I stand out in a crowd in Asia.
That may seem like a strange place to start in telling my story, but it has been the one constant truth in my life for the better part of 20 years. I’m a strange sight, indeed.
I’ve gotten used to the stares and comments, but at first, it was quite a change for a shy, country boy from Western Pennsylvania.
That’s where I grew up, playing baseball, following my beloved Pirates, and knowing near nothing of Asia. Strangely enough, one of the very few novels I read during my high school years was Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. I also remember loving the children’s book we had at our house about a boy in China and the flock of ducks that followed him around. But that was about it, for me. I didn’t even like rice.
I went to college and majored in English, because I didn’t know what else to do. I married my lovely wife a week after college graduation and settled into normal American life. But it was not to be. I spent the summer of 1992 in China teaching English, and that experience changed everything for me. I couldn’t wait to get back to Asia. I didn’t have to wait long.
In 1994, my wife and I moved to Vietnam with our 15-month-old daughter. We stayed for ten years. Then in 2006 we moved to Malaysia, where we currently reside.
My overseas experiences have become the fodder for all of my stories. I am inspired by diverse cultures, and I have become a completely different person – and a completely different writer.
My first novel, Beauty Rising, rose out of my experiences in Vietnam. My second novel, The Recluse Storyteller, is also partially set in Vietnam. My third, yet to be published novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, is my epic story about my love for Vietnam, set in two different time periods; it’s a story I can’t wait to publish. (It’s coming in 2014!)
My time in Malaysia, living on the beautiful, tropical island of Penang, has been my muse. Since I moved here nearly 8 years ago, I’ve rekindled my love for writing. I’ve written and produced 11 full-length stage plays, and I’m working on my fourth novel.
And more importantly, I get to daily eat some of the best food in the world. Trust me, Penang is a food paradise.
I’m a lucky man; I know that. I have a wonderful family, and I love to tell stories about the human experience from my uniquely formed Asian worldview.
I’m also tall and white and stand out in an Asian crowd, yet I fit right at home at a roadside stall or a small dive-of-a-cafe.
I hope you’ll give one of my stories a try.
(Find out more about Mark and his books at the following links – TSRA):