Thursday, June 23, 2022

Mark Rubinstein Interview - Assassin's Lullaby

Photo Content from Mark Rubinstein

Mark Rubinstein is the author of Assassin's Lullaby. Rubinstein, a novelist, physician, and psychiatrist, has written eight nonfiction books, including The Storytellers. He has also written eight novels and novellas, including the Mad Dog trilogy and The Lovers’ Tango. He lives in Wilton, Connecticut.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I always loved reading and felt I had an ability to write and tell stories. The notion of being creative wasn’t a sudden realization; rather, it was something I felt even as a youngster. However, life being what it is, other pressures and obligations prevailed and I deferred writing fiction for a number of years.

As a psychiatric resident, some of those creative urges found expression when I had to present case histories in seminars and at Grand Rounds. I realized that subliminally, my chosen specialty, psychiatry, involved people telling me stories and revealing the most intimate aspects of their lives. I think the dream/need to create fiction evolved slowly over the course of many years, though a significant element of that need was always lurking just beneath the surface.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
My favorite mystery-suspense/thriller is Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. The characters in the novel are uniquely alive and compelling and in reading many of the passages, I’ve felt I was actually immersed in the setting, feeling, seeing, thinking and sensing what the characters do. It’s a character-driven novel of immense power.

My favorite book outside the suspense/thriller genre is American Pastoral by Philip Roth. Again, the characters are so vital and real and the conflicts depicted by Roth are rendered so authentically and with so much power. And the prose is absolutely beautiful.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’ve had many rewarding experiences since having been published. There’s nothing like holding the finished novel in your hand and realizing that it came from within yourself.

I’ve been consistently rewarded when giving talks at libraries and being asked questions by interested readers. Perhaps, oddly, one of the most rewarding questions I’ve ever been asked has been, “Have you ever killed anyone?” I’ve been asked that question on a number of occasions; I find it rewarding because it speaks to the authenticity of my action scenes in the various thrillers I’ve written. For someone to actually contemplate that I have personally killed anyone is both horrifying and gratifying and is a reminder of the power of fiction to impact people profoundly.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is important to us because it’s been a primary and persistent form of communication since the days people lived in caves. It’s a primal way of sharing experiences and of tapping into our human commonalities.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
When I began writing ASSASSIN’S LULLABY, I had a somewhat vague notion about each character’s qualities. As the novel progressed, it was surprising (even astounding) to me how the characters began evolving as though they themselves were constructing the story. I found that by the time I got to, let’s say, page 100, I had to alter what I’d written on page 35 because the character had morphed so that what was written on the earlier page was no longer applicable or relevant to that person. In a sense, the characters “took over” and dictated the arc of the novel.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from ASSASSIN'S LULLABY
A scene from ASSASSIN’S LULLABY I particularly like is when the protagonist, Eli Dagan, meets the leader of the Odessa mafia, Anton Gorlov, in Grand Central Terminal to discuss two jobs Gorlov wants Eli to take on. The ambience of the terminal, the threat of the unknown (because Eli has never met face-to-face with a client; rather, he’s been a “ghost”) and the incredibly dangerous job Gorlov has outlined for Eli make the scene a tense one.

Something Gorlov says, when he’s threatened with death: “No one gets out of this life alive” is one of many lines I enjoyed writing and seemed to come out of nowhere.

  • A successful contract killer never meets directly with a client. Arrangements are made via secure websites on the Dark Web.
  • Bootlegged vodka is shipped in large containers and is dyed blue so it looks like car window washer fluid. I never knew this until I did some research on the Russian mafia's activities.
  • The Russian mafia (known as the Bratva or ROC, Russian Organized Crime) is now far more powerful than the Italian or Albanian mafias and engages in gasoline tax fraud, Medicaid fraud, human trafficking, prostitution, protection rackets, arms smuggling, and other activities that make it the most potent and dangerous (worldwide) crime organization in the world.
  • Cryptocurrency is the new medium for laundering money into offshore bank accounts in Belize and other locales.
  • Brighton Beach, Brooklyn (known as Little Odessa by the Sea) is the home of the Odessa mafia in New York. As such, the Brighton Beach neighborhood is absolutely free of street crime.
  • ASSASSIN’S LULLABY is a story told in the present tense which lends it an immediacy that’s immersive for the reader. You are actually experiencing the dialogue and action at the same time the characters are. Each development in the plotline is happening in the moment.
  • Eli Dagan, the protagonist of ASSASSIN’S LULLABY, is a former Mossad field agent who is now a freelance contract killer and is struggling with guilt and grief because of a tragic past.
Meet the Characters
Eli Dagan, a man who projects both lethality and soulfulness. He is 39 years old, athletic-looking, an expert in Krav Maga (an Israeli martial art) who changes his residence every 6 months. He feels untethered in the world and yearns for some connection to someone; has a photographic memory and is skilled not only in assassination by various methods, but has an IT background and uses certain “helpers” as described in the novel to accomplish his tasks. His backstory is tragic and over the course of the novel, the reader will learn how and why he became what he is today.

Anton Gorlov, a 60 year old, 270 pound man who was born and lived the first 17 years of his life in Odessa, Ukraine, came to the U.S. and rose through the ranks of the Bratva (Brotherhood) to become a pakhan (Big Boss) in the Odessa mafia. He has a tragic background and despite this criminal life, is a man with a sensitive soul with certain core traits that make him a sympathetic character.

Your Journey to Publication
I was first published by having written non-fiction, medical self-help books. In the last 10 years, I’ve written fiction. It was an interesting and exciting transition. The only difficulty I had was in getting an agent since essentially, publishing is a rejection business. Eventually, I was lucky enough to find an agent willing to represent me. I would say the greatest trial for me was getting that agent. The rest was easy. Friends and family have always been supportive. In fact, I’ve credited my wife with having rescued every novel I’ve ever written.

Writing Behind the Scenes
I could go on forever about my writing process and quirks. I’ll summarize them as follows:

Best time to write: early in the morning for about three or four hours. Perhaps another half-hour in the mid-afternoon.
Place: in the den with my dog at my side and at least three cups of coffee at the ready. The dog and the coffee are absolute must-haves.
Writing material and device: a desktop computer.
Process: write, rewrite, refurbish, rewrite, hone and tone, rewrite, and then do it all again until it’s in the shape I think it should be.

Listen to music when I write? No. It’s distracting. Even soft, easy non-vocal jazz can interrupt my thinking.
Best way to come up with ideas: long walks with my dog(s)
Best person to bounce ideas off: my wife.
Reaction to a bad review: that’s life.
Reaction to a good review: gratitude.
Chair: not too comfortable or I'll doze off.

In every life, there lurks catastrophe. So believes Eli Dagan, a thirty-nine-year-old man whose traumatic past led to his service as an assassin for the Mossad. He now lives in New York City, where under various assumed names he’s a contract killer. Anton Gorlov, the head of the Brooklyn-based Odessa mafia, has a new and challenging assignment for Eli. Gorlov wants to leave the country permanently, so all loose ends must be eliminated. He’s willing to pay $1 million for a task divided into two parts. The job involves extreme measures along with unprecedented danger for Eli, who has lived a ghostly existence over the last ten years. Is accepting Gorlov’s offer a subliminal death wish? Or is it a way to reclaim part of his damaged soul? For the first time since his pregnant wife and parents were killed by a suicide bomber years earlier, Eli Dagan faces challenges that will reconnect him with his blighted past and may yet offer hope for a new and better life.
You can purchase Assassin's Lullaby at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MARK RUBINSTEIN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Assassin's Lullaby by Mark Rubinstein.


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