Welcome to Book Editors: Close Up at http://www.authorlink.com . This regular Authorlink column provides an intimate look at important book editors in New York and elsewhere. Interviews focus on editors as real people. The columns explore their likes, dislikes, preferences, prejudices, writing preferences, and why they buy the books they do.


A Closer Look at Mark Tavani

New Senior Editor for Mortalis

a Random House Imprint

June 2006

Unusual challenges seem


to find him [Tavani], not

the other way around.



Mark Tavani has seldom been bored in all of his “almost 30-something” years.


He worked as a beer distributor and a forestry aid before coaxing a degree in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Unusual challenges seem to find him—instead of the other way around. Mark’s newest adventure is as senior editor of the new Mortalis imprint at Random House. There, with the help of editor, Judith Sternlight, he will oversee a whole new line of historical and international thrillers and mysteries which mirror his own passion for intriguing, well-crafted tales.


Mark joined Random House in 2000 and spent six years as an editor at Ballantine, another Random House division, before being tapped for the new job. At Ballantine, he has acquired titles ranging from thrillers, literary novels, and sports books to forensics titles, memoirs, graphic novels, and even a book about a 5' 9" journalist who becomes a sumo wrestler.

As one of the few male editors at Ballantine, Mark was the “go to” guy for so-called “boy books” of international intrigue. So, when Jane von Mehren, vice president and publisher, Trade Paperbacks Random House Publishing group, sought the best way to combine classic re-packaged mystery and suspense titles with new ones to form a more aggressive trade imprint, Mark was a natural. And so was co-editor Judy Sternlight, who acquires for RH’s classic imprint, Modern Library. The result is Mortalis.

"Mortalis gives us an ideal way


to introduce the best new writers

as well as to celebrate the masters

in these genres . . ."



Mortalis is more than a mere “line” of books, says Tavani. It is a full imprint, which combines under the same marketing banner classic authors such as Martin Cruz Smith, P.D. James, Robert Harris, and Agatha Christie, with original trade paperbacks by already well-known authors, and a few true crime titles. The imprint will launch in Spring 2007 with a total of six titles, and will release four titles per span thereafter, or 12 per year.


“Many worthwhile books get lost in the shuffle,” Mark told Authorlink. “We believe that by grouping together high quality classics and trade originals that have common elements of suspense and presenting them in a fresh way we can gain greater visibility for both.”

“Mortalis gives us an ideal way to introduce the best new writers as well as to celebrate the masters in these genres,” Tavani said, echoing his boss Jane von Mehren. “And I believe readers are ready for what we have to offer.”

The genre classics will be published in Spring 2007

The genre classics published in the spring list will be: GORKY PARK by Martin Cruz Smith, DEATH IN HOLY ORDERS by PD James, THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES by Agatha Christie.


The three original trade titles, set in places such as Beirut and Lisbon, include: Boris Akunin’s SISTER PELAGIA AND THE WHITE BULLDOG: Think of Sister Pelagia as a new Miss Marple from Russia and this new trade paperback original series from Mortalis as a new opportunity to introduce Boris Akunin to American readers. Alex Carr’s AN ACCIDENTAL AMERICAN: The engrossing and fiercely told tale of Nicole Blake, a retired master forger, who is pulled from her quiet life when an American operative asks her to find a former lover suspected of working with terrorists, AN ACCIDENTAL AMERICAN is a gripping international thriller and a forceful meditation on betrayal, both personal and political. David Corbett’s BLOOD OF PARADISE: A “big, brawny novel” that “runs on full throttle from first to last page”* and invites readers to explore a beautiful and brutal locale, for fans of Richard Price, John Burdett, and Pete Dexter. (*Michael Connelly).

Asked what kinds of manuscripts


Mortalis will seek, Tavani

said, "emotional, intelligent,

contemporary stories

in an amazing setting."


“We will support the program with unique marketing and publicity initiatives, tailored to this special group of authors and their dedicated readers,” said Mark. The imprint will feature stunning new packaging and each title will contain a “dossier” in the back—a brand new commentary section that illuminates a specific and intriguing aspect of the work, or the author's career. For example, back matter in David Corbett’s novel will include nonfiction essays on his experiences in El Salvador while researching the book. “Mortalis will give us more freedom to experiment with fresh approaches,” said Tavani. “And as a distinct imprint, we are confident we will attract the industry-leading reviews we want.”

All Random House and Ballantine Editors will be able to acquire for Mortalis. Asked what kinds of manuscripts Mortalis will seek, Tavani said, “emotional, intelligent, contemporary stories in an amazing setting.”

"They should tell me the specific


reasons why I should spend time

reading their project . . ."


Mark works mostly with literary agents rather than directly with authors. What he’s looking for from agents is enthusiasm. “They should tell me the specific reasons why I should spend time reading their project,” he said. “If a work doesn’t really excite the agent, chances are it won’t excite me either.”

What Mark loves best about his new job is that “it asks a little of every part of you. You have to be a business person, a marketer, author’s advocate, and a creative person all at once,” he said. “It’s never the same, never boring.”

He has worked with authors Steve Berry (New York Times bestselling author of (The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room), Charlie Huston (Edgar Award-nominated author of Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things, and Already Dead), Mike Greenberg (New York Times bestselling author of Why My Wife Thinks I’m An Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad), David Corbett (The Devil’s Redhead and Done for a Dime, a New York Times Notable Book), Alex Berenson (Nationally bestselling author of The Faithful Spy), and Stephen Frey (New York Times bestselling author of The Protégé and The Chairman), among others.

With this much excitement going on, Mark Tavani isn’t likely to seek a new adventure anytime soon. Besides, there’s plenty of that between the pages of the new Mortalis titles.

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