Chatting with the Pros: Interview with nonfiction author Mark Shaw

chatting with the pros
In February, Writing to be Read is taking at look at nonfiction authors and their works. I’m pleased to say that my guest on Chatting with the Pros this month is nonfiction author Mark Shaw. Mark has been a traditionally published author for many years, following a successful career in journalism. He’s written biographies on sports greats, priests, accused criminals in high profile cases, as well as books about golf and pilots, and writing instruction. Today, he champions those for whom justice has not been served, his most recent book being Denial of Justice, which outlines the events surrounding the  and deaths of J.F.K., Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and Dorothy Kilgallen, which is a sequel to The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, which is Kilgallen’s story, and both books have been optioned for visual media and a script is currently being developed. Let’s welcome him and see what he has to say.
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Kaye: Could you share a brief history of your author’s journey for those who are not familiar with you or your work? How did you get to where you are today? 
Mark: It’s difficult for me to even believe that Denial of Justice was my 27th book. I never had any experience with writing, no classes, no workshops, etc. when I first wrote a book about Mike Tyson’s rape trial in 1992. What I fell in love with was the research, the writing process, and the chance to make people stop and think about important historical issues. That’s what keeps me going, looking for subjects now that deal with justice and injustice.
Kaye: In your books, you use your investigative reporting skills to dig deep and reveal little or unknown facts until you can tell the whole tale. Many of your books have brought some surprising details to the public eye. How do you choose the subjects for your books? 
Mark: I like to say the book ideas come to me. Most of the time, I get an idea for a book at 3 a.m. and quickly write down a thought about it on some note cards I keep by my bed. All of my book titles have come that way as well. Writers need to keep their eyes open, many book ideas float right in front of us if we pay attention.
Kaye: After the story of Dorothy Kilgallen, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, had a great reception and is now being prepared to be told through visual media. Was any of this a surprise to you, or did you think this story might be a best seller as you were writing it? 
Mark: I had no idea Dorothy’s name was still magic, that a book about her would touch so many reader’s emotions and become a bestseller. I’ve heard from people around the world about the book, still do today, two-plus years after the book was published. It’s been amazing experience for sure.
Kaye: You recently released Denial of Justice, which digs even deeper into Dorothy’s story. How did you know there was more to be found regarding her story?
Mark: Those readers I mention sent me tips about new information about Dorothy’s life and times and her death and a file I kept just kept getting thicker until I realized there was a second book for those who read the first one and did not. Now I feel as if I have told the complete story about her although some new information still comes my way.

 

 

Kaye: As mentioned above, the Dorothy Kilgallen story in The Reporter Who Knew Too Much is going to be portrayed on the screen. Are there plans to include Denial of Justice to be portrayed visually or perhaps be included in the screen version already planned? 
Mark: Both books were optioned for the big or little screen.
Kaye: How is that going so far?
Mark: There is no filming yet of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. It is still in the development phase with a script being completed. I am quite excited about Dorothy’s story being on the big or small screen since if that happens, more and more people will know about this remarkable woman. I like to say a book is like a written megaphone to the world but a film or TV series reaches even more people.
Kaye: In addition to several books which revolve around J.F.K. and his circles, you’ve also written about sports icons such as Larry Bird, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Don Larson. You’ve told the tales of suffering and discrimination during the holocaust, and you’ve written the biography of a priest, books on golfing and a how-to book on writing. What motivates you to write the stories that you write?
how to become a published authorMark: Again, the chance to make people stop and think, although some books have been more for entertainment purposes. Regardless, my books have a controversial slant to them, and that is important, something aspiring authors should seek to achieve. In my book about the publishing process that I use when aspiring authors hire me as a consultant, How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication, this is the type of practical advice I provide based on all of my
experience.
Kaye: Have you ever written a book of fiction? 
courage in the face of evil cover final nov 10 2017Mark: Yes, Courage in the Face of Evil is based on a true story, a Holocaust diary that is both disturbing and inspirational in nature, but I had to add certain elements that cause it to enter the world of fiction. I have also created a crime series called Vicker Punch: Lawyer on the Brink that is fiction, but based on my years as a criminal defense lawyer handling murder cases, and a book that is a sequel to a famous work of fiction.
Kaye: How do you see writing nonfiction differing from fiction in the publishing arena?
Mark: Fiction is much more fun, let the imagination loose without worrying about footnotes, etc. Just let it go and let the characters tell whatever the story is they want to tell. This said, for a first time author, getting fiction published these days is much more difficult that non-fiction since with fiction the star of the book is the author while with non-fiction the star of the book is the story.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing nonfiction for you?
Mark: How to tell the story once I have done all of my research.
road to a miracleKaye: Tell me a little about Road to a Miracle? The book is listed on Amazon for $57.73. I have to wonder what type of book rates a price like that? 
Mark: That’s nuts, and there are other editions of the book at a much less cost. The book is my road through the amazing life I have been blessed to live to the point of finding a daughter and two grandchildren I never knew existed a few years ago. Truly a miracle.
Kaye: I believe your stories are successful because they all hit emotional chords in your readers. How do you portray the emotional elements of your story so that they will touch your readers?
Mark: I tell writers I work with to be certain, whether fiction or non-fiction, to show the reader what’s happening, not tell them. That’s how the emotion comes through, how the reader connects with the story. Remember, a book is like a conversation with the reader but the author is not there so the emotion must be shown not told.
Kaye: In How to Become a Published Author, you talk about the importance of titles and subtitles. How do you come up with titles and subtitles for your books? How important are subtitles?

