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Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

Mar 23, 2023

Mark interviews Canadian Epic Fantasy author Richard H. Stephens about finally realizing a life-long dream of writing, about how his fourteen book fantasy series was inspired by hearing an Iron Maiden song in 1982, and about selling print books at in person events.

Prior to the interview, Mark reminds listeners about sending THEIR reflections for forthcoming Episode 300, provides a personal update and shares a word about this episode's sponsor.


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


In their conversation, Mark and Richard talk about:

  • Richard's epic fantasy writing, which is told in trilogy batches, all within the same universe
  • How the song "Run to the Hills" from Iron Maiden in the early 1980s put the story that became his first trilogy into his head, but also how Richard's serious start in writing didn't start until 2017
  • How his first novel was called "The River Styx" for the first 33 years that he kept it kicking around in his head
  • Pitching his first novel to an agent, and then realizing this was something he could do for himself
  • Publishing 14 books in the "Soul Forge" universe since 2018
  • A bit of a background on the reasoning behind retiring from Waterloo Police Service, and how that allowed him to be able to write
  • Richard's analogy of being the race car driver with a fantastic pit crew (his wife, family, and the professionals he works with) that helps him look good
  • Why Richard invests so much into in person and print selling
  • Meeting David M. Kelly at GraphicCon in Sudbury, ON and how Richard learned a lot from David in that type of environment
  • How 2020 was supposed to be their "breakthrough" year
  • The value of what happens when a person browsing at Richard's table realizing they're actually talking to an author
  • The epic-fantasy themed costumes that Richard will sometimes wear when doing an event in person
  • The trilogy discount promotional pricing that Richard can offer
  • Ordering print copies from a local printer (in Toronto) rather than having them shipped from Amazon
  • The trailer Richard has for doing in person events with the book covers on it
  • Richard's advice on not being afraid to engage with people, and don't be shy about sharing the fact that you are the author
  • How, even with a sign that has your photo on them and a "meet the author today" people still don't "get it" that the author is right there
  • The importance of trying different ways and approaches to see what works best for you
  • Making someone's day by offering a woman who was having a bad day the opportunity to name a dragon in one of his books
  • How Richard decides which in person book events are worth it and which ones aren't
  • Advice Richard would give to his younger 1982 self
  • And more...


After the interview, Mark reflects on the importance of making it clear, despite when things seem like they're already overtly obvious, as well as how we all tend to focus on our "one star" elements rather than our "five star" ones.


Links of Interest:


Richard H. Stephens began writing circa 1974; a bored child looking for something to do. A trip to a local bookstore saw the proprietor introduce him to the works of Terry Brooks and Stephen R. Donaldson and his writing life was forever changed.

Richard worked in a warehouse for 22 years, before going back to school. Graduating with honours, he joined the local Police Service.
In 2017, Richard resigned from the Police Service to pursue writing full-time. With the support of his family, he has finally realized his boyhood dream.


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