Interview With Mark Rosendorf
On August 5, The Wild Rose Press published The Witches of Vegas, the first book in an exciting new YA paranormal trilogy by Mark Rosendorf. The concept is brilliant: a group of witches practice magic but avoid detection by working as magicians in Las Vegas. Mark is already hard at work on books two and three but agreed to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat with us.
Welcome, Mark—and congratulations on the publication of The Witches of Vegas! What can you tell us about the book? Where did you get the idea for it? What challenges did you face while writing it?
So, first, allow me introduce myself: My name is Mark Rosendorf and I am a former writer. I say former because after writing The Rasner Effect series, a suspense trilogy for adults, and Status Quo, a science fiction novel, I stopped writing. I felt burned out, plus my life changed. I met a wonderful woman who would later become my wife. As years went by, the books I had written fell further and further behind the times. In my first book, The Rasner Effect, the tech nerd of the story used a blackberry because it was the top piece of technology at the time.
Writing felt like it was a long distance in my rearview mirror, and I was sure I’d never get back to it again. I considered myself officially retired from writing. Sure, I still had ideas for great stories, but I was no longer motivated to put pen to paper. Then, one night at around 2 a.m., a thought hit me. I started thinking about witches. Imagine if they used their powers to put on a magic show. Most people wouldn’t know the difference, they’d just see it as amazing magic. For the witches, it would be a perfect way to hide in plain sight, because they could practice their powers without being discovered or persecuted.
I figured these witches would end up in Las Vegas because that’s the magic capital of the world. They’d amaze their audience. Plus, they wouldn’t incur the cost of the typical magic show because they’re using their powers to create the performance. But, how would this affect the rest of the Las Vegas magic community? They’d never be able to keep up; what would happen to them?
Over the next few nights, the characters popped into my head as if they were speaking to me from another reality, telling me their stories. I started asking my characters questions, like why they’re doing the show, what are their motivations? I asked them about their lives…and they answered all my questions. They spoke and I wrote it all down.
So, is The Witches of Vegas a fictional story I wrote? Or is it a true story from another reality where they are telling me about their adventures so I can share it with the world? Either way, I’m back in the writing business with a new world, a new genre, and for a new audience. That’s why I see myself as a “born again writer.”
This is the first book in a series. How many books will there be in all—and when can we expect the next one?
The sequel to The Witches of Vegas will be ready to hit the stands sooner than expected. The moment The Witches of Vegas was done, the characters told me they had more story to tell. I immediately went to work on the next book, which is now going through the editing process. I have all the details on the third book in my head ready to go as soon as I’m done with the second. The witches, along with their vampire mentor, have lived amazing and dangerous lives. I look forward to sharing it all with the world.
Your previous books haven’t been YA, yet they’ve featured teenage characters. Is there a reason this age group shows up so often in your stories?
I’ve been a high school guidance counselor since September 2001 in New York City’s special needs district (that first week was a heck of a story, as you could probably imagine…but I digress). Some of those special needs includes emotional disturbance, so I’ve been working with troubled teenagers for a long time. Part of the job is getting to know my students intimately to the point where you can see the world through their eyes and then help them see alternate ways of dealing with situations.
Writers tend to write what they know and what they’ve been exposed to. Because of my experience as a guidance counselor, I’ve gotten to know many interesting teens. Some of their personalities have influenced various characters in my work. The Witches of Vegas is no exception. I write the outlook and their viewpoints of Isis Rivera and Zack Galloway based on the experience I’ve gained in understanding the teenage mind. I understand their thinking process, and their deep, dark insecurities. I also see in many the ability to overcome those insecurities.
I can say that The Witches of Vegas covers many areas of experiences throughout my life. During my college years, I was a professional magician. I worked birthdays, bar mitzvahs, and a few clubs. Today, I teach magic to my students and organize shows as part of my school’s performing arts program. My knowledge of magic and what goes on behind the scenes when putting on a stage performance is also prevalent in The Witches of Vegas.
How do the supernatural beings in The Witches of Vegas relate to others from the genre? Do you follow the traditional style of witches and vampires, or do you have a different take?
Without a doubt, The Witches of Vegas has a different take on the witch genre. In this world, witches are people who can connect to the energy that surrounds and controls the world. The energy is in the air, it’s in the ground, it’s in the space around us all the time. It makes up everything.
Some people can tap into it unconsciously, like mothers who find the strength to lift a car off their dying child. Or psychics who have visions of the future that come true. But some people find out that they can tap into it on purpose. With enough practice, they can manipulate the energy. Why them and not others? Because Mother Earth chose to give them this connection…or maybe it’s coincidence. Either way, it is this power that makes them witches.
I also have a unique take on vampires. They don’t turn into bats or get killed by garlic or holy water. They are simply people who died and were reanimated by another vampire. They are the undead, which means they can exist forever. Because of this, their outlook on life is different, they see things on a long-term perspective. While they do have certain abilities in this form, there are also disadvantages to living as a reanimated corpse.
Tell us about your characters in The Witches of Vegas.
The Witches of Vegas is told through the eyes Isis Rivera and Zack Galloway, two fifteen-year-olds. Isis Rivera is the adopted daughter of The Witches of Vegas. She was nine years old when she discovered she had a connection to the Earth’s energy. Her foster family and their neighbors mistook it as a sign she was possessed by the devil. They tortured her, then tried to burn her alive in a misguided attempt to free her soul.
