Rising Star Spotlight: Mark Rosendorf


While growing up in Queens, NY, were you a big reader?
Yes. I read a lot growing up in the ‘80s when reading wasn’t considered “cool”. But I loved the escape of a book. I remember in the tenth grade where all my fellow classmates cringed when we were assigned Shakespeare, I was able to follow (well, mostly) what was going on and being said. I had an easy time getting straight “A’s” in my English classes without putting in too much effort, which made up for my straight “D’s” in math, which came from an incredible amount of effort.
I enjoyed the books that we were assigned to read, with few exceptions, and I usually finished them well ahead of everyone else in the class. One of those few exceptions was “Catcher in the Rye”, but that’s because I thought it was going to be about baseball. Turns out it was just about a whiny, spoiled kid in prep school.
Did you enjoy writing?
I always enjoyed writing, even as a child. I was in the seventh grade when I knew writing was in my future. My social studies teacher gave us an assignment to interview a grandparent and then write up their story. Unfortunately, my grandparents had a 1960s sitcom ability to turn every single topic into an argument…and they both hit below the belt. The fact that they were married for 70 years is perhaps the eighth wonder of the world. I did take a shot at the assignment; I asked my grandfather to tell me about his life growing up during the depression. He told me about the girl from Ohio he wished he’d married instead of the woman he did marry. My grandmother jumped on the line, and of course, they ended up arguing. Even as I hung up the phone, they were still yelling at each other on the line.
Obviously, I couldn’t use anything from that conversation, so I sat down and made up a story about my grandfather. In the story, I explained how during the depression of the 1920s, he left home at fourteen years old and survived by carrying bundles of hay for a nickel an hour. I talked about how he managed to save one nickel every other hour, which he used to open a business and become successful. Then he met my grandmother, and it was love at first sight. They settled down and lived happily and lovingly ever after.
None of that was necessarily true, but my teacher adored the story. He gave it an “A” and asked me if I would bring my grandparents to school so they could talk about their lives and take questions from the class. Picturing what a disaster that would have been, I did some quick damage control and told him that my grandparents wouldn’t be able to make it.
You followed a career as a guidance counselor? How did that coincide with writing books?
The biggest advantage of working in a school is that the day ends by 3:00 which leaves me plenty of time to write. Also, as a high school guidance counselor, I work intimately with my students, discussing behaviors and feelings. I’ve worked with students with special needs—many of which are emotional—for many years. Through this experience, I’ve come to understand the teenage mind regarding outlook and motivations. I believe that years of working with my students has helped in making my teenage literary characters feel real to readers.
The ironic part was that most of the criticism I received about my writing prior to “The Witches of Vegas” was that even though I was writing for adults, the language was better for a young adult audience. That’s probably because of all the time I spend talking to teenagers, analyzing them, and helping them work through daily drama. At the time, I never thought I would end up writing young adult books, but it turned out the criticism was right; it is a great fit.
What prompted you to actually sit down and start writing a story you wanted to turn into a book?
I would say the same thing that prompts all writers: An idea popped into my head and I had a need to share it with the world. My first book was “The Rasner Effect”, a suspense/thriller for adults. Even though “The Rasner Effect” was published and led to two sequels, it was my first book, and I hadn’t truly found my writing groove yet.
In that time, I also wrote a science fiction novel titled “Status Quo”, and a short story for an anthology. I did gain a lot of knowledge and experience from these works both in my writing and in learning how to navigate the literary marketing world. I believe that experience shows in “The Witches of Vegas”.  I’ve enjoyed writing for these characters more than any book I’ve written in the past. It’s through Isis Rivera, Zack Galloway, and the Witches of Vegas that I have found myself as a writer. It’s almost as if they’ve put a spell on me.
Why did you retire from writing?
In a word: Burnout. Between 2009 and 2013, I had written four books and a short story. Then, The Wild Rose Press bought the rights to “The Rasner Effect”. But they had a few additional editing requests (as would be the case with any publisher). Along with all the writing is the marketing and promotion involved. Sometimes, that can leave little time left over for the actual writing.
This was a time when the literary world wasn’t as friendly to books published through independent publishers. Social media wasn’t as prevalent in the process, and we didn’t have places such as InD’tale magazine to showcase our work. For most writers who weren’t published through the big publishing houses, it was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for little return. I also had a limited knowledge of the industry and limited time, my career as a guidance counselor always takes priority for the sake of my students. By 2013, I was also planning a wedding (we were married in May 2014). It was hard to keep up with everything, and in the literary world, once you lose momentum, it’s easy to get left behind.
Another issue was technology changed within these five years. In “The Rasner Effect”, I had a character who was considered a tech maven. To show this, he used one of the latest technological marvels of the time: A blackberry. Now, whenever I go back and reread that book, the whole thing feels dated. It’s why I try to keep my technology generalized in my writing, so the book will always feel current. In fact, I have an entire set of rules I follow to make sure my work stands the test of time (but that’s a story for another interview).
Without the motivation to write and sales dwindling on the books I had out there, I decided to quit writing. I loved the experience, but life was busy, and I was burnt out, both in creativity and in promoting. I was content with the knowledge that I was a published author, and no one could ever take that away from me.
What exactly made you pick it back up again?
I was sure writing was in my rearview mirror. I still had ideas for great stories, but I was no longer motivated to put pen to paper. Years had passed. Then, one night at around 2 a.m., an idea hit me. I started thinking about witches. Imagine if they used their powers to put on a magic show. Most people wouldn’t know the difference; the audience would just see it as amazing magic. For the witches, it would be a perfect way to hide in plain sight, because they could practice their powers without being discovered or persecuted.
I figured these witches would end up in Las Vegas because that’s the magic capital of the world. They’d amaze their audience. Plus, they wouldn’t incur the cost of the typical magic show since they’re using their powers to create the performance. But how would this affect the rest of the Las Vegas magic community? They’d never be able to keep up; what would happen to them?
Over the next few nights, the characters popped into my head as if they were speaking to me from another reality, telling me their stories. I started asking my characters questions, like why they’re doing the show, what are their motivations? I asked them about their lives… and they answered all my questions. They spoke, and I wrote it all down.
So, is “The Witches of Vegas” a fictional story I wrote? Or is it a true story from another reality where they are telling me about their adventures so I can share them with our world? Either way, I’ve written a new story, in a new genre, and for a new audience. It’s not a continuation of my writing career. In a way, I restarted and became an author all over again. That’s why I call myself a “born again writer”.
Where does being a magician fall into this life story? Hobby or career goal?
I studied magic since high school, performed on stage during my college years, and spent years performing at birthday parties and events. Although I don’t perform professionally anymore, I teach my students magic and have them display those skills on stage as part of our performing arts program.
In “The Witches of Vegas”, the witches are using their supernatural power to create their stage effects. However, the magicians in the book are written based on my experience. Readers will get an insight behind the scenes of professional magic. Then, these two worlds collide…
Now that "The Witches of Vegas" have received such high honors, what are your future plans?
A sequel to “The Witches of Vegas”, titled “Journey To New Salem”, was just released. Isis Rivera, Zack Galloway, and the witches return, but their lives will never be the same again. In “The Witches of Vegas”, we learned that the coven hadn’t met any other witches or vampires aside from the evil Valeria. In “Journey To New Salem”, that will change in dramatic fashion. 
I am also working on my next project as we speak. I always promised myself that I would write a time travel story, but only if I could come up with a unique idea that has never been done before. That idea will be the premise of the third Witches of Vegas story.