Mark Zvonkovic is a writer who lives in Rosarito Beach, Baja California Mexico with his wife Nancy and their two dogs. Finn and Cooper. He has written three novels, and he also writes book reviews and essays that appear in online publications.
Before retiring to Mexico, Mark practiced law for thirty-five years at three multinational law firms in Houston, Texas, and New York City. He attended college at Southern Methodist University and Boston University, and his law degree is from SMU School of Law. Mark grew up as an oil company brat and lived in Latin America, Texas, and New York.
Can You Tell Us A Little Bit About Yourself?
Mark Zvonkovic: I live in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico, with my wife Nancy and our two dogs, Finn and Cooper. We have three adult daughters, who live in New York City and Petaluma, CA. I have written three novels, and I also write book reviews and essays that appear in online publications.
Before retiring to Mexico, I practiced law for 35 years at three multinational law firms in Houston, Texas, and New York City. I attended college at Southern Methodist University and Boston University, and my law degree is from SMU School of Law. I grew up as an oil company brat and lived in Latin America, Texas, and New York.
How Many Hours A Day Do You Write?
Mark Zvonkovic: Between 2 and 6.
How Many Unpublished And Half-Finished Books Do You Have?
Mark Zvonkovic: A couple and they’ve been in a desk drawer for a long time.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Mark Zvonkovic: Belinda took about 3 years. A Lion In The Grass also took 3 years. But The Narrows I could say took almost 30 years of stopping and starting. I had a law career all that time and sometimes I would get up at five in the morning and work for a few hours. Of course, the real work came near the end of my career when I rewrote most of what I had written earlier.
Where Did You Get The Idea For Your Recent Book?
Mark Zvonkovic: During my years of practicing law at a big law firm, I had the good fortune to mentor several women associates. It made a tremendous impression on me that these women in a professional setting always had to overcome the fact that the prevailing ethos around them was so male-slanted.
It wasn’t the blatant misogynistic attitudes, like the ones displayed so prominently in my novel by the antagonist, Patrick Brashner. The more difficult obstacles grew out of subtle attitudes and proclivities of many men, which often made the women feel as if their bodies were being evaluated as much as their brains, if not more.
And for me, this is what Belinda is about, how dedicated this woman was to her profession and how elegantly she managed to make herself a success despite the male ethos she encountered daily. It’s a story that needed to be told about a woman’s career in a big law firm.
How Did You Develop Your Plots?
Mark Zvonkovic: I have a general sense of what is going to happen. Some writers create their characters to fit a plot. I do the opposite. I create the plot to fit my characters. My novels are character-centric. As I develop my protagonists, I devise a plot around them to make the observations about their lives that I want to make.
How Do You Select The Names Of Your Characters?
Mark Zvonkovic: It depends on the character. Sometimes I find a name I like from another novel. For example, the name of Jay’s horse in Belinda is Patsy, who was a character in Larry McMurtry’s Moving On. Mostly, I just choose names based on how they sound.
I always avoid using the name of someone I know. And, in fact, none of my characters resemble anyone I know. If anything, they are each a conglomeration of many people I have met or I have read about in books.
If You Didn’t Write, What Would You Do For Work?
Mark Zvonkovic: I’m retired and not inclined to go back to practicing law or starting a new profession. I love photography.
How Did You Get Inspired To Write Your Recent Book?
Mark Zvonkovic: I had written an earlier novel in which Jay Jackson was a character, and I had wondered for a time how it would work when he retired from his rather unusual profession.
But it really was the concept of mandatory retirement that got me thinking about how difficult it would be for a woman who dedicated her life to the law to pass on to a new stage of life when she wasn’t really inclined to do so. Lyn Larkin in Belinda is such a woman.
What Is Your Favorite Childhood Book?
Mark Zvonkovic: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
Have You Read Anything That Made You Think Differently About Fiction?
Mark Zvonkovic: Every book I read makes me think about how fiction works. So, I try to read a lot of different genres and books from different historical periods. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man had a tremendous effect on me and still does.
The novels of Kingsley Amis taught me a lot about voice in character development, and Hemingway’s novels exposed me to writing style and straightforward prose. Every book I read enhances my understanding of many books I’ve already read.
What Are You Currently Working On?
Mark Zvonkovic: Right now, I’m spending most of my time on the launch of Belinda. But I have been thinking lately about a character from one of my earlier novels, Larry Brown, who was a young man who dealt with the difficult circumstance in the early 1970s in The Narrows.
A lot has happened in the world since those years. Perhaps it would be interesting to see how Larry has made his way to the present day.
Do You Read Your Book Reviews? How Do You Deal With Bad Or Good Ones?
Mark Zvonkovic: Yes, I do. I’m not sure there are any bad book reviews (if you eliminate ones that are poorly written). Every reader provides me with a reaction to my book that I welcome, whether or not that reaction is negative.
So, I’m happy that some of my readers are sharing their reactions. I write reviews of books myself, which I publish in online magazines (such as Midwest Book Review) and on my website.
Professional book reviewers are sometimes troublesome when they direct their feelings about a character in a book personally to the author. An author creates characters and uses points of view to develop them. An author is not personally a character.
A reviewer’s personal attack on an author cheapens the review, in my opinion, and makes it more about the reviewer than about the book. But that’s all part of the process and I don’t take it personally. Rather, I try to recast the criticism as it should be.
An awfully bigoted character in a novel doesn’t mean the author is a bigot. When I am reviewing, I try very hard to direct my criticism to the context of the novel, and I never personally attack the author.
In any case, even a personal attack from a reviewer for me is better than no comment at all.
What Other Authors Are You Friends With, And How Do They Help You Become A Better Writer?
Mark Zvonkovic: I have developed friendships with several authors over the years on account of reviews I have written about their books. It makes reading their novels more personal, and the connection with them, and their books, always makes my own writing improve. Good writers are good readers.
What’s Your Advice For Aspiring Writers?
Mark Zvonkovic: Sit down and spend a lot of time thinking before you start writing. And spend a lot of time reading other works written about the idea you are going to develop. And, finally, find a good professional editor. One doesn’t run a race without training and a coach.
What Was The Best Money You Ever Spent As A Writer?
Mark Zvonkovic: On a professional editor.
What’s The Best Thing About Being A Writer?
Mark Zvonkovic: What I most love about writing is creating characters, and putting them into circumstances that result in their gaining perspective about life. It is a way of collating all of my experiences and all of the stories from books I have read. Sometimes it strikes me as enjoying old photographs and sharing them with others.
The reactions from readers, whether good or bad, keep me going. For me, it’s making connections with a lot of different people.
Will You Have A New Book Coming Out Soon?
Mark Zvonkovic: Belinda will be released on June 14, 2022.
Mark Zvonkovic: I have a website at www.markzvonkovic.com where one can contact me or sign up for a newsletter I occasionally send out. I have an author page on Goodreads and an author page on Facebook:
There, people can follow me and also see when I have book reviews or essays published online.
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