First, hi everyone, and thanks for reading my interview with Dames of Dialogue. Also, thank you Caitlyn and Christy for the opportunity.
I’m happy to announce that Without Hesitation: The Rasner Effect II, is ready to meet the world on February 25th. Without Hesitation is a follow-up to The Rasner Effect. It follows confused teen, Clara Blue and her return to the Brookhill Children’s Psychiatric residence. In The Rasner Effect, Clara had been a patient in this brutal and demeaning institution for two years with no hope or family on the outside. All that changed when Rick Rasner, a member of the mercenary group, The Duke Organization, took a parental liking to Clara and rescued her. She saw them as the family she always wanted until she witnessed Rick left for dead and the Duke Organization in ruins.
In Without Hesitation, Clara is consumed with regaining her freedom. Constant escape attempts and delusional hallucinations keep her distracted and ostracized by the new staff and patients alike. Hope returns when Rick’s Duke Organization co-leader, Jennifer Duke, arrives under the guise of a therapist. With her presence, Clara is sure rescue is imminent. But Jen is there for another reason as well, one that scares Clara.
It was 3:00 in the morning and I just had a bad day at work. Thoughts of revenge on the people who made it a bad day circled through my head. I always did enjoy my fantasy worlds because in there, revenge came easy and it was justified. Unfortunately, in reality, where I tend to spend the majority of my time, acting on psychotic thoughts can only lead to prison, and I don’t think I’d do well in prison. So I kept it to a nightly thought.
Around this thought, characters, settings and ideas formed. Soon, I had a whole world to play with during those sleepless nights. The scenes and character personalities formed based on my experiences in working with troubled teens, along with my own world-wide observations. I started putting them on paper. I knew the rest of the world would find a character, a scene, and/or a circumstance within these pages to which they’d be able to relate and connect.
Once The Rasner Effect was finished, I knew I had a story for anyone who fit into one or more of the following categories:
1) If you’ve ever worked with teenagers individually or in a group.
2) If you’ve ever watched the national news and thought to yourself, “I don’t think they’re telling us everything.”
3) If you’ve ever imagined waking up one day and discovering you were someone else…particularly someone who doesn’t follow the “rules.”
4) If you’ve ever worked for a boss you wished would DIE a horrible but deserving death.
In Without Hesitation: The Rasner Effect II, that story continues…
3. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Currently, I am working on book three of The Rasner Effect series, which is now at the beginning of the rewriting stages. I have also written a short story called “Cat in the Cockpit” which is slated to come out this year as part of an L&L Dreamspell anthology titled “Cats in a Dreamspell.” It’s very different from The Rasner Effect, in that it’s more of a light-hearted comedy with a twilight zone feel to it.
4. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Everything I see and hear. Anyone I meet or interact with. It all inspires or influences my creativity. I’m sort of like an idea sponge looking for any little experience I can fictionalize, exaggerate and put my characters through. God, they must hate me by now for some of the things I’ve done to them.
I work as a guidance counselor in a high school for students with emotional and developmental disabilities. I have a strong relationship with my students where they open up about a lot of issues. I hear the words, “Can I talk to you?” very often on any given day. I can honestly say I love my job and I would never leave just because of how much I enjoy working with my students. At best, I bring positive changes into their lives, at worst, I can get them to laugh when they’re upset.
Another great thing about my job is that it ends at 2:30 PM. I’m usually home before 3 PM. Most people are at work until 5 or 6 PM every day. I look at those extra hours as my writing time.
6. Both of your books are complex psychological thrillers which I can’t imagine writing without a complete and detailed outline. Do you outline the books first and if you do, are there times when the characters refuse to follow along and want to take the story in another direction? What do you do if that happens?
I’ve tried using outlines, and I find by the time I’m a third of the way through, I’m already so far removed from the outline that there’s little point in using it. I did use a very rough and basic outline for the first book, but I didn’t find I needed one for the second. I had the entire vision of the story, almost like a movie, in my head. I knew where I was starting, I knew where I, or rather, the characters wanted to end up. As my writing of the series continues, I find more and more that they take over the scenes.
I will write details for a few chapters at a time though, but mostly they’re pages of quotes and moments that I don’t want to forget. I write them down whenever they hit me (which is usually in the middle of the night or in the shower), then I sort them by chapter and use them as reference. I know this is far removed from the normal techniques most authors use, but it works for me.
