Book Nerd Interview
Mark Svartz is a freelance Creative Director/Copywriter, author and artist who sometimes writes in the third person. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he got his B.A. at Brooklyn College, his M.S. at the VCU Adcenter and his first taste of improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.
Before joining the freelance world in late 2011, Mark spent three years as an Associate Creative Director at BBH-NY, creating award-winning work for such accounts as: Google, Sprite, Axe, Virgin Mobile and NYC & Co. Prior to that, from 2002-2008, he did notable work at Ogilvy & Mather-NY for accounts including: Yahoo!, IBM, the Mets and SportsNet NY.
In 2011, Mark sold his first novel, entitled I HATE YOU, KELLY DONAHUE. A fictional journal that he both wrote and illustrated, it is about a 20-something guy who meets a girl on the first day of his new job and, for no apparent reason, immediately decides that he must defeat her in a fight to the death. It was released by Adams Media in January 2012.
Mark’s work has been recognized by Cannes, The One Show, Communication Arts, D&AD, Clio Awards, London International Advertising Awards, National Addys, Radio-Mercury Awards, Webby Awards, Effie Awards, Athena Awards, Obie Awards, Adweek’s Best Spots and TBS’s America’s Funniest Commercials.
In his spare time, Mark is allergic to penicillin.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Like all kids, I went through different phases of what I wanted to do when I grew up. Everything from architect to lawyer to Ghostbuster. But when I wasn’t focusing on career ambitions, I was writing and illustrating stories from the time I could pick up a crayon, so I’m glad that path worked out. Ghostbusting is a hard gig to get.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Readers would be surprised to find out that I’m allergic to penicillin. Because I don’t wear the bracelet.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
The greatest thing I learned at school was to work hard and be nice. It’s pretty simple, but it goes a long way. Years later I discovered the same thing on a poster and felt really sad that I’m still paying back student loans.
What made you take the plunge and start writing?
Starting writing wasn’t much of a plunge. I’ve always been writing and drawing to some extent, whether it was weird and immature stories when I was a kid to TV commercials when I worked in advertising and now back to weird and immature stories.
For those who are unfamiliar with your novel; I Hate You, Kelly Donahue, how would you introduce it?
I Hate You, Kelly Donahue is the fictional journal of a 20-something guy who starts a new job, meets a girl on the first day, and immediately decides that he must defeat her in a fight to the death.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
You should read this book because it’s weird and dark and it’ll make you smile and feel all tingly and scratchy inside like your organs are covered in wool mittens so you just wanna huddle up in front of a bonfire with some good friends and some fun strangers you just met but one of them knows your friend Jared from Minneapolis through some bike club so he seems alright and anyways he brought Cool Ranch Doritos so that’s pretty badass… what was the question?
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
I feel like I had to tell this story because it’s something I would’ve wanted to read if someone else wrote it. But no one else did write it, so I had to step up to the plate. It’s kinda like how back in the day everyone knew that things didn’t just float up into the air, but no one bothered discovering gravity ‘til Isaac Newton did. I’m pulling a Newton.
Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
I guess my favorite character in the book is the journal’s creator. I like the fact that he can be perceived in so many different ways. Maybe he’s just your classic nutbar. Or maybe he’s a shy romantic who simply doesn’t know how to get the attention of a girl he likes. I feel that everyone can relate to him to some degree, whether you’re Kanye or Gandhi.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Right now I’m doing a lot of freelance humor writing for different magazines and websites, as well as working on a second book. It’s super duper top secret, but what I can reveal is that it’s another comedy, it doesn’t involve Kelly Donahue, and at least one entire chapter was written in the nude while listening to Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” on repeat.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
If I came to your house and looked in your closet/attic/basement, what’s the one thing that would surprise me the most?
A portal to a fourth dimension world full of futuristic panda-mime hybrids called Pandamimes. That would surprise the both of us.
Who was your first girlfriend?
Hard to say who my first “girlfriend” was. Are we talking first kiss? First boob touch? First consensual boob touch? To be safe, let’s just go with Cheetara from the Thundercats, only because she was there during the good times and bad.
What is your most memorable travel experience?
My most memorable travel experience… well, I’ve been to some amazing places around the world. That’s one of the perks of working in advertising. But one of the most memorable experiences was flying out to San Francisco the day before Halloween several years ago and trying to bring my costume—a life-size cardboard cutout of myself—onto the flight as a carry-on. For some reason, flight attendants are weird about that kinda stuff.
What’s the worst job you’ve had?
My worst job was working as a busboy in a kosher deli in Brooklyn, with my primary task being making old dessert look “fresh” via plenty of hand-sculpting and powdered sugar.
What do you normally eat for breakfast?
Breakfast is my favorite type of food. Love diners and coffee shops. I’m one of those breakfast-for-dinner kinda guys. But lately I’ve just been sticking to coffee in the mornings. However if I do want an early bite, usually an egg sammich or bagel with lox and cream cheese.
What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
I guess I was pretty scared the first night I moved into my apartment in the LES in Manhattan. It always takes me a while to get used to a new place, whether it’s a hotel room or prison cell. (I’ve never been to prison, but I’m guessing it would take some getting used to.) My apartment was on the ground floor, so there’s constantly the sound of strange people walking and talking outside my door. But the first night I heard my doorknob rattle at 3AM and someone was trying to shove a key or other metal object into my lock. I did the classic sitcom thing of grabbing a frying pan and waiting for him to enter, but turns out it was just my drunk neighbor who forgot which door was his. I’m also scared of spiders.
Where can readers stalk you?
Readers can stalk me on Twitter @octopony, or follow my Kelly Donahue facebook page at facebook.com/ihateyoukellydonahue.
As a little kid, a boy would pinch the girl he liked. As a grown-up, Mark Svartz plans her ultimate demise through a number of twisted murder plots that involve lead pipes, escape routes, and David Hasselhoff. Some guys never grow up.
This book chronicles the eight months, sixteen days, and some-odd hours since Mark first laid eyes on the despicable, wretched wench he's destined to fight to the death. Every note, thought, IM, email, Post-It, and craigslist ad looking for a crime-scene clean-up is meticulously catalogued in Mark's journal.
Is it a diary of a mad man? Or a man madly in love? Who cares? It's seriously messed up. And seriously funny.
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