Terrie Leigh Relf: What types and forms of writing do you do?
Mark Tullius: My passion is fiction and I equally enjoy short stories and novels, but for the last four years I’ve been working on my first nonfiction project: a sociological study of MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters that is scheduled for release in 2017.
Relf: What are your areas of subject matter expertise?
Tullius: I write in different genres, mainly horror, science fiction, and suspense, but I’ve also done a fun children’s book with my daughter. My writing is often dark with a high body count, and I’m guessing it’s my way of dealing with the idea of death.
With the MMA project, despite having previous fighting experience I knew I had to re-submerge myself in the sport. 40-years-old and out of shape, I forced myself to begin training again and interviewing hundreds of fighters around the country.
Relf: How do you balance your creative and work time?
Tullius: I am very fortunate that for the last eight years I’ve been able to stay at home to raise my children. At first, I thought that meant I’d be able to write all day while the TV babysat them, but I made my peace that I would write once they were asleep. When I was part of the work force, I would find jobs where I could write during any downtime. If I waited for the right time to write, I’d never produce anything.
Relf: What tips do you have for other writers?
Tullius: Write down all of your ideas no matter how dumb they might sound. Let them marinate. Work on the ones that excite you.
Life’s too short to work on something that you don’t truly care about. Pursue your passion and everything will work out fine.
Relf: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular? Where do your ideas come from?
Tullius: I absolutely love creating fiction, something that only I could tell. When I’m left alone to imagine a new character, story, or world, I’m at my happiest.
I used to draw inspiration from heavy metal songs and their titles, but most new ideas come from my fears, which makes sense as that’s where our subconscious often dwells.
Relf: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?
Tullius: I began my journey as an author with two dozen short stories being published in small horror and science fiction magazines and ezines. Tired of rejection and confident in my ability, I began an independent press in 2012, and have released five books. My first novel, Brightside, is still my favorite, but 25 Perfect Days has received some great praise, IndieReader naming it one of the best books of 2013. 28 of my best short horror stories can be found in Twisted Reunion, and I have a series of YA horror novels where I collaborate with other authors. Only book 1, Try Not to Die: At Grandma’s House, has been released, but number 2, TNTD: In Brightside, will be finished next year, following the release of my MMA book, Unlocking the Cage.
Relf: What are you working on now?
Tullius: Besides cleaning up Unlocking and TNTD: In Brightside, I’ve been playing around with two short stories and lining up the next Try Not to Die’s. And because I like to drive myself nuts, I’ve also begun a weekly podcast called Unlocking; you can find it on iTunes, YouTube, etc.
Relf: What challenges have you faced as a writer? With a particular project? How did you meet them? What did you learn from these challenges and how did they make you a better writer?
Tullius: One of the biggest lessons I learned is the importance of an editor and finding the right one. Cutting 27,000 words from the original version of Brightside was very hard – until I realized it was my ego getting in the way. I’ve accepted that my talent is creating the story and the editor’s talent is making sure that story is told the best possible way.
I’ve really struggled with the MMA project because I’m not allowed to simply make things up. I’ve learned so much from these men and women I’ve interviewed, and I want to do the best job possible of passing on their stories.
Relf: Who are your favorite characters? How did they come into being, and what do you love – or loathe – about them?
Tullius: Joe, the main character from Brightside, is my favorite character because he’s so flawed. As humans, we are inherently flawed, and I’ve always appreciated characters that own up to it.
Relf: Are you currently, or have you ever, been in a writing group? Your thoughts?
Tullius: I was part of a 4-person writing group for about a year. It was a good experience and I received a lot of valuable feedback. I’ve most benefited from the writing workshop put on by Tom Spanbauer and the one-on-one work I did with him after.
Relf: I know our readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips.
Tullius: This is something I’ve been struggling with. It’d be nice to simply write, but as an independent author that is not enough. One thing I’m glad I just did was become a member of the Horror Writers Association. I’ve already met some great individuals through it, like yourself.
Relf: Thank you for creating the time for this interview, Mark. It was great to meet you, too! Be sure to check out his Goodreads and Facebook pages, as well as his bio below – and yes! BUY HIS BOOKS! Trust me, Twisted Reunion definitely lives up to its title.
Mark says: I’m a father and a husband, a brother and a son. I’m an Ivy League grad who worked in a warehouse, an MMA fighter with too many defeats. I’m the bouncer and bodyguard, the drunk guy in the fight. The jailer and the jailed, the guilty and innocent.
I’m a writer shaped by influences; too many to count. I grew up on King and Koontz while force-fed the Bible. I narrate Dr. Seuss and Disney nearly every night. Like you, I’ve seen things I wished I hadn’t, heard some truths I won’t forget.
Writing is my heavy bag, the sparring partner that doesn’t punch back. It’s where I shed my armor and cast off the blindfold, take a look at myself, and the world around me. The writing takes me wherever it wants. Dark alley or dinner table, classroom or morgue. I go along for the ride and try to capture the moment, show life like it is.