Author Interview: ‘Hollow Men’ by Todd Sullivan

About the Book:

Men from South Hanguk undertake quests to gain social standing, to stand above their peers, to make names for themselves.

To become heroes.

Few ever return.

Ha Jun, sixteen years old, possesses a glyph sword crafted in foreign lands. Alongside a soldier, a knight, and a monk, he travels across the country to destroy a demon lurking beyond the running trees of Naganeupseong Fortress. Accompanying them is the dark elf, Windshine, who emigrated to South Hanguk from her own war-torn country centuries ago.

Distrusted by the people of South Hanguk, Windshine has the Emperor’s protection and is tasked with recording the valiant acts of quest groups battling creatures born from nightmares.

Ha Jun becomes drawn to Windshine as they near Naganeupseong Fortress, but when he discovers the blood connection between the demon and the dark elf, he will either succumb to his fear, or rise up and become a hero.


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Windshine was tired of watching young men die. Of the four that she’d gone to the mainland with on this last journey, the Dark Elf had managed to bring back the remains of only one.

The deck hands carried Ji Hun’s bloody body down the gangway, his head flopping on his shredded neck. They laid him in the carriage that had come to transport Windshine back to the governor’s office and covered the body with a shroud.

She walked down the gangway and stepped onto the wooden docks. When the deck hands spat at her feet, she stared straight ahead, her arms folded, her gloved hands tucked into the red sleeves of her deel. The carriage driver, a governor’s employee named Yeong Tae, met the ferry captain at the end of the gangway.

“Careful with her,” the captain growled, motioning to Windshine. “Her kind’s cursed.”

Yeong Tae said nothing as he slipped the captain a silver coin, then went back to the carriage and gestured for Windshine to climb up beside him on the perch.

“We shouldn’t linger,” Yeong Tae said. He watched the crowd gathered at Jeju-si’s western port with a wary eye. With a flick of the reins, he set the horses moving at a steady pace down the lane, cutting through the docks.

“Rumors about you have been spreading amongst the people,” Yeong Tae said. His sword lay sheathed next to him in the carriage. “There’s been talk of revenge by the locals. And murder.”

Their anger was misplaced, but the people saw her as an easier target than the real evils wandering the country. Windshine had no sword, and carried no visible weapon, but Elvish words of magic were woven into the fabric of her round black hat with a blue domed top, her sky blue tunic with long red sleeves, and her soft orange boots. The fingerless gloves covered with silver fur could be used to kill dozens under the right circumstances. Windshine was well protected. The people of the island posed little danger to her, even in large numbers, so a murder plot wasn’t her main concern. The greater risk would be if she were to harm, or accidentally kill, a human. The Dark Elves had lived a precarious existence in the land of South Hanguk since they arrived on its shores four hundred years ago. The death of a human by one of them would turn the citizens against her compatriots living in the country. No one wanted war, especially the Dark Elves that who sought only peace.

“What happened on the mainland?” Yeong Tae asked. He inclined his head towards the back of the carriage. “How did they die this time?”

“They died trying to become heroes.”


Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

After my older brother moved off to college, I inherited his D&D books. I didn’t have players to campaign with where I grew up in New Orleans, so I read through the rule manuals and the monster manuals, and wrote stories based on scenarios I conjured up in my head. This had a huge impact on the development of my writing style. When I write a story, I want the characters in my fiction to always be moving towards a defined goal.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I like to write in the morning as soon as I wake up. When I am working on a narrative, this is the habit I develop: I wake up, make coffee, play music, and write a single page. This takes about 40 minutes, and then I am done crafting original material for the day. Everything else is just rewriting and revising.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas come from my direct experiences. Things that I do, things that happen to me, and things that people I meet tell me. I write fantasy, but it’s pulled directly from real life.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

For the most part, I have a beginning and I have an ending in mind. Getting from one point to the other is a journey that often leaves me as surprised as my readers, but I do like to have an idea of where the destination is. I don’t really think directionless writing is an optimal way to go about it.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I write horror, fantasy, light sci-fi, young adult, and children’s literature.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

That’s pretty funny. I’m not so sure, I don’t watch a lot of new media. I guess I could see Sonequa Martin-Green playing the character, Windshine. Maybe Choi Min Sik from, “Oldboy”, playing Captain Shiwoo. South Korea has a fantastic film industry, but I do more reading than watching movies and television, so I’m not overly familiar with names of actors and actresses.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

One of the most powerful books I’ve read in the last ten years was WINDUP GIRL by Paolo Bacigalupi. That book was one of those rare instances where I truly was sad as I neared the end, because I knew I would never be able to have a first experience of reading it again. I recently re-read THE HUNGER GAMES. It really is a fantastic book. I know the idea of people (even kids) being thrown into an arena where only one will survive has been done before, so it’s not overly original. But Suzanne Collins’ depiction of Katniss Evergreen is almost as good as it gets when it comes to character development and motivation. If you’re a writer and you want to understand how to keep readers engaged in your narrative, study HUNGER GAMES.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I’m currently re-reading the first book in the GAME OF THRONES series. Isn’t it amazing to think that the book actually came out in 1996, and the show started in 2011, more than 10 years later? One never knows what flowers will bloom (good or bad) from the seeds we plant today.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

I really enjoyed Herman Hesse’s SIDDHARTRA. Narratives with deeper spiritual meanings have always appealed to me.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

I give this advice often: “Work on the first sentence. Really work on it. Then work on the first 200 words. Really work on them. If you can get a solid first sentence, and a solid 200 words, it will be a good indicator about how successful your completed story will eventually be.”

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?

Twitter: @Denevius



About the Author:

Todd Sullivan teaches English as a Second Language, and English Literature & Writing in Asia. He has had numerous short stories, novelettes, and novellas published across several countries, including Thailand, the U.K., Australia, the U.S., and Canada. He is a practitioner of the sword-fighting martial arts, kumdo/kendo, and has trained in fencing (foil), Muay Thai, Capoeira, Wing Chun, and JKD. He graduated from Queens College with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Georgia State University. He attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the National Book Foundation Summer Writing Camps. He currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan, and looks forward to studying Mandarin.

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