I want to welcome Mark Tullius to the blog. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us here at Happiness is a Book.
MT: Absolutely my pleasure. You are one of the trusted few that sees my work before I put it out, and your feedback has helped a good deal. I credit you for the much needed upgrade to my short story “Reunion.” Thank you.
I’m honored to be one of the few that gets to read your work before everyone else and thank you for letting me work with you with Reunion.
Crash: You have been working on a book called Unlocking the Cage about MMA fighting, what got you interested in it?
MT: After college I found my way into fighting, both boxing and MMA. I could never understand why I spent so much time and effort pursuing sports I wasn’t very good at. I went looking for the answer as an out of shape 40-year-old and traveled to 25 states and over 100 gyms. It became a journey to discover who fighters are and why they fight. Along the way, I trained, sparred, got injured, demoralized, and humbled on the mat, as well as uplifted and inspired by the 400 interviews. I can’t wait to share that story.
Crash: When did you start writing and why?
MT: I always enjoyed words and throwing them together, but I lacked confidence so I didn’t pursue it. It wasn’t until after college that I began writing, starting with an unfinished fantasy novel and some terrible horror stories.
Crash: Which do you prefer writing, shorts stories or novels?
MT: I’m absolutely thrilled with either of those choices because I’ve spent so much time on Unlocking. I believe the project and book were both worth my time and focus, but it’s reassured me that I am first and foremost a fiction writer.
I love short stories because you can do so much with so little. I now think of them as treats, little breaks I can take from nonfiction or a novel. Sometimes the idea is so strong it demands to be worked on and forces a break. It’s my catharsis, where I can throw out all the shadows darkening my mind.
However, creating larger worlds is the most fulfilling. Understanding your characters so well they feel like friends. Putting them through situations you wouldn’t wish on your enemies. Fun stuff like that.
Crash: What do you like to read if you have the time?
MT: This is something that I neglected for a very long time. I use to read constantly, generally a mix of horror, science fiction, and suspense. When I found an author I enjoyed, I would stay with them and read everything they wrote. This was the case with Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, and Chuck Palahniuk. I’m aware each of these authors influenced my style, so perhaps my break from reading was taking the time to develop my own voice.
Crash: Having read your short stories I have to say that they remind me of Stephen King in his younger days, was he an inspiration for you?
MT: Stephen King has been the biggest influence on my writing. That’s all I was reading through high school and college, having such a fun ride catching up on all his incredible stories. He went everywhere with his writing, and I take it as a huge compliment whenever someone says my writing reminds them of the master.
Crash: Where did you get the inspiration for 25 Perfect Days? I have to say it was the first book of yours that I read and it has stayed with me all this time. It is an amazing book and I am forever recommending it to everyone I know who reads.
MT: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t tell you how incredible that is to hear. My goal isn’t to be the next Stephen King, but to leave readers with the same feeling that his books left me. Creating a scene, character, or feeling that a reader won’t forget is what I aspire to do.
Unfortunately, I can’t take all the credit for 25. Wouldn’t you know it, it was the wife. Jen suggested I connect my two ‘light horror’ short stories, “Five Minutes Alone” and “Four Percent.” From there I went a little crazy, and decided to write each story from a different character’s point of view, with a different year and different setting. Not the easiest plan, but a lot of fun inventing family trees, deciding who would be the best character, whether they would die, and what horror they would witness.
There were quite a few readers that found the book too difficult to follow, and disliked the format and its limitations, but so many more like you that appreciated it. Thanks for letting me know through your review and messages.
Crash: You have been writing a few books with your daughter, are there more planned?
MT: Writing the Triple S Agency with Olivia was a good experience, but not great. That’s because we were writing a book fit for little kids, and my 3rd grader has already read all the Harry Potter’s and devours 500 page fantasy novels once a week.
That’s why we’re both very excited to be developing a fantasy trilogy based off the characters I’m about to have tattooed across my back. Think a King/Tolkien mash up with the touch of a sweet little girl to keep it PG-13ish.
Crash: What are your joys in life?
MT: Family, writing, training jiu jitsu, yoga, learning guitar, hanging out with friends.
Crash: Can you tell us something that we might not know about you?
MT: I recently earned my purple belt in 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu and am a huge proponent of yoga. If anyone would like to learn more about me, I often get pretty candid on my weekly podcast, Unlocking.
Crash: Will there be a followup to Brightside?
MT: Most definitely. I’m nearly finished with UTC and will be jumping onto Try Not to Die: In Brightside. This book will be written from a different character’s POV, showing all of day 100, extending past the original’s ending. It will blend nicely into the Brightside sequel, which is partially developed, but won’t be finished for quite some time. Sorry.
Thank you Mark for taking part, it’s been great having you here. Are you working on anything at the moment?
MT: I’m hitting the Try Not to Die’s hard this next year, something possible because I’m giving my coauthors a lot of the workload. Besides the Brightside one, I’m currently playing with one set at a heavy metal festival.
After these are finished, I’ll be polishing up a nearly complete Ain’t No Messiah, the first in a five book series.
I have my work cut out for me.