Today I am happy to introduce Mark Rosendorf, the author of a great trilogy of suspense novels. When he’s not writing, he works as a counselor for children with special needs.
For more about Mark, check out his website.
1. Welcome, Mark. I’m intrigued by your background as a counselor with special needs children. Since The Rasner Effect was set in a children’s psychiatric hospital, did you find your real-life clients inspirational in developing the characters?
Hi, and thanks for allowing me to share The Rasner Effect with you and your audience. Outside the writing world, I’m a guidance counselor in a special education school working with students classified as emotionally disturbed. I love the job and it most definitely inspires my writing. A number of my students have lives that are anywhere from interesting to downright scary. While I’ve never used a student specifically as a character, a few events from their tragic lives have certainly worked their way into my characters.
2. The psychological thriller aspect to this series had some unique twists. Would you describe your books as more plot driven or character driven? Do you outline your books first, or let the characters lead you?
Definitely character driven, the characters are strong, complex and either loved or hated by readers of The Rasner Effect series. Some elicit both positive and negative emotional reactions at the same time. To answer the question of an outline, I do start with one, but as the story progresses, and the characters, take over, the outline pretty much falls apart like a straw house in a tornado. The third Rasner book practically wrote itself.
3. Would you say that writing is a natural progression from working with challenging clients?
I see writing as a separate entity. I’ve been a counselor for eleven years, but I’ve practically been writing, and dreaming of being published, since the day I could pick up a pen (ironic, because my handwriting has been described as something the cat dragged in). I will admit, though, my career has certainly inspired The Rasner Effect series, as well as many of my characters. For example, everyone in the Duke Organization exhibits a textbook behavioral disability that as a counselor I come across on a daily basis.
4. When did you first decide to become a writer?
They say you’re officially a writer when people stop asking “what do you really do for a living?” Of course, the spark has to come from somewhere. My mother was an author of computer textbooks back in the early 80’s. When I was about eight years old, a box with copies of her first textbook (a computer language that no longer exists) came in the mail. My family was very excited over it. According to my parents, I held a copy of her book in my hand and said, “Someday, I’m going to write a book, too.” A few decades later, that prophecy came true.
5. I like that you set your book in New York, which seems to be where a lot of disasters happen. When did you first decide to write this series, and why?
I don’t remember the exact date, but I can tell you it was early morning during a sleepless night that followed a frustrating day. One idea for a character and a scene evolved into an entire story that I knew I had to write. The Rasner Effect wasn’t my first attempt, but when the story came together, I knew this was the one that would grab an audience. As a reader myself, I wrote the story I’d want to read, and I knew others would as well.
The bridge scene which opens the first Rasner Effect book came to me while staring out my window. I have a view of the Throgs Neck bridge from my eighth floor apartment window. Although the bridge is never named in that opening scene, it is the Throgs Neck, which I was able to describe on paper while staring at it from my window.
Other scenes, such as the Brookhill town around the children’s institution and the Long Island neighborhood where all hell breaks loose are all based on places I’ve visited or lived in at some point in my life.
6. What, if anything, in your early childhood informed your career and writing choices?
Wow, now that’s a story! I always enjoyed writing in school. Math never came easy to me (2 + 2 = where’s my calculator?), but I could write an essay for English class that morning on the school bus and it would get an A (if the teachers could make out my handwriting). But, it was one day in the seventh grade where I foresaw a future in writing.
My social studies teacher gave the class an assignment: we were each to interview our grandparents about a story from their past. We had to take notes, then write it up and submit it for a grade. This was a difficult assignment for me, mainly because every conversation with my grandparents turned into a fight between them. Despite knowing this, I attempted a phone call to my grandfather and asked him to tell me a story about his past. The story was about how he should never have married my grandmother and how he missed out on the woman in Ohio. This brought my grandmother on the phone and the usual plethora of back and forth insults began.
With nothing to use for the story other than how much they disliked each other, I made up a story. It was a tragic tale about my grandfather going out on his own as a teenager during the depression, carrying sacks of flour over his back for a penny and eventually meeting the love of his life, my grandmother.
The story touched my teacher; he loved how genuine it sounded. He gave it an “A,” but then it took a scary turn…he informed me that we’d be covering the roaring twenties soon and he’d wanted to see if my grandparents would come to school to talk about this time in their lives to the class.
