Friday, September 16, 2016

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with 'Friend of the Devil' Mark Spivak

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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Before you started writing your book, what kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?

Friend of the Devil contained a great deal of autobiographical material, so research wasn’t necessary to get the story primed. As I progressed, there were lots of historical references that I needed to verify. Thank God for the Internet!

Did you pursue publishers or did you opt to self-pub?

The book was released by a small, boutique press in the Pacific Northwest---my first two non-fiction books had been brought out by a mainstream publisher, and I wanted a kinder and gentler publishing environment. I don’t believe in self-publishing, except in certain unusual circumstances.

If published by a publisher, what was your deciding factor in going with them?

As stated above, I was fed up with larger publishers---generally, they seem to feel that publishing would be a wonderful business if they didn’t have to deal with writers. I was seeking an environment where I would have more input and feel more valued.

If published by a publisher, are you happy with the price they chose?

Amazon is selling the book for $13.49. I think that’s about right for a trade paperback.

Did you purposefully choose a distinct month to release your book?  Why?

I didn’t have as much control over the release date as I would have wanted (it was May 27), but it turned out not to matter much. I think writers tend to get hung up on whether they have a spring or fall release. In fact, unless the publisher plans a heavy promotional campaign, I don’t think the date is very important.

How did you choose your cover?

Black Opal Books allowed me to design the cover, which I really appreciated---with the larger houses, writers typically aren’t involved at all. I had some definite ideas of what I wanted it to look like. A friend of mine who owns a marketing and PR company volunteered to do it, and we worked with her designers. I think the finished product is eye-catching, and it reflects the culinary theme.

Did you write your book, then revise or revise as you went?

Friend of the Devil went through numerous drafts over a period of 7-8 years. It was a difficult story to deal with, for many reasons. It also went through two rounds of editing at the publishing house, which I was grateful for.

Did you come up with special swag for your book and how are you using it to help get the word out about your book?

No, I haven’t done that yet. I’m not sure that bookmarks or t-shirts really help get the word out.

Did you consider making or hiring someone to make a book trailer for your book?  If so, what’s the link?

I did have a trailer for my first non-fiction book, and it was well done, but it didn’t have a lot of impact. I thought the money could be spent more effectively elsewhere.

What’s your opinion on giving your book away to sell other copies of your book?

I’m open to it, but don’t quite see how giving books away would stimulate sales.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do before their book is released?

It’s really helpful to sit down and draw up a comprehensive marketing plan on paper. Black Opal required one as part of the submission process, and I refined it as I went along. Obviously you need a website, and in today’s world a strong social media presence is crucial.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do after their book is released?

I’m a believer in blog tours, because that’s where the eyeballs are. If you’re fortunate enough to know people involved in radio/tv/newspapers/magazines, harass them until they either give you some publicity or run away from you. Sticking to the plan is important, since book promotion is a marathon rather than a sprint. You have to promote relentlessly on a daily basis.

What kind of pre-promotion did you do before the book came out?

I wasn’t able to do as much pre-promotion as I wanted to, since I didn’t have a firm publication date until shortly before the book was released. I set up the Facebook page and made sure the website was up to date, and otherwise just kept honing the marketing plan.

Do you have a long term plan with your book?

I’ll always be promoting Friend of the Devil.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans about your book?

One of my readers said she had never read anything quite like Friend of the Devil, and that may be true. The Faust story certainly isn’t new, but the twist is unique---it tells the story of America’s most celebrated chef, who has cut a deal with the Devil for fame and fortune. To anyone who liked the book, I’d recommend reading it twice. There are a number of layers that don’t come through the first time around, particularly if you’re reading for plot.

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