Markus Redmond is a man of many talents. His first well known foray into acting came in the recurring role of Raymond Alexander on the hit show, Doogie Howser. He has also had roles in the TV series, Murder One and Family Rules. Along with his roles in television, Markus has appeared in the movie, Fight Club alongside Brad Pitt. He also wrote and starred in the movie If I Had Known I Was a Genius with Whoopi Goldberg. When the writers’ strike hit, Markus took the plunge into novel writing. And in 2011, he returned to the big screen in Jules Stewart’s movie, K-11. Recently, Markus took time out from his very busy schedule to talk to us about his recently released debut novel, Poker Night and what lies ahead for both his life and the lives of the characters that fill his book.
1. I read you originally wrote this as a screenplay, but were unable to sell it so you shelved it until recently. Would you still like to see the story made into a film?
I have heard that this rumor is floating around! (laughing) The truth is that Poker Night was a novel that I wrote out of frustration during the 2008 WGA writers' strike. Since I couldn't write scripts, I decided that I would write my first novel. When I finished it, I started to think I had something. I started sending it out to literary agencies and publishing houses ...and it was summarily rejected by everyone who laid eyes on it. "This is filthy", "disgusting", "shame on you", was the feedback they gave me. So, that's how it ended up getting shelved. Fans of the book have mentioned on Twitter and Facebook that they think it should be a movie, which may have been how the rumor got started. I would love that! But creatively speaking, in terms of its story structure and characters, I think it’s better suited for a television series. Albeit, a pay cable, late night, down and dirty- hour dramatic series!
2. Your characters and the relationships they have with each other are complicated and multilevel, did you develop them prior to writing or did they come together as you wrote the story?
Many people have been curious about this, especially folks local to the city of Oxnard, the book‘s setting. The starting point for each of the main characters is based on real people I know or have known. The premise of the action stemming from a "poker night" is based on a very similar weekly poker night I used to attend. Now, with that said, I have taken these tiny seeds of behavioral traits I observed and extrapolated them to the nth degree. As far as I know, none of them have done anything remotely as terrible as the things the characters in Poker Night do! The set up and the characters were set up for me in life first - allowing my creativity to run away with itself.
3. As I read about Hersh Reed, I immediately thought of you and how his background seemed to parallel yours. Was it intentional to have yourself inserted into the story? How much of Hersh is Markus?
Damn, Hersh... (laughing)! That real life situation I spoke about earlier? Hersh is based on my place within that situation. I was in the process of falling in love with my wife during those weekly poker nights. I thought that adding that story line to the book would be a nice, romantic, albeit still dirty, break from all of the other relationships in the book spiraling out of control. Based on how I formulated the story, it was impossible for me to remove myself and still have it be authentic. I suppose I was just part of the package. My father's name was Hershell and we were very close. Both he and I married women who already had children of their own, so naming the character Hersh was a bit of an homage to him as well. In comparison to the real people the other characters were the inspiration for- Hersh is probably the closest to his inspiration. Although, I've never attacked a naked man with a fireplace poker! :)
4. When you set out to write this, erotica wasn't the hot marketable item that it has become today. Did you have any idea that the market place would be so ripe for a book of this nature?
I had none whatsoever. I just wanted to write something full stop. In screenplays, you have to concern yourself with what the script will be rated and what you can and can't show. I had written erotic thrillers as screenplays in the past, even sold one to Columbia Pictures, but there was always that issue of being told to pull it back. Again, Poker Night was originally born out of frustration, so I decided that I was going to write everything in the way I visualized it and hold nothing back. I want to take this opportunity to thank not only E.L. James, but also all of the Twilight, Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson fans. Without what E.L. James started and the Twilight fan support that made Fifty Shades Of Grey the phenomena it is, I don't know if Poker Night would have ever seen the light of day.
5.One of the complaints about self-publishing is it puts work out there that is in the early to midstages of editing. Even some that have gone on to be bestsellers are surrounded by the complaints of bad editing. What was your process for editing Poker Night?
