Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mark Connelly Talks About 'Wanna-be's'

Mark 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.
About the Book:

With his new girlfriend – a soccer mom with a taste for bondage – urging him to “go condo,” failed screenwriter Winfield Payton needs cash. Accepting a job offer from a college friend, he becomes the lone white employee of a black S&L. As the firm’s token white, he poses as a Mafioso to intimidate
skittish investors and woos a wealthy cougar to keep the firm afloat. Figure-skating between the worlds of white and black, gay and straight, male and female, Jew and Gentile, Yuppie and militant, Payton flies higher and higher until the inevitable crash. . .

Praise for Wanna-be’s:

This book right here! What can I say about Winfield Payton...is he the most unlucky pasty or most unlikely fall guy...what a schmuck...I laughed so hard at this,for this guy....with this guy....every character described in this book will immediately remind you of a real life joker in the in the 24 hour news cycle on all of the Major networks and cable television channels regurgitating skewed facts benefiting them and lining their pockets....it's hip and fresh writing which could easily become a HBO series....or Starz..maybe..anyway get this book....I laughed so hard...almost popping my recent stitches from surgery...Mr. Connelly...thanks for making my recuperation fun...this book is not for the faint of heart..or PC sensitive readers...

-- Lynda Garcia Review

For More Information

  • Wanna-be’s is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Thanks for this interview, Mark.  Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?

      I began writing poems and short stories in high school but did not get anything
      published until I was in college.  I love writing fiction, but have mostly published
      academic books – textbooks and literary criticism.  I have published books about
      George Orwell, Saul Bellow, and the IRA on film.  But my first love is still fiction.

When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?

       Work out, travel, read, watch good films.

Congratulations on your new book! Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside?


            Winfield Payton awoke to a mother’s voice.  Not his mother—but someone’s mother. It was the commanding yet compassionate voice mothers develop, stern but apprehensive.  It was a voice rarely heard in Downer Estates, a brick apartment complex housing the usual collection of upscale “singles” who live within Frisbee range of urban universities, attend jazz concerts in the park, practice safe sex, drive alphabet cars (BMWs, SUVs, VWs), cybersex on company laptops, faithfully recycle Perrier bottles, and sip low-cal cappuccino in Starbucks while checking the fates of their mutual funds.
            It was a suburban voice, a beach voice, a picnic voice.  The voice of a concerned mother directing her brood.  “Now, look, Brandy, I told you before.  Mommy will be home in just a little while.  You can have cereal.  Where is Heather?  OK, tell Heather to give you some raisin bran.  Take your vitamin.  And don’t go near the pool until I get back. Do you understand? Don’t go swimming until Mommy comes home.”
            As yet Win had not opened his eyes; he was too exhausted. Confronting daylight would be painful. Feeling the……

Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing?  Can you tell us about your journey?

            Wanna-be’s started as a series of related short stories featuring Winfield Payton,
            a classic fall guy hero in a satirical send-up.  Payton is a mashup of Fitzgerald’s
            Pat Hobby, Bellow’s Augie March, and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm
            character.  Like Winfield, I was briefly the lone white employee in a black
            enterprise.  As the company’s “chicklet” – or token white – I had some amusing
            experiences I thought could be exaggerated and expanded into a satire about our
            wanna-be culture.  I added more stories until I thought I had enough for a book.
            After the first story was published in a magazine, I realized I could reorganize the
            stories to form chapters in a novel.  Although there is a single narrative plot, each
            chapter can stand alone like an episode in a TV series, something my first
            reviewer remarked on.

If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?

           Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us are wanna-be’s.

What makes your book stand out from the rest?

            It does not avoid being politically incorrect.  It takes on all the stereotypes and
            plays them for laughs.  Insightful laughs I hope. 

If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?

Halloween.  Everyone in the book is wearing a mask whether they know it or not.

Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?

      I’m already concocting new adventures for Winfield Payton with titles like “Too
      Much Information,” “It’s Complicated,” and “Friends w/o Benefits.”  I want to
      explore new themes and take him to a broader landscape.

What’s next for you?

       I’m working on a novel called Newman’s Choice.  It’s a departure from Wanna-be’s
      because it a serious literary book.  Three parts of it have been published, so I am
      anxious to complete it.

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