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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E65. How to Sell A Million Books When No One Knows You with Mark Tufo

Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.

Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.

Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco first. My guest today is Mark twofer. In alternate reality, Mark is the author of several high fashion novels, and the ultimate guide on how to work from home in shorts. In this reality is the best selling author of many books, including the zombie followed series, which has sold in such horrendously high numbers, that Mark has become one of those science fiction creatures, a writer who leaves off book sales. I found out about him a few months ago, and in that time, I've read 23 of his books. If that says more about him as a writer or me as a reader. I'll leave that up for you to decide. Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Two for Mark, welcome to the show.

Mark Tufo 1:50

Hey, Francisco. Thanks for having me on. Man. I appreciate it. And I know that people that are listening to the show won't know it. But I'm severely late and I am apologetic for for that.

Francisco Mahfuz 2:01

So since we are slightly late, let me just jump straight in and ask you is this pandemic we're going through the crappiest apocalypse of all time.

Mark Tufo 2:14

I once upon a time I think I wanted in Apocalypse. It sounded like a pretty good idea in my muddled mind, you know get out of the routine of nine to five and stuff. But the more I wrote about apocalypses I decided I very much don't like them. I like my cheeseburgers. I like my hot showers. I like my occasional cold beer. So in terms of apocalypses, and this slowburn when we got going on. If this is the one we have to have, I guess I'm okay with it. Yeah, so

Francisco Mahfuz 2:44

I think that it probably wouldn't make for great literature. But it's it's much better to live through than a lot of the stuff you have come up with. At the very least.

Mark Tufo 2:56

I suppose I could come up with some really killer toilet paper stories if I had to, you know, but otherwise, it hasn't. I mean, I work from home anyway. And I'm a slight hermit, so not leaving the house is not a big deal for me. Obviously, I'm concerned and I feel for the people that have to work the frontlines and have got sick, ill or even past but yeah, I mean, the impact on me has been relatively slight.

Francisco Mahfuz 3:27

Yeah, it's the same for me, I, I talk to people on a regular basis. And a lot of people love to moan about all the hardship are going through. And the hardship to some of them is I can only have six friends at a time in my house for a barbecue. And I have to wear this bloody mask when I go outside. This is this is in Spain. And I just feel compelled to point out and say Listen, my family lives in Brazil, my mum essentially did not leave the house for a whole year. Because she's you know, in a risk group and because of that she's not seen one of her grandchildren for that year. And she hasn't met one of her grandchildren, which is my my youngest daughters. So and this is talking about healthy people that have jobs. So so maybe we should complain a little less.

Mark Tufo 4:18

Yeah, I do. I do feel for those folks that have lives have been impacted like that. I mean, to not meet your grandkids is brutal. That but that person that has six friends, I mean kudos to them.

Francisco Mahfuz 4:32

That person would be me. So thank you all right, so I'm struggling to I was struggling to figure out the best way to describe your books to people right because I have I started recommending them to some people but you know, you're writing about zombie apocalypse. So this is not a literature that I can recommend to absolutely everyone. But I have some friends who, who like a lot of people like for example, The Walking Dead So, you know, I thought, Okay, if you like The Walking Dead there's there's a commonality there. So how do I, how do I really get across to these people how this is not like The Walking Dead, and this is the best. This is the best definition I could come up with. I said to a friend of mine, he said, Imagine that Aaron Sorkin you know who the guy who wrote the social network and he wrote The West Wing and he is known for his nappy dialogues. Imagine that Aaron Sorkin got high and wrote a zombie book with a lot of farting jokes. I think if that sounds appealing to you, if that doesn't sound appealing to you don't come anywhere near Mark's books. But if you're in for a treat,

Mark Tufo 5:45

yeah, if you're not into infantile humour, you might want to keep going. This is definitely not highbrow stuff. So

Francisco Mahfuz 5:52

I, I heard you say that type of stuff in a whole bunch of podcasts. And I want to I want to get into some of your your creative choices there. But the main choice that I want to get into is is this. So you have a main character called Mike Talbot, that is, in some ways very much inspired in your this is better than other people probably get confused if are you meant to be your own character or not? I think naming the his wife the same name as your wife, right?

Mark Tufo 6:20

Yeah, it was a mistake. But yeah.

Francisco Mahfuz 6:23

Well, one of his kids, don't you have a relative called Travis. And that's one of his kids in the book.

Mark Tufo 6:29

It's my child. That's my kid, actually. So another mistake. Okay.

Francisco Mahfuz 6:32

Okay, so yeah, so So but that's not even the point that I want to ask about. So the fact that you've had a lot of commonalities make it seem very much like this guy is you and I've heard you talk about that is not it's close to you, but not exactly you. But the mike Talbert is a very strange individual, because you you're not writing his books in first person in this guy has no filter, either outside or inside, he thinks the most outrageous crap in as I'm sure you know, a lot of people would probably have been put off by by your books, not because of the subject, but because they can't cope with Mike. So I think that this was a conscious enough choice, right?

Mark Tufo 7:17

You know, obviously, anything, you're right, it's not going to resonate with everyone. I think what people like about Mike is, if you like the books is is the fact that he's he's willing to say what's on his mind, whether it's good or bad. And he's upfront, and he sees more or less the every guy type of person. You know, I've read a lot of zombie literature, especially early on, where the main character was usually Rambo, and had every weapon known to mankind at his disposal. He, he had babes jumping on him on his giant pickup truck as he fired his huge 50 calibre machine gun. And I maybe folks, we're kind of done with that particular trope, or as Mike, like I said, is, you know, trying to protect his family, limited supplies of anything? Maybe more realistic in that realm. But yeah, there's, there's a segment that he resonates with. And there's obviously going to be folks that are just like, Oh, God, no, let me get as far away from this book series as I can.

