Author Spotlight: Marshall Stephens

  • dog lover, Nerf blaster enthusiast, and eclectic storyteller

Readers, thanks for checking out another Author Spotlight Interview. Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!

Marshall began causing trouble in his hometown of Aiken, South Carolina and hasn’t really stopped. He moved to Columbia, SC on his 20th birthday where he spent a lot of time wondering if he’d peaked as an author in high school. After a period of time where he was considering being a monk, he moved to Virginia where he met some of his closest friends and where his passion for storytelling was reignited. A few years later, he found himself in Atlanta where he got his first paid writing gig, and met his wife, Shondra. Circumstances would take them back to Virginia where they reside currently with two dogs who generally set the schedule. 

Beyond writing, he has a bucket full of hobbies in which he dabbles, from stop motion animation, Nerf blaster “collecting”, baking, Dungeons & Dragons, to the occasional video game.

Marshall, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most author spotlight interviews start off with the boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I’m going to answer this one quietly so the pups don’t get jealous. 

There are some dog-like critters in D&D that I’m fond of, like blink dogs and shadow mastiffs. I think, though, a Jhereg from Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series would be a really cool companion. Especially if you summoned it as a familiar, because then it comes with telepathic conversations.

All varieties of puppies and dragons are a great choice.

What do you write? And how did you get started?

What don’t I write?

As a kid, I liked to make up stories. I would craft narratives for my toys, albeit derivative ones cribbing notes from TV and cartoons. I think just the concept of being a writer stuck in my brain as neat and I have been in meandering pursuit ever since. 

I don’t stick to one genre per se. I’ve been told that most of my stuff reads like mystery, though I’ve never tried writing a straightforward mystery novel. I like writing fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism… anything where there’s a flip side or shadow society alongside familiar environments. I also like mixing in elements of horror. I’d like to try writing superhero stories or maybe a proper fantasy book. My next project will be a supernatural thriller to complete a trilogy, but I also have a few ideas bubbling in the background. 

I love trying new things with my writing as well, but yeah. With a dash of magic in it.

What do you like to read?

Apparently, things written by people with “Steven” in their name or some variant thereof. As I mentioned before, I like Steven Brust’s noir style and I don’t think I’ve read anything by him that I haven’t enjoyed. Stephen King’s books are wonderful, of course; I like how he includes stacks of detail without making it feel like he’s wasted your time, but instead enriched the narrative and drawn you into the setting. Neal Stephenson’s work is absolute poetry and I love the cyberpunk genre; Snow Crash in one of my top three books ever, I think. Breaking the theme, Neil Gaiman’s work is also amazing and rich. All of them use language well and get great impact out of their use of English. 

Sadly, I confess I don’t read nearly as much as it would seem obvious for an author to do. Most of my entertainment comes from movies and TV which I think shows up in my writing style. 

What a lovely selection of authors. And? Some writers are naturally more cinematic than others. I don’t think it’s bad or good, it just is.

Do you snack when you write/edit? What are your favorites!

Not usually. When I’m in a good flow, I’m more likely to forget to eat than keep anything in reach.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you

Write every day.

While I’d recommend it for most people and ideally that’s what I would want to do, sometimes I just need to sit and let an idea marinate for a week or two. If I force it, it’s like a domino that falls out of place with the rest of the domino chain. I just can’t move onto the next scene or thought. 

I try to make up for it by typing fast, though it may be a reason why I don’t have more books available. 

I often need to sit on feedback or ideas for a while before they percolate into a full fledged idea, too.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that works for you

You can’t edit a blank page.

Those words were liberating and energizing. A lot of the character of my work comes out more in the edit than the first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the idea needs to be outside of my head for others to see it and for me to make it better. 

A close second is something Stephen King said, “Write first, research second”. I don’t know if that’s commonly accepted, but getting hung up on a technical detail can derail the whole writing process for me.

So true. Perfectionism can spoil the flow, and until I finish a story, I never know what the exact shape will be.

What do you drink when you write?

Water, coffee, and Coke Zero. Usually all three.

Caffeine and hydration, never a bad mix.

What’s a genre or type of story that you haven’t tried but want to?

Weird western. I’ve had a couple of characters in my head for years, but I just haven’t found the plot. I’d like to try to capture the frontier feel but not make it hokie. 

Maybe you just need to let it percolate a little longer?

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Secondhand Madness

This wasn’t his idea.

There are places where ideas are bartered, inspirations traded, and concepts offered up as a cure for writer’s block. Each seed of an idea has the potential to grow into literary redwood, or at least a wordy sunflower.

Waiting for you are:

  • An overworked technician faced with a laptop that’s bleeding.
  • An online intervention for a demon hunter making questionable romantic choices.
  • A chatty spellcasting highwayman who just wants to meet new people.
  • Undying robotic war machines.
  • Dragons, both modern and of other worlds
  • A deadly swordsman turned nanny.
  • First dates with destiny.
  • Last moments for the doomed.
  • Horror and comedy, action and drama, the strange, the alien, and new angles on the familiar.

Take a walk with Marshall Stephens through a gallery of borrowed beginnings.

Even the Dead May Die (Esmeredla Koslov Mysteries #1)

There are restless spirits in the world and some cannot keep to the shadows. When they become a danger to the living, there are those charged with helping them move on or move out.

When the spirit of a well-connected doctor is found, but his body is not, one of the few who can speak and interact with the spirits of the departed, Esmerelda Koslov, is called in to find out what has happened to him, partnered with FBI agent Oscar Hammett. Together, with Esmerelda’s century-old ghostly informant, Charlie, they will follow the clues and find impossible corpses, phantom enforcers, a death-obsessed cult, and terrible secrets that will lead them to the answers they seek, and possibly their undoing.

Evil Works

Supervillains destroy cities. Vampires consume the blood of the innocent. Murderers plan everyday atrocities, safe in their homes. Not a one of them knows how to install a toilet. The people who do know how to do that for them have stories to tell.

You’ll find them here in this collection, tales of the simple and mundane within the horrific and diabolical. Find out where, why, and just how well Evil Works. 

The Revenant Child

Danny Lone has come home.

Five years ago, the Lone family came to a tragic end. Time and gossip left the blame on Danny Lone, the youngest son in the family. The truth of that night was far more sinister and ugly, a proper horror in suburbia.

Today, on an unremarkable night, Danny returns to even the balance, to close the book on that horrible tale. With the help of a strange girl and the charity of a young man who finds him on the road, there is a chance that he can get his wish.

In a small town in the Appalachian mountains, four men are about to find out that some deeds can never be forgotten, that some sins won’t go unpunished.

This is the day of the Revenant Child

Check out Marshall Stephens across the web!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Goodreads | Amazon

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