Writing Journeys – Dyrk Ashton
Today on the blog we have Dyrk Ashton, author of Paternus. Dyrk’s debut novel released to much acclaim in 2016, joining our previous guest Phil Tucker as a finalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off. To reach the final, Paternus received a 9/10 from FantasyFaction – it really doesn’t get much better than that. Over to Dyrk!
Hello everyone. I’ve been asked to elucidate upon my writing journey to date and how I came to be writing my current novel or series. I’ve addressed this a number of times in the past, so I think I should do something a little different. Maybe a little more open and honest.
I’m a compulsive liar. Always have been. Deep down. Not anymore, I keep the compulsion in a tiny cage these days, that little daemon. But growing up it ran free. I was always a teller of tales. I think a great part of how I control the beast these days is by writing fiction. It’s not a new insight, but fiction is lies. There are all manner of pontifications about fiction revealing “Truth” or “truths,” and I absolutely believe that, but so can outright lies – they can disclose truths about a great many things. The best thing about fiction, though, is that we all know it’s fiction. And fantasy, my chosen genre in which to dabble, is the most fictional of fiction. The best fantasy, in my opinion, is told with the same earnestness as an outright lie. I’m not talking about boastful lying or white lies, but the gotta-make-people-believe-this-to-save-my ass kind of lying. I have to write fantasy that way. It’s why I love Tolkien’s lies and Zelazny’s and Bradbury’s and Pratchett’s lies. Because goddam I believe that shit. Can I write like them? Hell no. Not even close. But I can attempt the same kind of desperate earnestness to make people believe. Again I say attempt. Succeeding is something entirely other, and is not up to me in the slightest. It’s up to you, the reader, the listener to my fantastical fibs.
So I like to tell stories and have always wanted to tell a fantasy tale in novel form, since as long ago as I can remember. Only recently, in the last five years, have I had the time and gumption and, honestly, maturity, to do it. So I grabbed what time I could while working my day job, forced myself to be terribly selfish with “my writing time,” and wrote even when I didn’t want to. For several of those years (working on the same book, by the way), I didn’t care if anyone would ever want to read eat. I was just trying this, then that, finding what worked for me and what didn’t, doing a ton of fun research and making a bunch of shit up, and, in spite of anything else I might say, having a hell of a lot of fun, even when it sucked. To be honest, though, since I try not to lie (so much) anymore, I’m sure in the back of my mind I hoped people would want to read it. Still, I set out to write something I wanted to read and to write it in a way I wanted to write it, regardless of market or the tastes of others. That’s a large part of why I’m shocked that anyone is reading it now, let alone liking it. It’s also why I’m not at all shocked or upset when people don’t like it, or sometimes just don’t get it, as the case sometimes may be. Thank God not everybody likes the same thing! And that should be the great joy of every writer, I think. Revel in the diversity of taste. Roll in the bad reviews, and rejoice!
But I digress, as I often do. Though I’ve been writing my whole life, in one form or another, much of the process of writing Paternus has been one long education in writing. (Paternus is my debut and only novel thus far, by the way, which has brought me to writing the second book in the trilogy, which is what I’m doing now). It was a crash course, on-the-job-training MFA in writing of sorts. I’ve learned or reacquainted myself with the “rules,” chosen what I like and discarded the rest. There are no rookie mistakes in it, only choices (good or bad as they may be).
At one point, enough folks whom I trust had told me they liked what I was doing and, in fact, it ought to be published. I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. I won’t go into self-publishing now, as that is a different creature entirely than actually writing, but suffice it to say it’s the avenue I chose to get Paternus out into the market. And it has been received well, and not so well, but mostly well, and I’m honored, thrilled and amazed. People have posted reviews. I’ve been asked to do interviews. I’ve lucked into the privilege of doing not one, but two Reddit Fantasy AMAs, and most amazingly, I’ve become a finalist in Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO. It warrants repeating, most amazing. I thought for sure I’d be out in the first round. But still, that isn’t why I keep writing. I’m writing books two and three because I want to. I have to. For me. Hopefully, some folks will like them too.
And that’s sort of a different take on my writing journey so far. Unless it’s all a lie.
Tomorrow we’ll be heading into the world of film, as well as books, with screenwriter and author, Mark Stay!
dyrk ashton, fantasy authors, writing journeys