Francisco Mahfuz 8:27

I think within two or three pages, my thinking was, wow, this guy is not concerned about being politically correct. And then, and then I think, I think the second thought, which is one that I had for a very long time, was, why does he explain every one of his analogies? And then I realised why I think I realised that you are a much better writer, then Mike Talbert is a human being expressing himself. Because I've not seen you do that for any other character, or in any other part of your books. That only happens when my Talbot's thinks of an analogy and feels the need to explain the analogy every single time.

Mark Tufo 9:11

Yeah. I don't know. It's, it's fun to write like that. I guess. I've got no other explanation. Then. When I first started writing zombie Fallout, it was actually an exercise to reduce stress and to try to cure my insomnia boats from being laid off. And zombie follow was actually geared in my head. It was going to be a straight out comedy. I was actually thinking about calling it zombie Follies. But then once you started getting a body count, it started like, that's not so funny anymore. So

Francisco Mahfuz 9:49

that's only funny that's only fun in Monty Python, where people are being being dismembered and that seems to be hilarious, but it doesn't seem to work particularly well with with any other type of art

Mark Tufo 10:02

no they nailed it for sure.

Francisco Mahfuz 10:05

Yeah, because so so the the voice and the analogies that was one thing that that struck me right at the beginning and the other one was that it just seemed that you were willing to go completely out on a limb with stuff that could put people off and and again, knowing that it was meant to be a comedy might justify some of those creative choices but where you almost lost me wasn't Mike's voice I thought well, I can deal with this his his his his his a bit demented but but but it's fun. I think we're You almost lost me whereas with one character starts having visions, and in his visions is Ryan Seacrest from American Idol the person that he's that speaks to him and I thought, wow, like Stephen King can be really stranger. Some of the things that he decides happens in his books. And he kind of ruined the Dark Tower for me, but I thought Brian secrets Bloody hell. This is well, random.

Mark Tufo 11:02

Yeah. Again, obviously, you know, I've tried not to give spoilers, but it was more cover than anything.

Francisco Mahfuz 11:11

Yes. Yeah. Which I tried not to say whose character and why I understand why that was done within the book. But I think it didn't take like two or three books for that. It became obvious that it was a cover.

Mark Tufo 11:21

Yeah, yeah. I mean, you would definitely test it by that point. And even another main character that turned out she turned out to be something completely different. Uh, you know, I had a lot of zombie purists. I got hate mail. Like, you can't have this type of character in a zombie book. And it's like, sure it can I wrote the book. Don't read it. What do you want me to tell you?

Francisco Mahfuz 11:45

I don't think there's a massive spoiler, but if it is, I'm sorry, but are you talking about having a vampire in the book?

Mark Tufo 11:50

Yes, yes. Yeah, I had a lot of I got a lot of hate mail for that. Haters

Francisco Mahfuz 11:54

are gonna hate and and, you know, it's a very strange thing to have a zombie purist. But I would have guessed that if you're going to be upset about anything, whether, you know, if you're going to be a non purist about zombies, there's a lot of other things you do that are that are break that mould like different types of zombies, or the fact that you can just like in The Walking Dead, get a spoon and stick it in their brain. That doesn't seem to be a valid way to cure.

Mark Tufo 12:19

I don't understand that. I enjoy the walking dead. I think I'm pretty much caught up. But they do some things. I'm like, No, that just, you know, I've I was in the Marines. I know. You can't stick a spoon in someone's head, you know? So?

Francisco Mahfuz 12:34

Oh, yes. But I think Mark, what you're forgetting about the zombification process is that it does things to your physiology. So those brains get mushy. The same way that you know, Twilight, vampires get hardest crystal and shine in the sun, when you have to take on consistent with this nonsense.

Mark Tufo 12:54

Just so we're clear. My vampires do not twinkle.

Francisco Mahfuz 12:57

Yeah, yours are very pragmatic. I times I thought, Is he making some of these choices? Because it's a lot harder to pull off some of this other stuff. He's trying to do the book if the vampires are more classical. But I think as long as you're consistent, and it just doesn't keep coming across as a very convenient plot device. Because he needed to be that way. But no, you're dragging these things for books and books and books. So I think if you if you made bad choices, at least you're living with them for a very long time.

Mark Tufo 13:28

Yeah, I think 16 books and two novellas, I definitely dragging stuff along.

Francisco Mahfuz 13:33

Yeah, one question that that I had. And then then I want to go a bit away from the books because I think for as much as I trust that my audience puts up with a lot of my stuff of my interest. I think if we only talk about the book specifically, and books that they might not have read, most likely, then I'll lose all of them. But the reason why I I think the reason I stuck with the books, and I'm very glad they did, as I've read most of them is and now I get to go as soon as as soon as the latest vlog comes out, I get to enjoy like and Fallout, which is actually how I found you because I'm sort of obsessed with werewolves. So I am the only person that probably doesn't like and search on Amazon. And then I got that and I thought, Oh, crap, there was a whole series behind this started from the beginning. So you know, well, then you hooked me. Now the question is the point where I figured out okay, I think this is worth giving more time to was in one of the very first sort of fat zombie fights in the book when when Mark, Mike is is going to the place where his son was working, and I think it goes up the stairs or something along those lines, and there is a child zombie, and just how tortured he was about that thing, and I can't even remember if he if he kills us or not, but just how tortured he was in the way he was taught. About that, that was to me where it said, Okay, well, there's a lot of sort of silliness here. But he's not mucking about at all with the existential aspects of this thing. And you said before that this was, this was about relieving stress and getting rid of your insomnia. But, but you have very deep with the emotional side of those characters and how they were dealing with, with what was going on in the world. I mean, obviously, that was deliberate. But how much of that was your way of working through stuff or anything else you were trying to, to deal with?