7. Finding the right publisher for your books is arguably the hardest part of being an author. What is the most important thing you’ve learned about submitting your work for publication?
When the “author adventure” begins, you literally have to send your work to everyone and anyone just to find publishers who are willing to take a chance on an unknown, unpublished author. Most, if you have no resume, send it back, unread, and with the standard form letter saying “thanks, you have potential, just not with us.”
I was very lucky in that the head editors of L&L Dreamspell, Lisa Smith and Linda Houle, deemed my work worthy of the risk. Each and every book I sell, I see it as proving myself worthy of their belief in me as a member of the Dreamspell team.
As I’ve become a little more knowledgeable about the industry, I realize I was very lucky ending up with L&L Dreamspell. Lisa and Linda work hard to make their authors feel like part of a family and that’s something I greatly appreciate. There are a lot of publishers who are just not approachable and, if you do need to discuss a change to the product, they’d get mad and hold it against you. I know with Lisa and Linda, I can discuss anything with them at anytime and never feel hated or ostracized for it.
8. Can you tell us a little bit about how you promote your work? Any tips for other authors?
Promotion is difficult, there’s only so many books you can sell to your family and friends. After that, the hard part comes, getting people who have never heard of you to spend money on your work.
Honestly, I’ve had very little luck with bookstores and signings. There are very few small book stores in New York City, and the big chains are just not interested in carrying the work of any author not named King or Rowling. For us smaller authors, the selling world is the internet.
What I find works for me is a lot of social networking and soliciting reviews. The review process was extremely difficult for my first book, so I ended up using an online publicist. For the second book, it was much easier in that I was able to contact all the reviewers who enjoyed The Rasner Effect. They were all thrilled to review the sequel.
9. You’ve received some outstanding reviews for your writing but what is your most cherished reader reaction to your work?
I remember receiving my first review for The Rasner Effect two weeks before it came out…and it was awful. The reviewer just didn’t get it and didn’t like it. Of course, it didn’t help that the first thing his review said was, “I hate suspense/thrillers and this is the fourth one I’ve had to read this month.” It depressed me. Worry filled my soul as I wondered if this would be the typical response from readers who weren’t my friends.
One week later, I received my second review. The reviewer not only loved the story, but actually contacted me personally to ask me if a sequel was on its way and that she really wanted to see more with the characters. She also told me that she reviews a lot of books, but rarely keeps them for her collection. The Rasner Effect, however, she kept with the intention of reading it again.
This review was followed by many positive ones, and I appreciate them all. The first positive review, however, made me feel, for the first time, like an actual professional writer. It came from Midwest Reviews and it stands out as my favorite and most cherished.
10. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
Cindy Davis. I hired her as my editor when I realized I needed a professional eye to go over my work. She taught me a lot that has improved my writing, and also everything I know about the writing industry itself. To this day, she’s someone I can go to for advice.
11. How did you first come up with “The Rasner Effect” as the title for the series?
I originally titled the first book, “Permanent Solutions,” but everyone I pitched it to thought I was talking about a hair product. I changed it to The Rasner Effect because the book is not just about Rick Rasner, but also his effect on the other characters. Where Without Hesitation: The Rasner Effect II has a greater focus on the young “heroine” from the first book, Clara Blue, with every thought she has and action she takes, you can still see Rick Rasner’s brief influence on her.
12. Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” which I believe is true, but I also believe every place has its own language that is beautiful in some way. Do you have a favorite saying/expression/colloquialism from your neck of the woods?
It’s not necessarily a homegrown quote, but I like the saying, “Perception is everything.” It’s one of the underlying philosophies of The Rasner Effect where each scene is presented from a character’s point of view. Where society would see a psychotic killer as an evil villain, the killer would not look at themselves as evil or even as psychotic, but that they’re in the right and everyone else just doesn’t understand.
I deal with many personalities in my line of work, and I find this to really be the case. People see the same things differently. It’s what makes us all unique, and in some cases, interesting.
Speaking of Mark Twain quotes, one of my favorites of his is “the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to be credible.”
Ain’t that the truth?
Thanks again, and I hope everyone enjoyed the interview as much as I did.
To find out more about Mark and his books, visit http://www.markrosendorf.com/