BookView Interview with Author Mark Shaiken

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed  Mark Shaiken, commercial bankruptcy lawyer and author, about his writing and recently released, Fresh Start: A 3J Mystery, Book 1, an intricate legal thrilelr (Read the reveiw here).

Mark lives with his wife Loren and their dog Emily in Denver, Colorado. He hails from Queens, New York; New Hyde Park, New York; New Haven, Connecticut; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Topeka, Kansas; Manhattan, Kansas; Wamego, Kansas; Houston, Texas; Havertown, Pennsylvania; Kansas City, Missouri; and Fairway, Kansas. He schooled at Haverford College and Washburn University, and practiced commercial bankruptcy law for decades before switching to a writing career. He is the author of “And . . Just Like That – essays on a life before, during, and after the law” and his new book, “Fresh Start,” a legal mystery. Connect with Mark at 

Web page:

LinkedIn author page:

Facebook author page:

Book buzz page:

Library Thing page:

The book is for sale on Amazon at:

it is also for sale: Barnes and Noble:




How often do you base your characters on real people?

 I try very hard to have the characters be completely fictional. I don’t want them to reflect any former client, opposing counsel, or judge.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

 For Fresh Start I did a significant amount of research before I sat down to write. There are several historical sections in the book going back to the imprisonment of debtors in the late 1700s in Philadelphia. The references to the Prune Street Jail in Philadelphia where creditors could imprison debtors who failed to pay their debts is as accurate as I could make it based on my research and reflects a real jail in those times. My discussion of a “man-in-the-middle” computer attack is likewise an accurate form of hacking. I changed the name of the app that is used from “Ettercamp” to my fictional app named “Bivouac” but other than the name change the hack is accurately portrayed and to do so, I interviewed two techies familiar with such attacks and did a good amount of online research. My portrayal of the criminal side of the law in the book to include the right against self incrimination and a doctrine called “The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” was outside my area of practice when I was a bankruptcy attorney so I likewise drew on interviews of criminal attorneys and electronic research about the doctrine to assure accuracy.

How many hours a day do you write?

Once I start my books, I typically write 6 days a week, for a minimum of 2 hours per writing session. If I only write 10 words during that session, then so be it, but that is rare. If I am on a roll that day, I will write for as long as wish, oftentimes 8-10 hours for a session. I have found that I enjoy the process immensely so the longer sessions are not exhausting and don’t feel like a job that I wish I didn’t have to do.

How often you read?

 I try to read each day. I usually like to read fiction although for Black History Month I read a biography of Malcom X that I found fascinating.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

 As a young adult, I was discouraged from pursuing a writing career. I would tell my younger writing self not to listen to others and I would say, “if you feel drawn to writing, then go for it. Your younger days should be to explore things about which you are passionate.”

How do you select the names of your characters?

In Fresh Start, I did a good deal of research to select revolutionary war names and I also spent some time on baby naming web sites to select names. Kind of an interesting process. But, I also keep notes as I go through the day of names I like.

Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?

I loved Isaac Asimov as a kid. He came to my college and gave the graduation commencement speech and I loved him even more after that. I think my inspiration to write comes from my personality. I feel that I am naturally an introvert, and as a result, my voice is not often heard because I don’t say what is on my mind. Writing gives me a chance to be heard in what I hope is a thoughtful way. In Fresh Start, I address a few of the issues I raised in my prior book, “And . . . Just Like That” about the practice of law. I address them in a different manner than in the AJLT essays, but my views are expressed through some of the Fresh Start characters such as Judge Daniel Robertson’s private musings about his move from the practice of law to the life of a bankruptcy judge, the country wisdom of Bill Pascale, and the private thoughts of First Commercial Bank’s first lawyer – Dennis Sample.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It took me about 3.5 months to write the first draft of Fresh Start. It took me about 6 months to write the first draft of AJLT.

After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?

 I am pretty hard on myself so my methodology is to get everything I think I want to write down on “paper” in the first draft, and then go through many rounds of editing, with the goal not only to tighten up the prose, but to delete what is not absolutely necessary to the story line.

What’s more important: characters or plot?

My tongue in cheek answer is “Yes.” I don’t think one can fairly exist without the other. A plot with weak characters will be a weak plot. Characters enmeshed in a weak plot will not shine.

If asked, what would your friends and family say about you?

They would say that when I talk, I am direct, sometimes, they find that offensive. For that, I would respond, “I am sorry.”

Would you rather read a book or watch television?

Yes. I love both, especially, British television.

Are you a feeler or a thinker?

I would answer this one, “Yes.” I may be a little too much of both. Perhaps I bruise too easily (feeler) and perhaps I overthink things.

Tell us some more about your book.

Fresh Start takes place in Kansas City, Missouri, but gallops a bit around the world to Philadelphia, New York City, and London. It tells the story of Quincy Witherman, a real estate developer of skyscrapers, who continues his 200 year family legacy of hiding assets in Switzerland. His banker is Stacy Milnes (pronounced Mil-ness) who collects bad loans for her bank. The book is written in the third person with the point of view largely from Witherman’s bankruptcy attorney, Josephina Jillian Jones, 3J. 3J is an African American woman who represents debtors in chapter 11 business bankruptcy cases. Portions of the book are also written  in the first person as Witherman tells his story.

Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

The book started as a premise – Do bankruptcy debtors really hide significant assets and try to gig the system, and if they did, how would they go about doing it.

What life experiences have shaped your writing most?

 I was a corporate bankruptcy attorney for 38 years, mostly in Kansas City, Missouri at a large firm. My life in the bankruptcy trenches certainly shaped Fresh Start the most.

How did you decide on this title?

The phrase “Fresh Start” is a bankruptcy law phrase. In America, society provides a safety net for honest debtors who get in debt over their heads. They can seek  bankruptcy protection and at the end of the bankruptcy process, they are afforded a discharge of their debts – they don’t owe the money anymore. Rather their chapter 11 plan restructures the debts and that restructuring substitutes for the old debt. The discharge is considered the debtor’s fresh start. Witherman wasn’t satisfied with just a fresh start, however. He hid assets to try to get a head start. 

What’s next for you?

3J’s next book will be “Automatic Stay” about a creditor who improperly tries to collect a debt after 3J’s client files for bankruptcy and uses the premise of freedom of speech to try to justify his improper actions.

Ways to connect with me on social media:

my web page is:

my LinkedIn author page is:

my facebook author page is:

My book buzz page is:

And, my Library Thing page is:

the book is for sale on Amazon at:

it is also for sale: Barnes and Noble:




The book will also soon be for sale at bricks and mortar bookstores through Ingram Sparks distribution networks.


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