the thrilling fusion of romance and suspense set against a canvas that’s vividly authentic and powerfully provocative that makes The Zebra Affairestory worth writing, and reading. This is about the courageous love story of Elsa and Stanwell, the two of them on a collision course with the mighty racist regime, which is the compelling narrative that draws the reader through the book’s pages. If the reader becomes better informed in the process, well, that’s an added bonus.

Mark Fine: If you could return to post-apartheid South Africa and make sweeping changes, what would they be?

Myself: Out with the men! The women of Africa are saints. That image of a humble woman walking miles in the heat of day, barefoot, with a five gallon bucket of water balanced on her head—and with a baby wrapped in a blanket bound to her back, is for me the essence of selfless sacrifice. Unless there is another Nelson Mandela, these women should represent the true voice of Africa. Tireless and dedicated they may be, yet sadly they remain marginalized, underappreciated, due to gender discrimination and patriarchal tradition. I believe it is time for an authentic, nurturing, honest African woman to become the next president of South Africa! Maybe this will become the topic of my next book…

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The Zebra Affaire [Historical Fiction, Suspense/Romance]

To purchase a copy of your own:

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story  (Paperback)

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE  (Kindle Edition)


MARK FINE’S QUESTIONS for other Crooked Tales authors

Do you find a silver lining in a bad review? If so, please give an example.

What percentage of the research you do for a novel actually lands up on the printed page?

Do you have an author you admire? If so, why?

ANITA REQUESTS: Could other Crooked Tales authors please reply to this kind gentleman in the comments below? Other authors also welcome:)

Fine Review: “Red Queen Check” by Elizabeth Horton-Newton [Short Story]

strategyVirtues of the short story told by an artful author

I’ve become extremely fond of the short story as a medium. Life is too busy, yet I enjoy a good read, so an enticing short story is a most satisfying treat. Being a fan of author, Elizabeth Horton-Newton—her two novels “The View from the Sixth Floor” and “Riddle” having provided hours of pleasure—I confidently chose her ‘Red Queen Check’ from the short story anthology, Crooked Tales. Glad I did.

The sheer glee in the author’s writing radiated from every paragraph. This doesn’t mean this is a cheerful, trivial read; in fact it is at times gritty. However, there is little doubt she wished for the reader to enjoy the delicious comeuppance she had in-store for the miserable sociopath (or, maybe psychopath) at the stories core. But, it is the recipe of the revenge fashioned that is most satisfying.

From the opening line, Horton-Newton teases the reader with sensual heat as she introduces the femme fatale. By the third paragraph we are repulsed by him, a contemptuous and possessive blowhard with deadly desires.  And so, in the best tradition of a fine short story the stage is set for a diabolical plot driven by an avenging heart.

Yet, despite the obvious pleasure in her writing there is little doubt that the author had earnest intent. Elizabeth Horton-Newton’s message is clear:  there is little use in society for those that abuse—no matter their power or position.

I applaud the writer’s craft exhibited by Horton-Newton; her ability to score such rich characters within such a satisfying story arc—and all this, with only 4,000 words used! No wonder I now find short stories so appealing…and hope for more from the artful Elizabeth Horton-Newton.

For more about CROOKED TALES short stories click here.

About Elizabeth Horton-Newton

elisabeth-horton-newtonElizabeth Horton-Newton was born and raised in New York City. She began writing when she was a child, writing stories for friends and family. In the 4th Grade at P.S. 151 in Manhattan, she wrote an essay about her dream job—she wanted to be an author. Elizabeth continued to write short stories over the following years as she raised a family. After attending Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY and East Tennessee State University, she worked in the social work field for thirteen years.

She currently lives in East Tennessee with her husband, author Neil Newton, and a collection of rescued dogs and cats. Her first book View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale was published in October 2014; a love story that revolves around the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963—and the ensuing conspiracy theories. This was followed in June 2015 with the release of Riddle, a romantic thriller about a Native American convicted of killing his high school girlfriend. Elizabeth’s third novel, a somewhat erotic romance of one woman’s journey through love, loss, and resolution, will be released in the fall of 2016.

This mother of 4, grandmother of 5, and great grandmother of a newly arrived boy, loves serial killers and all things horror. She has been this way since early childhood, much to her mother’s dismay. Fascinated by the inner workings of the criminal mind, an interest strongly influenced by her father, she allowed her imagination to run wild in her tale for this anthology. You are invited to pay Elizabeth a visit at Between the Beats and her author website here or connect via Facebook and Twitter: @redqueenliz