It’s time for another debut author interview. I love interviewing debut authors, because they gives writers a chance to see what worked for successful writers, so they can put some of those tactics to use themselves. This interview is with Mark Perinii, co-author of the YA novel HALFWAY PERFECT with Julie Cross (May 2015, Sourcebooks Fire).
Mark Perini began his career as an international fashion model ten years ago, while simultaneously obtaining a business degree from Seton Hall University. Turns out fashion’s hurry-up-and-wait mentality lends itself quite well to writing. Mark is now a New York City based author, and HALFWAY PERFECT is his first young adult novel. He is also a featured author in the New Adult anthology, FIFTY FIRST TIMES.
Please describe what the story/book is about in one sentence.
HALFWAY PERFECT is a poignant and gritty YA novel about love and the dark side of modeling and the fashion industry.
Where do you write from?
I currently reside in the Gramercy neighborhood of Manhattan; however I travel a ton (it’s my passion) so I do a lot of writing on the go, wherever I feel most inspired.
Briefly, what led up to this book? What were you writing (and getting published, if applicable) before breaking out with this book?
I’ve been modeling for 10+ years, through out this time I have appeared on quite a few YA book covers. One such cover was Tempest written by Julie Cross.
To my surprise, shortly after the shoot I got a friend request from Julie Cross. I was excited to be contacted by an author whose writing I admired and enjoyed so much. We talked about how surreal it was that so many of my own qualities aligned with Jackson’s (her main character in Tempest) and we found ourselves bonding through out our communications.
After a few more witty back and forth emails, we realized that we had very similar literary interests and overall views on life. When Julie asked me to write my first piece—a post on her popular blog talking about the modeling world, I had no reservations. There was so much hype around the posts we decided that there was a huge interest in what goes on in the mysterious world of fashion. The rest is history.
What was the time frame for writing this book? Tell us an interesting detail or two, if applicable. For example, did you finish first draft after one week? Or did you pick it up after 20 years and finally rewrite it?
Julie and I wrote the book in 6 months. It just seemed to flow out of us. We would each write a chapter or two then send it to the other for edits and continued onward in that fashion (no pun intended.) During that time I wrote in Milan (for fashion week), Miami, New Orleans, NYC, and Hong Kong (for work). The stories were actively being influenced by my experiences modeling and growing in these countries. I think writing abroad in new and unknown places really added to the vulnerability and honesty of the story. Despite the glitz and glam associated with the industry, modeling can be very isolating.
How did you find your agent (and who is your agent)? (If you do not have an agent, tell us how the deal came about sans agent.)
Once we finished writing HALFWAY PERFECT, Julie mentioned that I should have a literary agent prior to selling the manuscript. She’s been such a guiding light through out this entire process.
After our chat I did what most people do and I Google’d “Best literary agents.” The lists were varied and exhausting, but as I dove deeper and deeper into my research I realized everyone was saying the same thing. Essentially, “find someone that’s a hustler and someone that understands the trends in the industry at large.”
Ironically, this mirrors what you want in a modeling agent as well, so I was able to walk into the process with a pretty good idea of what their energy should feel like!
Soon after, Julie introduced me to Nicole Resciniti at the Seymour Agency. I knew immediately she’d be the perfect publishing partner. Not only was she a shark, she also had her finger on the pulse of everything that was going on in the literary world.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
The number one surprise was how long the publishing process actually takes. We finished the book in 6 months but it took something like two and a half years to see it on the shelves. I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas!
Once the day finally came, I was overjoyed. The moment I walked into Barnes and Nobel in Union Square and saw HALFWAY PERFECT on the shelves is a moment I will treasure forever.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
We wrote the book we set out to write from the beginning. We didn’t have deadlines or critics to worry about; we wrote exactly what we intended, in a completely honest way.
I feel like realism reads, and personally, when I’m reading a book I want to be able to insert myself right into the plot, regardless of whether it is set in an NYC coffee shop or space. HALFWAY PERFECT was our honest telling of a fictional scenario.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I wish I had the courage to write a book sooner! The journey has been so rewarding, I wish earlier versions of myself could have experienced it. Julie gave me the courage to write this book, without her I would have never would have had the gall to do it. I just never felt worthy to the other authors out there.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?
Having developed a network of friends and professionals in the modeling industry over the years, I was confident I had at least some credibility going into it (I’d hope!) This really helped give me some confidence to make that initial push on social media. However, in terms of the literary world I had next to nothing set up. Twitter has been a huge platform for developing a more consistent following/readership.
The Count of Monte Cristo—“I’m a count, not a saint.”
To me, there is nothing better than a good revenge story.
Best piece(s) of writing advice we haven’t discussed?
Stephen King was asked what he thought writing is at its core. His answer in his book On Writing was “Telepathy, of course.” And that really struck a chord with me. When you’re writing, you are essentially communicating your ideas directly into the mind to the readers. So that’s the basis of why I write…because who doesn’t want superpowers? All joking aside, I knew I had a strong message to send and if I could send it “telepathically” or otherwise, it was my duty and privilege to do so.
I’ve never met Julie Cross in person prior to publishing HALFWAY PERFECT. We met for the first time at our launch event in NYC.
I’m writing a speculative YA about a kid named Cole who wakes up from a coma after sustaining a brain injury and subsequently starts to lose touch with reality. He has two lives–the reality and the dream world. He finds the dream world more alluring. Then of course the sequel to HALFWAY PERFECT next summer!