Hail grimlings! This issue I finally caught up with that wily rapscallion Dyrk Ashton.
If you don’t know Dyrk’s work, he is currently working on finishing his Paternus series—books 1 and 2 are already out and book 3 will be released June 23, 2020. These books are heavy on various global mythologies and very entertaining to read. Definitely one of my favorite series in recent years for the page turnability.
[TS] Dyrk, thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
[DA] Thank you for having me, Lord Smith!
[TS] I have to say right out of the gate that one of the most entertaining parts of this series so far is the way that you linked together various mythological characters from different regions based on their similarities and made them the same entity. What inspired you to take that route?
[DA] I’ve been a myth freak since I was a kid. As I grew older and started reading more myths, legends and fables from around the world, I began to see similarities in more than just archetypes and story structure. I began reading up on the idea of mythemes—core stories or real events and people from which many myths could have derived—and became fascinated by the idea of coming up with a story that could explain the mythemes themselves. It was a hell of a lot of fun to finally get to do that with Paternus.
[TS] You demonstrate a clear love of the world’s mythologies in your storytelling. Where did you get your start in reading mythology and was there a clear-cut favorite for you?
[DA] It started of course with Greek and Norse mythology and Arthurian legend. Simple readings for kids. I loved that as much as the fantasy I was reading. It then spread to Roman and Irish, then Hindu and Mesoamerican, and just pretty much spread everywhere from there. Early on I read all of Campbell’s works too. I’m as enthralled by storytelling and mythmaking now as I am by the myths themselves. I couldn’t say I have a clear favorite, I love them all, but I guess I still have a deep fondness of Arthurian and Norse from my youth, though the ancient Hindu stories are really thrilling and bizarre.
[TS] Your books so far are usually classed as Urban Fantasy, yet you are pretty active online in the grimdark community and in other fantasy subgenres, have you ever considered writing something in the vein of grimdark?
[DA] Interesting you bring that up. I got involved with the grimdark bunch because several of my early readers felt Paternus had serious grimdark elements. I had also recently read Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series and loved it, so I also became a fan of the genre. I don’t see myself trying specifically to write in any genre, which is kind of weird and probably not very smart as far as marketing goes. I mostly just write what I want to read, and it just kind of falls into certain categories. I wasn’t even sure if Paternus was Urban Fantasy early on and didn’t actually describe it that way until quite a few months after the release of book one. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is often classified as Mythic Fiction and Paternus is similar in subject matter so I went with that for awhile, but then found there are so few books classified like that it really didn’t help. A number of readers have taken to calling it Epic Urban Fantasy, which I think fits great, even if it isn’t a real thing.
[TS] Many people who encounter you online are probably not aware of your insanely impressive and diverse resume. A college professor, a Hollywood actor just to name a couple. If you had your way, what would you really prefer to be doing career wise right now?
[DA] It feels like I’ve lived several different lives. I often shake my head when looking back and think, “Did I really do all that?” To be honest, I love this writing thing. And not just writing, but the community, travel to cons, and the like. It’s really what I want to be doing right now and for the foreseeable future. Ideally, while a boy is dreaming, I’d like to be able to support myself full time by writing—and while I’m REALLY dreaming, get to hang out on the set while something I wrote is adapted for film or television.
[TS] Have you ever considered writing in an already established shared universe, or collaborating with another writer for a book or series? If so, which or who?
[DA] I don’t know enough about the established shared universes to really say, but I’ve definitely had flights of fancy about collaborating on something. Under the right circumstances, it would be amazing to work with Nicholas Eames, Joe Abercrombie, or Mike (M.R.) Carey.
[TS] What works (books, movies, comics, etc) originally sparked your interest in fantasy?
[DA] Oh boy. I’d have to say it goes all the way back to Dr. Seuss and E.B. White. Then Tolkien (of course), Robert E. Howard, and Zelazny. I read Conan comics for awhile, and absolutely loved those crazy old movies like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
[TS] What is your favorite book that you’ve read in recent years that you would recommend to others?
[DA] Oh man that’s a tough one. I’ll go with the ones that just pop into my head first. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher, Twilight of the Gods by Scott Oden, Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins… jeesh there are so many great ones. Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed Quenby Olsen’s The Half-Killed and got addicted to God of Gnomes by Demi Harper (Laura M. Hughes). And I just finished A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie and absolutely loved it.
[TS] I’ve seen online that you like to travel, what other activities to you like to pursue when not writing?
[DA] Egad. Unfortunately, since I started writing, I don’t do much else other than work and write. I don’t get to nearly as many movies as I’d like. I do play poker with some old pals every couple of months. I love the new TV series that are coming out lately, but I have to be careful because I get addicted and need to put them all in my eyes right now, so I have to stay away as much as possible.
[TS] Globally, we seem to be going through some darker times (what with natural disasters, military aggressions and an evershifting political landscape). Do you see that translating over into our various art mediums—TV, Film, Books, etc? And if so, how?
[DA] It would naïve of me to say it doesn’t affect what I do, but I don’t attempt to be purposefully political in my writing. I have feelings and beliefs about things, of course, and they do seep into my stories, but I don’t set out to write “message” stories.
[TS] What will we see from you in the near future?
[DA] Good question, which I might actually have an answer to. Once book three of The Paternus Trilogy comes out, I’m planning a four to six book series that takes place in the world of Paternus, but approximately twenty years earlier. They can be read entirely separately from the trilogy, and vice versa, though there is a lot of cross-over with characters from the trilogy and lead-up to the trilogy. These will be much shorter than the trilogy books and more traditional Urban Fantasy, following the adventures of an anonymous demon-hunter-type known only as Rival. I want to make them very fast-paced and kind of crazy. Tentatively the series will be called Chronicles of a Wretched Knight.
After that, I’d love to do another trilogy in the same world, but 16 or 17 years after the original trilogy ends. That’s about all I can say about it without spoiling some things in book three, though.
[TS] Dyrk, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.
[DA] Thank you for the great questions! It’s been a pleasure.