This is the third and final part of grilled Dyrk served to you, my dearest readers.
A rapid fire round will help us wrap up things and let Dyrk go back to his quest for you-know-what.
Time for some personal and professional scoop. These questions are mostly for the wannabes and curious readers who want to see the man behind the book up-close.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It would have to be pretty much as soon as I learned to read. I was insatiable. I wanted to read everything. I wrote my first book in kindergarten and did the terrible illustrations. It was called The Human Zoo and took place either in the future or on another world, I can’t remember. A baby bear and his father, in clothes, were walking through a zoo of people of various races and nationalities, and they talked about how terrible the world was when the humans ruled, and that it was a good thing there weren’t many left. I guess I was a weird kid. That would have been in, like, 1967 or 68. Boy I’m old…
Old And cute.]
How long does it take you to write a book? Each draft, edits, etc. the works.
I just have the one to go buy, but as I mentioned, it took nearly 4 years. A lot of that, though, was teaching myself how to write the way I wanted to for the story, finding the voice and perspective for the effect I wanted to achieve. Thankfully the next two are going much more quickly.
How do you manage to handle your job, socializing, and writing? I know you are interactive with and supportive of your colleagues and fans.
It’s not easy, but I’m lucky enough to have a job that is pretty flexible and allows me time to write pretty much every day. It’s harder now with the first book out, though, since the sundry marketing, production, networking, social media, (typing up interviews 😉 can take up much more time than you might expect.
Does your kitty cat help you with anything? Your pet python?
I actually don’t have any pets. Any pictures you see me post, are of critters that belong to various and sundry of my family.
Okay, serious things now.
Hardest and the easiest thing about writing.
There are certain things you have to do when telling a story that can be a chore. Okay, some new characters just met each other, now we have to do proper introductions or at least make sure that gets taken care of bit by bit. Snore. Mostly though, the hardest thing is carving out the time to write.
The brainstorming, jamming down ideas for scenes, characters, bits of dialogue, plotting and narrative flow. Because that part is the most fun. The actual writing after that can be kind of a chore sometimes. Hitchcock used to say after the script and storyboards were done, the actual filming, was just work. It’s kind of like that for me. Kind of. I still love the writing part too.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I read both. I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other for reading. I get traditional if I really love the cover, or know the author, usually. Most I have on eBook, though. That doesn’t keep my shelves from being full or the piles off the floor, however.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you? Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
I had multiple beta readers and quasi-editors early on with all my drafts. I then paid a talented fella name Dale Triplett to proof and do some copy editing, and he did wonderful work.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I generally get two to three hours a day in the afternoon. Ideally, I’d like to have 4 to 5, but it just isn’t happening. Still, my brain turns to mush after 4 or 5 and I’m worthless.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I don’t listen to music, and I do a lot of my writing in coffee shops. I work from home on the computer, and the last thing I want to do is sit there in the same place for more hours to write. I also collect things semi-related to what I’m working on. A piece of purple obsidian, a crystal wand. I have a globe and put pins in it for all the locations in the books.
Do you get cranky when you are deep into a story? How do your friends and family handle the pressure? What do you do to keep things under control?
Good question. I only get cranky when I’m actually writing and I keep getting interrupted. And ironically the same people who interrupt are the ones who ask me how the writing’s going the most 🙂
[So sweet. :)]
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It can be both, depending on the kind of scene it is. I can get downright goofy, bouncing off the walls or squirming in my chair. I’ve never dozed off, but I do sometimes find myself just staring at the screen in a daze.
You have successfully self-published your first book. What’s your process? How did you overcome the initial hiccups and fears related to the idea of going solo?
I never had a fear of self-publishing. I worked in the film and commercial business for years, as a producer and production manager, and then as an actor. I also wrote and queried screenplays and a TV series proposal, had some great meetings, got some “almost famous.” I had an agent as an actor, I knew agents of all kinds, I had friends who were agents, for novels and screenplays.
