A conversation with Todd Sullivan, author and martial arts practitioner

Today’s guest is Todd Sullivan. He lives in Taipei, Taiwan, where he teaches English as a second language and English literature and writing.

I’ve known Todd for several years, having met him through the online writing community. He has an impressive resume. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Georgia State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Queens College. He attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the National Book Foundation Summer Writing Camp, both of which take place each summer in Vermont..

On top of that he’s a practitioner of the sword-fighting martial art kumdo/kendo. On top of that he fences with a foil and is a practitioner of Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, also known (intriguingly, and rather frighteningly) as the Art of Eight Limbs. It combines striking, clinching, punching, elbowing and kneeing one’s opponent. He also practices several other forms of martial arts. Like I said, he’s impressive.

And now for the questions!

Q: Where did you grow up? Do you come from a family of writers?

A: I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I lived until I was 18 years old. I didn’t come from a family of writers, but my father often told stories about his day during dinner, and my mother was a voracious reader.

Q: Bread Loaf is regarded as the nation’s oldest and most prestigious writers’ conference. The acceptance rate is something like 17 percent. What was your experience there like? Did you meet any famous writers? What was one thing that you took away from it?

A: I enjoyed Break Loaf quite a lot. It is held in a beautiful scenic location, with lots of trees and lots of nature. I remember drinking a lot of wine while there and eating a lot of food. I don’t know if I met famous writers, but I did meet several established authors who have won many awards and publish regularly.

I’m not sure if I took anything away from it. It was a nice experience, a beautiful location, and a lot of fun.

Did I mention the copious amounts of free wine we drank every evening?

Q: What were you like in high school?

A: I read a lot, and spoke mostly only when I had something to say. I went to a religious school and asked the priests a lot of difficult theological questions in class. I didn’t particularly like my high school at the time, though when I look back at it today, I now understand what they were trying to accomplish. Discipline is key to success in life, and my high school prioritized instilling the value of discipline in Purple Knights.

Q: What made you decide to work to Asia?

A: I decided to work in Asia because there was a job available for me there, and I thought it would be an interesting experience that would help set apart the fiction I wrote.

Q: Do your ESL students ask you about conditions in the US? If so, what do they want to know?

A: Not really, no. My students have often been elementary, middle, and high school aged, so 18 or younger, and international current events are very low on their list of priorities. The older students I’ve had have seldom asked much about the US also, and I almost never talk about politics, so it very rarely comes up in my classes.

Q: Tell us about your book Butchers. It takes place in South Korea and centers around Sey-Mi, a high school student who is chosen to be turned into a vampire and brought into the ranks of the Gwanlyo, a secret vampire society.

A: Butchers is a novella that started off as a novel, Natural Police. This was accepted by a publisher several years ago, but the publisher folded before the book was published. I had trouble selling it to someone else, so I extracted the scene from it that had gotten the most amount of attention from people who had read bits of the novel, and wrote a novella around it.

That novella is Butchers, and you have to read to the end to find the scene that is both most memorable and most controversial.

Q: How are the vampires in Butchers different from the ones in the Twilight novels, or from Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

A: They’re probably closer to Dracula than the ones from Twilight. To be fair, I never did read the Twilight books, and only saw one of the movies. However, I think the main difference between their narrative vampires and mine is that, in Butchers, most readers will not walk away from the story wanting to be a vampire. My characters have a nightmarish experience filled with rules, regulations, paperwork, and extreme punishments for those who don’t abide by vampiric law.

Q: What would you like people to know about you?

A: Nothing especially, though I did just start a personal Patreon page, which can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/ToddSullivanContentCreation. With the support of others, I hope to help others around the world who are interested in the arts to make at least something of their creative dreams into an actual reality.

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