Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Please Welcome Mark Rubinstein, Author of Mad Dog House

Omnimystery News: Guest Author Post
by Mark Rubinstein

We are delighted to welcome novelist Mark Rubinstein as our guest.

Mark's debut novel is the psychological thriller Mad Dog House (Thunder Lake Press, October 2012 trade paperback).

Today Mark tells us about story ideas. And he is giving two of our readers a chance to win a copy of his book; details below.

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Readers often ask how an idea for a novel comes to an author. It's a very strange — almost dreamlike — process for me. I've found it to be this way not only for Mad Dog House but also for the three other novels I've written that will be published over the next several years.

Mark Rubinstein
Photo provided courtesy of
Mark Rubinstein

It's as though my mind went through some semiconscious period where things from the past and present coalesced and began building on themselves. In all honesty, once the story was on paper, I was unable to precisely reconstruct its genesis in my own mind. It seemed very curious, almost the way you feel when you wake up some mornings knowing you've dreamed, but the dream dissolves before you're completely resurrected from a sleeping state.

This much I can say: my novel begins with a scene in a classroom in which the class bully (named "Cootie") is "finger-snapping" the ear of the boy in front of him (my protagonist). So how did this become the start of a novel?

When I was in the seventh grade, there was a kid in the class nicknamed "Cootie." He was a good kid and the class clown, unlike the Cootie in the novel. It was a strange nickname, and through all these years, the moniker has somehow stuck with me. Many years later, while at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, tending to paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division, I worked with another medical corpsman whose laugh sounded like a hyena's howl or the wailing of an insane dog. We jokingly nicknamed him "Mad Dog." His name also stuck with me, and I often think of him.

So these two very disparate elements wove their ways onto the first page (actually, into the first line) of my novel.

As for the classroom scene, I recall something with great vividness. As a high school freshman, I sat in front of some wise guy who constantly finger-snapped my right ear. At the end of the period, the ear felt like a hot coal. It was, to say the least, annoying. At thirteen years old, I weighed a prodigious 105 pounds, and this bullying kid was far bigger. And very intimidating. I sat there day after day, feeling helpless and humiliated by the enforced passivity of the situation.

One day, after the third or fourth finger-snap of the day, I turned back to the bully and looked him dead in the eye. I was smoldering with rage, so much so that I was virtually fuming. Not thinking, I challenged him to a fight behind the candy store near the school. The guy looked at me, and for a moment, I thought I detected a hint of fear in his eyes. Then he laughed. But somehow, my own animal instinct kicked in, and I could almost smell his fear. He'd never expected so brazen a challenge from such a skinny kid.

When class ended, we walked outside and headed for the candy store. In an empty lot, out of view of the school, we went at it. Long story short: I beat the hell out of him.

That incident sparked the first sentence of Mad Dog House: "When he was twelve years old Mad Dog ripped off Cootie Weiss's ear."

Suffice it to say fist-fighting was a way of life in the neighborhood in which I grew up. I eventually got a degree in business, served in the army, learned plenty about acute medical care and guns, became a physician and then a psychiatrist, and now practice adult and forensic psychiatry. I've always loved and had an interest in restaurants but, wisely, never owned one. However, I never willfully tried to get all these different elements from my life (past and present) to come together, reconfigure them, and eventually coalesce them into part of the plotline of Mad Dog House.

It was a matter of letting one "what if" play off another, and the process of storytelling took over. One thing morphed into another, and the plot began taking unforeseen turns. By the time I got to page 150, I had to go back and change page 35 to make them consistent. Finally, it all turned out to be the novel as it now exists. And I simply cannot recall exactly how I put everything together.

When I look back on the genesis of the novel, it seems clear that on some very basic level, bits and pieces of my own past, my strivings, my knowledge base, my fears, my wishes, and my inner emotional landscape all merged into the narrative. It all came together and told a story — a crime-thriller that seemed somehow to have leaped from my brain and its imaginings.

It's all pure fiction, of course.

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Mark Rubinstein is a physician, a psychiatrist, and assistant professor of psychiatry at Cornell University. In addition to running his private practice he developed an interest in forensic psychiatry because the drama and conflict of the cases and courtrooms tapped into his personality style.

Before turning to fiction, he co-authored five medical self-help books.

Rubinstein lives in Connecticut with his wife and as many dogs as she will allow in the house. He still practices psychiatry and is busily writing more novels.

You can learn more about the author and his new book on Mark's Facebook page.

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Mad Dog House by Mark Rubinstein

Mad Dog House
Mark Rubinstein

Roddy Dolan, a successful suburban surgeon, long ago left behind his past — one that nearly landed him in jail at 17. When he's approached by an old friend about becoming a silent partner in a Manhattan steakhouse, he's understandably wary. So he consults with his lifelong blood brother, Danny Burns.

Danny's convinced this "vanity project" is the perfect trophy to illustrate how far they've traveled. Certain he's buried his checkered past, Roddy joins in this venture with serious reservations. Danny is quickly sucked into the high-energy glitz of the restaurant, but Roddy is suspicious.

Amidst the glitter of New York's nightlife, amongst Mafia honchos and Russian thugs, events spin out of control and the lives Roddy and Danny knew are over. Hidden shady dealings drag them and their families into life-threatening terrain. Struggling with a monster he thought he'd buried, Roddy must make momentous choices, and none are good. But he has a daring plan …

Amazon.com Print and/or Kindle Edition  Barnes&Noble Print Edition and/or Nook Book  Indie Bound: Independent Bookstores

For a chance to win a copy of Mad Dog House, courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Mark Rubinstein: Mad Dog House" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code — 3017 — for a chance to win! (One entry per person; US residents only. Contest ends October 30th, 2012.)

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