Interview: Mark Oetjens

As a child, Mark Oetjens was diagnosed with Dystonia, a debilitating neuromuscular disorder. Though there is no cure for Dystonia, surgeries and rehabilitation allowed him to walk with only a slight limp by the time he started high school. He received a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Anthropology, both from Northern Illinois University. As an adult a brain tumor, completely unrelated to his Dystonia, threatened to disable him a second time. Thanks to radiation therapy the tumor has disappeared. His latest book is the science fiction novel, The Staff of Rahgorra.

Enjoy this interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

Well, I’m single, the oldest of four kids. I live alone. I have four nieces and a nephew. I’m originally from the Chicago area. Most of my extended still lives there. I currently live in Phoenix but I wrote most of The Staff of Rahgorra while living in Indianapolis. I first started writing seriously in high school.

Tell us about The Staff of Rahgorra. What do you hope readers take away from it?

The Staff of Rahgorra is a science fiction action-adventure. The crime lord Thrull wants to rule galaxy but he knows he must first find the mythical weapon known as the Staff of Rahgorra. Cam and his apprentice Kayo, agents of the Galactic Security Bureau, are determined to stop Thrull by finding the Staff first and avoiding the war that Thrull threatens. Along the way there’s space battles and firefights and all sorts of questionable aliens and unsavory allies.

I just hope readers enjoy the story.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

My goals are basically to be able to make a living as a writer. Right now I’m trying to market and promote The Staff of Rahgorra. As soon as this virtual book tour is finished I’ll continue working on the sequel.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

The most interesting book I’ve read would have to be James Clavell’s Shogun. The way he introduced the reader to medieval Japanese culture through the eyes of an outsider was genius. I’ve read Shogun so many times I’ve worn out two different copies.

Favorite authors?

Other than Clavell I like Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler.

Book you’re currently reading?

I just finished reading Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

I like to write in public places. I find the easiest place to write is fast food restaurants. They’re always nice and chaotic.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

No, I don’t believe in writer’s block. I don’t sit down to write unless I already have fleshed out characters and a story. There are occasions when I don’t feel like writing but that’s not writer’s block. That’s just me being lazy.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

A successful writer is someone who can make a living at it.

Advice for other writers?

Just start. It gets easier once you start.

Where can we learn more about you? I’m also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you have a story to tell, tell it.

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