Interview: Mark Gilleo – Sweat

Today we are pleased to Welcome Mark Gilleo with us. Mark is the author of Sweat. You can read our review of Sweat.

Rhodes Review: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Mark Gilleo: The first time the thought of becoming a writer entered my mind was in 2002. It was quite out-of-the-blue. I had no previous urge to write, nor did I have any writing experience or training, other than what was required to get through school.

Rhodes Review: How long does it take you to write a book?

Mark Gilleo: That is a tough question. Given that I have other jobs and responsibilities, it varies. The first book I attempted I finished in a couple of months. Both Love Thy Neighbor and Sweat took about a year to write. I spentprobably another year editing each. Time constraints aside, I could probably complete two novels a year for the next five years. That is about 1,000 – 1,200 words a day for 20 weeks, five days a week. That is a good pace.

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Mark Gilleo: My work schedule is 9-5. My writing schedule is whenever I can. If I could choose my time, I would choose to write in the morning for as long as I could, then have lunchand take a short nap.

Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Mark Gilleo: I am not sure it is a quirk, but I do not plan what I am going to write. No outline whatsoever. The plot for both Sweat and LoveThy Neighbor have myriad subplots, so there are times when I get alittle lost or write myself into a corner. But without the element of the unknown in the writing process, I probably wouldn’t enjoy it.

Rhodes Review: Which of your characters is most/least like you, and in what way(s)?

Mark Gilleo: None of my characters are like me, but I have known people who have shared elements with the characters in my books. I do know what it is like to be a college student, but I have no experience as a medical student, a Senator, a hit-man, an arms-dealer or an ex-spy.

Rhodes Review: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Mark Gilleo: I have a large extended family in the DC area, and that keeps me busy. I am also the father of a toddler, which means I do a lot of running around. I enjoy hiking and traveling.

Rhodes Review: What would your ideal career be, if you couldn’t be an author?

Mark Gilleo: It is not from a lack of looking that I haven’t found my ideal career, outside of writing. I have worked for a Fortune 500 company, for a government agency, for a small tech start-up, for a chemical company, in finance and banking, as an entrepreneur and as a teacher. I would like to think that doing something noble, like medicine, would be ideal. But then I would have to dissect a corpse and deal with blood, so that is pretty much out the window. Maybe an ideal job would be a position with the foreign service or as a professor.

Rhodes Review: If you were to do your career as anauthor again, what would you do differently, and why?

Mark Gilleo: That is also a difficult question. More than choosing to be a writer, becoming a writer was quite by accident. The only question that comes to mind with becoming a writer is wondering if I should have started sooner and if that would have made me any better. That said, my books are based on some knowledge of the subjects and I don’t think I would have gained the necessary knowledge or experience if I had started writing sooner.

Rhodes Review: Do you have any suggestions to help my readers become a better writer?

Mark Gilleo: Definitely not. The term “better writer” is about as subjective as whether a reader likes a particular book. Is Hemingway better than Faulkner? I mean, for the most part, if you write with correct grammar in most sentences, you have the capability to write. The rest is intangible. Story, plot, character, narrative, dialogue. Everyone likes something different.

Rhodes Review: What do you think makes a good story?

Mark Gilleo: For me, plot goes a longway in getting me through a story. If Iam not interested in the plot, I am not going to make it through the book,regardless of how intriguing the other aspects of the work may be. A well-written masterpiece that doesn’t take me somewhere will not likely be on my book shelf.

But that is personal preference.

Rhodes Review: What inspired you to write sweat?

Mark Gilleo: The inspiration from the book came from a conversation I overheard in Asia regarding a corporate executive who spent some time establishing manufacturing facilities for American corporations. At the time, I didn’t think too much about the conversation, but it obviously stuck in my subconscious mind. A few years later it was the seed for Sweat.

Rhodes Review: What are your favorite authors/books?

Mark Gilleo: There are too many to list them all. I really liked a lot of Grisham’s early stuff. I love Baldacci, as do a lot of people. DeMille. Stephen King. Clancy. Cornwell. Eisler. Alien and Vixen 03 were the first two novels I remember reading. Then I read The Dead Zone.

As for classics, one of my favorite classics is Cannery Row. For non-fiction, my favorite book is probably All over but the Shoutin, by Rick Bragg.

Rhodes Review: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Mark Gilleo: Either Jesus or, if He were unavailable, the Dalai Lama. I would like to think they could answer, or further complicate, some of the larger questions of the universe by dessert. A distant third option would be Thomas Jefferson. Ben Franklin was a character and he enjoyed beer, so he would round out the top four.

About the Author

Mark Gilleo holds a graduate degree in international business from the University of South Carolina and an undergraduate degree in business from George Mason University. He enjoys traveling, hiking and biking. He speaks Japanese. A fourth-generation Washingtonian, he currently resides in the D.C. area. His first two novels were recognized as finalist and semifinalist, respectively, in the William Faulkner-Wis- dom creative writing competition.

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