Ah, yes... the dreaded typos! I had someone proof and edit the work, because I am a terrible speller. I know some really great words that I can't spell! Alas, there were things that were not caught and remain there in the book. The editing that I did personally was much more about story structure and flow. There were chapters that came out, chapters that were moved around, etc. Mistakes happen. My feeling is if you have told a good story, then that's what will come across much louder than any editing issues. After all, there is a worldwide network of people who make it their goal to watch movies and find continuity errors and blast them out on the Internet. "The glass the actor is holding is empty, then they cut away and cut back, and now it's full of beer! Fail!" The beer in the glass is not the point of the movie. That's not the reason the director and writer wants you to see it. And, those mistakes don't seem to stop people from going to the movies. I think if that is what someone gets hung up on, then one of two things are happening: either the story wasn't more interesting than the errors or you are dealing with someone who is predisposed to looking to criticize the work. It's a lot easier to tear something down that someone else has built, then it is to build something from nothing. We live in an age of 140 characters or less now . The written language as we know it is crumbling down into abbreviations. We are still able to understand what people mean. I think it's the same with self-published boots. I mean books! ;)
6. What role has social media played in getting the word out about Poker Night?
Social media has become my publicist! After the Fifty Shades explosion, I read how E.L. James' fan fiction started and talked to my wife about it. She said, "You've got that dirty book. Let's publish it ourselves." Who knew that in four years you could go from rejection letters to the ability to publish a novel online yourself for free? The advancement in technology played a huge part in not only getting the word out, but making it possible for the book to see the world in the first place. Between the Facebook page, the Twitter account and the blog, I have had people be so kind and generous with how they feel about the book. The responses are immediate which makes it very exciting. Because I was in the movie K-11, a lot of Kristen Stewart’s fans decided to support the book. Their reach is massive. Kate del Castillo, who was also in K-11 and has become a dear friend, took to her Twitter account and posted about the book to upwards of 750K of her followers and fans. They supported the book as well. Luis Moncada and Billy Morrison, both friends from the movie K-11, took time to post as well. All of this reach is powerful and essential to Poker Night getting known and read. Plus, social media is just fun!
7. If you could, would you like to direct and/or act in a film version of Poker Night?
I would love to! I would think that Hersh's role is small enough that I would still be able to play him. I direct only out of necessity. The underlining message of Poker Night seems to be getting through to people, so I would have no deep desire to make sure it happens were there to be a movie situation. I could step aside as long as I was involved in the writing and acting. Though depending on how big the pay check was- maybe I could just act if it was heavy enough. ;)
8. This is the first of three books. What's in store for our characters in the sequel? When do you expect to release that?
I am actually planning six books. And yes, I am completely nuts! In The Light Of Day is the sequel that I am working on. I am planning on releasing it December 2012. Without giving too much away, the group will go through a little bit of separation anxiety and things will get much, much worse for Ian and Marla. I mean much, much worse. Elle will use her charms in new conniving ways to take care of the needs that Ross isn't filling anymore and Hersh and Nadia will make new friends. There will be new couples in the new book as well, including Bruce and Inez Adkins. They will make Ian and Marla look like a couple that sings together in a church choir! Yeah... this one is REALLY gonna go there...
9. What's up next for you? After your positive experience making 'K-11', do you think you will return to more acting?
Absolutely! I am working on several film projects. I am co-directing and starring in an indie film that I've written entitled Here and Now. We are looking for funding for that project now. I have written an action comedy for the aforementioned Kate del Castillo. I have also written a role for myself in that. I have also written a television series for her that I will be worming my acting self into. I have been more into creating for myself rather than waiting for the phone to ring. That was something taught to me by Jules Stewart. She has been such an inspiration for me to do, do, do... She is so fearless without being egotistical at all. And, she is so giving and supportive of artistic endeavors. She's a bad ass. I would act for her again in a second! There's also a little something brewing on the backburner that's been developed by Jules, Cameron and myself, so we'll see what happens down the road with that. Plus, I am releasing Invincible: A Poker Night Short. It’s a sexy short story set in the Poker Night universe. I will release that later this month, so... not a lot of naps for me!
Congrats to Markus with all the success with 'Poker Night' and good luck with continued success with it and all projects.
Sweet words on Jules and all the support he has been given.
Looking forward to hearing more on the project with Jules and Cameron too. :)