Not long ago I was recommended the Paternus series by a good friend. It had been my first foray into the wild world of self-published fantasy. To say that Paternus by Dyrk Ashton is one of my favorite series is an understatement. Paternus is a great read from start to finish. It has excellent pacing, magnificent action and humor. It shows just how incredible self-publishing really is.
I had the great honor of interviewing Dyrk this month, and hopefully some of you will give the Paternus universe a swing.
[GdM] You’ve been deeply involved in the film industry; where did you get your start?
[DA] I developed a love of movies at a young age and in high school started to think I wanted to be a filmmaker. When college rolled around I went for something that made more practical sense and studied business for my first two years. While in college my first year I met a few of the filmmaking students at Ohio University and helped them with one of their projects and loved it. I stuck out a second year studying business, this time at the University of Toledo, after which I was convinced a career in business wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I transferred to the film program at The Ohio State University, where I got my bachelors in film and video production, and stayed for my masters, during which time I produced the first feature length film that had been done within the department. That was an ultra low budget but kind of arty horror film called Beyond Dreams Door, which was actually picked up for distribution on video.
While going to film school I worked as a production assistant on locally shot commercials and industrial films, and worked my way up to grip, then did some assistant directing, and ended up mostly production managing and producing. After school I kept at that while working on low budget creative short films and a feature film, and some friends of mine and I started our own production company. After a time I moved to Los Angeles where I worked on shoot in about every capacity you can imagine while writing and submitting screenplays, none of which really went anywhere, though I did have some read by Scott Free Entertainment and New Line Cinema and had a TV series proposal championed by American Zoetrope Television, which was later turned down by the financiers.
Oddly enough, the vast majority of my income in Los Angeles came from acting. I’m a terrible actor, but really good at auditioning. I don’t know if I can call it a start, but the first professional “acting” gig I had was years before I’d gone to L.A., as the Truck Zombie in the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead.
[DA] My background in film has definitely had a huge influence on my writing, from the way I plot and structure to how I begin and end chapters and the way I use tense and POV. That comes from directing and editing as well as screenwriting. The only thing I can think of that hindered me was it took me a long time to figure out how to tell stories with a lot more words than you do with a script.
[GdM] Did you find yourself sketching and approaching scenes the same way a cinematographer would? I noticed this was especially true of the fight scenes in the novel.
[DA] I’m a TERRIBLE artist so I didn’t sketch, but I definitely use a filmmaker’s approach to envisioning the space and movement within a scene while I write. When writing I know that I’m always as least half conscious of the angle and shot on the character, even if I don’t describe it. Basically I’m choosing camera angles, shot size, camera movement, and character blocking all the time.
[GdM] I need to know how you have written so many books. Every great series that has ever been written and will be written will have the name Dyrk Ashton attached.
[DA] It’s a hard life, or at least started that way. It began when Michael R. Fletcher stole my pants then locked me in a cage in his basement and made me write all of his earlier books. Then I escaped and put him in the cage, then kidnapped Rob Hayes and put him in there, and made both write books for me. I’ve added about two dozen authors since. At this point I don’t even know which ones I write myself or under their names anymore. Sigh.
[DA] That was all Jed Herne. He contacted me, Mike Fletcher and Rob Hayes (which wasn’t hard, since they’re in my basement), and asked if we want to give it a shot and see how it went after a few. I honestly don’t know how it happened, but now we’ve been doing it for two years and have over a hundred episodes! Really, though, it’s really weird to look back and realized we’ve come that far.
[GdM] How has the book community on Twitter helped and hindered your writing?
[DA] The only thing that hinders my writing is me. I’m really a sloth in a Fletcher skin suit. The Twitters have been truly great. I believe a very large number of my readers would never have heard of the book without all the wonderful folks there.
Is there a particular example of a piece of writing you discovered just how powerful the written word could be?
[GdM] What was the original nugget of an idea that Paternus is based on?
[DA] Two old goofy ideas, really. One was about a group vampires who though thtye were ancient and powerful, until they ran into some much more ancient and powerful, and so on, until they find out there’s the original vampire that had been watching them all, wipes them all out and starts over again. I think I was twelve when I came up with that. It evolved over the years, thank gods.
The second was I love mythology and always toyed with the idea of making up a kind of unified field theory for mythology that would tie them all together, traced back to where they came from and what really happened that spawned them all. Taking very loosely from those two ideas germinated the starting point for Paternus.
[GdM] How did you plan such a detail-oriented story? Are your walls covered in post-it notes?
[DA] I have literally HUNDREDS of pages of notes and enormous spreadsheets of information all put together while I was brainstorming and refining the idea and story. I probably spent a few hundred hours outlining for the three books, at least.
[GdM] Which myth did you have the most fun twisting around?
[DA] Norse Mythology, definitely. I’m not saying it’s my favorite mythology, but what I was able to do with it to serve the story and worldbuilding was really, really fun.
[DA] Not sure what the question is exactly, but I’ll assume this is about myths; stories from myths or characters from myths. And, wow, there are SO many I wouldn’t know where to start. The hardest part of selecting characters wasn’t deciding who to put in the books and how much story importance they’d have, but having to not use so many others that I love.
[GdM] You have a rabid fanbase of myth geeks, myself included. When you wrote the Paternus series, did you know how well it would do with the reading public?
[DA] I absolutely did not. I knew the first book odd and oddly written, but I did it that way on purpose because I wanted to write the book I wanted to read. I just crossed my fingers and hoped some people would like that too. I didn’t have very high hopes, though.
[GdM] What is next? What are you working on?
[DA] Right now I’m having an absolute blast writing the first book in this crazyfarmboy-outcast-makes-good-magic-military-dragon-rider-school-epic-progression-fantasy tentatively titled Kraken Rider Z. Yeah, that 😀
Thank you for having me!