Mark Alvarez shares how he created the world of Terestria

Mark A. Alvarez II is a Hispanic-American born in Houston, Texas. He’s a graduate of Texas State University, where he studied public relations and mass communication. He was an apprentice at the NEW Apprenticeship where he was certified in digital marketing. He is the CEO of Light Wings Promotions LLC. A digital marketing and creative branding agency in San Antonio, Texas, where Mark currently resides.

Readers will dive into the world Terestria and its Virtues. Heirs of nobility forced to face the Sins of their forefathers and bring their world from the brink of Darkness. Among them is Lucia, High Maiden to the province of Moz and chosen of the Light Wings. This ancient relic, bestowed upon a long-forgotten civilization by the Light itself, forged to harbor the Light’s essence if Terestria’s balance is threatened by the Darkness’ desire to corrupt its most-prized creation: Life. If successful and the long-standing covenant between the Light and its Protectors is broken, the Darkness is free to roam Terestria and reclaim the land it had a hand in creating — bringing death and destruction to every corner of the world.

With the help of the Light Wings and its power, Lucia must heed its call to assemble the Light’s Virtues. And lead them into battle against the very Sins that seek to destroy their world. “Dutybound” is a journey of self-discovery, as these heroes face conflict both from outside and within themselves. Duty, desire, envy, hope, hate, love, pride and temperance all challenge this bold tale. It is sure to have readers pondering their own true nature. YEM was able to speak with Mark about how he got into writing, his upcoming book Dutybound. He was also able to share his inspiration for the book.

Young Entertainment Mag: How did you first get into writing?

Mark Alvarez: I’ve always been a writer. I started writing when I was very young, and was maybe eight or so. I had received a shiny blue journal for my birthday and used to write all kinds of stories in it. Much of Dutybound is conceived from source material I gathered over the years from various stories I used to think up, but mainly I was, at first, writing Dutybound as a video game called Light Wings.

YEM: Your upcoming book is Dutybound. Can you tell us about it?

Mark: Dutybound is a coming-of-age, dark fantasy set in a dystopian world filled with darkness and destruction. In the world of Terestria, Lucia Sanoon, the high maiden to Moz, one of Terestria’s four great provinces, receives a mystical pendant from her long-lost father and eventually forced to follow in his footsteps when a strange, terrifying force attacks her home. Along the way  other heirs of nobility join, who, like her, have a part to play in the fate designed by Lucia’s pendant, the Light Wings. Dutybound is a story about finding light in a world where there isn’t any. And that light is very much tied to the morality of the main characters, who each represent a different virtue unique to their personalities.

YEM: Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Mark: Dutybound was originally storyboarded and outlined as a videogame I wanted to play. I was very much into JRPGs and fighting games when I was younger, fans of games like Final Fantasy, the Legend of Zelda, and SoulCalibur. I also was an avid reader and love books like Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Within both those book series in particular, I always felt I could relate to the characters. Though I wasn’t an orphan, I didn’t know my biological father when I started writing Light Wings and my relationship with my family was always strained. My homelife was not the best, and I often felt like I couldn’t rely on the adults in my life. I endured a great deal and faced a lot of challenges growing up. Including a nearly fatal gunshot at the age of four. It was a lot to deal with, so naturally, as I assume any kid would, I attempted to cope the best way I knew how and to me that was writing. All of this would play a factor into this story. Dutybound is inspired by my love for video games, book characters that resonated with me, and pieces of my personal life. The idea was to create a story about morality and how one could remain moral in situations where things felt hopeless and out of your control. Very much like my childhood or in the stories I read about.

YEM: How did you create the world of Terestria?

Mark: When I started writing this story, it was supposed to be a modern fantasy set in a version of our world that was linked to an alternate, dying dimension of which the character’s families were from. I worked on that story for about two years before abandoning the concept to tell the story within Terestria itself, focusing on how it came into a state of decline. The sins are a concept originally introduced in the first series. It wasn’t until the next where I introduced the virtues and the role they’d play in restoring Terestria’s balance. Terestria was always meant to be somewhat like an alternate reality, inspired by various regions of our known world. I studied a lot of Art History and drew inspiration from the theocracies of the old world and wrote conflicts that reflected modern-day political and social structures. Though I feel I altered things to make Terestria more original and alive on its own. I believe that the world provides a commentary on knowledge and privilege and how that plays into the political and social constructs of our known society.

YEM: The book shows the contract between the Light and the Darkness. How do you find Light during dark times?

Mark: As long as there is light there is hope, right? That’s the entire foundation of the novel itself. But what I want people to remember is Lucia’s family motto: Duty Above All Else. This is more than a theme to me. It’s a philosophy to live by. There was a particular type of hopelessness growing up as a minority in the inner-city limits of Houston. You could say my family and peers felt that the life we were born into was the only life we could live. Both my biological and adoptive fathers were in and out of prison, and my mom was single most of my life. Getting by was tough and crime was prevalent and sometimes inevitable. It was the only life many of us had ever known, so the cycle was seemingly never ending. But for some reason, I couldn’t accept that. I could never truly explain it, but getting shot changed me drastically. After surviving, I felt like my life had a purpose and that there was some reason to why I lived. If my life remained as dark as it was, I probably would have rather died, but honestly, that’s what kept me going most of all. Getting shot was not the worst thing that happened to me as oddly as it sounds. It was the best thing. After that, my education was important to me. Writing was important to me, I clung to opportunities that reminded me of that sense of purpose, of my duty, because I felt like if I was to survive the darkness that surrounded me. I had to learn how to use my gifts and talents to create my own light and be better than the generations before me. I wanted to break the chain for good. And oddly enough, I think that itself found its way into Dutybound.

YEM: How do the illustrations in this book help tell the story? Was it important to you to have a visual element to your storytelling?

Mark: You know it’s funny. The illustrations of my characters used for my book promotions never made it into the book. I never truly intended to give readers a true visual element outside the writing itself. My writing style deliberately withholds information to allow the readers to ask questions, draw their own conclusions, and interpret the world as they see it. But since I started writing this story, I must have drawn Lucia and the Light Wings a thousand times. It was important to me, as the author, to know who I was writing about and I think a piece of me was thinking like a video game designer. I wanted my characters to have profiles, unique weapons, and abilities. I wanted readers to have fan favorites and relate to the characters they found most appealing and relatable. Honestly, the whole aspect of designing the characters really helped me define their personalities and make them feel more real if anything. The illustrations were more of a tool for me to use to make the characters more three-dimensional. But I don’t necessarily feel their designs are important to understanding the context of the story. Maybe to the book promos or if my book is pitched as a TV series, movie, or video game (that’d be awesome!) but not to the story itself. Readers should be able to imagine the world without the illustrations. But it’s giving readers a sense of what to expect and a glimpse into the vision I had when writing Dutybound.

YEM: Do you plan to turn this into a series?

Mark: Absolutely. It’s a pre-planned trilogy. Though I feel Dutybound’s ending is definitive, it leaves so much open. There is still so much of Terestria to explore. We have deserts, islands, tundras, and caves. An entire continent exists beyond the Aldric Sea. Dutybound merely touches the surface. Bloodbound takes things much further and Boundless is the turning point. There is a lot to be excited about.

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