Mark: The book ideas come to me and the titles in the middle of the night when whatever spirit it is that is guiding my life, whispers in my ear. I quickly write down the idea on note cards I keep by my bed.

Many good books and movies have never seen the light of day due to bad titles. They need to be catchy, like TRWKTM, Denial of Justice, Miscarriage of Justice, The Poison Patriarch, etc. Don’t have too much experience with books based on true stories or fiction but Courage in the Face of Evil is striking as is Victor Punch: Lawyer on the Brink.
 
Re subtitles, not as important as titles but add to the description of the book. Again, I’m quite proud of the subtitles for my books. They certainly add to the allure of the story.
Kaye: Many of your books are collaborations. Is it difficult to write a book with someone else? Why collaborate? What are the pros and cons? 
Mark: No, during the early part of my getting some footing as a writer, I had collaborations, but no more. This said, working with someone famous to tell their story is a good way to show writing skill and the ability to tell a good story. That’s key to establishing a reputation, as is writing biographies if a writer wants to enter the world of non-fiction.
Kaye: You were a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst for the news media covering the Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson and Kobe Bryant cases, and you have a book about Tyson, Falsely Accused. Are there books about O.J. and Koby in the future? If not, what separates Tyson out from the others? 

 

 

Mark: Injustice is the key word for the Tyson book since he did not get a fair trial. That thread has been woven through almost every book I’ve written in the last ten years or so, Miscarriage of Justice, Beneath the Mask of Holiness, Melvin Belli: King of the Courtroom, The Poison Patriarch, TRWKTM and now Denial of Justice, which relates actually to four people, JFK, Oswald, Jack Ruby and Dorothy Kilgallen. All were denied justice.
Kaye: What’s in the future for Mark Shaw?
Mark: Only the good Lord knows but I am truly the most blessed man on the face of the earth and for sure, I want to help as many writers as possible become published, to realize their publishing dreams.
I want to thank Mark for sharing with us today. He’s given us some insight into the world of a nonfiction author. You can learn more about Mark or his books at the links below.

Website: https://www.markshawbooks.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-William-Shaw/e/B000APQ7ZM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1547774000&sr=1-3

 

 

You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.


