Benedict Patrick, author of the Yarnsworld books, SPFBO semi-finalist, SPFBO cover contest winner, Dungeon Master at the Crit Faced Podcast, dad, and one of those people who got me where I am today.
Benedict was one of the first people I got to know in the indie scene, hell, in the book scene overall and one of the reasons I started blogging. To help out authors like him, to spread the word and give back something I’ve got. My review of They Mostly Come Out At Night was one of the three dedicated posts I started this blog with too. It was bound to happen that he’ll be my first interviewee too, altough it took us a bit longer to put together this interview than we’ve expected. Anyway, he was kind enough to answer my questions in his spare time and it ended up to be a good material IMO. So, without further ado, here we go:
I've read your author info, so I won't ask how long have you been writing. However, I'm interested to know if there was a moment, when you knew this is what you want to do? Like, I don't know, a revelation or something. For example, I was 9 when I told my mom I'm going to be an author after writing down my first tale. I stil remember it clearly. Is there such a defining moment for you?
I can think of a few moments that led up to eventually publishing my work. The big ‘people like my stuff’ moment was in my third year of high school, when I wrote a story called ‘Death and His Cat’ that my English teacher went crazy over. There were a few false starts after that story (I tried far too hard to get people to laugh), but writing eventually became my ‘thing’.
However, although I had dabbled in writing for all my life since (I spent a summer travelling in New Zealand, writing all the time, and as a young adult man I wrote a series of five novellas that nobody will ever see), it was only when a potential financial headache raised its head a few years ago that I realised I wanted something to fall back on in case times ever got tough. Around the same time I was also becoming aware of how viable indie publishing was, so that really gave me the kick up the backside I needed to put pen to paper more regularly, and with more purpose.
So, you weren't the popular kind of kid back in high school, I guess :) Did you start to play games back then or is that a recent developement? I know a lot of fantasy authors grew up on D&D and other RPG games. What about you?
No, I was definately not one of the cool kids!
The games… I think that came from my wife, more. I did play some role playing games as a teenager, but they were more based on the Fighting Fantasy book series – D&D is something I picked up on my own. I played a lot of Games Workshop stuff as a teenager, but when I met my wife she and her family played a lot of board games, and would regularly meet up for board game nights. I loved the experience, and (especially with the recent boom in board gaming) have never really looked back on it.
Computer gaming was much more my thing as a teenager. The Baldur’s Gate series of games (of course, based in a D&D world!) were a massive obsession of mine.
That's kind of cool, the board game nights. It's been a while I played myself. How did you end up with Crit Faced? I've been listening to the podcast, and find it interesting. It's obvious you guys have a good time. How did this start?
Back to Fighting Fantasy! A few years ago, Phil was showing off some pics of his then-new writing space, and I spotted the spines of the old Fighting Fantasy books. That got us spitballing about someday playing a game with a bunch of other writers. As so seldom happens, that talk actually grew into something, and we gathered a few like-minded souls to play along. I think it was actually Tim’s idea to record the sessions, but back during our first ever games the thought was horrifying. After that campaign, however, we decided to have a shot at it. Honestly, the fact that we record them doesn’t really change how we play – anyone listening to the podcast is basically just spying on our normal game sessions, which I think is pretty damned cool.
Did you expect it will be such a success? Seems like a lot of people dig it. How many episodes are you guys planning to make?
We were a bit shocked by the reception for Crit Faced, especially from the D&D community, who for the most part had not heard about myself or any of the other authors involved.
The current plan is to keep recording our current Curse of Strahd campaign, which I imagine means the podcast will be going for the next few years, if the team survives until the end 😛
We’ve not spoken about what’ll happen after that, although I do hope we keep playing – getting to run a D&D game with such a talented bunch is one of the best perks of this author gig.
And might inspire others to join in the fun :) It's awesome though. I never paid much attention to D&D before, but I plan to follow the podcast :)
It seems to be a major way into the hobby, nowadays. The Acquisitions Inc. podcasts were some of my first experiences with the game (staring some online comic artists, Will Wheaton, and later author Patrick Rothfuss)
It's interesting to witness the literary and the gaming world coming together, and I hope people will keep listening to you! Let's talk about They Mostly Come Out At Night a bit. It was your first published book, and maybe the one most people know still. I take it was a long journey with blood and sweat flowing freely to get it out. Is there something you'd do differently with publishing or anything else? Did you wanted it self published from the start or sent it out to publishing companies?
It took a while to get the book finished. I’ve always been struggling with consistency of work – my writing tends to come in fits and bursts instead. The first draft of They Mostly Come Out At Night was written over the course of two Nanowrimos. I struggled with the ending in particular. As you know, it isn’t exactly the most upbeat of closures, and when I finally got there, I resisted it for so long. After almost a year of mulling over alternatives, however, it was pretty obvious that was the best way for the story to go. I actually started writing Mostly because of independent publishing. I had studied Publishing in my early twenties, and that course put me off writing for so long – the tutors really beat home the point that publishing companies make decisions based on money, not art, and I felt that anything I was interested in writing wouldn’t work in that type of arena. (Caveat: I’m sure this is not always the case, and that there are plenty of publishing companies that would want to debate that fact. However, that’s where my head was with regards to my own writing after that course.) For me, discovery of high quality independent stories – particularly Thorn by Intisar Khanani (who has a very familiar cover artist!) – inspired me to write again.
