Hello, and welcome to “WHO’S ON THE SHELF?” with yours truly, Nonnie Jules! Since we are a book club, you know we had to offer something that included a bookshelf. A lot of interviews merely cover an author’s work or an individual’s career stories. Here on this “SHELF,” we get down and dirty and ask the questions no other interviewer dare ask. We ask the questions that you want to open up a book and find the answers to on your favorite authors and fellow book club members, but, no one has dared to cover them. We get personal! Because when you sit on this “SHELF,” YOU are an open book! Even if I have to pry you open!
We have a very special guest on the SHELF with us, RRBC member and November’s “SPOTLIGHT” Author, MARK BIERMAN! We have been celebrating him the entire month of November and although a little delayed, he gets to sit on the shelf with me today!
NJ: Before we get started, how do you like the design and feel of my new shelf? We’ve made it more comfortable in 2018, in that we want all of our guests to feel at home…that’s if they’re coming from a nice and neat one, and we also wanted the lay out to be a bit safer….you know, we’ve had a few accidents up here on this shelf? So, comfy?
Mark: Yes, I’m totally chilled. Thank you.
NJ: Chilled? Huh? OK. Well, let’s start by confirming whether or not your author name is your birth name or a pen name?
NJ: Tell us where you were born? Do you still live there now? If not, what city and state are you calling home these days?
Mark: I grew up on a farm, about a half an hour from a small city called Brockville, in the beautiful province of Ontario, Canada. We had almost three-hundred acres of land, some of it forested, so my siblings and I were always outside. Sadly, in 1991, my Dad decided he no longer wanted to run a farm and he sold the place. Before he sold it, he asked me if I wanted to take it over. If I’d said ‘yes’ he would have held onto it for me until I was a bit older. But, hey, I was nineteen at the time and had no desire to be a farmer . . . there was a big world out there to explore and I didn’t want to be tied to a farm. I admit, looking back on the opportunity that I’d had of being my own boss, there are regrets. Well, fast forward to 2004, and after years of moving about, living in cities, and being apartment dwellers, my wife (also raised on a farm) and I decided it was time to return to quiet roads and green spaces. We bought, and still occupy, a small bungalow with ten acres of land just outside of Napanee, Ontario. It’s about one hour from my old farm.
NJ: What an amazing story, Mark! Maybe one day you’ll have the opportunity to buy your dad’s old place. We’ll pray on that. Well, we know that you’re married so tell us how you two lovebirds met.
Mark: I’m married to an amazing woman named Tanya. She’s been my rock. Always supportive, with my writing as well. We met via a friend of mine back in 1997. In 2002 we were married. She’s very creative and used to run her own interior design business. I can’t say enough good things about her.
NJ: That’s awesome and you’re my kind of husband…the kind that never runs out of good things to say about his wife. I have one of those at home. Are you parents? If so, to what species…animal or human?
Mark: The human kind. But, if you’re going by gender, two girls. That’s about where the similarities end. The two are polar opposites. The oldest, she’s our budding engineer. Analytical and perceptive, this kid knows her stuff when it comes computers. Last Christmas, we bought her a small robot that she could program to perform simple moves, the program was meant for older kids, but she managed to get that thing working in no time. I don’t know where this ability came from, not from me! The one thing she did inherit was my love for reading. She devours books.
Our youngest is also very bright, but not as academic. She loves dance (cartwheels everywhere, even in malls), wearing glittery dresses and snakes. Yup, snakes. No fear of handling the reptiles, large or small (definitely did not get this trait from me!). I’ve said to her on more than one occasion, “You’d put glitter on a boa constrictor and wear it like a scarf.”
NJ: Hahaha! I love your stories and since I’m a girl-mommy, I love these daughters of yours, too! Mark, clearly you’re not old enough to even be considered for what I’m about to ask, but let’s fast forward a few years. When you’re old and cranky, which one will keep you at home to care for you on their own, and which one will immediately throw you into a nursing home and only visit you at Christmas?
Mark: Ummm . . . that depends. You know, I sometimes think about that when I say ‘no’ to their demands. The youngest, especially. Oh, she’s sweet enough, but this has me picturing my future self leaning against my walker, with all remaining earthly possessions stuffed into a zip lock freezer bag and sitting on the front stoop of ‘Helga’s Ranch For Really Old Dudes’ or known locally as the HRFROD. My false teeth clatter against the stoop as I watch her cart wheel across the parking lot towards the convertible she bought with my pension cheques. “The kitty was nice, Old Man . . . but when I was ten, you should have bought me the pit viper instead.”
