1. One of the things that struck me about Paternus is that it’s written in present tense. Usually such writing pulls me out of the story unless it is done extremely well. Fortunately, you have expertly mastered the present tense. What made you choose to use it, instead of the traditional past tense.
DA: Thank you for the compliment, Chris! Honestly, my first proofer/editor strongly recommended that I switch from present to past, but I stuck to my guns. I knew that few adult fantasy books use present tense, especially epic, but including urban fantasy, and was fully aware of that going on. Most of my creative writing in the past few decades, though, has been on screenplays, and those are always written in present tense. I very much wanted Paternus to have a strong cinematic feel, while also being able to take advantage of things you can do in literature that you can’t do in scripts (like backstory’s, inner thoughts and observations that aren’t in voice-over, etc.) so that it didn’t feel too movie-like or comic bookish. Not sure if I succeeded in that, but I am personally pretty happy with the result.
I also read quite a bit of YA fantasy, and was struck by how well present tense was used in The Hunger Games, which I read while still mulling over the first Paternus book. While writing, I also read Red Rising, which has a striking, in-your-face kind of present tense style. Mike Carey wrote The Girl with all the Gifts in a gentler, extremely deftly handled present tense voice that actually changed slightly in chapters from different characters’ perspectives, and I loved that as well. I studied other books written in present, and together with what I had learned writing film scripts, developed the style used in Paternus. I’ve seen some complaints about it, but I still stand by it.
2. While reading Paternus, I couldn’t help but be reminded of American Gods, which partly inspired my own series. Are there certain books that you draw inspiration from?
DA: This list is nearly endless, I’d have to say. Nearly everything I’ve read shows through now and again. Even from books I love, I get a sense of what I don’t want to do as much as what I do. There are some that stand out, though. The standard, The Lord of the Rings, resonates through just about everything I do, but I also can’t help drawing on my love of Roger Zelazny’s work, particularly Creatures of Light and Darkness, Lord of Light, and A Night in the Lonesome October. I also have to mention so many of the myths and fables from around the world I have read throughout my life, as well as superhero films, foreign art films, and graphic novels. Of the latter, The Dark Knight, Kingdom Come, and Watchmen have probably had the most affect on my work.
3. You have fantastic cover art. How did it come to be?
DA: I completely lucked out with that. I’m not sure if you know, but the original cover for Paternus, book 1, had beautiful artwork, but it felt too YA. I decided to try a new style, more adult urban fantasy, but not particularly the standard glowing-hand-wizard-demon-hunter or PNR style. I saw the art for Ghosts of Tomorrow by my arch-nemesis (or nemesenemy), the notorious pants thief, Michael R. Fletcher, and loved it. Luckily for me, he shared the names of his cover artists after I seduced him with grilled-cheese sandwiches and cheap whiskey. John Anthony Di Giovanni is the illustrator, and the designer is Shawn King of STK Kreations. I contacted them, they were available, and it’s been love ever since.
4. It took two years from the time Book 1 was published until Book 2 came out (glad to see I’m not the only one not doing rapid release). Do you think it will take that long for Book 3 to be released? If so, what is the most time consuming part of your process?
DA: Yeah, I’m a slow writer, that’s for certain. Due to day job and life in general, I only get a few hours as a day to write, and not every day, and I’m pretty slow at the keyboard. I don’t write when I travel for conventions and such, and I’ll spend months doing production and marketing work before and after a book’s release. Book one took almost 4 years to write, and came out May 1, 2016. It wasn’t until July 10 of 2018 that book two was released, so two years, two months between. I am getting faster, though. I had originally wanted to release book three late this Summer, 2019, then it was Fall, now it’s more like a nebulous “by the end of the year.”
Part of the reason is there is so much to tie together, follow through with, and wrap up in the last book of the trilogy. Another reason is that author friends and readers have convinced me to do a Kickstarter for special hardback editions (and other fun stuff), which I’m now really excited to do, though it will take some time away from writing. That would still be less than a year and a half since the release of book two, though. So, like I said, faster :)
5. Your books have received amazing reviews from some highly reputable sources. What can you tell us about that process?
DA: I have to say, I have been extremely lucky. Right when I was first preparing to release book one, I was talked into joining Reddit Fantasy. I think the first time I logged in, I saw a thread on the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), which is sponsored by Mark Lawrence of The Broken Empire fame. The Reddit thread was an interview with the top winners from the first year it ran. I checked the entry deadline, which was right when I’d have the final proofed draft of Paternus finished. I think I was entry 298 out of the 300 allowed.
Paternus is odd in style and structure, and it’s urban fantasy or mythic fiction, not epic or grimdark fantasy (though it has been called grimdark since), so I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t make it past the first cull. I was in Fantasy-Faction’s group, and as it turned out, they liked it, and it became their choice as one of the 10 finalists. That process took several months, and then the final round many more, so all that time, publicity kind of snowballed. Other authors and outside bloggers read and reviewed it, and the other bloggers involved in the competition did as well. Fantasy Book Critic even gave it their highest score out of the final 10. I couldn’t believe it. Everything has built from that. I can’t credit the SPFBO enough. Without it, I don’t believe anyone would even know my books exist. I’ve gotten blurbs from most authors based on that, and building on social media relationships from there.
Dyrk Ashton is a Midwestern boy who spent some time in Hollywood. He teaches film, geeks out on movies and books, and writes about regular folks and their trouble with monsters.
Take a minute to check out his website over at Paternus Books and maybe pick up a copy if you haven't already. You won't regret it.