The Dyrk Ashton Interview
I've reviewed all 3 of Dyrk's Paternus series and been an enthusiastic fan of his truly epic storytelling. When I started out as a writer, Dyrk was one of the first authors I encountered. His warmth and humour was to be a reflection of the fantasy writing community as a whole but that first experience meant a lot to someone still trying to find their feet in that world. Therefore, it has been with genuine affection as well as extreme curiosity that we conducted this interview. Here we go...
1. War of Gods is the third book in your trilogy. Give us a quick insight into the premise of the trilogy (obviously without spoilers) just so everyone knows what we’re talking about here. An “elevator pitch” if you like.
Thanks for having me here, Phil! Oh boy, I’m so bad at elevator pitches. I’ll start with a “what if?” I’ve always been fascinated by the question, what if the gods and monsters, angels and devils of myth and legend from around the world really did exist, and the massive wars from the old stories were real? If they were, what were they like, and where did they come from – and what if some of them still existed today? It all just went from there and demanded the story take place today, in this world, essentially making it urban fantasy.
2. It’s taken you two years to publish each of the three books. This is longer than many self-published authors like to aim for. But then this is epic fantasy. Does it take longer to plan because of these epic qualities?
I’ve spent ages on research and have hundreds of pages of notes. It’s such an expansive story, it took a long time to work it all out. When it comes to writing, I’m just really slow anyway. And I’m much more of a re-writer than a writer. I would love to be able to write faster and put books out more quickly – which is actually my plan for the next project.
3. My review highlights the complexity of the plot of War of Gods. I describe it as a film in the way the “narrative camera” pans across vast landscapes to zoom into certain characters to see what’s happening to them. Directors storyboard this narrative. How did you go about planning it?
I was blown away by your insights on that, because that’s exactly what I do when I’m outlining, taking notes, and writing. I plan it out and write it just like that, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, but its part of how I think. I’m a very visual person, so I ‘see’ the ‘shots’ and ‘scenes’ in my head. I was a filmmaker and screenwriter for a lot longer than I’ve been a writer, so that definitely has a lot to do with it.
4. Retaining my cinematic metaphor, War of Gods must have a cast list larger than War and Peace or even Avengers: Endgame! How did you keep track of all of them? Plus, their development as characters during the story.
It’s so weird how the characters come about. I had the idea for the kind of story I wanted to write, and then thought long and hard on what kinds of setting and characters would be best for telling it. That said, I believe that the characters are the most important part of any story. Even with something slow and sometimes tedious, I can be pulled along if I’m engaged with the characters, but on the other hand, a fast-moving, well plotted story will fall flat at the end if I didn’t really care about any of them,
Once I had the core characters down, the rest would pop into my head and I’d write up quick backgrounds and traits, then see where they went. Some never made it into final drafts, and other that I’d expected to kill off or be minor ended up being really important. I had originally planned to kill of Baphomet in the first scene of the first book, for example, but for anyone who has read any of the books, you can see how that went.
Keeping track of them was really hard at times, especially in group scenes. I’d find myself completely forgetting about some, then have to go back and put them in. What helped was picturing the ‘shots’ and who would be in them and what they might be doing, even in the background.
5. Out of all of these characters which one was the easiest to write? And which character was the hardest?
Good question that I don’t think anyone else has asked! Tough to answer, though. Peter may have been the hardest because he’s so incredibly ancient and very mercurial. It was difficult to place all the pieces of his personality in without having him be too much one way or the other and achieve the overall feeling for him that I wanted. The easiest turned out to be Edgar, which surprised me. He is just very much the way he is, and once I had that established, I could pretty easily determine what he would say and do in the various situations I put him in.
6. You and I have talked about how much we value research. I’m guessing you had access to the entire Library at Alexandria before it burned down to write this book! It’s not just the insights into all the pantheons, the weaponry, the languages people speak/used, the historical influences affecting the characters. Give us a rough idea how much time, energy and commitment you’ve given to research so you could write this book.
