Interview with Dyrk Ashton

Excerpts from this interview were included in January’s monthly newsletter. Check it out for behind-the-scenes insights about other authors, news about AC Cobble, and FREE short stories.

Dyrk Aston - yes, that’s his given name - is a really fascinating author for me. His books are a kind of bonkers contemporary fantasy thrill ride that is absolutely jam-packed with detail and mythology. It gets compared a lot to Gaiman’s American Gods, and I can see why, but as you read Paternus you’ll realize it is wholly unique. If you want something different, this is for you. And as you read, don’t stumble over the initial mythology. As the book continues, it transitions into a really crazy action tale. It’s cinematic and fun, I think largely due to Dyrk’s experience in film. Find out more in the interview below!

Dyrk’s website:

Dyrk’s Twitter (I thought we were all on Facebook!?!):

Dyrk’s Facebook (there we go):

Paternus: Rise of Gods

Paternus Wrath of Gods

AC: You’ve been deeply involved in the film industry, can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

DA: Hi AC, thank you for having me. Yeah, I lived, ate, breathed film for a long time. Got my undergrad and masters degrees in film and video production from Ohio State University, where I produced the first feature film ever made there for part of my masters ‘thesis’. I then worked my way up from a production assistant and grip to producer and production manager on commercials and industrial films in Columbus, OH. Buddies of mine and I also made short films and a feature film during that time (of which I acted in a bunch, actually). We had our own production company for a while and developed screenplays and made a spec pilot for a cyberpunk TV series, which we pitched around Hollywood for a time, but could never really get anything to fly. I then moved to Los Angeles and worked in a ton of positions, including location sound recording, editing, and set construction. Mostly, though, I made my living as a SAG/AFTRA actor. I’m in Men in Black for about 4 seconds, was in a bunch of commercials and music videos, got some one scene appearances in some other features. The biggest part was a co-starring role in Rudyard Kipling’s The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo (longest movie title ever!). I was writing screenplays the whole time I was there as well, and got one of them read by several big companies, including Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free Productions and New Line Cinema. Also had a proposal for a TV series championed by American Zoetrope Television, Francis Ford Coppola’s TV division, but it got turned down eventually by the financiers. A whole lot of almost-made-its!

AC: How did your background in film influence your writing?

DA: My background in film has definitely influenced my writing. I’m a very visual person, and tend to ‘see’ the locations, staging, and movement as I write, as well as ‘hear’ the dialogue as if it were on the screen. I also think in terms of how scenes tend to open, progress, and close in films, and how confrontations, tension, and outright battles are ‘directed’ when I write, and sometimes ‘edited’ as well. I also enjoy the immediacy of present tense, and the freedom of third person omniscient narrative storytelling, which I’ve learned how to hone from writing screenplay. All that said, though, I have been reading books and writing in a narrative style all my life, so I don’t consider myself a film guy who writes books. The two have been been weaving out of my process forever.

AC: Paternus is filled with rich detail and incredible depth. How much of it is “Dyrk’s Mythology” and how much of it is based on real world mythology?

DA: I’ve been a big mythology geek since I was very young. I’m also fascinated by the process of mythmaking as well. That includes both how ‘real’ myths have developed and how masters of creating their own mythologies, such as Tolkien, mine from existing mythologies and create their own. Nearly every mythological character and many of the stories of their backgrounds come from actual legends, fairy tales, or myths. I definitely put my own spin on a lot of what’s in the books, though, and some of them are, in a great part, mostly made up and just loosely tied to any existing ancient stories.

AC: Who is your favorite character in Paternus?

DA: That’s a really hard question, because I like them all for one reason or another, or I wouldn’t put them in the books. Some of it is the whole “love to hate” thing too, of course. If I have to choose, it would be Fi’s Uncle Edgar, which I never would have guessed when I began writing. I find him a really interesting character with a conflicted background but who is trying to do the right thing. He’s often the most fun to write. They really are all fun to write, though, for me.

AC: You’re an experienced hand on the convention circuit, can you tell us which ones are your favorite, both from the perspective of a creator and a fan?

DA: Yeah, it is really difficult to separate my creator side from my fan side. I think all of them are great for both, though. DragonCon may be my fave con as a fan, though, and ConFusion as a writer. I’ve had great experiences at SFWA/Nebulas, WorldCon/Hugos too though, and will definitely go again.

AC: What’s your favorite thing about being a published author?

DA: Interacting with other authors and fans, definitely, though to be honest, can’t shake a stick at being able to make a little money doing something I love.

AC: Tell us something readers don’t know about you?

Hmm. My great-great-grand Uncle on my father’s side was John L. Sullivan, the world heavyweight champion boxer, and my Grandfather on my mother’s side was a medic in Begium and France in World War I--he rode a horse (and I have his saddle :)  I also like Funko Pops and babysloths... wait... everybody knows that...

AC: One of my favorite parts about writing is the community of authors. People are there to help each other out. One contest I want to give some recognition is the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO). The incredible Mark Lawrence serves as a sort of spiritual guide, and a dedicated team of bloggers review hundreds of books every year to sift out the wheat from the chaff. As someone who’s been both a participant and now a judge for Team Booknest, tell us a little bit about the contest.