Mark Tufo 15:37

You know, obviously, like I said, it was it was a lot of that stories blowing through stress, but I was just trying to see it through Mike's eyes. I mean, I mean, up until recently, this this was a little girl playing with her doll, probably in her backyard with her friends and her mom and stuff. And I mean, just because she's a zombie. Now that doesn't take away what she was. And so how do you deal with this? I mean, you. I mean, as you've noticed, as the stories have gone, Deepam Mark, Mark, oh, my gosh, blew my mind. Mike has gotten darker. You know that there's only so much death and destruction you can be exposed to before it really starts to take a toll. And I'm hoping that's come through as the series has progressed.

Francisco Mahfuz 16:23

Yes. And this is one thing that so I heard you on another show another podcast, and maybe I misinterpreted the comment. But there was something along the lines of how, you know, not not everything needs to be high literature. And it's okay to have some, you know, a Kim, some can be fun with with this staff, trashy fun with this stuff. And I heard something along those lines. And I thought, but no, I think that that's, I think that that's selling the books short. Because one thing I tell people all the time, when I'm trying to teach them how to tell better stories. And I'm doing this usually in more of a business type of context. But what I always tell them is, the story is not about the events, that the external events that happened in the story, the stories about how the characters feel, and how that has changed them. So you can be talking about a zombie apocalypse. Or we could be talking about finding out that your partner is having an affair, or about having gone to war about having troubles at work. But at the end of the day, I think what makes a story relatable. And what stays with us is that feeling that I can understand this character I can I can put myself in their shoes, I can understand that emotions they're going through. Because if if you have a you know, high literature, you're talking about lofty things, but you don't have that you don't have particularly a particularly good story. So I'm not sure if I actually have a question here. This is just more of a comment. But my feeling is that on that side of things, I think your books are fantastic. And that there's no there is no corner emotional corner that doesn't get explored by by by the mic or any of the other characters. So yeah, no, that's probably not a question.

Mark Tufo 18:11

Like, just to reiterate, I mean, expand on your point, the zombies are truly almost a backdrop a prop more or less. And my stories tend to be more character driven, and what they're going through and how they're reacting to each other and how they're coping, or, or not in a lot of the cases. So yeah, I mean, the zombies, you literally, I mean, you could probably drop them in any kind of craptastic situation. Yeah.

Francisco Mahfuz 18:39

And this is interesting when you see when you see in you because in your case, we have a particularly it's almost a scientific experiment, in the sense that you for four reasons that I kind of understand but might be strange for a lot of people you wrote your very first book was drew Xindian, here, when you had this character called Mike Talbott, which in many ways seemed to be inspired by by perhaps that back then he wasn't that inspired by you. Because he didn't have a military background. He didn't have a wife or the dog or any of those things. And then when you started writing a different book, you went with the same character in slightly different circumstances. So then you have this two very long series of books with sometimes the same characters in both of them in completely different circumstances. One is the zombie apocalypse, the more is more of like an alien invasion book. And the themes that run through them are very similar. So it's a case in point of, you can change the background or the the idea that what the book is about in inverted commas as much as you want, but it's still going to be character driven and about what they're going through and how that's changing them. And that's it. That's a pretty interesting comparison. So I do have a question here, which is, why did you stick with the same character knowing all the facial features But that entails.

Mark Tufo 20:02

That was a mistake. Happy stance mistake, I guess. Like, like you said, I wrote Indian Hill, at least the first two thirds of the first book way back in college was part of a creative writing class. And I think at that time I had three or four different names for Michael Talbot, but it ended up obviously being Michael Talbot. And then I ended up finishing that first book. I don't know, 15 years later. And then once I got laid off from corporate America and started writing the zombie followed series, I was like, well, I already got this character, Mike Talbot. I'm just going to write them. The thing to keep in mind is I never, never thought they were going to be published that people were going to read them. So what did it matter? You know, I got Michael Talbot and Indian Hill, I got Michael Talbot zombie follow. Who cares? I wrote stories, basically, for me. And then what started happening is folks did start to read them. And I started getting a lot of questions like, How come? Mike Talbot and zombie fallout? doesn't remember Mike Talbot from Indian Hill? And why doesn't he realise his aliens? Why aren't the aliens here with the, with the zombies? And it was like, oh, man, I, I think I have a problem. So that was a, that was the genesis of creating the car crash, which ended up being a divergent point for all my different series. And it worked out, you know, so it was all a mistake, but happy one, you know, and now, I've got this giant tree with interconnected stories. And I've had a lot of fun, fun doing it that way. But it was never intentional. I'd love to tell you, you know, I had this big brainchild moment, I was like, I'm gonna do this incredible thing that's never been done. But now as a mistake.

Francisco Mahfuz 21:57

One thing that is is interesting to me is how, how some of those choices, I can get how you fall into that accident. And I think in that they've been creatively perhaps not sure if that much but but commercially ended up being a very interesting thing, because because that forced you to have the sort of alternate reality character, you can essentially put him in whatever you want, without messing up the the chronology of the one series that everybody's following. So you can follow him on Indian Hill, you can follow him on this collaboration books that you do with other people without necessarily crossing over unless you want to crossover, which is also pretty cool. But the one choice that I'm not sure, I understood, because I don't know the history behind that is, you did sort of a follow up to the main series of the zombie series, which is 100 years into the future before but this was already successful series, right? You're already cranking out books. So why did you decide at that point, I'm now going to do the follow up for it. 100 years in the future?

