Award-winning author of ‘The Fireballer’ joins in-person panel at the Alamosa Public Library
ALAMOSA — When Mancos resident and award-winning author Mark Stevens sat down to write his latest novel, “The Fireballer," all he had was a premise for the book, no more than a two or three sentence idea first shared over a burrito in a park in Denver with one of his closest friends and mentors. Stevens, already hooked by what he felt was possible in the story, then mentioned it to his agent, and the strength of the idea alone was enough for his agent to say, “Drop everything else you’re working on and write that story."
On Friday, Stephens will be at the Local Author Celebration at the Alamosa Public Library that begins at 5:30 p.m.
Stevens took the advice, and, over the next year and a half, a powerful tale emerged on the screen of his computer. “The characters just started speaking to me,” he told the Valley Courier. “It sounds like a cliché, but I just couldn’t write fast enough. That was happening more often than not with this book, where, other times, it can feel like you’re pushing a rock up a hill.”
The six-time published author was apparently on the right track as “The Fireballer” has already garnered over 3,500 reviews on Amazon from readers around the world with an average 4.5-star rating. It was also selected for the American Library Association’s “One Book, One Community”- a resource for librarians across the country wanting to build a community-wide reading program – and led to Stevens being honored with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Award for 2023 Writer of the Year.
“The Fireballer," set in the world of baseball, is described as “a poignant story about hopes, dreams, and how far one man’s talents take him before he realizes it’s about what you do and how you do it.”
But Stevens says a person does not have to be a baseball fan to like the book, an opinion shared by multiple readers on Amazon.
“Baseball is a construct for looking at this incredible paradox in (the main character) Frank Ryder’s life," he says. "The thing that is making him famous, the very thing that is focusing this heavy, heavy attention from the sports world on him — his ability to throw a ball — is the very thing that took a life. How does he grapple with that? He loves the sport. It’s something he was born to do. But one of his pitches could also hurt someone and he has to work his way through that.”
Those issues — a reckoning with oneself, one’s past, and the search for redemption — are something that Stevens has found resonates with readers, whether they are interested in baseball or not.
“No matter what surrounds us and what the challenges are, we are all human. We all take in the world. We breathe it in. We react to our challenges. We react to our opportunities — or not. We react to pressure — or not. It’s about redemption, about finding that humanity in yourself. And, as a writer, finding that humanity in the character and bringing it to life.”
Far from a newcomer to writing, Stevens brings to his work a wealth of experiences with more than two decades spent in journalism. He has reported for the Christian Science Monitor, first in his hometown of Boston and, later, in Los Angeles, as well as the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post.
He also worked for six years as a reporter and news producer for Public Broadcasting System (PBS) on the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour where, although based in Denver, he covered stories across the country and parts of Latin America.
“I had a chance as a reporter — especially on general assignment beats — to cover a huge variety of stories, everything from the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City to the shuttle blowing up. A lot of disaster stories as well as environmental and economic stuff, too. A pretty wide-ranging career.”
After “throwing grenades” as an aggressive reporter, he’s spent the last twenty years “catching grenades” while working in public relations and communications, including eleven years running his own public relations firm.
Stevens has always loved novels and literature and grew up loving to read and write but was daunted by the idea of writing a “meaningful” novel. He then discovered crime fiction and the format worked well. It took him “a long time to get good at it” and a long time to get published, but he was successful at both with a series of five crime fiction novels (the Allison Coil series) that have been published and a few other standalones that are sitting with his agent. “The Fireballer” is Stevens’ venture into an entirely different genre, and the love of writing has only grown stronger.
“Once I started writing, I was hooked. And I’ve been hooked on it ever since.”
Despite a career so far that many aspiring writers would envy, Stevens, who is a soft spoken and thoughtful man, does not hesitate to encourage others in the same pursuit and to share what he has learned that works best for him.
For those who are aspiring writers or others who are just curious about the whole process, Stevens will be joining four other local authors to discuss exactly that while participating in an in-person panel titled the “Local Author Celebration” and hosted by the Alamosa Public Library.
The Alamosa Public Library is at 300 Hunt and the panel starts on Friday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m., with refreshments provided. Copies of “The Fireballer” and other published works by the local authors on the panel will be on sale, as well.