Authors on the Verge: Meet Mark Fink, young adult novelist

Mark Fink, author of STEPPING UP
Mark Fink, author of STEPPING UP

This week, we’re celebrating the fabuloso Mark Fink. Mark wrote and produced for television, doing shows for every major network, including Full House, Saved By The Bell, Growing Pains and many others.

Snoop says, “KEWL!”

Mark also created and produced the NBC teen comedy Hang Time, about a high school basketball team in Indiana. This show allowed him to enjoy two of his passions: comedy and basketball. Mark lives outside of Los Angeles with his wife and two sons and still plays basketball when his body allows.

Now here’s a little bit about Mark’s book STEPPING UP (WestSide Books) which comes out next week. Yay!

STEPPING UP by Mark Fink
STEPPING UP by Mark Fink

Ernie Dolan is plagued by the curse of average. Nothing about him stands out—except his stutter. Against his better instincts, he goes with his best friend Mike Rivers to a competitive basketball camp. After an embarrassing first few days, he and Mike are on the outs, as Mike hangs with the jocks and Ernie finds new allies. Things change dramatically when Ernie risks his life to save three campmates from near tragedy, morphing from outcast to hero. But Ernie finds out that being a hero isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. This funny, heartwarming story unfolds against the backdrop of exciting, authentic basketball action while touching on typical teen issues of friendship and the near-deadly consequences of peer pressure.

Now let’s start the interview. When you received your offer, what happened?

I was actually out of town and was checking my email on a computer in the hotel lobby. My agent said Westside Books was making an offer on Stepping Up and another book of mine they read. I sat there stunned, thinking I should get out of town more often.

So now that you have a contract, what’s it like to be on the other side–on the verge of publication? What does it feel like to be official?

It’s a bit surreal. Knowing how hard it is to get someone to just read the book and the long haul one goes through, it’s very rewarding that a publisher actually wants your material. Then, all the business stuff kicks in and you realize there’s a lot more work to do after the writing stops.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

STEPPING UP was the second YA novel I wrote. I had spent several years working on and off on my first book, THE SUMMER I GOT A LIFE. That’s the book I went out with to try to get an agent and interest from publishers. Westside Books was looking for books for boys and STEPPING UP landed on the right person’s desk at the right time. I was very gratified that they also bought my first book, which is always close to an author’s heart.

And here’s our favorite question. How many rejections did you receive IN GENERAL (not just for this book) before you landed your first major publishing contract?

  • 0-10
  • 11-25
  • 26-50
  • 51-100
  • 100+

And that was just from my immediate family. Actually, it’s hard to count all the rejections because my agent most likely didn’t share them all.

Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

I would usually receive them in a big bunch, stuffed inside an envelope—one of those times, the envelope was thick- not a good sign. The ones I really hated were those form letters. They couldn’t even bother to take the time to say “no.” The worst came ripped right where my name was, and like any writer, I saw a few metaphors in there someplace. A couple of rejections were very warm and personal and said that they really liked the story, the main character and the writing, but it just didn’t fit their “needs” at the moment. I still don’t know what that means.

(Snoop translates, “I am taking the time to say ‘no.'”)

How long did it take to sell your books, from putting the first words on the page to receiving an offer?

  • 0-3 months
  • 3-6 months
  • 6 months to 1 year
  • 1 year – 2 years
  • 2 years – 3 years
  • 3 years+
  • The manuscript has been around longer than I have.

Prior to selling your books, you were …

Working a full-time job in the writing industry

I wrote for television, initially as a freelance writer selling scripts, and then as a staff writer, producer, and eventually show-runner. I wrote two short stories prior to my novels. One was a gritty dramatic story, the other a comedic one. I was lucky to have both of them win multiple contests.

Now that you’ve sold some books, you plan to …

Not change a thing.

The book business is quite different from the television business and I am trying to learn it from the ground up, especially the promotion aspect.

What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?

Is anyone going to read my book? Are they going to sell and how am I going to get the word out?

If you’ve already begun or have finished the editorial process with your publisher, let you us know what that’s been like.

I was fortunate to have a publisher/editor who “got” me and my writing. Evelyn Fazio at Westside Books worked with me every step of the way, supervising revisions and guiding me through all the final edits. While our sensibilities were mostly in synch, there are always a few things people see differently and a couple of things are lost along the way.

Describe an Ah-ha moment you might have had that influenced your writing in a positive way.

At some point in this whole process, I realized that, although I was writing for teen-YA readers, long before they ever see a word, the writing is read by a lot of adults. Agents. publishers and editors are the ones who will decide your fate, and in some little corner of your brain, you have to keep that in mind.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Find your main character’s voice and go from there.

Any inspiring quotes you live by?

Given the current economy: “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

E.L. Doctorow: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Aside from WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS<—shameless plug, are there any other books on craft you recommend?

Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott

Finally, Snoop wants to know: how did writing for television prepare you for writing novels?  And could you write me into one of your shows?

Writing sitcoms is a pressure-packed job where you literally have to be funny every day, no matter what’s going on in your life. That training and preparation helped me develop a strong sense of humor and a comedic sensibility that translated to my novels. Both of my books have a lot of humor, and I find it a great device through which to tell a story. If your readers are laughing along the way, the journey is that much sweeter.

Snoop says, Hey, but what about my own show?!  I get no love.

This concludes our interview with our latest author, Mark Fink. We wish him much success with his debut novel STEPPING UP.

To see what Mark is up to these days, visit his website at www.booksbymark.com

4 thoughts on “Authors on the Verge: Meet Mark Fink, young adult novelist

    1. J.E.:

      I’m still new to all this blog stuff and didn’t even
      think to scroll down to see comments. Anyway, thanks
      for your note. I’m really interested in reading Waiting To Score too. In fact, when I finally met
      Evelyn last month I suggested that she send all of us
      Westside authors each other’s ARCs so we can read each
      other. Nothing came of that, but maybe if you mention
      something too, we can get something going along that
      line.

      I’d really like to talk to you more about this whole
      publication process and book promotion, etc.
      Hope your book is out there by now and starting to
      get some good buzz.

      Thanks again.

      Mark

  1. o my god Mark Fink i’m a huge fan of your book stepping up! it’s the first book i’ve ever read because i HATE reading books! but i definitly loved yours! i would like to meet you one day and talk about your books!

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