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An Interview with Mark Steven Porro, author of A Cup of Tea on the Commode

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Mark Steven Porro, a New Jersey native (Exit 163), earned an Industrial Design degree from the Ohio State University. After years of agency work, his love of acting led him to Hollywood, where he appeared in dozens of television, film, and stage productions. Mark also spent his twenty-eight years in Tinseltown, entrepreneuring. He started five non-profit companies. But hold the applause, none were intended to be. He now lives in the South of France. But hold your pity. He of sound mind and body chose to suffer in the heart of wine country where the locals insist his French isn’t so bad—at least that’s what he thinks they’re saying.

Mark is an award-winning designer, writer, director, and now a best-selling author. He has written lots of jokes, several screenplays, and one award-winning short film. A Cup of Tea on the Commode—a sad, sweet, and funny debut memoir—chronicles his multitasking adventures of filling his mother’s last years with love, laughter, and joy. Though not always successful, he came pretty damn close.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I’ve always enjoyed coming up with funny songs and stories but never took writing seriously until I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. I took an audition class from a big-time casting director, Bobby Hoffman. He cast, among other things, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, soap operas, etc. for ABC. On the first day he said you all will write a scene and cast it. I freaked out because this was “Hollywood.” The pressure was on. But I wrote my scene, the actors I chose did a great job performing it, and I was hooked. So, thanks to Bobby that’s when I got serious about it. I began studying the craft and I continue to study to this day. And I’ve put those skills to good use on personal projects as well.

Family history has always fascinated me. I didn’t want my own to die along with our loved ones. So, out of curiosity I asked relatives lots of questions. If unsatisfied, I sought answers elsewhere. I traveled as far as Celle San Vito Italy, where my grandfather was born, to solve a one-hundred-year-old mystery. I filmed it for others to enjoy. Over the years, I’ve memorialized momentous family events in poems, handmade greeting cards, one-of-a-kind memory books, screenplays, a documentary, and now in my memoir A Cup of Tea on the Commode.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The title of my book came to me while caring for Mom. My mother’s favorite beverage was a cup of hot tea, skim milk, no sugar. She no longer could walk so we put a commode bedside. And sometimes Mother Nature took a little longer than was comfortable. So one morning, I asked her if she would like a cup of tea. She said, sure. And while we waited nature for nature to take its course, she enjoyed her tea. It was a hit and became a morning staple. A Cup of Tea on the Commode seemed like a good title, fun but also unique.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

The cover was no surprise as I pretty much designed it. But when I finally held the final book in my hands, I did get a bit emotional as my story is quite personal. It’s a love letter, albeit a long one, to my mother.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

My book has a soundtrack. I wrote it. It’s an instrumental song on guitar that accompanies all my promo videos and the audiobook. And, if I may say, it is quite catchy.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I hope A Cup of Tea on the Commode inspires others to care for their loved ones, and also to find the joy in it.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

Having this story out there keeps my mom and dad in the present. And having strangers fall in love with them is pretty cool. You never know how the public will respond to your work. You bare your heart and soul and hope for the best. I’ve been fortunate because my story is resonating with many around the globe. Readers have shared with me their intimate and heartwarming comments and reviews. All have been humbling.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

My next writing project will focus on my dad, tentatively titled Slightly Unsalted. My father, his snack invention, and our Italian odyssey.

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