Over the past few weeks, I was lucky enough to interview Mark Zaslove, an author who just recently came out with his new book, Death and Taxes!! I really enjoyed hearing Mark’s answers to my questions, and now I can’t wait to share with you. Hopefully you find it just as enjoyable as I have!!
Where is your favorite place to write?
I can write anywhere (when I was young, bars and parties were good even), but I’m a professional writer, which means I have to get up everyday and work, so my office in my home is the place.
When did you first get the idea for your novel?
I had an ex-father-in-law who used to work for the IRS, and he told me a couple of stories and I filed them away. Those became the kernels for the book.
You have a lot of experience in the movie/TV industry. Would you say there’s a lot of overlap in the two fields?
Writing is writing. Dialog is dialog. One has to stay true to the medium/media (each has its little differences), but I’d say 90% is the same. If you can tell a good story, you’re golden.
What’s your favorite creative project you’ve been a part of so far?
This book was a total joy. When one writes for TV and movies it’s a team effort. I have no problem working on teams, and it can be very gratifying, but it’s not mine, it’s the team’s (good and bad…and there’s always a lot of bad). With novels, what it is is what it is. If a reader likes it, that’s because they like what I wrote. If they don’t, cool. At least they didn’t like what I personally did. Not that way in TV or movies. A director changes something, or an actor changes something, and I get blamed for it. That makes me crazy.
What is the hardest adjustment between writing short fiction and a novel such as Death and Taxes?
Actually, the longer the form, the easier for me, as it lets me stretch my legs, but doing short fiction isn’t very hard in and of itself. Now poetry, THAT’S hard in that great poetry takes such severe patience. I don’t need that kind of patience when writing prose.
What made you decide to name the main character in your book after yourself?
I was writing very, very fast (60 working days for the whole thing from start to finish), and I simply didn’t want to try and remember what the name of my main character was and then forget and screw it up, so I figured I could remember my own name…and, it actually worked!
Did you take inspiration from real life people while writing? Will anyone recognize themselves?
Naw, all that autobiographical stuff I gave up right after I first started writing. I’m not saying there aren’t shades of people I’ve known in things, but, really, that’s just taste and fashion, nothing direct. I like and am surrounded by funny, smart women, so the women in my writing, hopefully, tend to come off that way. No one in particular, I’m just influenced in shading by the people I know.
There’s so many thrillers on the market nowadays. What sets yours apart?
I’d like to think there aren’t a whole lotta IRS main character heroes (“Hear that IRS? I’m on your side! Please don’t audit me!”), plus I hope the other characters are fun and friendly to the reader. I wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. I was reading a lot of Robert Crais, Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiaasen when I thought to do this. If readers have half as much fun with my book as I did with those writers’, then I’ve done my job.
Death and Taxes is going to be a series. When in the writing process did you decide that Mark’s story deserved more than one book?
As I was writing it I knew I had a main character whose profession had infinite story possibilities: the IRS can investigate ANYONE, whether they pay taxes or not. Movie stars, politicians, vigilantes, cyber-hackers, pornographers, Mark Douglas can have plots with any and all of them. So, I’m already in the middle of the sequel and have full ideas for the 3rd and 4th books a well.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Nothing. It was the easiest most enjoyable bit of writing I’ve ever done. Oh, wait, I tell an untruth. PR is the hardest of writing the book. I hate PR because I have to talk about myself. Gah! I HATE that!
What’s your favorite part?
When I’m in the middle, I’m always intimately watching that world unfold. When I’m done writing, that experience is gone from my brain (unless I reread my stuff, which I don’t really do after it’s done). So “living” in the moment in the unfolding fiction is my favorite part.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?
Be TRUTHFUL. Don’t make your characters do things you want them to do; let them be who they are in a truthful and natural manner and the writing will work out. Force the characters, ruin the writing.
Your website says you’re “friend of wombats”. Can I ask why?
You haven’t seen how cute and ugly and cuddly wombats are? Are you NOT a friend of wombats? Fie on you! And capybaras. Who doesn’t want a herd of them to come at your call. And otters in the pool! I must have otters in the pool!
About the Author
Mark Zaslove, author of DEATH AND TAXES, is a writer/director/producer of both live-action and animated movies and television. He creates content for all major studios, including Disney, Universal, Paramount, and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing/producing, and a recipient of the Humanities Prize (for writing about uplifting human values in television and movies), he also writes short fiction and has served as a senior editor on various magazines. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, he lives with his teenage son in Los Angeles.
Death and Taxes
Death and Taxes follows Mark Douglas, an ex-Marine turned IRS agent, who, along with auditing the weird and the profane, also goes out with his gang of government-sanctioned revenuers over weekends, merrily gathering back-taxes in the form of cash, trade or MILFs-with-theirrobes-open barter.
Things turn ugly when Mark’s favorite boss and dearest friend Lila is tortured and killed over what she finds in a routine set of 1040 forms. Mark follows a trail dotted with plutonium-enriched cows, Saudi sheikhs with jewel-encrusted wieners (and we’re not talkin’ Oscar Mayer), edge-of-death ex-drug sniffing dogs named The Cabbage, overly-excited magicians who pull doves out of orifices that shouldn’t have doves pulled out from them, billionaire Texans with fetishes for barbecue-sauced ladies underthings, and even an FBI agent whose nickname is “Tightass.” All of which lead to more and bloodier murders.
With aid from his IRS pals—Harry Salt, a crazed thirty-year vet with a quantum physical ability to drink more than humanly possible; Wooly Bob, who’s anything but wooly, egg-bald on top with shaved eyebrows for effect; Miguel, an overly excited newbie, with a company-issued bullhorn and a penchant for getting kicked in the jumblies—Mark hunts down the eunuch hit man Juju Klondike and the mee krob snorting Mongolian mob that hired him as only an angry IRS agent can. There will be no refunds for any of them when April 15th comes around. There will only be Death and Taxes.