Mark Tufo 23:02

Well, that was my wife. And God, this is, this is how this happened. We live out in the sticks in Maine. And we were going to get coffee at Dunkin Donuts and that that's its own process, we have to drive. And we just left our street. And she's like, you know, werewolves are hot right now. And I'm like, okay, really great for werewolf stories. That's awesome. She's like, No, you don't understand. Werewolves are hot right now. I was like, I still don't know where you're going with this. And she's like, You need to write a werewolf book. And I was like, I do. And that, you know, that's really all it took, you know, she flipped a little switch in my mind. And by the time we got down to Dunkin Donuts, I was like, Huh, what if I take Mike because of his situation, I pop them 150 years in the future. And now, this is the stuff he has to deal with, you know, which characters can I bring with me? And honestly, that that's where that came from. It was just, it was her. You know,

Francisco Mahfuz 24:01

you know, I would love for you to ask Tracy. If when she says werewolves are hot, was she in any way influenced by the fact that a True Blood was going on? In there was a werewolf character who was an incredibly good looking guy. So he was like a hot werewolf. So I don't know how much that he was. I don't know what where were the hot they were they were hot in Twilight. Because where else were werewolves hot.

Mark Tufo 24:29

Okay, now that you've brought up that alternate view, I was I was hoping it was more that they were hot in the marketing area where they was selling. Not

Francisco Mahfuz 24:38

not. There is not one. What is the one good werewolf movie? Or and I'm obsessed with verbose. I'm so obsessed with werewolves that I have my book list of the stuff that I want to that I want to buy or read. And because I have many books in reserve for reading, and I try to cycle around book so in your fiction, no like, normal fiction, nonfiction science fiction fantasy, in they have a werewolf category I will get through a werewolf or a wolf book every so often in most of them are horrendously bad. I don't think any of them is a commercial success apart from Twilight, which is not really a werewolf book. And I can't really think of any movie or TV show. That is actually been a breakaway hit that has werewolves as as as main characters. So I think Tracy is full of crap.

Mark Tufo 25:33

I'm not gonna call her on it, if you want to call her up and let her know. But yeah, I think she was referring to now I'm not sure.

Francisco Mahfuz 25:42

Yeah, just just ask us it. Tracy. Any chance that we suggested that I write a book that you were watching True Blood? That's it? That's the only question you need to ask. I'm not gonna read it. It's a question from an avid reader.

Mark Tufo 25:56

I would like to enjoy my weekend, Francisco. And I'm not going to have that discussion.

Francisco Mahfuz 26:01

Which is, which is fair enough. So. Okay, so So one of the things that I think you do incredibly well, it's definitely my favourite things of our books. And it's something that most people suck at, is his dialogue. Now, this is one thing that I mean, I don't teach people how to write fiction. I teach people how to tell real stories that happen to them. And even then, most people find it difficult to include dialogue in those stories into into make that dialogue in any way sound different than just them saying different sentences and looking one way or looking the other because it's mostly oral storytelling that I deal with. So I don't know, is there any type of technique to this, this stuff just comes naturally to you, because I think your dialogue is genuinely not the dialogue itself. But how real it feels between the characters particularly banter how, you know, they mock each other, and how they rip the piss out of each other. That I think is not a common thing. Like I don't find that very easy to see writers that get that balance. Right. And I think at that, as I said, I think you were the arm Sorkin of zombie books. That I mean, that as a compliment.

Mark Tufo 27:15

Um, you know, that's a tough one. I've been a lot of places have interacted with a lot of people, especially in the military, there was a tonne of banter you always rip in the military friends, new ones, it's just part of part and parcel. But no, you know, I know if someone's asking for advice, I don't really have any just comes if it's natural. I'm not equating myself, but you know, like a NFL quarterback, he can just toss a ball like nobody's business. It's just, I don't know if he can explain how he does it. I mean, besides the mechanics of it, it just is, you know, to me, it seems like everybody can do it, or should be able to do it. And I realised maybe that's not the case. But no, I honestly, I've got no words of wisdom, I just sit down and then boom, there it is, you know?

Francisco Mahfuz 28:10

Yeah, because I don't I'm not particularly good at that. Because I'm not particularly good at fictions. I don't invent things. Well, I can remember them well enough, but I don't invent them things well, but I think there's there's thermal come across very recently, which is narrative intuition. And, you know, for example, I can look at a story and in second say, Okay, this is why it's not working terribly well. Because this is not you know, that you you're ending is not opposite enough to your VP or beginning is not the opposite of your ending. So that arc is not really working particularly well, or this parts misplaced, or the point is not very clear, I can do that very quickly. A lot of people can't. But dialogue is something that I do on social media, I put videos sometimes that are me playing two characters. And I can only play really heavy characters like really outrageously stupid, because if I try to play someone more realistic, it just doesn't feel realistic. So no, I don't think I think you just have a year for dialogue. I I've heard people describe it that way. And some authors have that and some amazing authors don't like, take Hemingway, for example, right? For as good as a writer as he is. People don't really talk that way. Like, you know, or Cormac McCarthy, right? You know, people don't talk in those apocalyptic apocalyptic tones. Like that's not an Converse. It's beautiful to read. But not the way human beings speak. And if you watch his movies inspired by stuff, sometimes it just rings weird. Like the end of No Country for Old Man. It's like, why is this guy now in his kitchen talking about the Four Horsemen like what is this? So no, I don't think I don't think it comes naturally to to to everyone but but to me is one of the one of the strongest points because once you have those friendships then that that alone is I think a lot of people are reading for if you're cute One of those characters you screwed.

Mark Tufo 30:02

I mean, and that's, I mean, I, I do like that dialogue into it, I really get out attempt to get into the mind of that particular character when they're speaking, you know, whether it be T is talking to Mike or trip or any of the any of the characters like, and I tried to stay within the constraints that have built for that character, you know, like, you wouldn't expect BT to go off on some drug fueled rage about something, you know, so just want to stay in character with their dialogue.