The older one . . . she’d probably look after me, as long as I agreed to be nurtured by the robot she built to look after me. “Obey the ‘bot’, Dad, and we’ll get along fine. Listen to Xena.”
“This thing has a name, now?” I’d ask as oatmeal dribbles down my chin. ‘Xena’s’ aim with a spoon is still a work in progress.
“Xena, rules.” She’d answer, just a hint of threat in her voice. “Now open your mouth, wider.”
Naw, just kidding. I’m sure, I think, that either one would let me occupy their attic.
NJ: Mark, I think you’re penning for a job doing stand-up, ‘eh? OK, moving right along. Any pets? What kind?
Mark: As of three month ago, fish only. They are mollies, five of them live in harmony together, along with one zebra snail. We did have a lovely yellow lab (passed away at the age of 12) and a cat named Marble (age 14 when she died). Tanya and I are not currently excited for more furry pets, but the pressure is on to get another cat, so one is in the future . . . at least they’re not asking for a snake.
NJ: That’s nice. Let’s move away from the cat-chatter. (Nonnie doesn’t do cats…or snakes). What’s the food that’s so good to you, you go to bed dreaming about it, and you forego breakfast just to get to it?
Mark: ‘No bake cherry cheesecake’ . . . love the stuff!! I’m pretty health conscious, so it only comes around on my birthday and Christmas. I’d trade an entire chocolate cake for just one piece.
NJ: WOW! You must really like that stuff. Believe it or not, most people don’t, I have never tried cheesecake. I’m weird in that fashion. You see, in Nonnie’s mind, there are some things that just shouldn’t be paired….even in the naming sense. Like, I can’t wrap my mind around cheese and cake (my sister would kill for this stuff)….I can’t stand to eat catfish because it has whiskers (and we know how Nonnie feels about cats)…I think that cheese only belongs on hamburgers and nachos (my family puts cheese on EVERYTHING…chicken included)…I’m sure you get the picture. But, I’m happy for those people with open minds, like yours. But, moving right along, what’s your favorite color?
Mark: I love the golden color of ripened corn stalks. When the sun hits them just right . . . can’t really explain it if you have never seen it. Probably harkens back to my childhood on the farm.
NJ: Probably. What’s your favorite sport?
Mark: Down hill skiing. I know, I’m Canadian and hockey is supposed to be king, but not for me.
NJ: Favorite TV Show…
Mark: I’m not really a big television watcher, but there’s a documentary on Netflix called, ‘Paranormal Survivor’. The supernatural has always fascinated me. I’m a pretty logical individual, but I’ve had a few crazy experiences that neither myself, nor anyone else can explain away.
NJ: Interesting. How about a Favorite Actress/Actor…
Mark: Morgan Freeman
NJ: Hmmm. He was once a favorite of mine, too, but he allowed his personal life to get in the way of our relationship. Mark, do you like to exercise to stay fit OR do you not mind just letting it all go?
Mark: I workout about an hour and a half everyday. I lift weights, run/walk, and try to remember to stretch after
NJ: Biggest pet peeve that makes you want to spit nails? (For the record, NJ does not condone violence, but she does believe in being honest so she admits that there are those times and there are those people, who do cause her to want to spit a few nails in the direction of their foreheads. Hey, just being honest. It’s the only way I roll).
Mark: Employers who think they “own” employees. Ya, I get it, we need your money to help us live, but I think you’re forgetting that it’s a two-way street! Sheesh! They boil my blood! See my comment in question one about wishing I was self employed.
NJ: WOW! I hope this doesn’t lead to some workplace retaliation. But, I can understand what you’re speaking of. I haven’t worked for someone else in thousands of years, thank God, but I do remember the time. So, are you neat or messy, Mark?
Mark: Neat . . . messes drive me crazy! Though I’ve learned to tolerate a bit more because of the kids. My favorite saying that I once heard was, “Trying to clean up your house when you have small children, is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos!”
NJ: Not true. My house was just as sparkly clean and neat when my babies were babies, just the same as it is today and they are young adults. It’s all in your discipline. Facebook or Twitter?
Mark: Used to be Facebook, now I’m leaning towards Twitter.
