The Next Big Thing is a cool sort of combination of chain letter and a “tag-you’re-it” interview game for writers. Mark was tagged by Sarah Pleydell (see February 12th blog) to interview himself about his most recent book with the following 9 designated questions, post it somewhere on the internet as soon as possible, and then tag five writers for the next week to do the same. Mark’s answers are below.
What is the title/working title of the book?
Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, which is a chapter in the book. The previous working title was “We’ll Always Have Parasites,” but I ran that title by some friends and they thought it made the book sound like something only a gastroenterologist would enjoy.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
My wife and I were the last persons we ever thought would drop out and move to Mexico, especially when we did. We were in our late 50s at the time, did not have much money to back us up, and were not the adventurous types. We were both working in high-tech, for different companies, and coincidently our jobs were going away around the same time. At our age, we felt boxed in—or out. So we sold just about everything, dropped out, and moved to the middle of Mexico. In violation of such mainstream media expectations, we didn’t get car-jacked, kidnapped, mistakenly shot at, or ripped off by a shady contractor hoping to live in Panama on our life savings. We had, however, our share of mishaps, made some dreadful mistakes, got in and out of trouble, and learned a thing or two about life, Mexico, and each other. We also had our hubcaps stolen.
What genre does your book fall under?
Humor. However, parts of it could easily fall under a bus.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Since I’m in the running for Hobbit of the Year, I’d choose Liam Neeson to play my part. I’d like to be tall, even if it’s only on the big screen and for two hours. Arlene, my wife, sees Meryl Streep in her role. But, we disagree. I’m thinking maybe Jen Lawrence because Arlene is pretty handy with a kitchen knife, or perhaps Anne Hathaway, especially if they add a few singing numbers. I envision a Svenska Aeroplan Aktie-Bolaget playing the role of our Audi Quattro. If we can’t find one of those, I’d settle for a SAAB. We’re still negotiating with the dog and cat over their actors.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak is about what happens when an American couple in their late-50s facing the loss of their high-tech jobs, choose to drop out, sell almost everything they own, and move to the middle of Mexico, where they don’t know a soul and can barely speak the language.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I finished writing most of the chapters during the two years we lived in Mexico. After returning to the US, I stopped working on the book. Once we decided to move back to Mexico, I continued working on it, because I felt I had an Act 3.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Funny things happened to us in Mexico almost immediately and I thought I should start writing about our experiences as clueless expats. My first effort was a letter to friends describing the different classes of dogs. That letter became the essay “Yes, We Have No Chihuahuas,” which was published in an anthology about living in San Miguel, and later became a chapter in my book. I continued writing about our adventure. A second essay, “Say, How’s the Foot?” was published in a second San Miguel anthology.
Before I knew it I had an outline for a book, a proposal, and more than twenty chapters completed. An independent publisher, Fuze, offered to publish my manuscript. An amazing editor, Molly Tinsley, took my stand-alone essays and molded them into what I think is an interesting and funny narrative. Ray Rhamey, a talented book designer, understood my comic vision and exceeded my expectations. In short, with help from a lot of people, my humorous memoir, Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, was published.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? When my wife and I lived in Mexico the first time, I created a cartoon panel, “Mas o Menos,” for the local bi-lingual weekly newspaper. Some of the cartoons are included in the book as, dare I say, filler. The book was voted the #2 book in San Miguel for 2012.
Was your book self-published or represented by an agency?
I sent my manuscript to Fuze Publishing, a boutique press committed to the belief that well-crafted storytelling has the power to educate and change. And, much to my delight, they published it. Vaya con nachos!