Francisco Mahfuz 30:36

Ya know, and I think I think you do that very well. And I think it's character driven work is is one of the things that I think when you get it, right, it just feels real. So I'm going to compare you now to an author that couldn't be further from you in many ways, which is John Green. And one of the things I like reading John Green books, you know, The Fault in Our Stars and stuff like that is, is is not the soapy stuff is because when he has teenagers talking to each other, I feel like I could, I definitely could know those people. Like, that's the best movies that I used to watch when I was growing up, like the John Hughes movies, when you actually believed in those people, they could really exist. And that comes usually from dialogue more than anything else. And I think it's a lot of authors that amazing writers cannot write dialogue to save their lives. So, so, so there, now, you guys are gone.

Mark Tufo 31:29

No, I was just gonna say, you're going to be a brave soul to write teenager and teenager dialogue. I mean, you, you can nail it, but if you don't, you are, it's gonna, it'll show more than any kind of a dialogue.

Francisco Mahfuz 31:41

Yeah, yeah. And and again, I, I don't know if I mean, he's a very successful writer, I'm guessing he's getting those voices. Right. But I don't know, if he's writing great dialogue for, you know, a 40 year old to read. I think this feels like real life. Whereas teenagers really go what this is not. This is nonsense. Nobody talks like this.

Mark Tufo 32:00

Probably, you know, he he's got an audience. He's, he's catering to a writing to you know, so

Francisco Mahfuz 32:06

yeah. So so the other thing that I think some people could could argue is not necessarily a strength of yours, but I'm going to take the strength side of it, which is, a lot of people are great at plot, and are thinking ahead, this is what's going to happen. This is what I'm going to do with with with the series. But the thing you do, I think you do very well, in in this is the one thing I find that makes most people storytelling, particularly when you're talking about auto short stories, is the difference between a good story and a bad story is how good they are at focusing on moments. And I've heard a really good description about this from from a storyteller called Marshawn door. And she says that, you know, if you're telling a good story of making a movie in someone's mind, so if you if you're doing it, right, it's an action scene, like you can see everything that's happening, you know, what the characters are feeling, it has lots of detail on it. If you're doing it not as well, we could be like a montage, you're getting a taste for it, but you're not really into the scene. And if you're doing it terribly, it's just a voiceover is no, they went over there. And they did this and they did that. It's just not. I think it's pretty brilliant. But but the one thing I think you you do well, like how granular a lot of that stuff is to the point that you have one book that I enjoyed, but it was the one I was like, Mark, come on, you're just you're just getting my money now. Where they don't do a there's no they don't do anything. But like they're trying to go from one place to another place. And I think in the chorus of the book, they move like half a kilometre, because they just kept getting bogged down into one scene that just lasts for 100 pages, and then another scene of us for 100 pages. So how can how can deliberate is I'm going to make this thing super detailed and stretch the hell out of it, other than I'm gonna move my plot forward.

Mark Tufo 34:00

You know, you get either side of the spectrum, people are gonna give me crap about I literally had a whole chapter of Mike climbing a ladder, you know, obviously, there was a lot of side shoots. Things. Yeah,

Francisco Mahfuz 34:14

I remember I remember that chapter. Yes.

Mark Tufo 34:19

You know, it's not conscious. I truly, I, I don't feel like I'm doing money grabs. It's not my intention. My intention is to entertain and hopefully people enjoy the stories. You know, it just sometimes. That's what happens in terms of plot building, unfortunately. I mean, I wish I did, but I do not storyboard. It's more of a seat of the pants. But there's there's a caveat. I mean, there's a good side to that, too, is a lot of people like Wow, I did not see that coming. It's like you didn't see it coming because I didn't know it was coming. You know, it wasn't your normal trope like you kinda you know, when you're watching a movie like little Johnny As you know, at some point, they're going to win the championship cup, that kind of thing. Um, so

Francisco Mahfuz 35:06

it's a point that it's worth highlighting to people is that, you know, so the zombie follow up series should end on book 16. Indian who ended with Book Seven. But as I understand it, even when you were already writing it, so zombie followed was going to be one book, and then it was going to be three books. And then it's going to be well, who knows? Maybe six, maybe seven, and it just kept on going. But there were clear points there. That felt like an ending. Okay, now he's ended his books, but I know that there's another 10. So I'm sure something else is going to happen. But you never thought beyond the the trilogy, or the next three or four or five books that you were you were writing, right?

Mark Tufo 35:44

No, yeah. I mean, it was more of as I was writing, I was like, wow, I could do this. Or they could go here, or this character could bring them into this area. Yeah. So yeah, on foot, you know, I write by the seat of my pants is what they call it. So, yeah, unfortunately, never really planned out. I've talked to authors that, you know, they spend three months outlining their story so that when they sit down, they're never at their keyboard, like, what do I write now? Whereas I've, you know, I've done that on a few occasions. So are you

Francisco Mahfuz 36:17

familiar with? Are you familiar with Joe Abercrombie? Yes. Yeah. So So Joe, he is one of my favourite fantasy authors. And I follow his blog, and he was talking about his latest trilogy that is just come finishing in September. And here's the anti George RR Martin, because he thought he thinks out the trilogy, plots out the three books. And once he knows, he can actually put one out every year, he actually starts writing the first one, like properly writing the first one in and it's like clockwork is like, occasionally, I'm off by a month or two. But he said, I will publish one every September. And this will be done in three years. But but that yeah, that sounds very much like the opposite of of your more intuitive or instinctive approach.

Mark Tufo 37:02

Yeah, I, I would love to hear this, this whole, always a coin flip side. But having that sort of structure would make some of my days a lot easier. But then I feel like you could pigeonhole yourself to you know, you've got, okay, this, I wrote down everything the way it needs to be. And then, you know, you never kind of diverge, or you find that little nugget of brilliance, it's like, Oh, I could have done that. Or I should have done that. Or I did do that.