The publishing business is very similar. I kept an open mind, did my research. I found out that self-pub just doesn’t have the stigma it once did (there was a time, not long ago, that no agent or publisher would ever touch you if you had self-published). I also had a couple of author friends tell me they loved the book as it was, and they knew what I was trying to do with it, and they were sure any powers that be would want to change it into something else. I wrote it because I wanted to read a book like it, to try something different, not please someone I didn’t know or just make a product for sale. Of course, I love it that some people like it, don’t get me wrong, but I had little interest in either playing the query game or arguing over the book. People will like it or they won’t, and that’s okay with me. But I don’t want it to fail because I didn’t try on the marketing end, so I keep at it.
Of course, I love it that some people like it, don’t get me wrong, but I had little interest in either playing the query game or arguing over the book. People will like it or they won’t, and that’s okay with me. But I don’t want it to fail because I didn’t try on the marketing end, so I keep at it.
[And we wish you the best. ]
Do you believe in collective help? The voluntary fan group or a launch team?
Absolutely. I didn’t have any such thing when I released Paternus, other than some friends and family, though.
How did your academic life help you with this particular profession?
The graduate school introduced me to philosophy, cultural criticism, literary criticism, in a way I’d never been exposed. It taught me how to research, and bear down and write. It’s a different kind of writing, that’s for certain, but there are lessons and similarities.
Have you ever experienced a writer’s or a reader’s block?
Oddly enough, neither one, knock on wood.
What’s your support system?
It’s always been mostly friends and family, but in the last year, I’ve developed relationships with some amazingly talented and helpful writers and some unbelievably supportive fans, which is a benefit I never expected. I’m truly grateful to all of them. The actual writing, though, I still keep pretty close to my chest until I have something to give a few people to read.
You know, there are so many I don’t want to try and name them for fear I’ll miss someone and that would make me feel terrible. Most of the ones I feel closest to developed out of ArchSaint Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO, but not all. As far as making me a better writer, they definitely have, but not from talking about writing or being in any kind of writers group. It’s from their comments and reviews a little, yes, but by far it comes from reading their amazing work.
[Dyrk is spooked. Wait, ArchSaint?]
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? It can be about yourself or anything else.
About myself, it would have to be that I could actually stick to this thing and finish it. In the writing itself, when the characters started taking on a life of their own and defying me.
What’s the favorite character you have created to date?
I didn’t think he would be, but it’s probably Uncle Edgar. For some reason I kind of feel for his history and, in a way, plight in life. Plus he has a sword.
[Double thumbs up.]
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
There’s such a thing as not writing? I’ve forgotten. I watch a lot of soccer (football), a few TV shows, movies, go to the gym, and love to hang out on the beach. Not much opportunity for the latter in NW Ohio, though.
[Such a normal guy!]
Do you have any suggestions for new writers? Do you believe in engaging in discussions with your peers regarding the craft?
I think a lot of talk about craft is just that, talk. It can be nice to chat about it, and there are some things to be learned, but the most important thing is to read, a lot, and read carefully. Practice writing in the ways you see that you like, that you think works. Try to learn the basics, the “rules,” but break them if you think it works better for what you’re trying to accomplish.
Let’s talk about reviews.
In what way do you think they can help/harm you and what do you look for when you offer your newborn as an ARC?
Early reviews can be really helpful, but they can also hurt, I suppose. If someone is very popular on Goodreads or has a blog many people follow, and you get a bad review, that might hurt. I think it depends on the kind of review, though. Some people read books because of a bad review, depending on what the reviewer says they don’t like. And, most readers, buyers, on Amazon, don’t read Goodreads reviews, they just don’t.
How does the 1-5 rating system sit with you?
Fine with, me. People are used to it. The only abuse is when morons go through and just one star a bunch of books they obviously haven’t read, but even then, it’s not that big a deal. For bloggers, reviewers, it works fine, I think.
How do you handle negative criticism? What do you suggest your fellow authors do with the review and ratings?
