It is a pleasure to introduce another new author to you: Mark Rubinstein, author of Mad Dog House, an engrossing psychological thriller. Readers are fascinated with knowing where authors come up with their ideas for books. For today’s guest post, Mark is going to tell us about his inspiration for Mad Dog House.
When I’ve spoken to groups at libraries or bookstores, invariably I’m asked how an idea for a novel comes to me. It’s not an easy question to answer. Each novel I’ve written has a different genesis, although there are certain key elements they all share.
For me, writing begins with an almost dreamlike process. It’s as though my mind goes through some semi-conscious period where things from the past and present seem to coalesce and begin building upon themselves. Sometimes a thought fragment forms, only to fade the way some dreams dissolve as you’re awakening. At other times, an idea imbeds itself and develops with a clear forward trajectory.
By way of example, here’s how my recent novel, Mad Dog House, began to take shape.
When I was in elementary school, the class-clown was a kid nicknamed “Cootie.” Many years later, while in the army, I met a fellow medic whose raucous, hyena-like laugh earned him the moniker “Mad Dog.” My novel begins with a scene in a classroom in which “Cootie” (now portrayed as a bully) is finger-snapping the ear of the boy who sits in front of him.
As a high school freshman, I sat in front of some wise guy who made sport out of finger-snapping my right ear. At 13 years old, I weighed a prodigious 105 pounds, and this bullying kid was far bigger and very intimidating. After too many days of silently taking this humiliation, I finally snapped and challenged him to a fight behind the candy store near the school. A momentary look of surprise, coupled with fear, flashed across his face. He’d never expected so brazen a challenge from a skinny kid, and correctly read the fury raging through me. When class ended, we faced off in the empty lot and went at it. I beat the hell out of him.
“When he was 12 years old, Mad Dog ripped off Cootie Weiss’ ear.”
So begins the novel. The protagonist, Roddy, earns his moniker “Mad Dog” after finishing off his bully in a far more dramatic way than I had mine. But, you can see how incidents and people from different stages of my life wind their way into the fabric of my fiction.
I knew I wanted to write a thriller involving a successful surgeon and his best friend, an accountant, being drawn into a business venture which would go terribly wrong and threaten to upend their lives; and the vehicle I used to get the novel started was based on the melding of two totally distinct and disparate incidents in my own life.
The idea came to me during a walk with my wife.
The novel’s story incorporates other aspects of my own and others’ experiences, coupled with large doses of imagination and fantasy. Like all fiction writers, I draw from the things I know well, and borrow heavily from life around me. Whether it’s a cousin who invested and lost money in a vanity project; the rough guys I knew in my teens; or the friends whose son has caused them so much heartache, I incorporate “what I know about life” into a piece of pure fiction.
I’m a psychiatrist, with years of experience working on the wards and emergency rooms at major city hospitals. Later, I was in private practice with a diverse group of patients; and ultimately, specializing in forensic psychiatry. I saw people whose lives were irrevocably changed by the most horrific experiences imaginable, and my mind is filled with their stories, underscoring the adage “truth can be stranger than fiction.”
Without violating a confidence or betraying trust, I draw water from the well of my life’s work, and create stories.
A writer is someone who always has an eye open and an ear cocked. I am no exception.
Drawing from life is at the heart of my novels, although each one begins in its unique way.
Synopsis for Mad Dog House:
Roddy Dolan, a successful suburban surgeon, long ago left behind his past—one that nearly landed him in jail at 17. When he’s approached by an old friend about becoming a silent partner in a Manhattan steakhouse, he’s wary. So he consults with his lifelong blood brother, Danny Burns.
Danny’s convinced this “vanity project” is the perfect trophy to illustrate how far they’ve travelled. Certain he’s buried his checkered past, Roddy joins in this venture, with serious reservations. Danny is quickly sucked into the high-energy glitz of the restaurant, but Roddy is suspicious.
Amidst the glitter of New York’s nightlife, amongst Mafia honchos and Russian thugs, evens spin out of control and the lives Roddy and Danny knew are over. Hidden shady dealings drag them and their families into life-threatening terrain. Struggling with the monster he thought he’d buried, Roddy must make momentous choices, and none are good. But he has a daring plan.
About the Author:
Mark Rubinstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, where he dreamed of playing baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His love of sports led him to read sports fiction, and soon he became a voracious reader, developing an enduring love for all kinds of novels.
He graduated from New York University with a degree in business administration. He then served in the army and ended up as a field medic tending to paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. After his discharge, he re-entered NYU as a premed student.
As a medical student at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center, he developed an interest in psychiatry, discovering in that specialty the same thing he realized in reading fiction: every patient has a compelling story to tell. He became a board-certified psychiatrist practicing in New York City.
In addition to running his private practice he developed an interest in forensic psychiatry because the drama and conflict of the cases and courtrooms tapped into his personality style. He also taught psychiatric residents, interns, psychologists, and social workers at New York Presbyterian Hospital and became a clinical assistant professor at Cornell University’s medical school.
Before turning to fiction, Rubinstein coauthored five medical self-help books: The First Encounter: The Beginnings in Psychotherapy (Jason Aronson); The Complete Book of Cosmetic Facial Surgery (Simon and Schuster); New Choices: the Latest Options in Treating Breast Cancer (Dodd Mead); Heartplan: A Complete Program for Total Fitness of Heart & Mind (McGraw-Hill), and The Growing Years: A Guide to Your Child’s Emotional Development from Birth to Adolescence (Atheneum).
Rubinstein lives in Connecticut with his wife and as many dogs as she will allow in the house. He still practices psychiatry and is busily writing more novels.