Francisco Mahfuz 37:30

Well, I guess that it's good to have a roadmap. But, you know, you should always leave yourself enough room to figure out where the, where the story works best, because you can say, Okay, I want them to do this, this and that and ended up at this point. And then as as you write in the characters just go that this just doesn't feel right, like this doesn't feel in character. And now that choice doesn't work. And now I have to change the plan. I don't think there's a problem with that. But even with stories that are shorter in nature, so I, I just went through this process recently where I have this story about breaking into a Radiohead concert. And then almost having a friend of mine, you know, kind of steal a girl from me because I was busy breaking into this Greathead concert and not getting to her. And in that the story kind of went through was over six months and evolved to different continents and whatever. And as I started writing it and figuring out what worked and what was trying to say, with the story, I actually realised the story doesn't need and actually shouldn't have the most colourful parts, because it doesn't work as well, if I have to drag it out over this period of time, and I have to get all this extra characters involved. So I turned the story that was sort of a an epic journey with all sorts of ups and downs to like this thing that is a lot shorter, and I can tell in five, 510 minutes, that's all the story I need to tell. And it just doesn't, there's no need for all this other stuff that I'm trying to cram in, just because I think it would be cool. It doesn't serve the story. So I think plot has, I think it's important to know what you're trying to say. If you're saying that it doesn't really matter how you got there. As long as you know, don't take seven years to write one book and then never write the last two books of your of your series.

Mark Tufo 39:17

I got I've got a few artists on my reading list that I've done that and actually unfortunately a couple have actually passed away and so yeah,

Francisco Mahfuz 39:31

I tell I've decided this long time ago and it was It wasn't because of Game of Thrones but I think it applies to almost any type of art that you're interested in which is there are so many good books series or TV series that have already finished and you know that they're all there in you know that they're good you know that they didn't screw it up at the end. So why invest yourself in something that at best you have to work to wait three to six months between stall means to keep following in at worst is either going to never end. Or it's going to turn to be crap. You know, two thirds into the into the way. So what you know why, like I speak to people that have never watched The Sopranos or Breaking Bad or not Game of Thrones, but something, you know, dead wood or whatever. And I say why not watching this incredibly amazing classic TV series, you watching this thing that you can only watch 10 episodes and have to wait a year to watch the rest.

Mark Tufo 40:32

I don't Guilty, guilty.

Francisco Mahfuz 40:37

The Netflix algorithm is screwing up people's common sense.

Mark Tufo 40:41

And then, um, you know, I get a lot of folks that won't read like and followed until the zombie Fallout series is completed, you know, so

Francisco Mahfuz 40:51

I was I was that guy. I thought because you already had the follow up. I thought, well, he's already got the like and follow thing. So surely the zombie one is done. And when I looked at it, there were 15 books already or so. Okay, well, this is them. I had no idea that I can only found out that it wasn't done. When it ended. I was like, This doesn't seem like they're wrapping it up. This is like this last 50 pages, I'm gonna have to cram a lot of stuff in it's like, Oh, come on.

Mark Tufo 41:19

Yeah, I did try to be as vague as possible in the like, in follow up series, so that I didn't, I didn't make it. So constricting zombie Fallout, you know? So to some degree.

Francisco Mahfuz 41:33

Yeah, there's a couple of other things I want to I want to talk to you just very done. And one of them is the in the zombie followed series, you do this thing? And I don't know why you do it. So I'm gonna ask is, you have all this, all these stories about? So Mike, in the course of the book, and sometimes after the actual story of the book is over, he tells personal stories that typically have little or nothing to do with the plot of the book. So either goes down a rabbit hole of memory and talks about something that doesn't either interesting stories, but they don't necessarily have anything to do with the plot. And they're not adding to the plot. Sometimes they're just maybe fleshing out the characters relationships a bit more. But arguably, you could do away with them. So the first question is, why are you doing that, and to how many of those are actually true?

Mark Tufo 42:20

I put them in, I'll get a random thought, sometimes the middle of the night, and I've tried to type it away. And like you said, they have nothing to do with the plot. But to me, it's a lot of a few of them, I hope, are humorous, and you know, and then they give more insight into Mike and his, you know, his youth usually growing up and things he did and why he's like he is. So that's the why of it. What was the rest of the question, man, I kind of just lost me

Francisco Mahfuz 42:49

how many? How many of them are sorry, some of them if you feel remarkably well. Detailed, for them not to have been something you know, there's one in particular, I'm thinking of where their, their car is that they tried to come out of they went camping and then went off roading. And then they almost killed themselves trying to come out of a very narrow ravine or whatever, that one felt very close to the bone. Because it

Mark Tufo 43:15

was terrifying when it was actually happening. Quite a few are definitely based in truth. Some, you know, taken author liberties on some I temper down some I, you know, increased up. But yeah, probably got, I'd say probably 75% of them are actually fact based.

Francisco Mahfuz 43:37

Okay, I get that. And I think that in hindsight, or having seen everything from a bit more of a distance, I wouldn't, I probably would have bought a mike Talbot short stories book. So you know, I think they're fine, or they are and I read all of them. I didn't skip any of those stories. But some of them felt I didn't know if you had any objective about for doing them other than, you know, I just want to tell the story. And since I'm writing this book, I might as well stick it in here.

Mark Tufo 44:07

Pretty much that's it? Yeah. No, no ulterior motive other than like, Hey, here's something I hope you think is funny and enjoy it or don't usually anything that's Talbots, sewed, called, has nothing to do with the books for the most part.

