Friday, September 20, 2013

A Conversation with Suspense Novelist Mark Rubinstein

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Mark Rubinstein
with Mark Rubinstein

We are delighted to welcome back suspense novelist Mark Rubinstein to Omnimystery News. Mark first visited with us last year after his debut novel, Mad Dog House, was published.

His second book, Love Gone Mad (Thunder Lake Press; September 2013 trade paperback and ebook formats) has just been published and we had a chance to talk with him about his work.

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Omnimystery News: The word "mad" appears in both your books, suggesting they might be part of a series, but both are actually stand-alone novels.

Mark Rubinstein
Photo provided courtesy of
Mark Rubinstein

Mark Rubinstein: That's right, both are stand-alone crime/thriller novels, although I'm currently working on Mad Dog Justice which is a sequel to my first novel, Mad Dog House. My second novel, Love Gone Mad is a stand-alone. When I wrote Mad Dog House I intended it to be a stand-alone, but so many people, when reviewing the novel, asked for a sequel, pointing out there was "unfinished business" at the end of the novel. I prefer stand-alone novels since with each one, not only must the situation and conflict be completely new, but I must create new characters. While it can be a challenge to come up with completely new characters, it forces me to keep things fresh and exciting. One of the pitfalls I've encountered in reading series with a recurring character or set of characters, is that in some instances, the characters grow stale. I don't want that to happen to either the people who populate my stories or the stories themselves. Creating new plotlines/situations and "finding" completely new people to live the stories forces me to stretch my imagination and keep things as fresh and exciting as possible.

OMN: You called the books "crime/thriller novels". Can you expand on that for us?

MR: If I had to categorize my novels, I would say they're psychological/suspense, thrillers where ordinary people are faced with life-and-death situations over which they have little or no control. I hope there's some element of cross-over to them because I write in what some people would call a "literary" style. But for the most part, the novels are page-turners with depth. There's the story and the inevitable question, "What happens next?" along with deeper themes underlying the story, all of which I try to convey with some elements of lyricism.

OMN: Tell us something about Love Gone Mad that isn't mentioned in the synopsis.

MR: Love Gone Mad, aside from what's mentioned in the publisher's synopsis, deals with the issue of the fine love between obsessive and all-consuming love and madness. It depicts, among other things, the evolution of deep and abiding love into jealously, hatred and the potential for insanity. It also deals with issues in today's legal system in defining what constitutes a viable psychological defense in the face of murder charges, and how courts and the mental health professions must struggle with these problems. It's a story with forceful narrative drive that also deals with topical issues of the day (think of Jodi Arias, among other prominent headline stories).

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experiences are included in the books?

MR: Fortunately, none of my own personal experiences are depicted in my novels (I might not be here if that was the situation). However, bits and pieces of my life and the lives of others, as well as fragments of my own experiences are expanded upon in the novels. Actually, anything I write is an amalgam of small bits of myself; pieces of people I've known; fragments of experiences I or others have had; as well as a healthy dollop of fantasy and imagination. I've discovered when writing fiction, that real-life events can rarely be topped when it comes to shock value. Life can truly be stranger than fiction.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author?

MR: The best advice I've ever received as an author is to write, write and keep writing, no matter what. That, along with the advice to read other writers, as been most valuable to me. As for harsh criticism, I've never received harsh criticism. That which I have received as generally been heartfelt and helpful to me as a writer. One thing about harsh reviews: I've learned that some people review novels with some sort of strange agenda in mind, either willfully or otherwise. I received a one-star review from a reader on Amazon who said, "I knew on page 1 that this was not my kind of book so I put it aside." Yet, without having read Mad Dog House this person proceeded to give it a one-star review. You have to learn to take these kinds of things in stride if you're going to be a writer and put your work out there for the public.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a thriller writer because …".

MR: I am a thriller writer because … I'm a person who feels things strongly, am, to say the least, pretty emotional, and I adhere to the principle that above all, we all want to be told a story and learn what happens next. It's a residue from each of our childhoods.

OMN: Tell us something about your writing process.

MR: My writing process can vary greatly. I may start with an outline, but a novel is an organic thing … it can grow, morph and take me down a very different path than the one I started on when I began a story. I may deviate from the outline (which is fairly sparse to begin with) so that by page 100 I must change the first 50-60 pages. Or I may have to change the ending I thought I had in mind. I sometimes know exactly where I want to go with the story, but have no idea how I'll get there. Or, conversely, I may be taking one step at a time on the story's journey, but have no idea where it will all end up. It can be a bit anxiety-provoking, but when you come right down to it, it's a journey … therefore, it's an adventure.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your books?

