Ad Alum's New Book Getting Rave Reviews

"Contract City" by Mark Falkin to be adapted into TV pilot, screenplay

Critics are giving thumbs up to Advertising alumnus Mark Falkin’s commercial debut novel, Contract City.

The YA (Young Adult category) novel is set in post-martial law America of 2021. When a young woman makes a documentary needed for her film school application about the transgressive graffiti in her hometown-turned-police state of Tulsa, Okla., she finds herself caught in a crucible wherein everything she values is threatened, including her father, her mysterious first love and her life.

Mystery Scene Magazine says “Contract City is an engaging mystery … an action-filled adventure, a futuristic story and a cautionary tale about censorship, inequality and justice.”

The Austin American Statesman, which included Contract City in its “top summer reads” list for 2015, says “Falkin focuses as much on word craft as plot twists, which elevates this believably futuristic tale, as do the universal teen concerns of Sara and her friends.”

And Booklist says “… With twists turning until the end, it’s hard to put this down.”

Falkin says Contract City is now being adapted into a television pilot and film, and that it has received numerous award nominations from literary organizations including PEN/Bingham, Oklahoma Book Awards and Anisfield-Wolf, among others.

For students considering a career as a fiction writer, Falkin says it’s probably best to toss the word “career.” “Write because you’re compelled, because you have to,” he advises. “Find that meaningful day job career and write fiction in the margins of it. This means getting up early and staying up late and writing on lunch breaks.”

According to Falkin, moving to New York or getting an M.F.A. in fiction isn’t mandatory, but writing “until your fingers bleed and until your mind bends but doesn’t break is.”

“Read deeply and widely,” he says. “Do not write to the marketplace. Write from the heart, with passion and truthfulness.”

Writing short stories is a good way to start. “Seek publication in literary magazines. Enter contests. Build a list of publication credits,” he says. “Read, read, read some more. Read Stephen King’s On Writing. Understand the realities of publishing and getting published and continue on anyway.”

Consistency of effort is critical, he says. “Write every day. Write on those days you don’t feel like it. When you put a long string of those don’t-feel-like-it-but-wrote-anyway days together, then you are starting to become a writer.”

After graduating with a B.A. in advertising from SMU Meadows in 1993, Falkin became a lawyer and practiced entertainment and trademark law.

“My degree in advertising helped me as a lawyer because you’ve got to sell your client’s position to somebody: a court, an opposing side, a boardroom,” he says. “You’ve got to tell the client’s story. You’ve got to do this in writing and in person, with evidence, exhibits and charts, a lot like an ad campaign. Morphing into a literary agent, which is what I do now, it’s even more selling with the written word, the written pitch.

“I became a more creative person by osmosis by simply being in the Meadows School for four years.”

Read more about Mark Falkin.