A Q&A With Stephen J. Wolf On His Upcoming Release ‘Kershin the Fire Mage’
Stephen J. Wolf earned his PhD in science education in 2006, and has worked as a science teacher since 2001. His passion for chemistry and physics was inspired by watching Mr. Wizard’s World as a child, and learning that many of life’s biggest and most fascinating mysteries could be explained through science.
When he isn’t helping his students discover logic and wonder in the classroom, Wolf enjoys spending time with his husband Kevin, and watching Doctor Who with their cats, Merlin and Monty. Wolf currently resides in New York.
Why did you choose to write fantasy?
I absolutely love the concept of magic. Of waving hands and muttering arcane words to have some special effect arise from nothing. My original writings had more “random” magic, where there wasn’t necessarily a rhyme or reason to the types of spells that were available, which is found in most fantasy. As I have written in recent years, I tend to focus more on elemental magic that has specific powers and limitations.
I also love the ability to craft new worlds with unique situations. It can be difficult to hold a whole realm together and describe it without overdoing it, but finding that balance is a challenge I enjoy.
Fantasy is also an escape from the mundane, from the pressures and stresses around me. I work those moments into my stories in alternate ways. For example, if I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I will often write a battle scene, working out frustrations and clearing my mind.
If you could sit down with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Lyndon Hardy, author of the Magic by the Numbers series. His first book, Master of the Five Magics, drew me into fantasy like nothing ever had. I was captivated by the world he created and the logical precepts of magic included within. After three books, there were no others and internet searches revealed no information.
One day, I received an email… and it was from him! My writing hero had reached out to me after a blog post I had written about his stories. We have kept in touch, but it would be wonderful to sit down and discuss his writing process and inspirations in detail.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some writing advice, what would it be?
I would encourage myself to take some writing classes and join a writing circle early on. It’s hard to take criticism about your own work, but it’s a necessary part of growing as a writer. Dealing with these early would have helped me to keep writing through the years instead of the long hiatus I had taken.
I would also tell myself to look more into story structure and character arcs, as these are vital pieces in storytelling. It took me time to incorporate them into older stories, but my published works have what I need. Still, it would have been useful to tackle those steps early.
But most of all, I would remind myself to have fun with it.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Most people choose to fly or become invisible, and while I feel these are fun, I have a different focus. Many friends and family around me have been injured or sick for various reasons, some permanently. So, I would like the ability to heal others. Even if I can only reduce pain instead of curing the malady, it would be a boon and something I wish I could do.
In the first story I ever wrote, a 169-page piece of pure fantasy chaos, the main character had the ability to heal others. I wrote it during a difficult time where I was dealing with the effects of a severe concussion and my sister was struggling with a nerve disorder. Allowing him to heal others (and himself) was a power I desperately needed at the time.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
I’m up early—usually to feed the cats—and I start off with cereal and a cup of coffee. Some mornings, I will do some writing before heading off to work. I spend my days teaching high school chemistry, fine-tuning the curriculum and creating new worksheets. When I return home, I put some more time into writing if I can. My husband and I eat dinner together, then often play a game, such as Rummikub or Mario Party. Depending on the time and inspiration, I’ll spend a little more time at the keyboard and then prep for bed. That’s when I get in some reading, then I nod off.
What are you working on now?
I recently finished work on the conclusion to the Starsword series, which released November 12, 2022. I’m planning to write a book about an alchemist whose goal is to return to his realm. It will be a shift for me, because it will be a book without actual magic. I love magic, so it will be a challenge to write. I’m looking forward to it.
Any last comments?
I’m ever grateful to the support I have from family, friends, and fans. I appreciate everyone who dives into my worlds and spends time with my characters. When you pick up and read a book, the characters return to life. Thank you for breathing life back into them all.
How do you control a power you hate?
Kershin’s attempts at a normal life have always been fruitless, but now he’s sure he’ll be cursed forever. After shunning his fire magic for years, he’s now forced to either tame it himself or be tamed by a persistent mage hunter. The harder he tries, the worse the situation gets, and as he’s hunted across the land, he leaves destruction in his wake.
Hessia has been scarred by a fire mage before, but she’s determined to never be helpless again. On her mission to tame the destructive fire mage, she faces trials that shake her to her core. Trials that test her mettle, threaten her beliefs, and decimate the villages she’s trying to protect. Will she fall prey to her own hunt?
The fire takes. The fire consumes. The fire kills.
These two know that very well. As they clash, they discover that the threats they face may be greater than either of them imagined.
Kershin turned in time to see a brown-haired man careening toward him, arms pinwheeling to keep himself upright. There was no time to react. The man crashed into him, and both went down. Kershin’s satchel of vegetables spilled over the road and greedy townspeople snatched them up.
Kershin groused. “What’s the big idea?”
“I’m so sorry,” the man said, untangling himself and rising to his feet. He reached a hand down and helped Kershin up. “Here, I’ll help you get back your stuff.” He scurried around, grabbing the vegetables that hadn’t been taken yet. He tucked them into Kershin’s satchel.
“Well, it’s not all of them, but at least I got some back for you.” He held out a hand. “I’m Rosh.”
