Interview of Mark S. Bacon, author of Death in Nostalgia City
When did you first start writing?
Writing classes in high school got me started. I took journalism and wrote for the school paper and I took creative writing and had short stories published in the high school magazine. I think I was initially attracted by the mystique of being a newspaper reporter, which eventually I was.
What prompted you to write Death in Nostalgia City?
Many things. My main reason was to create the type of mystery/suspense novel that I like to read. Agatha Christie was my introduction to the genre and I read nearly all of her books plus many other cozy authors. Gradually, I wanted more action than the typical drawing room mystery provides and I shifted to suspense and noir novels.
The mysteries I like best challenge you intellectually, but also have lots of suspense elements and action that appeal to the emotions. Raymond Chandler said he didn’t care for manor-house mysteries because the entire value of the book is contained in the final chapter, the denouement. He said each chapter of a mystery should be rewarding itself, without regard to whodunit.
So, I wanted to write a mystery with plenty of suspense and I looked to jobs early in my career for inspiration and technical details. In southern California I was a newspaper reporter covering the police beat. Later I became an advertising copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park down the road from Disneyland. I put my knowledge of police procedure and theme park operations into a crime novel that takes place in Nostalgia City, a complete re-creation of an entire small town from the late 1960s/early 1970s.
Is there a particular writer who has influenced you? Or one who you read whenever he/she has a new book out?
Not one particular writer, but a variety. I read, in no particular order, Robert Harris, T. Jefferson Parker, Joseph Finder, Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham, J.A. Jance, Kyle Mills, David Baldacci, Nelson DeMille, David Morrell, Bill Moody, Harlan Coben, Elmore Leonard, Scott Turow and others. Recently I’ve started reading and enjoying Cornell Woolrich. Although he’s little known today, I would classify him as one of the big four noir suspense writers of the 1930s through 1950s. Many of his stories were made into films, with Rear Window his most famous.
Do you have a writing schedule, and if so what?
When I’m working on a book, I write nearly every day and I don’t believe in writer’s block. When I hear people refer to writer’s block I wonder, can you write a grocery list, a note to your mom? Unless you have broken fingers, writer’s block is about quality. I just keep writing, and later my editing/revising process takes over to smooth out the rough spots. I generally write by revision.
One of my favorite writers’ quotes comes from Peter De Vries, and it explains my routine perfectly. He said, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”
When not writing, what is your favorite pastime?
Only one? I like reading, visiting with friends, hiking, and photography, not all at the same time.
Do you have anything in particular you like to drink while writing?
Tea. A cup is not very far away when I’m at the computer. Contrary to popular belief, although it is not as strong as coffee, black tea is not a low-caffeine drink, so it gives me a boost. I like several different types and blends. My favorite is Lapsang Souchong, definitely an acquired taste. I order it from a place in British Columbia. American tea, often served tepid, is tasteless.
My wife is from England, yet I’m the regular tea drinker.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep at it. If you love writing, consider that while you’re working on the Great American Novel, you can still be a professional writer by creating other things such as advertising, commercial websites, public relations, speeches, technical manuals/instructions, direct mail, annual reports, ghost writing projects and lots more.
What do you think of the Las Vegas of today?
It can be an exciting place with lots of creative energy. Although I live in Reno, 450 miles to the north, we still have friends there from when we lived in Vegas for five years. Two of the main characters in Death in Nostalgia City are transplants to Arizona from Vegas. Nostalgia City, my invented retro theme park in Arizona, has equal parts of Vegas show-biz, Disneyland authenticity and nostalgia from an annual festival of rock music and classic cars in Reno called Hot August Nights.
And is there one particular thing you’d like people to know about you?
I believe the past is the past and can’t be changed. What can be changed is whether you let the past control your present moments. This is a theme I explore in the book.
Bio and links:
Mark Bacon’s articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Denver Post, USAir Magazine, Trailer Life, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express-News, The Orange County Register, Working Woman, and other publications. He is a former columnist for BusinessWeek Online and most recently was a regular correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle where he wrote on travel, outdoors and entertainment.
Bacon is a former president of the Orange County Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. He and his wife, Anne, and their golden retriever, Willow, live in Reno, Nevada. www.baconsmysteries.com
Website URL: www.baconsmysteries.com
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Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/mark.bacon.98871