Luckily for me I love the research, even the more mundane geological history of the planet stuff. If I were to estimate, over the three books. Let’s say 2 to 5 hours a day of time devoted to writing time (which includes research, outlining, writing, everything), for an average of 3.5 hours. I spent probably 4 months on that for book one, 6 days a week, probably 2 months for book two, and two for book 3. I’m terrible at math, but I think it comes out to about 504 hours. It could be more, honestly.
7. Authors often struggle to sustain the energy and enthusiasm for a trilogy. When did you start writing Paternus? And what emotional and mental battles have you fought to get to where you are now?
I first started working on the idea in the summer of 2012, I think, and wrote about every day up to a month or two before the release of book 1 in May of 2016. Book 1 was no struggle, because I was doing it just for myself, for the creative outlet and to see if I could, and I love to learn knew things (like how to writ a novel in the first place). There were times when writing book 2 when I thought I’d never be done, but it wasn’t too bad. Book 3 was really hard at times, though, even to the point where I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a writer any more. It was just so complicated and so long. Much longer than I ever expected. The way I kept going was, honestly, that I just kept going, whether I was enjoying myself or not. The dark periods didn’t last long, though, and they happy times always returned again. I am really, really glad to have it done, though.
8. Continuing that last point, you mentioned to me how nervous you were about publishing War of Gods. The previous two books have been enormous successes, well reviewed and respected. What prompted the anxiety this time?
Readers had pretty high expectations of the finale, and so did I, honestly. It’s been more of a relief than you can imagine that initial reviews have been very positive. I also take so long to finish a book, I let the tension build.
9. Your three stories are written in omniscient point of view. What made you choose this perspective?
Omniscient was once common-place, and though I like books with tighter third person or first person, I felt it hemmed in a story like this too much. A free floating omniscient, I felt, was much more appropriate to the kind of story I wanted to tell. It’s also much more “film-like.” I also felt it needed the immediacy and urgency of present tense (which is how all film scripts are written, too).
10. You chose to be a self-published author at the start. Will you remain so? Is it a regret you didn’t go down traditional routes? What caused that decision in the first place?
I will never regret not having attempted the trad route for these books. I know a bit about the business, and weighed the pros and cons, and it was most important for me to write the book I really wanted to read, the way I wanted to write and read it. Trad would have never let me do that. I would certainly consider going trad with something in the future, but I have no interest in querying, or going trad just for the prestige of it. If a good deal landed in my lap though, I’d probably take it.
11. What now for Dyrk Ashton? With all 3 books “out there”, what do you want to do next? More novels? More epic fantasy? Or a change of direction? Or a very long rest?!
The plan right now is 4 to 6 books, much shorter and more traditional wizard-demon-hunter kind of thing, though without a franchise, just a Ronin type. In my own head I think something like Jack Reacher meets Harry Dresden. It would be standalone from The Paternus Trilogy, but take place in the same world, twenty years before the story of Rise of Gods starts. Some of the same characters would be involved in various of the stories, though. I’m actually really looking forward to diving into those, but it will be a few months before I can think to much about it :)
Thanks again, Phil!
I asked Dyrk to provide some links to where people can find him and his books:
Book 1: Paternus: Rise of Gods, http://myBook.to/Paternus
Book 2: Paternus: Wrath of Gods, http://myBook.to/PaternusWoG
Book 3: Paternus: War of Gods, http://myBook.to/PaternusWARoG
Art of War: Anthology for Charity (all proceeds go to Doctors without Borders), https://www.amazon.com/Art-War-Anthology-Petros-Triantafyllou-ebook/dp/B078GVVB7T
Lost Lore: A Fantasy Anthology (free!), https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Lore-Anthology-Ben-Galley-ebook/dp/B078YH28M6
Book 1: Paternus: Rise of Gods, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35621572-paternus
Book 2: Paternus: Wrath of Gods, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39803784-paternus
Book 3: Paternus: War of Gods, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43401376-paternus
FACEBOOK author page: https://www.facebook.com/paternusbooks/
BOOKSNIFFER for Android: android.bksnfr.me/Dyrk_Ashton