Francisco Mahfuz 44:20

Yeah, so the last thing I wanted to talk to you about is something that is definitely happening to you. But I don't know if you're if you've heard of this essay called 1000 true fans. Okay, so this is a this is an essay from Kevin Kelley, who is the guy who started Wired Magazine, and he has this this theory, which I think in your case is very much proven true. Where he says that if you are whatever you're doing in life, whatever your your gig is, particularly if you are an artist of any kind, all you need is 1000 true fans. If you have 1000 true fans full of everything you do, who buy most of the things, if not all of the things that you put out and would be delighted to get your personal time in any way they could? That is more than enough in today's world to build a very healthy business and lifestyle and be creatively fulfilled? I mean, he's talking about you, isn't it?

Mark Tufo 45:24

i Yeah, I mean, I, I gotta admit, this zombie follow fans are the mark tuvo book fans, they are very vocal and supportive. You know, early on, in my career, you know, if I got the dreaded one star review, and I was losing my mind, because authors are so squishy in regards to their ego. I would, you know, like, I'd go whine on social media, like a dumbass. And, you know, these these, these folks would hop on this person and and attack. I was like, oh, no, I didn't mean to unleash the Kraken. So I had to learn like, you know, okay, it's a one stop, you'll be fine. Relax, you know, not everybody like stuff, and do not unleash the dogs, you know. And but, yeah, I think I veered off a little bit. Yeah, that 1000 fans, I mean, just having folks are so passionate about your work. It's surreal. And it's awesome. And that support they give and that I'm able to work at home in shorts, and play with my puppies for most of the day, you know, it's huge. And I really couldn't ask for anything else.

Francisco Mahfuz 46:37

Just to give people a bit of context here. Because they, you know, a lot of people might not be familiar with the phenomenon that is only followed series has become is that, you know, you have a lot of books that are well reviewed on Amazon and other Indian Hill series, I think most of them are in their hundreds of five star reviews. But what caught my attention and as I think caught a lot of people's attention, and will continue to do so is that I think the first time we fall out, and the vast majority of them are in that like 2000s of five star reviews. And you just keep looking at this. And it's just five star review of the five star review. And those numbers are not common. I mean, you do see books on Amazon that are sponsored or endorsed by Oprah. And they get to the 20 1000s and 30 1000s. But you're you know, officially you are an author that no one outside of a specific niche would have no, no, there's no TV series yet that goes with it. You not a mainstream success by that type of curriculum most people tend to consider successful author to be. But having said that, you do something that I know a lot of published authors cannot do, which is live off book sales. I know a lot of authors that sold well and have a name in the market, but they live off. Professional Speaking, they talk about the subjects that their books cover, and that's how they make their money. They don't make their money out of book sales. So I think that I think the one thing I'm trying to say there is something that a lot of people forget is how success and being able to do something that you're that inspires you and makes you feel good about getting up every day doesn't involve becoming famous. It doesn't involve having, you know, hundreds of 1000s of people like what you do, and I don't have anywhere near the type of audience you do. Like every time somebody tells me, I really love your podcast, or you know, I put stupid videos on social media all the time talking about storytelling, and they're like, Oh, I really love your videos. Like, I had a conversation with someone who I know in a completely different area of life this morning, and it has nothing to do with storytelling. And he said, Oh, by the way, did I tell you that I watched every single one of your videos and I love them. I'm a big fan. I'm like, I don't know what to do with that.

Mark Tufo 48:51

It's but it's awesome, too. And I mean, I hope I never get to the point. Where do if somebody writes to me takes a time out of the day to tell me that how much they enjoyed a book or a series that I don't ever appreciate that I hope I never get to that point where I don't appreciate and they don't respond personally. To those folks. I mean, it means a world I mean, they are dropping their hard earned money for a story for me, and I appreciate it. And I'm still blown away every time someone reaches out to express how you know that maybe even they've enjoyed it with their family, they read it, read my books together, the husband and wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, couple of whatever, you know, even some folks with their kids and I find that huge because when I was growing up, you know, definitely my dad, myself and my brother, we used to do that with Stephen King, you know, and it meant a lot, you know, we created some bonds talking about these stories and that now folks are doing that with mine is just, you know, kind of blows my mind.

Francisco Mahfuz 49:47

Yeah, I think I really appreciate how, how accessible you were and I know you make a point of saying how easy to reach you are in the to actually respond to people's emails. And you do and I think that that's, I think There is one thing that if there's one thing that people can take away from, from this whole conversation, it could be that when you find that thing that you're so passionate about doing and you love doing and other people are enjoying it, that is often the biggest reward that you're ever going to get out of doing something, it's it's great to make money from, from whatever you think is your is your art or your or your passion. But having other people genuinely think of, you know, this podcast episode comes out, I'm really looking forward to listening to it, or this book is coming out, I really want to read it. It's just, it's difficult to think about that someone feels that way about ourselves and not feel like a big imposter.

Mark Tufo 50:44

But it's, that's definitely a thing to among the author, community, or any artist, I guess, is the imposter syndrome. We're all we're all afraid we're going to get found out, you know, at some point, like, maybe he's not as good as they, you know. We hope that doesn't happen. And yeah,

Francisco Mahfuz 51:02

yeah, no, and it's great. And I think it's, it, it's very, it's very encouraging to hear that that's happening. And we know that that couldn't have happened 20 years ago, like you wouldn't have had the the avenue to publish and to reach the fans the way you have now. So and this is one thing I think people underestimate these days is, like, if you if you're able to put out good content that other people are going to love, you can end they will, there's not a gatekeeper at the moment that the way they used to be in almost any industry. So if there's something that's that you really passionate about doing, that doesn't mean that they will become, you know, Mark Two, four, and sell 1000s and 1000s of books, but they might just find an audience of a million people. I don't know, I actually tried finding the the sales figures and I couldn't really find them. Or you have to do videos already. Yeah. Oh, well done. Fantastic stuff. So you see, we have no idea, right? Because, you know, what does 2000 Amazon reviews translates to? And I think to some people that I don't know, if it's always millions, I don't know if it's possible. But then why so said few people are putting stars five star reviews, they're

Mark Tufo 52:18

like, they've done metrics on it, I think about only 1% If not less of actual people will leave a review.