I convinced him that was a bad idea, but the conversation did instill in me a sense of pride in my writing. I knew that I wanted to someday become a fiction author.
7. How did you come up with the title “The Rasner Effect?”
Well, originally, the title was “Permanent Solutions,” but when I tried to pitch it, everyone thought I was talking about a hair product, so the name had to be changed. As I thought about the story itself, I realized that it wasn’t just about Rick Rasner, but his effect on all the characters. Much of how their lives went connected directly to Rick. It’s where I realized the appropriate title would be “The Rasner Effect.”
8. Are you currently working on another series or book?
I’m in the process of completing a science fiction novel that will be geared toward young adults, while able to cross over and attract an adult audience. Much like The Rasner Effect, the story revolves around complex characters. Status Quo is about the discovery of life in outer space and the small group of civilians caught in the world-wide conspiracy to cover it all up.
Status Quo revolves around a small crew, chosen for unknown reasons, to represent Earth by flying a shuttle through a wormhole in space. The wormhole is believed to be an invitation to meet the alien life that opened it near the planet in the first place. It’s believed to be an invitation for first contact. Based on who is chosen to board the ship, it becomes obvious that things aren’t what they seem to be. By the time the crew figures out the real reason they were chosen to fly through the wormhole, it may be too late.
9. How exciting! I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds. And since a writer’s world is unique, my next question is: What does your writing day look like? Do you have a favorite writing space?
I pretty much write when the muse is on my shoulder. In other words, when I’m inspired by an idea or a scene, I sit at my desk and it flows from fingers to computer screen rather quickly. The worst thing I can do is sit down to write when the ideas aren’t flowing. If I try, nothing comes out or it doesn’t make sense. It’s usually in the most inopportune times that the ideas do hit, like while I’m in the shower or at 3:00 in the morning. I keep notepads by my bed, in the car, and I even have one hanging outside the bathtub.
10. I’ve heard that familiar story from other writers. Inspiration strikes whenever and wherever it will. But speaking of inspiration, when you created the Rick Rasner character, did you have a specific person or persons in mind?
Any writer that tells you the main character of their story isn’t based on a part of themselves is probably holding back. Rick Rasner, and the entire Rasner Effect book, started off as a fictional therapy session as I put on paper the difficulties I experienced from working for a boss who truly deserved to die a horrible and painful death. The second half became almost like a dark and evil fantasy where my former boss got exactly what she deserved. While the story did take its own direction, that one scene was the spark that everything else built around. Of course, no matter what Rick does throughout, we still believe in him as the hero of the story. And aren’t we all the heroes of our own stories, no matter who we are or what we do?
11. Oh, I totally agree. Often our characters are composites of people we’ve known, or share parts of us. Who was your favorite character in the first book?
I’d have to say Clara Blue. I like the way this troubled and hopeless fifteen year old has developed throughout the course of The Rasner Effect. She’s suffered more than any other character, and has also dealt with such moral conflicts; you’d need a heart of stone not to feel sympathy for her. I also enjoy the Duke Organization members, Jennifer Duke and Derrick Bomser. Writing for characters that completely lack a moral compass is always fun.
12. Not to digress from the characters, but we Dames love pets. Do you have any? We love hearing about what your everyday life is like.
Currently, no, but I did grow up with two dogs, and later, twin cats. I now live in a building that doesn’t allow dogs, and I have a girlfriend who is great, except that she’s allergic to cats. At this point, I’m animalless (is that even a word? Oh well, it is now). I do live near a pond with ducks and I spend warmer days on a bench by the pond feeding those little guys.
As far as a day in the life of Mark Rosendorf, it’s pretty much Livin’ La Vida Boring. I wake up, take a shower, get dressed, go to work, waste some time there, come home, fall asleep in front of the TV, do some writing and eat some dinner in that time (I’m no chef and I hate to clean, so it’s usually take out). From there, I go to the gym where I do some treadmill and swim a bit. Nighttime is either curled up with a good book, a good movie or a good Yankee game. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, no drugs in my system, and my idea of a fun night out is Dave & Buster’s. Like I said, boring stuff, but I make up for it in the actions of my characters. Now, THEY know how to make life exciting.
For more about Mark’s books, here’s The Rasner Effect Series trailer:
Thanks for joining us today, Mark, and I’m eagerly anticipating more of your books.
Here’s my review of The Rasner Effect (click title for review).