A Bookish Conversation with Mark Connelly, author of ‘Wanna-be’s’

mark-connellyMark Connelly was born in Philadelphia and grew up in New Jersey.  He received a BA in English from Carroll College in Wisconsin and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  His books include The Diminished Self: Orwell and the Loss of Freedom, Orwell and Gissing, Deadly Closets:  The Fiction of Charles Jackson, and The IRA on Film and Television.  His fiction has appeared in The Ledge, Indiana Review, Cream City Review, Milwaukee Magazine, and Home Planet News.  In 2014 he received an Editor’s Choice Award in The Carve’s Raymond Carver Short Story Contest; in 2015 he received Third Place in Red Savina Review’s Albert Camus Prize for Short Fiction. His novella Fifteen Minutes received the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize and was published by Texas Review Press in 2005.

Mark’s latest book is the literary fiction/humor/satire, Wanna-be’s.

Connect with Mark on Facebook and Twitter.

What made you decide to become a published author?

I began writing in high school and have published a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I write both for myself and as a teacher and scholar.  I enjoy sharing my thoughts, observations, and experiences.  A day without writing is a day wasted.

Would you consider your latest book, Wanna-be’s, to be a one of a kind?  How so?

Definitely.  I created a man of our times, Winfield Payton, as an aspirational figure bumbling through a series of politically-incorrect misadventures.  We live in a world of wanna-be’s who appear on reality shows, post selfies, and pontificate on YouTube.  Winfield is wanna-bestrying to hustle his way to fame and wealth, sleeping with a cougar to secure investment capital, pretending to be a mobster to influence African investors, and playing dumb when things get too tough.  I think people will see a lot of themselves in Winfield if they are honest.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

My second-floor study in a converted brewery.  The walls are three feet thick, so I never hear the traffic.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

Assume he or she will be recognized as a genius.  A book is a work of art when you write it.  It is a work of art when someone reads it.  In between it is a commodity that has to be realistically marketed and sold.  Don’t expect to be seen as the next James Joyce or the next J. K. Rowling.  Approach a publisher with a target audience in mind.  Try to establish credibility by getting parts of it published.  Enter contests to win awards.  Even honorable mentions demonstrate that people see merit in your work.

What inspires you?

Great books, good ideas, and the unexpected charm, wit, and insight of everyday people.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

The week after Wanna-be’s appeared on Amazon, I got a five-star review that promoted the book better than I ever could.  The reviewer said Wanna-be’s could be an HBO series, and that’s how I conceived it –  with each chapter being a self-contained episode.

Why do you love to write satire?

I have a slow mind.  I can never come up with the perfect thing to say off the top of my head.  I have to draft and revise my quips and comebacks.  So I take all the affronts and failures of daily life, exaggerate them, and create characters who can say all the things I wish I could.  I also love to criticize, expose, and poke fun at the hypocrisy and idiocy of the talking heads I see on cable television.

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book.  What’s the first ingredient?

A compelling character

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

Dr. Veraswami bears the name of a character in George Orwell’s first novel Burmese Days.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

I briefly worked as the sole white employee of a black contracting company. So like Winfield, I was a “chicklet” or token white who would go “undercover” when needed to meet potential clients, vendors, and investors without tipping them off the company was minority owned.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?


What’s next for you?

More books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I write for work and write for fun, so something is always on my desk needing attention.  My most important project is a novel called Newman’s Choice.  Three chapters have already been published, so I am anxious to finish it.


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