Mark Bacon’s 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 BusinessWeek Online and most recently was a regular correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle where he wrote on travel, outdoors and entertainment.
Bacon is a former president of the Orange County Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. He and his wife, Anne, and their golden retriever, Willow, live in Reno, Nevada.
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Mark: In high school I took journalism and creative writing and I was hooked.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Mark: Hard to say. It could be when I sold my first freelance article to a men’s magazine when I was 16. I had part-time writing jobs in advertising and newspapers when I was an undergrad in college, but my first full-time job as a reporter meant I was successful. I could buy hamburger and I saw my name in print every day.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Mark: Sure. You don’t get rich writing.
Yes, some people think if you have your name on a book or two, you’re wealthy. Sometimes I try to explain the realities of the publishing business. Sometimes not.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Mark: It was surprisingly–and uncharacteristically–easy. I was working in the PR department of a large trade association and part of my job was to do business writing seminars. I realized that even though I was in business, I still wrote like a journalist, that is, succinctly with a summary at the beginning.
I thought that might be a good slant for a book on business writing. I wrote to three big NYC publishers and John Wiley & Sons offered me an advance and a contract for Write Like the Pros.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Mark: I make lists. And I get stressed, so I exercise and meditate.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Mark: This question invites hyperbole, but one exciting thing happened recently. A friend of mine expressed such unreserved, genuine enthusiasm and glee when I told him I had a publishing contract for my first novel that I was bowled over. Of course, all of my friends have been supportive, but this guy touched me with his obvious, immediate and unrestrained joyful congratulations.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Mark: Not having written a book with another author. Writing is a lonely business.
The difficulty is, that to write a book you invest a year of more of your time. To do so, I have to be in love with the book’s topic or idea. To make a partnership work, the co-author has to be equally invested in the book. Easier said than done, in my experience.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Mark: It’s perfect. I get paid to do what I would do anyway.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Mark: My first book made a midwest best-seller list for a short time and I felt I had my 15 minutes of fame. Actually that feeling lasted several days. I still have the note from my editor at John Wiley.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Mark: Here are two things:
First, I wrote the type of mystery/suspense book that I like to read: many suspects and mysterious components but nothing confined to a drawing room or country manor. It incorporates the elements I like in a mystery:
– a variety of interesting suspects,
– a less than James Bond-perfect protagonist,
– plenty of action (some violence but not excessive) to keep the story moving,
– a protracted chase with the protagonists on the run,
– humor, and
– a twisty-turny ending.
Second, this book was written by a baby boomer with a baby boomer as the main detective, and it takes place in a re-creation of an entire small town from the early 1970s. References to the music, films, fads and social issues of the 1960s and 1970s color the book.
PJ: You published mystery short story books before your novel. What were they about?
Mark: Actually, they were very short stories: flash fiction. The genre is generally defined by the number of words. Flash fiction can be a few words long or as many as 1,500. I decided to write 100-word mystery stories. Within that limit I like to have a protagonist, a problem and a satisfying—and I hope—surprising ending. This is a challenge to pull off in exactly 100 words and that’s why I like it.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Mark: Don’t expect to make your sole living from writing books. Very few people, including a number of famous names, can survive on royalties. This is not the usual, don’t-quit-your-day-job advice because if you really love writing above all else, there are many other ways to make money as a scribe.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Mark: Getting people to read the first few chapters. Then I think they’ll be hooked. Samples are available on my website (www.baconsmysteries.com),my publisher’s website (www.blackopalbooks.com), and Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Death-Nostalgia-City-Mark-Bacon/dp/1626941742/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412452094&sr=1-1&keywords=death+in+nostalgia+city
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Mark: Coming up with semi-literate answers to interview questions.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Mark: The Friends of the Washoe (Nevada) County Library Bookstore is hosting a book signing for me Nov. 7 and 8 and I will give a talk and sign books at Browsers Book Store in Carson City, Nev., on Jan. 8
Mark: It’s not a secret, but even many of my friends don’t know that early in my career I worked for a theme park. I wrote ads and commercials for Knott’s Berry Farm in southern California. This experience formed part of the inspiration for Death in Nostalgia City. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to wander around an empty theme park at night, after hours, you’ll understand part of my inspiration.