Jeremy – Welcome to the Penalty Box, Mark Fine! How are you doing today?
Mark: Fine thanks, or ‘well’ if the intent is not to confuse my state of health with my name. Speaking about names, Jeremy, we share one—Jeremy. But it’s my middle name. As family legend goes, my mum and her best friend were both pregnant. They both loved the names Jeremy and Mark. So they struck a deal; the first to give birth would get naming rights! So I became Mark Jeremy Fine, and out there somewhere is a Jeremy Mark…
Jeremy – The name Jeremy is a solid one. As a card carrying member of the Jeremy Club, please allow me to welcome you to the group.
First thing’s first, why don’t you tell everyone a bit about yourself. How did you end up getting suckered into this harsh reality that is “being an author?”
Mark: My true vocation is record industry exec and producer. Been around the music creative process my entire work-life, working with super successful artists. I’ve gone from physically pressing vinyl at the factory, to producing a hit single in a Manhattan studio. However, I never wrote a song. Never tried. Decided to do so, but in the refrain of the Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil”. I admire that song, how it tells of 2000 years of human history in both melody and verse. So I mapped out historical highlights and lowlights of South Africa’s history, including the Sharpeville massacre, Dr. Barnard’s first human heart transplant, rugby, riots, Mandela and all. Even came up with a song title “Rhapsody in Black, White and Dread.” But it sucked! Couldn’t make it work.
Must have worked at me sublimely, as I’m a fan of historical fiction (Leon Uris, Herman Wouk, Alan Furst, Ken Follett, South Africa’s own Wilber Smith) and so it occurred to me I’d done the rudimentary historical research to frame out the basis of an historical fiction novel, “The Zebra Affaire”. Though Zebra is set in 1976, the year apartheid began to crumble due to the Soweto Riots, some history is salted throughout the novel. Looking back it’s ridiculous to consider that it took me 85,000 words to write a bloody good book, full of romance, strife, and provocative emotion—while Mick Jagger and Keith Richards could achieve all that, and more, in a five minute song. And now we all know why I was never able to write a song…
Jeremy – Good lord, that is quite the tale! We’ve been friends for a good while and I didn’t even know that. You are one intriguing man…
Is there anything you’d do differently if you could go back to the very beginning? I know I made a ton of mistakes when I published my first book and I kick myself to this day for not being better prepared.
Mark: I made mistakes, but none as frustrating as the dismissive way the media and publishing industry regard Indie authors. Again, in my business, the record industry, Indie artists were revered! That’s where the major labels recruited the newest, edgiest, most interesting innovated sounds and talent. “Indie Cred” was a mantle well-earned, and it really meant something. There are Indie Charts, Indie music radio shows, Indie racks in record stores (and virtual equivalent on Amazon). Yet, for an author? Nothing. No respect. No consideration. Callously dismissed as ‘vanity press’ or worse. None of the major media outlets will review a self-published book. So myopic and so discriminatory. This is something I never anticipated, and for an industry struggling to remain both vital and relevant, it is asinine for them to ignore some amazing emerging talent simply because they are labeled ‘self-published.’ Okay, that’s enough of a rant for your readers today. But it’s time to start a hashtag campaign #IndieCred4Author.
Jeremy – We both are Twitter nuts and should really get on that. #ChallengeAccepted!
As my guest, I want to give my followers a chance to learn about your book. The stage is yours, lay it on us.
Mark: The Zebra Affaire is an apartheid love story. It’s springtime in 1976 South Africa and Elsa, a white woman dares to fall in love with Stanwell, a black man. For this crime of love they are hunted down by the racist regime. A sociopath Secret Police officer, Mal Zander pursues his prey from the City of Gold (Johannesburg) to the exotic but dangerous wilds of the African bushveld.
But reviewers have described “The Zebra Affaire” in more cinematic terms. Think “Romeo & Juliet” meets “To Kill a Mockingbird” in “Out of Africa” with a twist of “Born Free”.
Yes, animals are a wonderful support cast in my book. At times they serve as allegories, allowing me to illustrate the foibles (both silly and senseless) of the humans inhabiting Southern Africa. For instance, we meet the Ostrich, Wildebeest and Zebra (Very dissimilar creatures!). Yet they herd comfortably together (so unlike apartheid)—as one can SEE, one can SMELL, and one can HEAR very well. This Unlikely Trio of creatures are “rational actors,” acting as early alert teammates against their common foes, the hungry predators.
Jeremy – Do you have a link to where they can find your works? (if you wrote multiple books, list the one they should start with, if there is a preference)
Mark: The marketer in me and because my book is all about race, as in color, I have “The Zebra Affaire” Novel with two covers, one yellow https://amzn.com/B011PXSEWG and the other blue https://amzn.com/B00KD2S5R0. By the way, both versions available on Amazon (117 stars/4.9 rating) in paperback and the Kindle format.
Jeremy – As you may know, I host a podcast called Two Dudes, Brews, & Books. I’m curious if you have a favorite brew or book that me and my co-host Jeff should know about.
Mark: Oy, this will seem like heresy to you and your crew. So some quick situational awareness. South Africa can be awfully hot. Drinking beer after beer after beer to cool off a giant parched thirst only leads to inebriated disaster. Well, our ol’ Colonial masters, the British invented the beer ‘Shandy’ – they probably developed it in India or Burma, which consists of a portion of stout beer topped to the brim with icy 7-Up (they call it lemonade). Personally, I prefer ginger-ale as the mix. This ‘Shandy’ concoction is downright refreshing, works with any kind of beer, and allows the thirsty to consume far more fluid—to combat dehydration—before passing out!
As for a searing honest book about the apartheid years, and an appropriate title with all this parched throat conversation, your readers must try Andre Brink’s “A Dry White Season”. Please read the book before watching the movie.
Jeremy – As a new father, I’ve learned there is nothing wrong with sipping a cold ginger-ale at the end of a long day at work. Cheers my friend!
Now before we call it a day, do you have any other talents/skills we should know about? As authors, we tend to be an eclectic bunch with a lot more than meets the eye.
Mark: Bit of a gearhead. Used to travel with the Formula Once circus all over the planet, with camera in hand. Have great affection for mid-sixties British sports cars, the Jaguar e-Type being my main crush. And, as a one-time graphic designer in the record industry, I do enjoy dabbling with Photoshop. Make a point of designing my own book jackets. Not to save on budget, but the very process of seeking out graphics and developing the cover actually helps with my writing; guess a picture is really worth a thousand words!
Jeremy – That’s awesome. I too am a car lover and tinker from time to time on my own. Again, more information I didn’t even know! This interview has become quite a revelation to both of us.
I’m so glad you stopped by today to talk with me and share your story. For those of you reading, if you want to learn more about author Mark Fine (or Mark JEREMY Fine to us, after that stunning naming revelation), I’ll have all the pertinent information at the end of the interview.
Again, thanks for coming by and we’ll catch up later!
Mark’s Links and Details:
– The Zebra Affaire by Mark Fine Book Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2t3Dt2b4fc