Interview with Author Mark Shaw

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Once in a while, we come across an author who makes us see things differently through their writing. Mark Shaw is one such author, whose writing has a ring of truth to it that makes readers see those he writes about as real people with complex stories, who opens our eyes and makes us see truths that were always there, just below the surface, but we didn’t see before. I had the pleasure of reviewing two of his books. As the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner, I reviewed Beneath the Mask of Holiness, the compelling biography of a true life monk torn between his love of God and his love of a woman. And here, on Writing to be Read, I reviewed The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, the true life story of journalist Dorothy Kilgalen, who was investigating the JFK assination, which I recently learned will be made into a movie or a television mini-series, and a follow-up book, which Mark plans to release this fall. I also have the privelage of reviewing his latest book, to be released in June, Courage in the Face of Evil, the story of a German Christian woman, Vera Konig, who spent eight years in the concentration camps and whose courage and spirit brought her and several others through the ordeal. I’m pleased to be interviewing Mark here today. I think you will find him and his writing as interesting as I have.
Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?
Mark: No question that it is the Dorothy Kilgallen story, that Dorothy has “spoken” to me from the hereafter, guiding my research and writing of her story so that the truth may be told about what happened to this true patriot who gave up her life to print the truth about the JFK assassination. What an inspiration she is to young journalists with some many people saying to me, “I wish we had a reporter with integrity like Dorothy today.”
Kaye: So the buzz in the air is that the Dowdle Brothers, who brought us the Waco mini-series, have optioned for your book, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. This book is the true story of journalist Dorothy Kilgallen back in the 1960’s, (I know I reviewed this book, but for the life of me I can’t find it to refer back to for refreshing the details). I think every author at some point dreams of having their story portrayed on film. Can you describe what it felt like, as an author, to learn that this deal was in the works?
Mark: No one, my agent, my publisher, me, anyone thought Dorothy’s story could be a bestseller but somehow the book touched the emotions of so many people with at last count, my having received more than 500 emails from people around the world who have gained a respect and love for her. At one point, I told my wife that even after having written 20+ books, this one has made feel like a real author, that someone my writing this book connected with readers like none before it. And when I learned that respected filmmakers like the Brothers Dowdle wanted to adapt the book to the big or small screen, it brought tears to me because every author does dream of this happening. Best of all, these men of integrity have the passion to tell the story of a reporter of integrity, the perfect match.
 
Kaye: You know Dorothy Kilgallen was a great journalist and sets an example for us as writers, but she also was a forerunner at a time when women were still struggling to be heard. Any thoughts on that?
 
Mark: In the day and age when Dorothy was attempting to position herself as a top-flight reporter, she faced quite a challenge because women were not supposed to ride in the back seat of a car, but BEHIND the car. But she never let that stop her, she worked harder than any of the men who challenged her driving ambition and she did so with integrity at every turn. This is why I believe she was truly the first female media icon, television star on What’s My Line, ace reporter, respected columnist, acclaimed investigative reporter, radio program host, author, etc. No wonder the New York Post called her “the most powerful female voice in America.” Dorothy certainly was that and a good mother to her children, as well who never saw her being a female as an obstacle, but in fact a true blessing.
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Kaye: In The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, you reveal facts that point to Dorothy Kilgallen’s death being a murder, along with an elaborate conspiracy and cover up. What originally led your own research in this direction?
 
Mark: Amazingly enough, I never intended to write this book but during my writing a biography of Melvin Belli, Jack Ruby’s attorney, a close friend of his said Belli told him, “They’ve killed Dorothy, now they will go after Jack Ruby.” I could not get this quote out of my mind and that led to researching Dorothy’s life and times and her death. Along the way, I believe she guided my efforts to secure the truth about what happened to her, her spirit being felt so many times when I wondered whether I could find that truth. She selected me to tell her story, that’s for sure so she can get the justice she deserves.
 
Kaye: The investigation was actually reopened due to compelling information which you brought forth through your research. Now, there’s been follow-up research, and the results are found in Denial of Justice: Dorothy Kilgallen, Abuse of Power and the Most Compelling JFK Assassination Investigation in History. Are you at liberty to talk about the findings? 
 
Mark: I continue to fight for Dorothy’s rights as the victim of a homicide to the extent that I fired off a ten page letter to the NY DA’s office demanding they re-open the investigation into her death based on new evidence that will be in the follow-up book to be released this fall after my new book, Courage in the Face of Evil is released in June. In the follow-up book, there is new evidence regarding Ron Pataky, the chief suspect in her death, additional details about what happened in the townhouse where Kilgallen lived on the day she died from her butler’s daughter, shocking new information about the JFK assassination never revealed before and admission by Dorothy’s daughter to the effect, “My mother was murdered.”
 