I come from a Hollywood background. That’s like the trenches, with barbed wire and mustard gas. I have a pretty thick skin. It’s too easy to get mad at someone for writing a bad review. They honestly don’t bother me. I’d rather everyone loved it, of course, but it is what it is, and we all like different things (and we should all be thankful for that). My advice is to ignore them. It’s okay to “like” reviews that you appreciate, but other than that, the rule is, never respond. If you get enough fans, they’ll eventually do that for you.
What do you do to get book reviews?
I haven’t actively looked for reviews other than to do giveaways in hopes of getting some, and asking a few bloggers and authors who I started to get to know online.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
I’ve been extremely lucky. The SPFBO got me amazing reviews from world class bloggers, and that spawned dozens and dozens more with little to no effort on my part.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
Just get the book out there. Do some giveaways. If you develop any sort of rapport with bloggers or authors online, ask if you can send them a copy, no strings attached. Then don’t bug them. You might be surprised.
[Smart. Bugging never helps. Sending chocolate unicorns does.]
Time for a tittle-tattle on others.
Who’s your favorite author? Choose a few names from classics and a few contemporary (already big and some rising in the horizon).
I like a gazillion, this will just be what comes out first:
Tolkien – detail and prose
Pratchett – timing, pace, humor
C.S. Lewis – a sense of wonder
Pullman – character
Mike Carey – voice
Max Gladstone – alternative plotting
Abercrombie – balls [:O]
Pierce Brown – also balls, a devil-may-care attitude with logic and style that still works really well
Which books do you want to read again and again?
The only books I’ve read like that are Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit.
A rapid fire round.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Editing and proofing, and good cover art.
[Boring. No dirt!]
What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to? What are your favorite literary journals?
Locus. SFF. That said, I rarely read either, and I really should.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
The Terror, Dan Simmons.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
None. Paternus is it. Though, there are a dozen partially finished backstories that may appear in a Companion.
[Yay! Tequila Shots from the world of Paternus.]
What does literary success look like to you?
Some respect and recognition, I guess, which I already have to some extent, so in that sense I already have it. Which is awesome. The money would be nice, but I never expected that, so we’ll see.
[You already some serious R and R, Mr. Ashton.]
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I’ve never been in their shoes, so to speak. How do 17-year-old girls really think? I have no idea. All I can do is ask questions and observe (without creeping people out and getting arrested).
[Haahaa hope not.]
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Still not a full-time writer, and would be surprised if I ever become one.
[You will. You have a family to build. Paternus, maternus, braternus, sisternus…spouses…little ‘-nuses’]
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
I draw from all periods of my life. The most fun is trying to recall with sufficient force the wonder and awe of being a child.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Many of my characters are named after mythological beings because that’s what (I say) they are. The ones that aren’t, though, I do some research for. The names have to mean something, at least to me. Some minor characters, though, I named after friends, because that’s fun.
[And the villains?]
What do you think makes a good story?
I have no idea 🙂 What is most important for me, of all the things that are talked about? Character. If I’m interested in a character, really interested, I’ll follow them through anything.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A herpetologist, then a metalsmith, then a gunsmith, then a filmmaker. But even then I always planned on writing.
[Writing covers almost all. So we can say he has done it all. *wink]
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
None I can think of, but I draw on experiences and observations from places I’ve been around the world. I’m going to England this year, and plan to go to Oxford (Inklings baby!).
[So J :(]
What is the first book that made you cry?
Charlotte’s Web. Still love that book.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
There are jokes only close friends would know the origin of, but not really other than that.
What is your favorite childhood book?
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Making connections for the plot, setting up the physical rules and then following them. Mostly following them.
How does your family support your career as a writer?
Mostly they try to leave me alone to get writing done.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Finish these next two books in the Paternus trilogy. I haven’t thought much beyond that, actually.
What draws you to this genre?
The “what if?” factor. What if (whatever it is) were real? What if (whatever it is) could really happen. I never get tired of wondering and imagining.
Thank you, Dyrk, for an awesome interview. Readers, thanks for sticking. Any suggestions on this series are welcome. Now, go buy his book.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
The most about me and my writing are on my Paternus Books Media website. It also includes links to bloggers reviews of Paternus, as well as, I think, all the other interviews, including podcasts, I’ve done to date.