Mark A Calde is an author like no other. The 69-year-old Californian native has just published his fourth novel, Bascomville, and is determined to set the record straight about men’s responsibility towards women – and he has a unique insight into the mechanics of relationships, having been married to his wife Shelley for an impressive 46 years.
Softly spoken with an infectious laugh that belies his steely determination to make the world a better place, he hopes that Bascomville will go a long way toward proving that there are men in the world who can see every woman’s true value.
“Women deserve sacrifice from their men to really make the relationship work, because it validates that they are equal in the relationship and not simply a necessary appendage,” he says from his home in Westchester, CA., where he lives with Shelley.
“My aim with Bascomville was to show how men spend a lifetime trying to hide their vulnerability and how important women are to them. Many women think they are reacting to men but the truth of life is that men are reacting to women – and I know that most women don’t often think they do. It probably took me 20 years out of 46 years of marriage to learn that women are still vastly under-appreciated. The simple truth is that women deserve better from their men.”
Mark writes his books from his home office, and indeed Shelley has proved a trusted sounding board since he penned his fist novel, Shadowboxer, in 1976.
“Writing can be a lonely profession so it’s great to have someone I can trust to hand my work to,” he says. “She’s invaluable because I discovered good editors in the publishing business are hard to find. I trust her implicitly.”
Instant soul mates, they met as fresh-faced undergrads – Mark was at Loyola University (now LMU in Westchester, CA.), while Shelley was studying nearby at Mount St Mary’s College in Brentwood – and have been inseparable ever since. “I was at an all-boys school so we had to import girls to our college for theatrical productions. She turned up for rehearsals and that’s how we met,” he laughs.
With Shelley’s support Mark initially gave up work to write his first novel before joining the family real estate investment business; it was Shelley who would laboriously manually type copies of Mark’s manuscripts to send to publishers before the advent of computers.
Mark, now enjoying the creative luxury of being a full-time author but with two children and five grandchildren to keep him busy, also delights in his role as dad and granddad. Family is clearly very important to him but thanks to his astute writer’s instinct, he understands that perfection is something that can never be achieved within the family unit.
“You are flawed from the moment you take your first breath. Perfection exists for no one,” he says. “Every family has their dark and their light. It’s in every corner of your family gene pool. Embrace your lunacy. It’s all yours.”
Bascomville does just that. It’s a sprawling romantic family drama about first love and the dark secrets that families keep hidden behind closed doors. Mark deftly explores the idea that there is no “normal” for anyone.
“As a writer I try to be aware of what’s going on around me and it struck me one day that generally speaking, everybody is searching for this elusive goal of normalcy – but it’s a fruitless search,” he says. “If you look for test-tube normal in any family situation, you will ultimately be disappointed. No such thing exists. As humans we just have to be adaptable and do the best we can.”
The book tells the story from the point of view of young Max Bascom, who eyes his father with contempt and his mother with pity. Spanning ten formative years, we follow Max’s relationship with his next-door-neighbor sweetheart Janice, as they navigate their own unique family dynamics while embarking on their own emotional journey into adulthood. The book takes the reader on a compelling journey showing that the biggest wars we fight are usually confined within our own homes.
“Max falls for the girl next door, so her world becomes part of his world,” says Mark. “Bascomville works with the idea that while there are conflicts going on everywhere in the world, we really only exist within our own four walls – and that’s where our biggest battles are fought.”
So does he believe that relationships between men and women have in any way improved in the almost half century he’s been a husband?
“I see it in some ways but by and large the whole concept of relationships between men and women has a long way to go. Women are more accepted in the workplace now but they are also now subject to pressures they didn’t have in the Forties, Fifties or Sixties when they were expected to stay home with the children. Women still get the short end of the stick. For example, they still don’t get equal pay, so it’s a work in progress.” He pauses before adding: “Yes, progress has been made but are we near the finish line? I don’t think so.”
Mark is a second-generation American of Italian descent, which may help explain why he so passionately defends the opposite sex. “Italian men can be chauvinistic in their own way but they revere women so yes, perhaps in some way my family and heritage influenced me.”
As an only child he would spend time in the kitchen with his mom, watching her cook, and to this day loves creating new recipes. “Like my mom, I never follow recipes. I love to recreate restaurant food and put my own spin on it.”
His father was an avid reader who instilled in him a love of books. “I started reading books at an early age but once my father started a book he felt he owed it to the author to finish even if he hated it. I wouldn’t do that.”
He says he was a thoughtful child, spending more time on his own than other children he knew with siblings, and felt from an early age that men had a responsibility toward women.
“I had respect for the capabilities of women earlier than a lot of guys my age did,” he reveals. “I never enjoyed participating in locker room trash talk about girls. I found it demeaning and offensive. I took a little heat for that.”
It seems that Mark Calde might just be the best thing to happen to women in the book world for a very long time. Does he think that writers can change the world? “Yes, I do, but it’s very much a two-way street. The audience has to be prepared to come with you and be open to change.”
Indeed, it’s a sensibility that has served him well as a writer. And with all his years of learning, he wants the readers of Bascomville to know one thing. “Men love and need women,” he says gently but with purpose. “I really want women to understand this.”
Bascomville is now available to buy or download from http://amzn.to/2coXl2E