NJ: Yes, RRBC will convert you quickly to a Twitter-ian. We’ve come to realize that the internet is giving way to tons of budding friendships. Who would you say is the one person you’ve connected with the most…your internet BFF or buddy?
Mark: I have a friend who is a paramedic, we send each other funny video clips and jokes, and because our professions take us to the darker side of humanity, our humor follows.
NJ: You’re married so I hope this friend is male…hahaha! Mark, we all know that WonderWoman has her truth lasso and Nonnie has…well, just her truths, in the no-nonsense way she forces us to be honest and tell it like it is, whether it makes others uncomfortable or not. In your opinion, which one does a better job of making the world a better place? You can be honest here.
Mark: I declare it a tie for now, until I can set up a competition between the two of you (lassoing bad guys . . . I know where to find a few) I’ll just let them go in a field and we’ll see who gets the most. Oh yes, it will be against Lynda Carter, she’s still got it!
NJ: Name two favorite INDIE books that you’ve read.
Mark: Another tough one. I’ve read so many good ones. I really enjoyed ‘The Alternative’ by Suzanne Burke, and ‘Finding Billy Battles’ by Ron Yates.
NJ: So glad those were books by two RRBC/RWISA Indie Authors! Good choices! Now, how about ONE good INDIE book you’ve read that was so good you wished the entire world would read it.
Mark: ‘The Alternative’ by Suzanne Burke. Maybe not suitable for younger audiences but should be mandatory reading for high school level and beyond.
NJ: What was so great about it?
Mark: Aside from the excellent writing, my years working the correctional system has left me, oh let’s just say, a bit cynical and jaded towards some things. Just being honest here.
NJ: Mark, after you read books, do you post reviews?
Mark: Only if I like them. Yes, maybe I am being a bit soft, but I understand the hard work it takes to write a book and have a hard time trashing someone’s efforts. If an author came to me and asked me to proof read their book, well, then I would oblige. I know, tough love and all, but my mother always said, “If you can’t . . .” ah, you know the rest.
NJ: In my opinion, being nice when it comes to offering your honest opinion on a read, helps no one. But, hey, to each his own. Mark, are you one of those who are afraid to be honest in their reviews lest the author gets upset with you, or is honesty your best policy, especially in reviews?
Mark: Well, I know that honesty is the best policy, but as I mentioned earlier, I don’t post bad reviews, I just stop reading the book and plop it on the ‘NA’ (Never Again) pile. I know that it’s not fair to the author and readers, but for now, I just can’t bring myself to do it.
NJ: You know, they have classes for that. Nonnie Jules teaches them, by the way. LOL. So, read any poorly written books lately? Guess we should ask you that here since we know you’d never tell us in an actual review.
Mark: Yes, and I’ve stopped reading after the first three chapters.
NJ: (I know, I’m beating a dead horse here, but I’m leading up to a point that I must make). How many poorly written books have you read that you gave a high mark to in your review, when you knew they were horrible? Be honest, I won’t ask you to name the books here in public.
Mark: Zero, but there are a few on the ‘NA’ pile.
NJ: Here goes, Mark. So, you have this huge NA pile. I’m curious…how is the author being helped by you stashing their book in a place where you have thrown all the other books that you felt needed help? Because, that’s what poor reads mean…”need help.” And maybe, just maybe, they need one person to step out there and tell them the honest truth. Life isn’t about everything always being pretty. There is help in ugly at times. How will these authors grow and become better if you keep throwing their books into your never again pile?
OK, I think I made my point whether it changes anything or not…I had to get that out. Mark, are you an author? Are you a good one? C’mon, we love honesty here.
Mark: I get up early in the morning and type (sometimes successfully, sometimes I need a bit more java) words on the ‘glowy screeny’ thing. So, I guess that makes me one. Oh, there are some who would consider me good. Doesn’t always feel that way. I always feel the need to push myself to be better. I guess that’s a good thing.
NJ: How long have you been writing?
Mark: I have been writing seriously for about six years now.
NJ: Are you able to take constructive criticism of your written work?
Mark: Yes, but sometimes it’s like ‘Buckley’s Cough Syrup’. It can taste awful, but it works. I try to approach it with this mentality. I tell myself this, “You are writing thousands of words, constructing events that never existed, and characters that never lived, do you really think you are going to get everything right the first time? Do you really expect everyone to like your writing style, story line, genre, (there’s more, but I’ll spare you)?” The answer is, “Of course not.” It’s unrealistic.