Personally, I like the ending, it's not your average happily ever after kind of closure, and it was refreshing in a way. In the recent years self publishing (at least in fantasy) seems to thrive. Several great books and authors are coming forward. I guess SPFBO helped with that a lot. You nominated two of your books so far. Did you come out if better? Was it worth? Did it help you to improve?
Glad you enjoyed the ending – not everyone agrees with you, but there are certainly a few others who feel the same 🙂
The SPFBO was instrumental in getting me to where I am right now, and exposed my books (and especially their gorgeous covers) to a much wider audience. Both books so far have been semi-finalists, which has certainly been confirmation that I’m doing something right, but I suspect only a handful of breakout authors each year experience true life-changing success because of the competition (Josiah Bancroft and Jonathan French being the two primary examples). However, the SPFBO does help get authors’ names out there, but the most significant impact the competition had for me were the contacts it helped to forge. I’ve made links and friendships with some many other passionate and inspiring authors because of the competition. I’m sure that when I look back on my career (from my solid gold throne on some remote island paradise), those connections will have been some of the most important elements of my career growth – Crit Faced wouldn’t have happened without it, I wouldn’t be involved in Sigil Independent, the Lost Lore anthology from earlier this year would not have taken place, etc.
Sometimes I think fantasy indies forget how lucky we are that Mark Lawrence runs this competition for us – as far as I’m aware, nothing like it exists for any other writing genre out there, and I hope the competition exists long into the future!
It's funny how little things add up in the end. A year ago I never thought I'll have a blog running and that I'll be building connections in this world. Now I'm getting requests, I'm chatting with authors and had found some friends I never thought to be possible. It's been a hell of a ride in this last 2 months but I'm enjoying it. I certainly hope so too that SPFBO will continue and that I'll be able to participate in it in a way. You are currently working on book 4 of the Yarsnworld. Can we know something about it? Possible release maybe? You've said somewhere that it will be set again in the Forest.
I’m loving the blog, and hope you keep it going! The mix of interests covered certainly makes it unique.
Book 4 is called ‘From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court’, and is indeed a return to the Magpie King’s forest 🙂 The first draft is complete, and I’m hoping to release it this autumn.
Can I tell you anything about it? So, one of my favourite animated films of the last few years has been Kubo and the Two Strings from Laika Entertainment. When it was a huge success, they were asked if there was going to be a sequel, they said ‘no’, because they had set out to tell they story of the most important part of Kubo’s life. To have a sequel, which invariably has to be bigger and better, would mean that the current film was only the second most important event in Kubo’s life. I had a similar issue with returning to Book 1’s setting, as any meaningful return to that storyline would either undo the price of Lonan’s choice at the end of Mostly, or at the very least take the sting away from it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that although Lonan does indeed appear in Book 4, it isn’t his story anymore…
As a fan of Mostly I'd like to know what had become of Lonan but at the same time I think the ending was satisfying enough - we got answers but it also left one wonder what awaits for him. Making up our own conclusion might be more interesing than anything you could have said about it. Maybe. How many books do you plan in the Yarnsworld? Any other book/series in the future?
I don’t have any concrete plans, but I’m planning on sticking with the Yarnsworld for the foreseeable future. Certainly I’d like to revisit each of the initial three settings at least once, and I’ve got a proper epic fantasy story in a different part of the Yarnsworld that has been screaming at me to get onto paper at some point.
However, the next book I’ll be writing won’t be set in the Yarnsworld at all, so who knows where that might lead in a year or so 😛
I'm certainly looking forward to it! Did you ever think of collaborating with another author? I don't mean an anthology, but a novel. Who would you like to work with? If anyone.
Ooo, good question! You know, there have been some behind the scenes rumblings along this line, but none of them have come to fruition yet, so I’ll stay quiet, for now. If I had the choice, I’d happily work with any of the Crit Faced authors: Tim, Phil, David and Josiah. Throwing the net out to authors I don’t know as well. Nicholas Eames comes to mind first. I had so much fun with Kings of the Wyld last year, and can’t wait for Bloody Rose.
I loved that one! People kept throwing it at me for months, but I dismissed it, thought it was another epic fantasy with too much hype. Then went for it and man! It was good. Where do you get your inspirations? Well, different myths and cultures, obviously, but do you use music, movies, etc? How do you come up with ideas?
This sounds like a lazy answer, but inspiration comes from everywhere, really. Some of the ideas for my writing, I can clearly point to where they came from – the initial seed for Mostly was a response to how I felt about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, Waters was more inspired by my summer in New Zealand when I was younger, and City of Swords… okay, that one is a bit weird. The characters came first, particularly Crazy Raccoon, and I got a lot of frustration out of my system writing him. The rest of the details – the setting in particular – just seemed to form itself as the story was being planned out. What is most important with these random bursts of interest is how they get brewed together, and it often happens over long periods of time, particularly while daydreaming. I remember a priest once telling me he hated modern music because of the words – he felt they took over his mind, replacing his own thoughts – but he loved listening to classical music when he worked. Seemed a bit of an unusual thing to say at the time, but it stuck with me. The combining of these story ideas tends to happen when things are quiet, or when my brain is in an autopilot state – when driving the car, going for a run, failing to fall asleep.
No, it's cool. Funny you mention The Village. I think I mentioned it in my review that Mostly reminded me of that movie and hoped to hell it'll be better than that. It was, thankfully. Interesting what you say about Crazy Raccoon. He comes a long way in the book and is maybe the most complex character. Hopefully we’ll see him again in the future.
If you’d like to get in contact with Benedict, you can find him on social media:
You should also check out the Crit Faced Podcast if you want to join in the fun: