Mark B. Perry
author of City of Whores
Starboard Home Press 2014
What name(s) do you write under? If you write under a pseudonym, what helped you choose that name?
I write both fiction and television under my real name. I registered a pseudonym with the Writers Guild several years ago when I was thinking of taking my name off of a script I’d written, but I’d prefer to keep the actual name a secret, in case the day ever arrives when I actually need it.
Where are you from?
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in its suburbs. I love living in Los Angeles, but I’m also quite fond of being from the South.
What is the name of your most recent or upcoming release?
City of Whores, my debut novel, was just released August 1, 2014 and is now available.
Can you give us an idea of what the story is about?
It’s a deeply personal story set against the larger-than-life backdrop of the twilight of Hollywood’s golden age in the early 1950s, when the rise of television had the studios in a panic, and people would do almost anything to break into show business. In the book, a very good-looking young man arrives from a small town in Texas, hell-bent on achieving stardom, only to become dangerously entangled in the lives of one of Tinseltown’s most powerful couples. As his dream devolves into a lurid, erotic nightmare, he must choose between fame and fortune, or his own sanity and survival. I wrote it as the fictional memoir of someone who didn't have a fairytale Hollywood experience.
What genre is it?
Either general or historical fiction.
Where can we find it?
It’s available through Amazon in paperback and Kindle, and for Nook at Barnes and Noble. It’s also in some Los Angeles area bookstores, Skylight Books, Book Soup, and Vroman’s in Pasadena. The Lake Forest Book Store in Lake Forest, Illinois is carrying the book, as well.
When did you start writing, and when did it turn professional?
I was very fortunate to have an inspiring third grade teacher who believed in the importance of creative writing. We wrote stories every week, usually with an interesting photo she’d found in a magazine or newspaper as a jumping off point. From that year forward, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Then, in 1989, while struggling to break into the business in Hollywood, I sold a spec script to The Wonder Years and was offered a staff job. I’ve been working professionally ever since.
What is your writing process? Do you use an outline, fly by the "seat of your pants" or some other method?
In television, it’s always from an outline because of the collaborative necessity of producing twenty-two forty-minute films in just under ten months every year. With my book, I had it structured in my head before I put words to screen. Because the story more or less starts at the ending, I knew where I was going, and had years of percolating ideas for how to get there. The actual writing of the book was exhilarating because I knew the story so well by the time I started, and the rest was just having fun.
What or who inspired you to begin writing?
I’d have to go back to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Roslyn Hartsell. Of course, when I was first exposed to The Dick Van Dyke show and realized that what Rob, Buddy, and Sally did all day was actually a paying job, I knew a career in television was for me.
Did you hire or use an editor prior to publishing?
Yes, and thank heavens I did. Alice Peck was phenomenal, direct, gracious, creative, and smart. The difference between the draft I sent her and the one that’s now available is pretty remarkable. She really helped me tap into the emotion of the story, and had a very eloquent suggestion for the last chapter that made all the difference in the world.
Did you use a graphic artist to create your cover art? If so, what helped you decide on the cover(s) of your books?
I hired Andy Carpenter Book Design after hours of Googling and looking at covers that spoke to me. For City of Whores, I really wanted something a bit mysterious with a touch of noir, and a somewhat lurid font that would evoke the Hollywood sign without being too literal. The image of the projector is intended not only to conjure the movies, but is also a tiny clue about the story.
What have you learned on your journey from writing to publishing that you think should be passed along to those interested?
Have everything absolutely finished and set in stone before you release: the manuscript for the print editions as well as for Kindle, Nook, etc. I’d even say have your audio book ready if you’re doing one. In short, don’t bombard your book and ebook designers with copious revisions once you’ve told them the book is ready to go to print.
I know some authors set writing goals, such as so many words per day. Do you set any goals for your stories?
I generally write until I reach a logical breaking point, or face plant on the keyboard. Of course, in television, you often have to keep writing beyond your comfort zone because the chain of deadlines can be insanely intense.
Do you have a favorite character of your own and what makes him/her your favorite?
I love the narrator of my book, Dan Root/Dexter Gaines because the journey he goes through from the time he arrives in Hollywood in 1951 at the tender age of 21 until he returns at the age of 63 (after a forty year absence) feels very satisfying and real to me. He starts out young, arrogant, angry, and entitled, but life soon humbles and gives him a much healthier outlook.
Do your characters "talk" to you?
I wouldn’t say my characters talk to me, but I would say they often surprised me as I was writing.
Who controls a story when you write; you, your characters or a combination?
Definitely a combination. It’s true that when you’re deep into the writing, the characters can often take on a life of their own, wanting to say things that may shock or surprise even their author.
Do you have any projects you’re working on now?
I’m currently working on a couple of television projects as well as my second as yet untitled novel. This one’s about a Southerner who becomes a writer as his only means of dealing with a tragic past. While it’s a tad autobiographical in terms of some of the specifics, the story itself is pure fiction.
How do you juggle time between all your responsibilities?
Poorly. I try to write in the mornings when I’m at my best, then recharge in the late afternoon and into the evening. Of course, when I’m on a television staff, all bets are off.
How do you feel about publishing in a digital age?
My biggest struggle with it has been finding the moment to declare the book absolutely finished. The various indie publishing formats allow for constant corrections and revisions. That said, my new rule is the only thing that will get me to change any of the available versions is if someone finds an errant, pesky typo that somehow managed to evade me after countless reads.
Do you have any blog tours or upcoming events we should know about?
Yes, this month I’ll be doing a Worldwind Virtual Book Tour that’s being coordinated by Tia Souders and begins October 17th.
How can we connect you?
Thank you very much for your interest in my debut novel.