MR: Most research I end up doing is done online. I do try to write about what I know and hence, don't have to do a great deal of research. Then again, what do I know? Psychiatry; psychology; the army medicine; college and medical school; and a fair amount about being in business. But that's not enough. I also know (as do we all) about love; happiness; fear; anxiety; greed; envy; sex; disappointment; and a host of other issues we all deal with during the course of living life. As for exciting topics I've researched: the Russian mob, known as the Bratva; the mafia; restaurants and how they operate; guns, ammo, and other somewhat unsavory topics.

OMN: How true are you to the settings in the books?

MR: My novels are usually set in real places and I try to be faithful to those places in describing them. I do take occasional liberties with them and add whatever touches I need to create more tension and drama.

OMN: Did you come up with the idea for the rather ominous book cover of Love Gone Mad?

MR: A book cover can make or break a book when it comes to sales. I try to have an artist come up with a cover that in some way synopsizes some basic element of the story and conveys a sense of danger, the unknown, or some element of fear/suspense. As for a title, it can come out of the blue. On my web site, I describe in detail how the title Mad Dog House came into being.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

MR: I think every genre of book I read as a child, as a pre-teen and as a young adult (and beyond) has contributed to and influenced my writing. I think my writing is a synthesis — or if you will, a final common pathway — of things I've read, heard, seen, learned, thought and felt throughout my life. Some of my favorite authors over the years have been Edgar Rice Burroughs; Poe; Hemingway; Philip Roth; James Hynes; Jack London; and a bunch of others to numerous to name.

OMN: And what do you read today?

MR: For pleasure, I read suspense, thrillers, mysteries and various literary novels. I've particularly enjoyed novels by Ian McEwan, Benjamin Black, Philip Roth, Don Winslow, Barry Eisler, George Pellacanos, and many other.

OMN: What kinds of films do you enjoy watching?

MR: I'm a great lover of film … of almost any genre movie. Some of my favorites over the years have been The Godfather; Fatal Attraction; When Harry Met Sally; the early James Bond films; Deliverance; Blade Runner, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and many, many more.

OMN: Suppose your books are optioned for film and the producers ask your opinion on casting. What would tell them?

MR: In Mad Dog House I see Roddy Dolan being played by Clive Owen. I see Kenny Egan played by Adrien Brody and Danny Burns by John C. Reilly.

In Love Gone Mad I could see George Clooney playing Dr. Adrian Douglas (or any other good-looking, strong-featured actor like John Hamm or others; not someone who has a "pretty" look). Megan Haggarty could be played by a red-haired Kate Blanchette.

OMN: What kind of feedback have you received from your readers?

MR: I enjoy any kind of positive feedback from readers, whether it's about the style of writing, the plot structure, the dialogue … whatever. When I get negative feedback, I appreciate that which is constructive and not mean-spirited. I've learned from both kinds of feedback and consequently, am a better writer because of them.

OMN: You mentioned you're writing a sequel to Mad Dog House. What else are you working on?

MR: In addition to Mad Dog Justice I'm working on Assassin's Lullaby. As for non-writing, what's next is just being with my wife, playing with the dogs, walking through the hills near our home (with the dogs, of course), being with family and friends, and always trying to feel there are good and worthwhile tomorrows ahead of us.

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Mark Rubinstein was born in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from New York University with a degree in business administration, and then served in the army and ended up as a field medic tending to paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was so taken with these experiences that after his discharge, he re-entered NYU as a premed student. He entered medical school at the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center. As a medical student, he developed an interest in psychiatry, discovering in that specialty the same thing he realized in reading fiction: every patient has a compelling story to tell. He became a board-certified psychiatrist practicing in New York City.

Before turning to fiction, Rubinstein coauthored five medical self-help books. He 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. For more information about the author and his work, please visit his website at or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Love Gone Mad by Mark Rubinstein

Love Gone Mad
Mark Rubinstein
A Novel of Suspense

When heart surgeon Adrian Douglas and Megan Haggarty, RN, meet at the hospital where they work, neither has any idea of the scorpion's nest into which they've stumbled. Strange and frightening events begin happening to each of them; someone is after them both — and the stalker not only is brilliant and crafty but vows to exact revenge for the ultimate betrayal.

As things spin out of control, Megan and Adrian fight for their lives. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)


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