Francisco Mahfuz 52:27

I love to, I love to know who is the guy who's gone through the night and the person who's gone through 15 Zombie books from you, and cannot be bothered to go there. And at least try not to have like I given you one one written review. But every single time I finished one of your books on my Kindle, I tap the five stars. I mean, that's the easiest thing in the world to do.

Mark Tufo 52:49

As approval, I do not read reviews, I have realised I realised early on that I don't have the psyche to deal with it. You know, the one star used to be it's not as bad now got a little thicker skin. But the one star, you know, I wanted to go run off into Lake until I drowned. And then the five star My head got this big I couldn't get through doorways. So I do not try to read reviews. But every once in a while I just I fail and I look but this one drove me crazy. It was like on book 14 Or something when it first came out, gives a one star review because for whatever reason didn't enjoy the book. But so you are 14 books in. And the only book of mine you left review for was a one star on foot. What about the other 13? Could you throw me a bone? You know? That would be cool. So I got one one star review. A lady said her friend didn't like my book. So she doesn't either. So it's like that tell you right there to just stay away from reading your own reviews.

Francisco Mahfuz 53:54

I heard this. I heard there's two approaches to that, that I think are useful. One of them is Java Chrome, his approach where he picks the best worst reviews he gets and puts him on his Twitter feed. Like he was really looking for the creative stuff. But it's like someone, not not all of them are just that but some of them are, like, you know, the book arrived wet. Like for me, but some of them are people genuinely criticising him. And then he posts that and comments on it. And he says, it's much more fun to do that with the reviews that will normally bother me then keep posting on the five star ones that were just gonna make me feel like I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. And the other approach I found that is just a mind mindset thing. But I heard the speakers say, you know, you do a keynote in front of 300 people and then 295 of them give you the top marks and then five people don't like it very much and one person hates it. And then I mean why are you Why It's not a it's not an arrogant, he said, he said, Why are you being so disrespectful to the 295 people that loved it, that you're valuing their opinion lower than five people, of which if you actually pay attention to what they said, they either they probably weren't paying attention, the thing they're complaining is not the, you know, the speech in itself. So what why are those people valued more to you than the 290 295 that liked it, you know, get get get over yourself, and

Mark Tufo 55:33

you want everybody to like you, you know, and I was in customer service way back when, and I could deal with 12 of the nicest people that walked this planet in a row. To this day, I still remember that 13th A whole you know, like, that one that just made my day a living hell, you know, and I don't remember, unfortunately, those 12 people that was so super nice, you know,

Francisco Mahfuz 56:00

Mark, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna quote you back to yourself, or paraphrase you back to yourself. If you want everybody to like you then don't write zombie apocalypse books with Mike Talbert as the main character

Mark Tufo 56:13

is the truth, right? Oh, my gosh, can we one just one funny one star review because this one's hilarious. Go for it. I wrote a book called callous rose. And the review, I should probably post it but it was a one star and it was like countless Rose is like carry for dummies. And I was like, That's friggin love that.

Francisco Mahfuz 56:36

That is good movie. I said, I love your books. And I said, it's, you know, Aaron Sorkin got high and wrote about zombie zombies and faulting. I mean, and I love those books. But you know, I'm just trying to get relate to people, what the sort of flavour of the books are is just said, you don't need to be for everyone. And you've clearly proven that. I think you've proven something that a lot of people are talking about branding, talk about all the time is, if you're for everyone, then you for no one. And if you are really, really out there, you will find your tribe. And that tribe is probably a lot bigger than most people fear it's going to be they think they need to sort of take the edge off the way they speak and the way they ride because otherwise it's going to put people off was the other way if you have no edge that puts people off.

Mark Tufo 57:25

Yeah, I mean, vanilla is only going to get you so far. You know, people like their chocolate chips and their demand and all that stuff. So you are true in that aspect.

Francisco Mahfuz 57:35

Yes, I think I think it might not be the best way to sell the zombie apocalypse series saying this is this is the mint flavour of zombie books.

Mark Tufo 57:47

Yeah, uh, you know, that there's that one catch phrase, I think in the first chapter, but the people one if if you laugh at that, then I've got a you you're probably going to finish the series of if that puts you off, then you're one and done. And you know, you rolled your dice took a chance.

Francisco Mahfuz 58:06

Yes. And I think talking talking about talking about apocalypse is I feel fear that I'll be facing my own Apocalypse if we don't wrap up soon, because the children should be home any second and in my wife who is not a redhead, but can can impersonate one, we will have a right go at me for going well over my allotted time as a as a person who does not look after the children. So much. So just for anyone who hasn't caught that yet. The we've been talking mostly about the zombie, the zombie apocalypse series, you also have the Indian Hills series and a whole bunch of other books. They're all on Amazon. And if people want to find you and what you're up to, or reach out to you, where should they go?

Mark Tufo 58:52

Well, you can do mark to if you want to email me, I'm on Facebook, I got an author page and a couple of fan pages. If you can't get ahold of me or not trying just don't show up at my door that's already been done.

Francisco Mahfuz 59:09

But that's it. Well, I'm glad we finally managed to overcome technical difficulties and, and the timezone mysteries between the US and Barcelona. And thank you, thank you very much for your time, and I'm really looking forward to book 16.

Mark Tufo 59:24

Thank you, man. I had pleasure being on it, Francisco. Alright, everyone.

Francisco Mahfuz 59:28

Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.

I hope you enjoy the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find the show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tab. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit My Website story

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