DA: Very happy you posed this question, AC. Mark and the SPFBO bloggers deserve all the praise and thanks we can dish out. I first heard about it about a month before my first book came out, through an AMA on Reddit Fantasy (which I had just joined) with the top three placing authors the first annual SPFBO. I hurried and completed the final production phase of Paternus and submitted it the day it released on Amazon, May 1 or 2016. They only allowed 300 entries, and I believe I was entrant number 298.

I had no idea what to expect, except I was sure my book would be out of the contest very quickly. I was shocked every time I learned it hadn't been cut, each step of the way. I had known absolutely no one in the industry prior to that--that's not entirely true, I'd met a few at ConFusion in Michigan the January of that same year--but it was through that first year as a floundering, flopping about, fledgling author that I met most of the folks in the industry I know today. And anyone else I've met, I can probably trace to a connection with someone I met through the SPFBO. Many of these people have become incredible friends and compatriots. Many of these people are authors, but there are also quite a few bloggers and industry professionals of other sorts. I was completely blown away when I found out I'd become a finalist, the final 10 out of 300 entries, and to come in 3rd was absolutely amazing. It became a little stressful at times, but it was a thrilling experience all the way through.

This year I had the honor of being a guest judge for Booknest in the first round. My task was to read five of the thirty books they were assigned and then forward my pick as one of their six semi-finalists. I got very lucky in that all of the the books in my batch were damn good, and a few of them truly great, in my opinion. The book I picked was Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike. It's going to be a lot of fun watching the remainder of the contest and rooting for 'my boy' from the corner of the ring :D  Having been in the contest, I trust to review each book kindly and fairly. I've never come at reviews with the idea that what I enjoy is actually great, or that what I don't like is somehow bad, and brought that same sensibility to my judging in the contest.

AC: When can we expect the third book in the Paternus Trilogy, and what comes next after it?

DA: The plan has been late summer, and it still might be that, but I'm considering a Kickstarter to fund the production and release of hardbacks for all three books, which I've never had, and even a special limited edition hardback box set, among other things. This would have to be done well before release, of course, and Kickstarters are very time consuming, so that could push release back into the Fall (hopefully early Fall at the latest). Quite a few author friends and readers have been rallying for the hardbacks and support it whole-heartedly, so it's becoming more of a reality. I want to get the first rough draft of the entire third book done before I really decide and dive into it, though, so I have a better grasp on the time frame.

As far as what might come after, I have a number of ideas. The highest on the list at this point, though, is probably a five to six book series of more straighforward UF like readers are more used to. They would also be shorter, 80k to 100k words instead of the ~140K (book one) to ~180k (book three) of The Paternus Trilogy. Faster moving as well. They would take place in the same primary world as Paternus, but 20 years earlier, and follow a single protagonist who's a bit of a vagabond-mercenary-rōnin-warrior type. Some of the characters from Paternus would be involved as well. That said, my plan is to make it a standalone series, so anyone could read either the original trilogy or these books first. The idea is that if you read the trilogy first, there are things you'd pick up on that readers of only the series, wouldn't, and vice versa, but these things would enhance the experience rather than spoil anything. So, that's the primary project as of now, but don't hold me to it, you never know what could happen :)

AC: You have a magic touch when it comes to snagging high-profile blurbs. First, here’s your chance to sell us, which one is your favorite? Second, aside from having an awesome book, is there any advice you can give new authors trying to get recognized by influencers?

DA: I have been very lucky when it comes to having high-profile figures and traditionally published authors read my books (and, to my never-ending astonishment, actually like them). I can't say I have a favorite, because it would actually be a lie, because I cherish them all.

As far as advice, number one, any author, but especially a new author, should never, ever, expect other authors to read their books. To have someone accept your book, whether they read it or not, is a great privilege.

1) First, you have to have some relationship with them, whether it be several positive conversations online or having met them (more than once, preferably) at a convention. Having worked in the film business and gotten to know some very high-profile stars, I learned that you have to treat them like real people. Don't gush and pee your pants, but don't be afraid either. Be you. Be an author. Be a professional, but a real person yourself. Don't hover and don't stalk. I'd also add, never ask someone to read your book if you've never read one of theirs. That's just, well, asinine.

2) Ask the right way. Never contact someone cold. Never walk up to someone you haven't talked to, or who probably wouldn't remember you, and hand them a book. If some sort of relationship has been established, if you do contact them, thank them for the conversation or whatever it was, and tell them it's absolutely alright if they say no or don't want it, but you really respect their work and you'd like to send them a book (print is always better than ebook--they may ask for ebook, but always offer a print copy if you can). You completely understand if they don't get to read it, and even if they do, no strings attached whatsoever. If they do read it and don't like it, no hard feelings at all (and mean it). If they accept, the only follow up you should do is to check to make sure it wasn't lost in the post. Don't check up on them. Ever. Unless, they very specifically ask you to.

Yes, I have some great blurbs, but many of those came a year or more after those authors had the books in their hands. Remember, no one has any obligation to read your, or my, shitty book. That goes for bloggers as well. Leave them alone, and never grip. To get a review or a blurb is an honor and a privilege, not a right.

Anyway, that's what has worked for me. I hope it helps!

AC: Thanks Dyrk! Hope everyone found this interesting, and was as surprised as I am that the man who wrote Paternus is so shockingly sane when you speak to him 1 to 1. If you have any interest in contemporary fantasy, then I highly recommend you take a look at Dyrk’s books!

That’s all I have for today. Happy reading!