A Mississippi native, TOSK (Stephen H. King) moved in high school from the small town of Corinth to San Bernardino, California. A series of mostly unexplainable decisions led him through a strange sequence of events beginning at the United States Military Academy, where he double-majored in physics and electrical engineering, followed by a fairly short career as an Infantry officer and then an electronics technician, a product engineer, a carpenter's helper, and an elementary school janitor, before ending up on the faculty of a small college in Anchorage, Alaska. During those years, he learned that reading science fiction and fantasy allowed him to escape the strangeness into the more understandable worlds crafted by Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and many other great writers. As time went on he began to mold his own worlds, and thus his novels were born. Stephen now lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter, and two white Chihuahuas that seem to enjoy morphing from therapuppies into miniature dragons at the sound of food being opened.

Q&A on Cataclysm, my first novel

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I started early but took time off. My first creative effort was as a very young boy; I wrote a 16-page booklet with notebook pages cut in half and then folded in half again. The title was "Things I know about girls" and the pages were every bit as blank as they should have been. My parents yelled at me for wasting paper, though. A friend and I also started making a comic book back in middle school, but once again the critical reviews weren't positive at all. I was fairly noncreative for decades after that. I finally succumbed to internal pressure and attempted a NaNoWriMo in 2007, failing miserably but at the same time succeeding in breaking out of the shell I'd encased myself into. I didn't actually start writing seriously till 2011, though.

Q: How many of the characters in Cataclysm are based on real people?

A: Many of them. I think most authors fall back on known personalities to help make our characters interesting and believable.

Q: Referencing the question above: which ones?

A: I'll never tell....

Q: Where do you get your ideas from?

A: All over the place, really. The basic ideas for Cataclysm came from way back when I was reading Piers Anthony's Adept series. The concept of alternate realities, one based on technology and one on magic, resonated with me as something I could believe in. I gave it my own twist and created the world of Cataclysm: Return of the Gods.

Q: Shapeshifting dragons isn't new, either, is it?

A: No, it's not a new concept at all. Then again, brand new concepts bring with them the challenge in fantasy novels of having to explain themselves. Readers accept a shapeshifting dragon almost by default. Sorscha came to me early on as a foil to Crystal's character, but she grew into much more than that as I developed her more.

Q: Where did you get your ideas for the pantheon of Cataclysm from?

A:The story came first. I wondered what it would be like to find yourself married to a god, and what kind of woman might find herself in that position. Then I added what it would be like to find yourself in competition with a flawless humanoid dragon (Sorscha). Then came the evil goddess, who overtime became Aphrodite. Once I had two gods, I had to ask myself what the world would look like given the conditions I'd set up, and then I looked back through mythology to see where the various cultures' views of pantheons and my story could be interwoven.

Q: Are you a student of mythology, then?

A: Yes, I am, though only informally. Someday, given time and money, I'd love to make a study of cultural mythology as it relates to sociology. My research for this book taught me a great deal about how the Greeks, Romans, Vikings, and others crafted their god-personas to match their cultural ideologies. I flipped it around in this book to deal with the question of whether the deities were actually guiding that, of course.

Q: How long did the book take you to write?

A: A few months, if you're referring to the first draft. No, you probably know better, but I wouldn't have before going through the process myself. I prided myself in college on my ability to write a first draft that could earn a passing grade as a final submission. Cataclysm, though, has been through months of revision and editing. It's been exhausting, but thrilling at the same time as I watched the story improve.