Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bookish Confessions of Mark Spivak, author of 'Friend of the Devil'

Mark Spivak is an award-winning author, specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants, and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and was honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 he has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, as well as the Food Editor for Palm Beach Illustrated; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. From 1999-2011 Spivak hosted Uncorked! Radio, a highly successful wine talk show on the Palm Beach affiliate of National Public Radio.

Spivak is the author of two non-fiction books:  Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). Friend of the Devil is his first novel. He is currently working on a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq.

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About the Book:

Title: Friend of the Devil
Author: Mark Spivak
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Pages: 325
Genre: Culinary Thriller

In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, sold his soul to the Devil to achieve culinary greatness. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.

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What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?

Hemingway was my idol when I was younger. I literally grew up with a poster of him hanging over my bed (the Karsh of Ottawa portrait). He was the dominant literary figure of the time when I was a kid, and had the added advantage of being fairly easy to read---on the surface, anyway.

At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing around the age of eleven. I can’t remember when I fixated on writing as a career path, but it was sometime during my teenage years.

Do you take notes when reading or watching a movie?

I don’t take notes while reading, but I’m always conscious of the effect that’s being created and how the writer got that effect. So I don’t really read for fun---I’m too analytical, constantly putting the technique under a microscope.

Do you have a day job?  What do you do?

I had a number of careers over a span of years, first in the restaurant business and later in the wine trade. I think the experiences were valuable up to a point. At the same time, I was freelancing for several decades, before finally concentrating full-time on writing five or six years ago. I think day job and alternate careers can be valuable, as long as you’re not an academic or a newspaper journalist.

Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?

Don’t limit your life experience: you’ll get the most out of a situation in the first few years, so absorb what’s important and move on. Listen more than you talk. Most importantly: DON’T GIVE UP.

What hours do you write best?

I get up around 4-4:30 a.m., which is the best time for me because there are no interruptions. I still do a fair amount of journalism, so the email and distractions are in full swing by 10am or so. I basically work all day, although I take breaks for shopping, working out, etc.

How often do you write?

Every day, obsessively. If you’re working a day job or an alternate career, you obviously don’t have the luxury of that kind of focus. But I think it’s important to create a mental space devoted to your work, your characters, their situations, etc. I find it’s very useful to think about what you’re working on immediately before you go to sleep.

Are you an avid reader?

Yes, but I don’t read a great deal of contemporary fiction for a number of reasons. There’s always a danger that you could become unduly influenced by the style of someone who’ writing now. I’d much rather be influenced by Joyce, Twain, Melville, etc.

What are you currently working on?

My second novel, a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, is tentatively scheduled for release next spring. I have a third manuscript that I’m shopping around to agents. My current project is a novel about the greatest art forger of all time, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (what laymen would refer to as multiple personality disorder).

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for hosting me today. I look forward to answering any questions readers might have.