The charismatic leader of the coven, Sebastian Santell, along with his wife and her sister, Selena and Sacha Quinn, rescued Isis just in time and took her in. It was Sebastian’s idea to take their power to Las Vegas and audition as a magic act. They became the number one show in Las Vegas. Isis, meanwhile, as they raised and trained her, finally felt part of a family she could trust with her life. The only problem is she felt so safe with them, she rarely left the theater’s attached resort which was now her home. It left her somewhat sheltered from the real world. When the threat arrives, Isis isn’t mentally ready for it.
Zack Galloway is our other “reluctant hero.” His parents were killed in a car crash when he was six. He has been raised by his uncle, Herb Galloway, since then. Herb, one of the prominent magicians on the strip, trained Zack in the art of magic and made him part of his show. Although Zack was practically invisible in school, while on stage he was coolest kid in the room.
“The Amazing Herb Galloway show” had a huge following, selling out every night…until The Witches of Vegas came to town. The struggle to compete drained their funds over the years. Now, barely able to get an audience, Herb and Zack are one near-empty auditorium away from losing their theater and their home. Zack owes his uncle everything. He would do anything necessary to keep the man who raised him from joining the Las Vegas homeless.
Neither Isis nor Zack are the villains in this story…the villain is coming. They’ll need to bring their families together if they hope to survive. In fact, it may already be too late.
You left one character out. Tell me about the vampire in your story.
Sure. Luther is a five-hundred-year-old vampire and the mentor of The Witches of Vegas. He has trained generations of witches to prepare them for a threat that could destroy the world. So far, the witches he has trained have come and gone but the threat never surfaced. Isis and The Witches of Vegas will not be so lucky.
Luther is one of the good guys in this story. His training of witches throughout the centuries was genuine, even if he never did tell any of them who or what that threat is. That’s because, even though he’s on the side of good, he’s still a bit of a jerk.
Now let’s learn about you. How old were you when you wrote your first story?
I would say my first story was written in the seventh grade. My social studies teacher gave us an assignment to interview a grandparent and then write up their story. Unfortunately, my grandparents had a 1960s sitcom ability to turn every single topic into an argument…and they both hit below the belt. The fact that they were married for 70 years is perhaps the eighth wonder of the world. I did take a shot at the assignment; I asked my grandfather to tell me about his life growing up during the depression. He told me about the girl from Ohio he wished he’d married instead of the woman he did marry. My grandmother jumped on the line and, of course, they ended up arguing. Even as I hung up the phone, they were still yelling at each other on the line, arguing.
I sat down and made up a story about my grandfather. In the story, I explained how, during the depression of the 1920’s, he left home at fourteen years old and survived by carrying bundles of hay for a nickel an hour. I talked about how he managed to save one nickel every other hour, which he used to open a business and become successful. Then he met my grandmother, and it was love at first sight. They settled down and lived happily ever after.
None of that was true, but my teacher loved the story. He gave it an “A” and asked me if I would bring my grandparents to school so they could talk about their lives and take questions from the class. Picturing what a disaster that would have been, I did some quick damage control and explained that my grandparents wouldn’t be able to make it.
How do you deal with reviews, both positive and negative?
No writer likes bad reviews, but I don’t take them personally. When I was younger, my father gave me advice; he said not everyone in life is going to like me. And he’s right. Different people have different tastes; that’s why Baskin & Robbins has 52 flavors.
When I get a bad review, I sulk for a moment, I question my writing, but then I put my big boy pants on and move on. It also helps to reread the positive reviews as a reminder that for every cotton candy-flavored ice cream that turns my stomach, there’s also other flavors like cookies and cream.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
My advice is to get ready for a long, frustrating, and exhausting process, and that’s after the book is written. Whether you’re looking for a traditional publisher or you want to self-publish, you have a lot of work ahead of you. For traditional publishing, if you’re a new and relatively unknown writer, expect to get a lot of rejections. And I do mean A LOT. Most of them are form letters with no explanation as to why they rejected you. But that’s okay because you only need one publisher to say yes. When you see your book in print, all that hard work is well worth it. But keep in mind, when you do get that “yes” and your book becomes real, that’s not the goal…that’s the starting line. It doesn’t mean you won your race, it means you are now entering the race, a race that never ends because there are always people out there that haven’t read your book yet and you want them to know about it.
What was your favorite childhood book?
When I was four years old, my mother wanted to give me a head start on my reading before I started school. She tried to teach me how to read, but I just wouldn’t sit down long enough for her to teach me. So, she came up with another idea. My mother took construction paper and made books for me about a fat cat named Pat who sat on a hat. After I learned the “at” words, the books moved onto “it” words. Once I mastered those, the words became more complex. I would wake up each morning to find one of those books on taped to my wall. They had pictures of Pat the fat cat and the last page always read “The End, Mark’s Book.” I guess her strategy to get a wild kid to sit down and learn to read worked. Because now he’s a published author.
Is there a final message you would like to give to our readers?
Yes. Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to get to know me, and The Witches of Vegas. Their first adventure is available online where all books are sold . To quote the famous Marty McFly in Back to the Future, “you may not be ready for this yet…but your kids are going to love it!”
Have a great day everyone, stay safe.