Words With Whit McClendon, author of "Mage's Burden"

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I am 45 years old, was born on Halloween, and grew up in Angleton, Texas. I now live in Katy, Tx with my wife and son and two ridiculous pugs. I started training in Kung Fu when I was 12 and, after surviving several years as a CAD drafter in the petrochemical industry, now own and run Jade Mountain Martial Arts here in Katy. I also play lacrosse and enjoy running Tough Mudders. Hey, it’s fun stuff!

Tell us about your books.

Mage’s Burden is the first in a heroic fantasy trilogy. When the evil sorcerer, Mordak, escapes, it is up to Brunar the Mage to gather the Guardians and oppose him. Using the ancient magick of the Jidaan, six powerful spear-like weapons, Brunar must find the men and women who are uniquely bound to each weapon, and train them to use their extraordinary powers to defeat the vile wizard. Not all of the Guardians accept their destiny, and Mage’s Burden tells of Brunar’s struggle to prepare his students for battle, and of the rise to power of the evil Mordak.

What are your influences in the fantasy genre? 

Dennis L. McKiernan is my favorite fantasy author, hands down. I really love the atmosphere, culture, and characters that make up his world. David Gemmell is also a favorite of mine, he has such heroic characters, and has a gritty, rough way with fantasy that brings a certain realism to otherwise fantastic stories.

Please give us your views on the influence of fantasy in modern society? 

I think that fantasy is simply another way to tell archetypal stories that inspire. Larger than life characters can often be great motivators, and the stories can lend insight to any number of real life situations.

Do you think fantasy still has lessons to teach us about who we are and the human condition?

Absolutely. I think it’s a fabulous medium for lots of commentary on such things.

Tell us your views on authors using violence and/or sex in their writing?

Every fantasy I’ve ever read has violence throughout. It seems like the story doesn’t really get started until someone ends up with a sword in his guts. Some authors are more explicit than others in the descriptions, and that’s their choice, their expression of their story. Folks are free to like it or not. Explicit sex isn’t nearly as prevalent in the stories I’ve read. It’s more often implied rather than clearly detailed, but it’s there as well.

Is this part of the heroic tradition in your view

Oh, I think so. Violence and sex are part of life, and heroic fantasies are bigger-than-life, so it’s no surprise to me to see those topics explored in the stories.

What are your definitions of a ‘hero’? 

A hero is someone who puts the welfare of others before their own well-being, especially in the face of certain danger.

Do you use ‘anti-heroes’ in your books? 

I actually hadn’t planned to, but ended up with one, nonetheless. He just showed up that way, and I was hard-pressed to like the guy for a long time.

Who is your favorite fantasy/mythic hero? 

 McKiernan’s Aravan and Gemmell’s Druss the Legend.

Why do you think fantasy continues to be so popular? 

Well, because it’s awesome! It’s easy to get bogged down in the everyday grind and feel oppressed by the mundane world. Fantasy is an antidote to that weariness. It can be scary, funny, exciting, and inspiring, and can awaken the imagination like few other kinds of literature can.

Tell us about one (or more) of your fantasy characters - what makes him or her different/important/heroic? 

Brunar is the noble Mage, leader of the Guardians. Over 2000 years old, he is the wise and powerful teacher to the six newly Chosen warriors. Though he is well-versed in magick, as one would expect, he is also highly skilled in physical combat. His entire life is devoted to the defense of the Realm. And he’s an amazing dancer.

What fantasy creatures/races do you use in your worlds? 

Humans, Weya (elvish folk), Augenan (massive, intelligent gorillas), Gholans (vicious, goblin-like creatures), and Krell, (cannibalistic humanoids) make up the bulk of the people in Talwynn.

Why did you choose these? 

To be honest, I didn’t exactly choose these. They simply showed up in the story as I was writing. I “see” parts of the story and then figure out who and what is involved afterward.

How much research do you do for your books? What sources do you prefer? 

 I don’t have any special “go-to” references, if I need to find something that needs some back-up information, I scour the internet until I’m reasonably certain I’ve found what works for me.

Apart from fantasy what do you like to read? 

I really enjoy Dean Koontz paranormal thrillers, Lincoln and Child’s Pendergast series, and Robert B. Parker detective stories.

What was the last book you read and what did you think of it? 

I recently read the Drenai series from David Gemmell and loved it. I read it long ago, and thoroughly enjoyed revisiting that world and seeing those characters fighting their way through their challenges.

Can you remember the first fantasy book you ever read? 

 I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was 12, and that started everything for me. I wrote of that reading in my journal at the time, and I was quite taken with it.

Do you watch fantasy films/play fantasy based PC games? Do you think these reflect the fantasy genre adequately? 

I don’t play PC games, but love fantasy films. Peter Jackson’s work on the Lord of the Rings was amazing. I think fantasy books are so much more rich and detailed, but special effects these days have really brought some great things to life.

Tell us about how you promote your work. Which strategies do you find useful? Which do you think are least effective? 

 I’m pretty new at the marketing aspect, having only published my book this month. I’ve been posting on my personal Facebook page and on another that I created strictly for the book series, as well as on my personal blog. I’m still learning on the job as far as getting my work out there goes.

What are your opinions on authors commenting on reviews? 

To be honest, I haven’t thought about it. I likely won’t comment on reviews on sites like Amazon, just because nothing I would say would really matter. Some folks will give honest reviews, some won’t. Some will be hugely positive, others will say that my work is junk. There’s no sense in arguing against a bad review when it’s just the opinion of one person, and I’m happy to let good reviews stand on their own.

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Don’t be afraid, just write. Write a ton, then go back and edit it later. Just get a lot of words on the page, let it flow, THEN go back and work on it. When you think it’s looking good, READ IT ALOUD. The mistakes that turn up during that part of the process will surprise you, and then you can fix them.

Thanks for the interview!  You can learn more about Whit McClendon at the following sites:

Author Bio: 

Whit McClendon was born on October 31, 1969 in Freeport, Tx. He grew up in Angleton Texas and was active in martial arts, track and field, and playing the clarinet in band. One year at Texas A & M proved that lacrosse was far more fun than electrical engineering, and he eventually graduated with a degree in Engineering Design Graphics from Brazosport College. After working in the petrochemical field as a CAD drafter for many years, Whit finally realized his life’s dream of becoming a full-time martial arts instructor. He now lives with his family in Katy, Texas, plays lacrosse as often as possible, and runs Jade Mountain Martial Arts. He laughs a lot more now than he did when he worked at the engineering firm.

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