INTERVIEW: Markus Almond, Author of ‘Brooklyn To Mars’

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Markus Almond is the author of a growing number of books and zines, most notably the Brooklyn To Mars zine series, the novel Marching Band and the Expanding Universe, and the best-selling Things To Shout Out Loud At Parties. Each is put out into the world on his own Brooklyn To Mars Books imprint, a testament to the growing resurgence of DIY attitudes in the creative world.

Brooklyn to Mars
is a zine “for artists, entrepreneurs, and lone wolves,” and focuses on “starting where you are and going somewhere extraordinary.” Issue #10 was just released and explores “the possibilities of calmness and worry-free living in everyday life.”

Issue #10 fits right in with what readers have come to expect from Brooklyn To Mars and its author. If there was a word that tied together everything Markus writes, it would be balance. Throughout his books and zines, the idea of balance – with the universe, within oneself, between work and relaxation – is prevalent as he explores topics such as minimalism, entrepreneurship, meditation, overwork, and creative pursuits. It’s a mix of self-help, Zen, and hard-won truths from a decade of traveling the world in a punk band.

I had an opportunity to talk to Markus about the zine, the influence of punk rock on his life, how he finds inner peace, and the future of his writing.

You have a background in punk rock. How has the DIY ethos of the punk scene informed your work both as a writer and an entrepreneur?
Punk rock has played a huge part in my life. A lot of people don’t realize it, but there is this whole culture around the punk rock scene apart from the music that can really be nourishing for a young kid. There is a whole attitude of making things happen, being yourself no matter what people think, etc. When I was growing up there was this underlying message of empowerment, like if you wanted to be in a band, you could just go and start one. If you wanted to be a writer, you could start a zine or whatever. There was no sense of needing to wait for approval or permission from your parents or a college degree. It was always like, “We’re gonna try things and we’re gonna support each other.” That’s influenced me in a huge way and affected how I operate as an adult.

A lot of your writing in the Brooklyn To Mars zines focuses on finding inner peace and balance in a chaotic world. What has helped you in your efforts to do so personally?
I’ve been studying Zen Buddhism and mindfulness since 2001. I meditate regularly and continue to learn about Buddhism through books, podcasts, and meditation groups in New York. Two resources that have helped me personally are the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki and the podcast from Gil Fronsdal, who teaches at the Insight Meditation Center in San Francisco.

Given the emphasis you put on avoiding things that take away from that inner peace, I’m curious what a typical day looks like for you. Do you have a day job? How have you balanced those responsibilities with staying balanced?
I’m not sure I would say I avoid things. I’m pretty good at working hard and doing things that most people don’t want to do. I’m okay with being scared or uncomfortable. But, I do write a lot about focus and that can mean saying no to annoying things that lead to places you don’t want to go. I think a person can handle a stressful situation without giving up their calmness. But if you find yourself in a stressful situation for too many days in a row, it can begin to rub off on you, and it may be best to go do something else.

I continue to work in the music industry. My day consists of answering emails, hopping on conference calls, working on sales reports, and going out to shows and meetings in New York. I enjoy my job because I work from home and have a lot of autonomy and freedom in what I do.b

This is the tenth issue of Brooklyn To Mars. Do you have plans to keep going? What topics are you interested in that you still haven’t written about?
I don’t have any plans to keep going. Originally, I was just going to do one issue. But it blew up around New York and online, so I kept going. Last year, I started to get burnt out because I still do all the covers by hand and bring them to a lot of stores myself. And now that I have published some books, those are a larger part of my income.  But last year I promised myself I’d keep going with the zine and at least finish ten issues. And since I just released #10, I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out.

Shifting gears, your novel Marching Band and the Expanding Universe comes to a close pretty open-ended. Do you have any plans to continue the story of Joey and Alhena? Or do you have other stories you want to write in novel form?
Yes, I’m actually working on the sequel to that book right now. It starts off right where the first one left off. I’m very excited about it.

Any parting advice or lessons learned for people who want to go the entrepreneurial route, whether in writing, music, or something else?
1.) Find a mentor; 2.) Your success is an average of your 5 closest friends; and, 3.) Don’t think, just do it. You’re going to look like an idiot at first, but it gets better.

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