When I’m given ‘feedback’ I’ll consider it and weigh it, then make a decision whether I believe it to be valid or not. There are many factors that influence this decision, but a key one, for me, is if the same issue is mentioned by more than one reader. That can carry some weight. There is a common denominator there that may be more than just an individual’s preferences.
NJ: Give us the name of your book, please.
Though I am currently working on my second. Time is not always on my side and there is limited amounts of it.
NJ: Out of this one and the upcoming one…which one do you think will be considered the best?
Mark: Vanished. Though I think the next when will appeal to a greater audience, whenever it is finished.
NJ: Do you have a blog or website? I love GREAT blogs, so would you say that yours is written well enough for harsh critics like me to enjoy?
NJ: Which online resource or organization has helped you as an author the most?
Mark: At the risk of sounding obsequious, Rave Reviews Book Club has been my biggest ally. I honestly had no clue how to market myself. I was writing reviews for other authors, in the false hope that maybe someone would take notice, but it never happened. Let’s face it, this is a tough market, a vast ocean of voices that are trying to find a shoal or an island that they can use to stand above and have their stories heard (too much? Ya, maybe) But you get the idea. I found Rave Reviews when I was searching for yet another author book club. Sounds okay. I’ll give it a try, I thought. I have been pleasantly surprised and impressed.
NJ: Mark, that’s great to hear! We always like knowing how we have helped our author members. So, more specifically, how has RRBC helped you?
Mark: Well, I actually get reviews, for one thing. Not to mention speedy and great advice on several occasions when I really didn’t have any answers. It’s a great network too. I’ve met people from all back grounds and walks of life with different perspectives from my own. I’ve even been invited into some of their homes, should I ever be in the area (please memorize my photo, should you ever see a strange man standing on your front step . . . if he’s holding a large aquarium full of mollies, you know it’s me and I’m moving in)! Then there’s what we’re doing here, where else can you get this?
NJ: Since you’re sitting on the SHELF, you’re obviously a RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB member, so what other great things can you say about the club?
Mark: Everything I mentioned above and more. I’m glad I stumbled onto the site that day. It’s been a great experience and I love the camaraderie.
NJ: Have you come across any other online entities like it?
Mark: No, I can’t say I have. It is certainly unique, in a good way!
NJ: Would you recommend it to your friends and family?
Mark: I already have. I only (other than online) know two dedicated writers like myself, and I recommended it to both. I don’t believe either one has taken my suggestion yet, but I hope they’ll come around
NJ: Good! Sometimes it takes a minute for those we offer advice to as to what might be good for them. They may just need to sit back and watch your success within the club first. What’s your most favorite program or place here within RRBC? (#PUSHTUESDAY, RAVE WAVES shows, Block Parties, Writers’ Conference & Book Expo, BOOKS OF THE MONTH discussions, “ON THE SHELF” interviews, etc.)
Mark: At this point I would have to say, Books Of The Month. I really enjoy reading the work of my fellow writers. I find it relaxing and a nice break from having to be in the pilot’s seat . . . just going for a ride in the imagination of another. I’m frustrated at myself for not getting the second book done as quickly as I’d like and being able to read, review, and help others get that one step closer to their goal is very therapeutic. I was recently on the receiving end of the Book Of The Month, and I was honestly overwhelmed by the amount of support I received, and continue to receive. As I have already mentioned, where else are you going to get this? I’ve yet to find it.
NJ: WOW! You’ve been a BOOK OF THE MONTH author and now you’re a “SPOTLIGHT” AUTHOR! Go, Mark!
Well, this shelf is getting hard on my hiney, so we’re going to wrap this interview up. Any final words for our guests today?
Mark: Final Words: I just want to thank everyone for being so supportive and for the opportunities you have given me. I hope I offer you as much, I will continue to try and do so! Keep up the great work!
NJ: Mark, thank you so much for joining me here today and my apologies for the delay in getting your interview up. It’s truly been my pleasure to chat with you.
To my guests, please pick up a copy of Mark’s book above and do support him with reviews, no matter how you feel about the read.
Have you joined RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB yet? Well, here’s your chance! And, since Mark was on the “SHELF” today, tell them he sent you.
Until next time, take care. We’ll see you in 2019, right here on the “SHELF” with another INTERESTING GUEST!!