Kershin rubbed his side, working out a pang from the fall. He should be mad, but he found he was more curious than anything. He returned the gesture, noting Rosh’s jawline that led to an easy smile. His vibrant blue eyes weren’t unlike his own. He had dark brown hair, cut short and brushed backward, begging for fingers to run through it. His chin was crooked, lifting slightly on one side. The imperfection made him more beautiful, not less. “I’m Kershin.”
Rosh grinned. “Kershin. Sorry we met like this, but I have to say, part of me isn’t sorry at all. You’re the best-looking guy here.”
Color rose to Kershin’s cheeks. “Okay, so you’ve got spunk. But can you dance?”
“Dance?” Rosh laughed. “Well, I think I have the ability to dance, but I’m not really into the dance scene. Are you?”
Kershin bit his lip. “Well, no. I’m not even sure why I asked that. Say, what happened to you that you came crashing into me?”
“Oh that? You could say I was pushed by someone trying to pick up your vegetables.”
His eyes narrowed. “They didn’t spill until after you hit me.”
It was Rosh’s turn to blush. “Well, you caught me. I wanted to meet you, and I wanted it to be unforgettable. Forgive me?”
He rubbed his arm. There would be a bruise there, for certain. To think, it had been an intentional crash. But he didn’t think Rosh meant to hurt him. There was little harm in letting the incident go.
He waited too long to respond. “So you don’t forgive me? I guess maybe I should be on my way.”
“No, wait.” He fumbled through his satchel. “Maybe you’d like a tomato?”
Rosh snorted. “A tomato?”
He didn’t know what he was saying. “I— Well, it’s not damaged.”
“And here I should be offering you something. After all, I ruined some of your stuff. Let’s see.” He patted himself down and reached into a pocket. “I have some coppers.”
“Keep it.” Kershin held out the tomato and Rosh eventually took it.
“Well, the least I can do for your kindness is help you out. The two of us working together, we could rake in the coins. I’ll take on the veggies and you get the rest.”
Kershin grabbed for his satchel. “I’m not handing this over to you.”
“That’s not what I meant. You’ll see.” He flashed a smile and Kershin filled with warmth. It was too much warmth, he noted, but he pushed the thought aside. Rosh took two steps away, adding his voice to the calls of the vendors.
It wouldn’t work, Kershin thought. There were too many others to compete against. He needed more tact. But as he watched Rosh in action, his heart fluttered. The man moved with the grace of a dancer; maybe his awkward question wasn’t so far from the mark.
It didn’t take long for Rosh to draw in customers. Kershin worked the sales, successful each time but one. It was better than he could have expected. What was Rosh saying to them? It didn’t matter right then. He could ask later. If there was a later.
“How was I?” Rosh asked as Kershin’s supply dwindled.
“Am I now?”
Kershin chuckled. “I meant to say you were amazing, but I guess it’s true the other way too.”
Rosh clapped him on the shoulder and squeezed tightly. “It’s a good thing I spotted you. I couldn’t turn away.”
Heat welled inside Kershin where Rosh’s hand was planted. It spiraled from the area, working its way through his body. He gritted his teeth, fighting the sensation. This wasn’t the time or the place for this, but he couldn’t deny the warmth of Rosh’s hand or the excitement he felt that the man had touched him.
The heat within him won the battle and raged through his body, centering on his hands. A dim glow came to his fingertips, and he clenched his hands to hide it. But the heat wasn’t done. Fire erupted from his fists, coating his skin for several moments. He slammed his eyes shut and tugged on the fire, desperate for it to stop.
Rosh pulled back, but he didn’t flee. “You’d better stop that before it’s too—”
“A mage!” someone shouted. “Call the Truists! Quick! A mage in our midst!”
Bells rang immediately, echoed by other bells further away. Kershin ignored them, struggling to subdue the flames.
Rosh looked around. “We have to get out of here. It’s not safe.”
“Don’t argue. Come on.”
Dazed, Kershin drew his hands close. Townspeople crowded around him, blocking the way, but Rosh pushed through them. When Kershin approached, his hands still aflame, the people scattered. But not all of them stayed behind. A few trailed after him.
Rosh picked up the pace and Kershin followed, turning this way and that, down one alley after the next. He had no idea where he was. He had never traveled far into the town proper, always stopping at the market to peddle his wares. It was up to Rosh to keep him safe now.
Why did he trust this stranger? Was he leading him to the Truists directly? No, that wouldn’t make sense. They wouldn’t be running.
Dashing through the alleys exhausted Kershin, and there wasn’t much stamina left in him. “Rosh, wait. I can’t.” His feet gave way and he crashed into the side of a small shed. He reached with his fiery hands for support. The wood drew in the flames, spiraling up to the top of the structure. Kershin’s eyes went wide, and he pulled back, but it was too late. The shed was aflame, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Rosh returned and gasped, reaching for Kershin’s elbow and hoisting him to his feet. “Come on!”
Kershin huffed, his hands on his knees, wondering if he could even walk. But Rosh’s persistence moved him. Yet before he fled, a woman rushed into the end of the alley. Their eyes locked, then Kershin pulled himself away.
Stephen started writing in eighth grade when his English teacher challenged the class to craft three different scenes. One scene focused on a person. A second highlighted a location. And the third detailed an object. In the moment of the quick-fire writing prompts, Wolf linked all three tasks together and created his first short story. The following year he created his first novel, then expanded it to a trilogy, growing as a writer along the way.
Stephen lives in New York with his husband, Kevin, and their cats, Merlin and Monty.
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!