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Alumnus pulls from personal experiences to bring fantasy series to life


Artwork and text from “Dutybound” posted to Mark Alvarez II’s Instagram, March 24, 2021.

For over 10 years, Mark Alvarez II, a Texas State alumnus, has been writing the world of his book series, “The Light Wings Epic.”
The idea started back when he was in middle school where his initial goal was to create a fantasy world inside a video game. Inspired by classic literature and writers like Shakespeare and Homer, Alvarez started writing “Dutybound,” the first book of the series, in 2009 when he was a freshman in high school.
“It’s just a combination of all the stuff I like from elements from video games like ‘Final Fantasy’ to elements from ‘Harry Potter,'” Alvarez said. “I remember right after I read ‘Deathly Hallows’ was when I was like, ‘oh, maybe then ‘Light Wings’ could make a better book than a video game. That was at the end of my eighth-grade year and then after reading ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ I was like, ‘okay, that’s it, I’m writing it out tonight,’ and I actually started putting pen to paper.”
From middle school to high school, to his time studying public relations at Texas State, Alvarez continued to write “Dutybound,” carrying out his dream of becoming a writer.
Written in third person omniscient, the story follows the main character, a high maiden named Lucia, and other heirs of nobility who must bring light back into a world overcome by darkness. Each character faces their own challenges and discovers the meaning of light in their individual lives along the way. Alvarez implemented his own life experiences, personal interests and real-world problems into the storyline to keep it true to himself and relatable to others.
Like Lucia, Alvarez grew up with an absent father. To further develop the character, he pulled from his own struggles of not knowing his real father. Additionally, he built the book’s theme of searching for light in the darkness by incorporating elements of his own personal trauma that he endured after surviving a gunshot wound when he was four years old.
Besides drawing on his life experience for “Dutybound,” Alvarez also added worldly references to things like religion and xenophobia. Within the world of Terestria, there are different places where characters experience xenophobia from characters who feel as if they don’t belong there. Religion is integrated through hymns of poetry dispersed throughout the novel.
“[People] go through a lot of bad things only to survive in order to bring about a better world,” Alvarez said. “There’s a lot of stuff beneath the surface but if you could be deeper, and a lot of the allusions and the symbolism that I put to the book, a lot of it could be drawn back to like real-world things like the xenophobia that we face politically here in America.”
The praise for “Dutybound” after its release last summer was accompanied by a widespread desire to listen to the story. Alvarez and his team hit the ground running to find voice actors to begin recording an audiobook for fans.
Caesar Manzanera, Alvarez’s roommate and longtime friend from Texas State, was the first person to listen to the “Dutybound” audiobook. Manzanera lived a floor below Alvarez when they lived on campus and was there to witness the beginning of the book’s writing process. He had previously read some of “Dutybound” in its print form but finished the story by listening to the audiobook.
“He’s been working on this since he was a kid. So especially when the audiobook came out, he went through a lot of trial and error trying to get [people to audition] and man, he’s just obsessed and passionate about his books, and the audiobook itself,” Manzanera said. “I was blown out of my mind because you don’t expect you know, especially his first book … he’s really setting the standards for young authors coming out of Texas State.”
Although Manzanera is not an avid reader, he loved getting to listen to Alvarez’s book because of the imagery and detail in his writing. He describes Alvarez as a compassionate, emotional person who expresses himself through literature.
“He’ll go through a whole one-on-one with his emotions, but within those moments, you know — because we live together — he goes into his room and starts writing all this,” Manzanera said. “That is how he can express things, and the way this book really expresses his own belief and his own morality and his principles … this book is kind of like his life in a parallel way all most.”
Jennifer Vance, Alvarez’s publicist, has been working with Alvarez to get more readers to enjoy “Dutybound.” They worked together during the book’s initial campaign and are working together now to promote the audiobook.
Vance works under Books Forward and has worked with other fantasy and sci-fi authors in the past. She said “Dutybound” has characteristics that differentiate it from other fantasy books.
“I love it. It’s so different. And I think readers [who] open it up will see it’s different from other fantasy books,” Vance said. “There’s a lot of kind of spiritual, religious undertones. It’s something that Mark really wanted to dive into with the book … I appreciate that he wanted to tackle the theme for a [young adult] to a new adult audience.”
“The Light Wings Epic” is set to be a trilogy, and the next book of the series, “Bloodbound,” is tentatively set to release in summer 2023. Alvarez plans to continue to expand the series into a multitude of books within one universe.
“I want to sort of like create this universe within this world where different things happen within different time periods within Terestria history, but it will exist in the same world with the same laws, the same laws of nature in which the rules that create Terestria,” Alvarez said. “I want to keep the world but create different stories within that world.”
Since being published, “Dutybound” has become a finalist in the shortlist for the 2021 Ozma Book Awards, a division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards, that recognizes emerging fantasy writers. The winner of the award will be announced in June.
Outside of writing, Alvarez works as an enterprise account-based marketing specialist for SolarWinds in Austin. In his free time, he writes poetry that he shares on Instagram and is currently experimenting with a short story series.
To keep up with Alvarez and get updates on “The Light Wings Epic,” visit https://maalvarezii.com/ or @maalvarezii on Instagram. “Dutybound: The Light Wings Epic” audiobook is available at https://www.audible.com/pd/Dutybound-Audiobook/B09RKQLMD8.

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