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Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

Jan 21, 2022

Mark interviews author Jacob Hess about character development, world-building and The Hero's Journey.

Prior to the main content, Mark shares a personal update, a cautionary tale about making POD titles returnable, and a word about this episode's sponsor.

You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at

In their conversation, Mark and Jacob talk about:

  • Jacob's initial interest in world-building and character development through imaginative play as a child
  • How his love for stories eventually merged with a later love of reading that he developed
  • Describing his fictional world as a mix between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings
  • The passion Jacob has for the Hero's Journey and how that came from his discovery of Shawn Coyne's The Story Grid
  • Having Lord of the Rings read to him as a child, and then enjoying re-reading it as an adult
  • A quote from Tolkien with a unique perspective on story that inspired Jacob
  • The importance of the transformation process and Jacob's desire to want the reader to face the same change that the character in the story faces
  • How, after writing the foolscap page for a novel, Jacob likes to discover a lot of the story by just starting to write it
  • The way that his world-building comes out of his story and the characters having to interact with the world around them
  • The elements of "essential action" and how that works within each scene of a story
  • Thinking of storytelling like chipping away at a slab of marble or clay until it looks the way you've envisioned
  • The short story readers can get for free by signing up on Jacob's website
  • How Jacob manages his time for writing with working a full time job
  • And more...

After the interview Mark reflects on the importance of each scene's "essential action" in a story and how he is thinking about it in different ways to help him become a better writer.

He also shares an update about the returned-books issue.


Links of Interest:


Jacob Hess grew up in Oregon and became a Christian at a young age. God has continued to display His faithfulness to Jacob throughout his life; a journey deeper and deeper into grace. Jacob received a Master of Divinity from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and moved to Seattle, Washington with his wife where he works as a minister in the local church.

Jacob’s years in school grew his passion for writing and reading, but he has always had a love for stories, whether they're told with pen and page or the rhythms and rhymes of song. He agrees with J. R. R. Tolkien when he writes, “the Pot of Soup, the Cauldron of Story, has always been boiling, and to it have continually been added new bits, dainty and undainty," (On-Fairy-Stories, p. 45). As humans we simply cannot seem to escape a need to tell stories, a desire to reach beyond ourselves and connect to the deeper truths of who we are and what it means to live a life of meaning.


The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0