You may email Mark A. Smith at
Amazon.com: Where are you from? How--if at all--has your sense of place colored your writing?
M.S.: I was born in New Jersey, and lived in a wonderful old colonial home with my 11 brothers and sisters. Later I went to Utah and met many large families with beautiful homes. People are more resourceful in Utah than anywhere else I've lived, and I consider it the owner-builder capital of the world. We live in a very nice subdivision in Provo, Utah and there is a street near us with 12 houses on it. Nine of those were owner-built.
Amazon.com: When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
M.S.: I wrote my first book in college, and never had the chance to get back to it during a busy life trying to succeed as a manager and consultant. I rediscovered my love for writing as a consultant when I developed marketing plans for clients. It was a lot of fun to make the plans interesting and to see a buzz develop among managers when the plans were delivered to their desks. It is very valuable to interview lots of knowledgeable people when you research and take their often pithy words and ideas and weave them into a"good read." The Owner-Builder Book has valuable content, in fact, because it is based on 200 interviews Elaine and I did before writing.
Amazon.com: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? What books have most influenced your life?
M.S.: I love self-help books, and have read several hundred of them. Three or four of them have changed my life. I think a good book of this type should give you lots of clear steps to follow and a good reason to follow them. In other words, the book should motivate, even inspire, you.
Amazon.com: What are you working on?
M.S.: After conducting several workshops for owner-builders, we began to understand their needs and how they learn. We are always dismayed when someone looks into owner-building and is intimidated before they start. We have tried to create support materials that overcome this problem and take the fear out of owner-building. We have several sets of audiotapes, videos, software, special reports, and even offer other people's books on owner-building on our web site, OwnerBuilderBook.com. I personally like audiotapes as a way to learn and get motivated, but most people like videos. So we are working on videos to make it easier for people. In our own lives, we are developing plans for another couple of homes on which we plan to base books. The next is a starter home that we plan to build for $50,000. We have 75 pages of notes for that house. And we want to ultimately build a dream house that won't lack much of anything. We have a dream home notebook of over 100 pages on that.
Amazon.com: What do you see as the major issues in your book category?
M.S.: The thing that bothers me about most of the books I found on owner-building is the propaganda in them that leads people back into the hands of general contractors. It is easy to scare people off. Our purpose is to motivate and give them the tools to do the job. And I think people need to know that they don't need to knock themselves out doing all the actual work on their project to save money. Our book demonstrates that most of the serious savings are in the contracting end. Elaine and I want people to have a great experience building and then the same satisfaction that we do in a great house that you planned well.