Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A.
Romelia: WHAT IS A SIGNIFICANT WAY YOUR BOOK HAS CHANGED SINCE THE FIRST DRAFT?
Mark Stallings: For book 1, I took David Farland’s Fantasy Writing Workshop in Dublin, Ireland. My writing definitely leveled up because of that workshop. I think I was on Chapter 16/38 at that time so I had to go apply what I learned to the beginning of the book.
Romelia: WHAT PERSPECTIVES OR BELIEFS HAVE YOU CHALLENGED WITH THIS WORK?
Mark Stallings: It may seem weird but the central skill of the main character is herbalism with mushrooms. I don’t like mushrooms at all. I had to do a lot of research on different varieties, growing methods, harvesting.
Romelia: WHAT INSPIRED THE IDEA FOR YOUR BOOK?
Mark Stallings: I am a big Epic Fantasy reader. I grew up with David Eddings, Raymond Feist and Robert Jordan. I had written a short story for an anthology and the publisher told me “That isn’t a fit for this but have you considered…” so I set out to create an Epic Fantasy with an Asian flair and with Gamelit elements.
Romelia: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK’S IDEAL READER?
Mark Stallings: I would say that my ideal reader is someone who used to watch Kung Fu movies and likes reading Epic Fantasy.
Romelia: HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR BOOK?
Mark Stallings: I spent the better part of five months reading other books/stories in the genre and developing the series arc.
Romelia: HOW IMPORTANT WAS PROFESSIONAL EDITING TO YOUR BOOK’S DEVELOPMENT?
Mark Stallings: I am fortunate in that my publisher is also my Dev Editor. All in all the book went through five rounds of editing including my first pass edit after I finished the draft.
Romelia: WHAT WAS YOUR HARDEST SCENE TO WRITE, AND WHY?
Mark Stallings: The first scene was the hardest. It is hard to set the tone and it is the weakest example of my writing. Once I finished the first draft, I went back and reworked the first scene.
Romelia: WHAT CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOK ARE MOST SIMILAR TO YOU OR TO PEOPLE YOU KNOW?
Mark Stallings: I like to think that there is some of me in all of the characters. The main character was definitely modeled after me at seventeen.
Romelia: HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
Mark Stallings: It took 4 months for the concept. 2 months for the outline and I finished the first draft in 7 months
Romelia: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR YOUR BOOK?
Mark Stallings: The martial arts system is based on Xing Yi. The first thing you learn about is the Elements. Next you learn about the animal styles. Made it easy to name the first two books.
Romelia: WOULD YOU AND YOUR MAIN CHARACTER GET ALONG?
Mark Stallings: We have a lot in common. I think if we were to hang out, we could get along. If we were to accomplish a task definitely. If we were to go on a quest, probably.
Romelia: IF YOU COULD MEET YOUR CHARACTERS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?
Mark Stallings: The struggles you are going through now seem overwhelming. But, 20 years from now will seem easy. Stay the course.
Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE? ARE YOU MORE OF A PLOTTER OR A PANTSER?
Mark Stallings: I am a plotter. But, I have a couple sentences to write 1,500 words. So really I am a micro-pantser with macro-Plotter tendencies.
Romelia: WHAT DO YOU NEED IN YOUR WRITING SPACE TO HELP YOU STAY FOCUSED?
Mark Stallings: The social media turned off. I have two monitors for two mac’s on my desk. Left is communications (Skype, Discord, Messenger, slack, iMessage) all of that had to be off or it is a complete distraction.
Romelia: IF YOU WERE TO WRITE A SPIN-OFF ABOUT A SIDE CHARACTER, WHICH WOULD YOU PICK?
Mark Stallings: Wei Po – he is the older brother voice of reason.
Romelia: IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY WITH ANOTHER POPULAR AUTHOR, WHOM WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Mark Stallings: Do they have to be alive? Any author, I’d say David Eddings. I love his Belgariad series. Alive author, It would probably be Michael Anderle. He is such a great guy and I love his Kutherian Gambit series.
Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK?
Mark Stallings: Oh man. I still have a day job so I try and hit a thousand words a day. Most of my productivity is on the weekends, but it is tough as I do need to recuperate from the slog.
Romelia: HAVE YOU EVER TRAVELED AS RESEARCH FOR YOUR BOOK?
Mark Stallings: I was fortunate in that my brother lived in Beijing and I was able to go visit him for two weeks. We traveled all over and I was able to base some of the culture and structure on what I saw in that time. I have an alternate history project that takes place in Italy. I’d love to travel over for that.
Romelia: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WRITING SNACK OR DRINK?
Mark Stallings: I love tea. Hot, iced, whatever. If I know I’m writing an intense scene, I like a glass of whiskey with an ice cube. As whiskey I like Tin Cup or Jameson
Romelia: HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK?
Mark Stallings: Beef Wellington at the Peppertree here in Colorado Springs
Romelia: WHAT RISKS HAVE YOU TAKEN WITH YOUR WRITING THAT HAVE PAID OFF?
Mark Stallings: I did a collaboration novel that came out in February. It was his first novel, it was his first hard outline, and it was both of our’s first time collaborating. The idea phase was fantastic. I truly believe we created a better book because of the collaboration.
Romelia: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU GOOGLED YOURSELF AND WHAT DID YOU FIND?
Mark Stallings: I just did it. The first 7 entries are me. That’s fun.
Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR KRYPTONITE AS A WRITER?
Mark Stallings: It is totally my wife. I really like her and spending time with her. It is one of the reasons we have been together for 27 years.
Romelia: TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.
Mark Stallings: In 2011, I flew out to visit my buddy Dave. He took me to his favorite pub for trivia night with his team. The ultimate final 20 point question was “Name the princesses from these Disney movies and put them in order of their theatrical release.” I banged it out in less than 30 seconds. They stared at me like I just sprouted demon horns and a tail. “What? I have a 10 year-old daughter?” We ended up winning.
Romelia: DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.
Mark Stallings: I am a resident of Colorado, loving husband and father and like to ride motorcycles, drink beer and shoot pistols. I am afraid of heights. Something I hate about the world is that people don’t converse anymore. It is all about the 140 character hate speech and regurgitating sound bites or inaccurate memes.