Norwalk author and former TV writer Mark Keys offers a sinful time in debut novel
Mark Keys spent over two decades as a television producer and executive, traveling around the globe, so it was only natural that he has turned his life into a book that walks a fine line between fact and fiction.
“I’ve had such a unique career that I felt that other people would be interested in these stories and these characters,” he said of the book he independently published (available on Amazon since July). While this is his first book, he has written for television for more than 25 years. The book, “SIN,” takes its double-meaning title for the airport code for Singapore, where the story is set. Rife with hedonism, it’s all one might expect of a behind-the-scenes tale of the entertainment industry: sex, drugs, rock and roll and a whole lot more. Written from the vantage point of an industry insider, the book paints a portrait of the lavish lifestyle of an expatriate in Asia and the difficulty of finding love in the New York minute-paced world of show business. It’s also about redemption.
Keys’ jobs with the likes of MTV, Sony Pictures, ESPN and more took him around the world but about 12 years ago, it brought him to Norwalk, where he has put down roots and loves the community. Of his time working in Singapore, he said, “It was the mid-90s to the early 2000s so there was a lot of money flying around. It was a crazy time; it was chaos mixed in with Buddhist and/or traditional values.” He describes “SIN” as “Entourage” meets “Lost in Translation.” “At its heart though, the book serves as a love letter to Asia and Asian culture.” It’s also a love story for the main character, Logan Stewart. A history buff, Keys structured his story in a specific manner to not only tell an entertaining story but educate readers about Asia. Keys starts off each chapter with a quote that relates to the plot in that chapter, then delves into a bit of Asian history before picking up the narrative. “There’s a lot of history in there, there’s a lot of architecture and then there are just a lot of really international characters.”
Asked how similar Logan is to him, Keys laughs and says about 80 percent, which he acquiesces is about the same amount of how much the book is fact vs. fiction. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty though. Given his background in television, it’s not surprising that Keys wrote the book quite visually with each chapter akin to a scene in a movie.
Taking a break from his career to write “SIN,” he said progress was slow at first but as the characters began speaking to him, the book has grown into a trilogy. “I made writing my full-time job for about eight months and in the beginning I was getting maybe one page or two pages a day,” he said. “By the end, and I know a lot of artists talk about this, it just became kind of a zen thing…”
Interestingly, the first book, “SIN,” has its ending in the first chapter and then flashes back to tell how the character ended up where he is (no spoilers). Keys is hard at work now writing the second book, “MIA,” which also has a double meaning. First and foremost, it’s the airport code for Miami, where Keys worked and once ran a popular nightclub in the trendy South Beach district. The planned third book, MAD, takes its title from Madrid’s airport code.
Keys is in talks with TV networks and hopes to realize his end goal for the books as a multi-part streaming series. The first book has been selling well and reader feedback has been strong across the board.
Writing screenplays for television was quite different than writing literary fiction but Keys enjoyed the challenge and the freedoms he found. “It was a joy to write. I had a little bit more control writing a book than a screenplay,” he said, adding that while the book is educational and entertaining, there are some life lessons in it. “One message from the book would be just to be open to exploration,” he said. “No fear of the unknown is how I would look at that and not everything is what it seems to be on the surface and you can get yourself in trouble and get yourself out.”