Kaye: Dorothy Kilgallen was investigating several possibilities of conspiracy in the JFK assassination, and it seemed she was getting close to uncovering something big regarding this. You also presented a few theories on why Kilgallen might have been murdered, and by whom. Are we any closer to answering any of those questions now? 
 
Mark: Yes, the shocking information about the JFK assassination in the new book will indicate what Dorothy learned that made her even more of a threat to those who were complicit in JFK’s death. This material has never been published before.
 
Kaye: How does a book get optioned? Can you tell us how it worked for you? Did you send in a copy of your book with a cover letter to pitch it? Or did somebody read your book and call you up out of the blue to say they wanted to make a movie out of it?
 
Mark: Drew Dowdle told me he heard about the book from a friend and then listened to the audio version before telling his brother John about it. They contacted me about the rights and then I connected them with Frank Weimann, my literary agent in NYC. The deal took sometime to complete because they were finishing up WACO, a terrific if disturbing series, but finally it was completed. I had a glass of champagne with my wife to celebrate.
 
Kaye: You have extensive research into this project. You have a major investment in the book, and now you will get to see it played out on screen. Who would you like to see cast into the leading role? Who do you envision as Dorothy Kilgallen?
 
Mark: On the Dorothy Kilgallen Facebook page, followers debated who could play Dorothy and among the selections were Nicole Kidman, Cate Blantchett, and Sally Hawkins. I’ve said all of these would be terrific but wish that Meryl Streep was a bit younger since she’s as feisty as Dorothy was.
 
Kaye: Your next book, Courage in the Face of Evil will be published in June. What about this story attracted you? 
 
Mark: This is a very disturbing yet inspiration book based on a true story as chronicled in a Holocaust diary kept by a German Christian woman who was a true angel of mercy at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The theme, so relevant these days since there is so much hate in the world, revolves around how love may overcome hate when human survival is at stake. More about the book may be learned at Mark Shaw: Courage In The Face Of Evil .
 
Courage in the Face of Evil Cover Final Nov 10 2017
Kaye: Your books, especially the recent ones, seem to focus on defending people, on justice and injustice. Is this true?
Mark: Yes, certainly, I defend Dorothy’s rights as a victim to get the justice she deserves and in Courage in the Face of Evil, I defend the main character’s decision to trust the enemy, a Nazi prison guard, so as to save the life of a little Russian orphan who will be killed unless the guard saves her. I’ve done this with other books as well, for instance, in the Melvin Belli book, I even defended Jack Ruby because he did not get a fair trial. In fact, Dorothy believed this to be true as well as will be documented in “Denial of Justice.” My defending those denied justice comes from my days as a criminal defense lawyer since everyone deserves a fair shake, even an assassin like Jack Ruby.
Kaye: I know research is a big part of your writing. Due to the fact that you write biographies, it has to be. But I have to ask, how did you find Vera’s story? (You did an amazing job with it, btw.) How much did you have to add or take out from her journals?
Mark: Years ago, I was contacted by the daughter of the woman whose story I tell in “Courage in the Face of Evil.” I was able to read the diary and was captivated with the story, the raw emotion, the bravery, the determination to survive, the willingness to save lives no matter the danger. Capturing “Vera’s” voice was the key and except for the final 5% or so of the book where I added material based on what the daughter told me “Vera’s” intentions were regarding the prison guards after the war, the account is absolutely true.
And now for a fun question:
Kaye: Which author/screenwriter/poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?
 
Mark: No question here, Ernest Hemingway.
I want to thank Mark for chatting with me about your books. I’m sure it will be quite exciting to see one of your books put on film. Whether they make it a movie or a television mini-series, it is really quite a treat. Be sure to catch my June 1st review of Courage in the Face of Evil, a gripping and compelling book. can learn more about Mark Shaw and his books here: http://www.markshawbooks.com/ 

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