Interview with Paul Markun, author of The Big Disrupter

Paul Markun grew up an entrepreneur and dreamer, starting with his first paper route at age nine in the Canal Zone of Panama. Living in Telluride, Colorado, he started four companies with best friends before he was 24, including Fly By Night Builders, The Illusions Company, High Country Trekkers–you get the idea; great names, cool ideas, not much income. He moved to Silicon Valley, got more education and tech experience, and started SoftIRON Systems and Fullspeed Networks, and rode the wave of the late 1990s to success. He sold SoftIRON Systems to the Williams Company (WilTel), a Fortune 300 company. In 2001 his company Fullspeed was acquired by Callisma, which became Pac Bell and then AT&T. You know them, right? In the first decade of the 2000s, he joined fellow entrepreneurs to lead marketing for Netcordia, which later IPO’d as Infoblox (NYSE:BLOX). He also ran marketing for Sitecore, a web software company, growing it 10 X from an $8 million fledgling niche provider to an established global corporation. Paul continues to be involved with emerging companies to this day. Paul met his wife Rachel, an attorney, when he was 18 and she was even younger at the University of Chicago. Their fountains of inspiration are their two sons and a daughter. A passionate story teller, he turned his energies to writing about topics and characters close to his own heart.His first novel is The Big Disrupter.

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About The Book

An anonymous donor creates a prize for One Billion Dollars to inspire social entrepreneurs to promote world change. Lionel Lane, an idealistic entrepreneur, partners with his brilliant ex-girlfriend Maxine Gold to turn around his struggling San Francisco-based company Double Vision Beverages to compete for the Big Disrupter Award. With the help of a venture capitalist and an eccentric financier, Double Vision expands into energy drinks using the pure water from the mountains of Telluride, Colorado. Talented 21-year-old extreme skier, Reddi Christiansen, becomes the face of their quest for the youth market. One by one the leading competitors in the Big Disrupter fall victim to unexplained tragedies. The police are mystified. The prize for social good becomes a death trap, but too rich to resist. Desperate for protection, Lionel, Maxine and Reddi enlist a former Navy SEAL cyber guru. The faster they race towards the approaching award deadline, the more the escalating dangers threaten to spin them off a cliff.

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Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life! Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process. Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning? Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Don’t you get a thrill telling a story that makes people laugh? Or gasp? Or wonder if you aren’t too crazy for comfort?

Imagine also being able to bring the beauty, creativity, audacity, genius, arrogance, sexiness, kindness, ruthlessness and insanity in the people you’ve met in your life into a story?

That’s what I tried to do, inspired by my life living in the mountains of Colorado and California, and years of starting and building high tech businesses in Silicon valley. So The Big Disrupter is present day, set in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the mountains of Telluride, Colorado.

I wanted our young heroes be social entrepreneurs and start a “Red Bull” energy drink company with a conscience because I think it’s credible, a great idea, and a useful vehicle for the drama.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Learn by doing. I hired a great content editor (Caroline Tolley) with years of ‘Big Six” experience in my thriller genre. She made me rewrite the book three times. By the end of those two and a half years I had a worthy product and my master’s degree.

A little late in the process an excellent copy editor (Nancy Russell) brought The Big Disrupter’s level of capitalization, punctuation and grammar to a professional level. Next book she gets it sooner.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I’ve never sent a single letter to an agent or a publisher. I want to spend my time writing creatively. For me today’s self-publishing opportunity is a dream come true.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

I’m a little surprised at how obsessed I became with the tiny details– I mean really Paul, does the fleuron style between sections matter that much?

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I’m doing a trilogy with my characters and am well into the second of the three.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I’m pretty conventional that way- Techcrunch, LinkedIn, Twitter. If you ever want to see the most amazing ski photos, however, check out Wicked Skiing on Tumbler.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

My dream is some brave and wealthy philanthropists are motivated by the story and decide to fund their own billion-dollar prize for social entrepreneurs. In the end I think all of us want to make a difference, and there are a surprising number of uber wealthy who could put their imprint on something meaningful, if it suits their style and sensibility. I hope some tech billionaires create their own Big Disrupter award.

Q: Thank you again for this interview! Do you have any final words?

In addressing The Writer’s Life, I admire the way author Phil Cousineau, author of Wordcatcher and much more, put it–as an author you are joining the long conversation in history. For me that is a real privilege.

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