Interview with Mark McCullough, author of 'Vienna's Will'

Mark McCullough is the author of the true story, VIENNA’S WILL. He began writing his story over twenty years ago and was encouraged by family and friends to complete the book. “Since its release, I have bonded with others who have had similar experiences and have found that the concept of perhaps helping someone else is not only an amazing feeling, it has helped with my own growth and understanding of what is truly important as well.”

Mark worked in the pool and spa industry for eighteen years then turned to his true passion of helping others. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys spending time with his dog and going to the movies or the local pizza joint with his daughter, Vienna.

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Can you tell us what your book is about?

VIENNA’S WILL tells a story about a man forced to face his own personal demons. Through the love of a child, he faces issues and events from his past that he thought would stay hidden away forever. A good portion of the story was written while the main character is locked up in the seclusion
ward in a federal prison. The book covers subjects that can be uncomfortable to speak about at times, issues like depression, addiction and even the ultimate choice of considering taking ones’ own life are discussed but without opening up about these topics, they will never lose the stigma attached to them.

Why did you write your book?

I got very ill a few years ago and felt I needed to share some of the past I had guarded so passionately from my family for almost 40 years.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

 In the case of VIENNA’S WILL, it was all about real people because it’s a memoir. My second book, which is purely fictional came mostly from my imagination.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

I’m very conscious of it. I think laying everything out even if it’s a memoir is extremely important. If you don’t plot out where everything is headed, you are going to get stuck somewhere in the process. That doesn’t mean you won’t discover something new along the way, but you need to have some type of ‘blueprint’ to be successful.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

For sure. A good portion of it takes place in prison so bringing the reader there and describing the environment I found to be very important.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

The main character, Mark, is 20 years old at that time, and away at college. He is waiting on line in the cafeteria when he is confronted by a man who terrifies him and who feels Mark betrayed him.

Is it hard to get a memoir book published?

With the growth of self-publishing, it’s not hard to get published, but it can be difficult and frustrating at times to get noticed.

Is it hard to promote a memoir book and where do you start?

It is hard to promote a memoir. Everyone has their own unique story to tell and with the ease of self-publishing they are doing it. Really though, I think it’s hard in general especially if you are doing it on your own. The best way to start is social media and trying to build some type of foundation with potential readers.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I really haven’t yet. I try to do as much outlining and preparation as I can so that the actual writing process is the easy part.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

My wife probably wouldn’t like this answer, but I would play an extra few holes of golf.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

Without question, it would be Thanksgiving. The memories from childhood seeing my mother and sisters up early cooking and getting ready for the days’ festivities never ceases to bring a smile to my face.

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

I would probably grab a couple sandwiches and head to the beach.

What do you like to do for fun?

A fun day for me typically involves our dogs and a park near our house.

Can you tell us about your family?

Just an amazing group of people. I am the youngest of five and feel very blessed to have them for siblings. I am also married with one daughter. Her name is Vienna and she was the inspiration to write the book.

What do you like the most about being an author?

The creativity. I am a terrible artist, I can’t sing or draw at all, so this is my only way to express that side of myself.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

When he or she decides they are actually going to follow through. No more thinking about it or kicking it around, when they just go ahead and say, “I am a writer.”

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

To keep at it. Actually sitting down and finishing a whole book can seem like such an impossible goal to reach at times, but it is so worth the positive mental and emotional state of mind it brings. Also, just try to break it down if it seems like too big of a task. Pick a number of pages or chapters you want to finish in a week or a month and make it an attainable number. You should be doing it for the enjoyment of it, so why put unreachable timeframes on it? Slowly pick away at it, and before you know it, you’ll have a finished book.