Interview with Mark O’Dell, Author of The Shade of Highfall

11 May 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, The Shade of Highfall?

I started thinking about the Shade of Highfall in 2009, although I didn’t call it that back then. The tale of a struggling young woman named Shrew, from the slums of the ancient city of Highfall, who discovered help from a spirit trapped in a dagger, had been bouncing around in my head for some time before I started writing it down.

As I started writing, other characters became woven into her story. It started with Cyrus Col, a high priest with ambitions to bring ruin to the world by releasing an ancient evil known as the Master of Shades. Then two others followed. Vaskah Shen, a high-ranking nobleman from a distant country that had designs on conquering Highfall and a holy knight called Aelmar, who commanded the King of Highfall’s armies.

As the Shade of Highfall reaches its climax, all four characters collide in an emotional rollercoaster of betrayal, horror and revenge. Yet above all this, the story becomes a race against time, to prevent the return of the Master of Shades and the global destruction that would surely follow.

My aim was to create an entirely new world and make it highly immersive. So I also created maps and a glossary to help drag my readers into the middle of the action. I can promise that the sequel will be out of this world.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I was inspired by the works of other authors of fantasy and science fiction. For a long time I read their stories and then one day, decided to write a story of my own.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Time Patrol by Poul Anderson

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Lyonesse by Jack Vance

The Technicolor Time Machine by Harry Harrison

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

This is a difficult question, because my preferred guest has been deceased for a while. But, if I could go back in time, my first guest would be Edgar Rice Burroughs. He started writing to feed his family and the many worlds and characters he created are absolutely amazing. I would ask him – where did you get the idea of Tarzan from?

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

It puts me in a different place, away from the daily humdrum of life. I have a vivid imagination and I often play out scenes from my books in my head.

What is a typical day like for you?

I get up and usually go swimming. Then I’m off to work. I work for a science and engineering company in the UK and one of my jobs is writing about emerging technologies. They’re going to find themselves in one of my books one day!

What scene from The Shade of Highfall was your favorite to write?

The scene where she confronted two rogues waiting in ambush on a forest road and finally admitted she was the notorious ‘Shade of Highfall’. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened next!

A ‘Shade’, by the way, is a wraith or disembodied soul that haunts the shadows.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Not really, but if I was forced to pick one, it would be two words I picked them up when I was a navigator flying in military aircraft. It is: “Never assume”.

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Mark O’Dell is the author of the new book The Shade of Highfall.

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