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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Flight Of The Darkstar Dragon + Q&A with Benedict Patrick


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Today we are proud to reveal the cover for Benedict Patrick’s new series title The Flight Of The Darkstar Dragon. With the cover art and design done by his regular collaborator Jenny Zemanek, we had high expectations and I’m glad to say Jenny blew them out of the water.

Benedict was also very kind to answer a few questions about the upcoming book, the series and what readers can expect from this new “weird” series of his.

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Benedict. To start with, could you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, and why you choose to go the self-published route? Anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your past?

BP: Thank you for having me, Mihir!

My answer to this one is going to start off as pretty boring: I’ve always been interested in reading and writing. The two have always gone hand in hand for me; I remember when sci-fi/fantasy author Douglas Hill came to visit our local library, nine-year-old-me would not shut up, talking to him about stories we both loved, such as ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’. As a young man I spent a summer touring around New Zealand, and that trip was essentially a binge of me finding idyllic places to read and write (that’s where I discovered one of my favourite books, Neil Gaiman’s Smoke & Mirrors). I was convinced, for a while, that a career in writing was calling to me.

However, the more I found out about the industry, the more I was put off even trying to get something published; the idea of spending a year or more writing a story, only to have it rejected by publishing houses, was daunting. I’m ashamed to say I allowed my fear of rejection to stop me from even trying, and for a while I put my notebooks away, and stopped reading.

I had been aware of self-publishing, but had bought into the fallacy that it was basically vanity publishing. That was until I happened across Intisar Khanani’s Thorn. Her book stood apart from all the self-pubbed titles I had seen before, and convinced me that this was a route worth exploring.

I also used the opportunity to steal her cover artist!

Q] Every cover of yours has been done the amazing Jenny Zemanek. You have chosen to work with her on this new series debut as well. Can you walk us through the process of your collaboration with her? What were your main pointers for this title? Do you give her the synopsis and she comes up with something? Or do you provide her with specific details with which she then illustrates beautifully?

BP: I’ve said before that my tactic when working with Jenny is to get my untrained eye out of the way and let her work her magic!

With Darkstar Dragon, I knew Jenny had been developing her illustration skills, and I also knew I wanted to be the first to take advantage of that (most of the previous Yarnsworld covers had mainly consisted of clever manipulation of existing images; as far as I’m aware, this is Jenny’s first ever fully illustrated cover).

As with all our covers, I gave Jenny a synopsis of the book, and she put together a mood board of suggestions and ideas for where she thought the cover could go. In this case, Jenny also included illustrators she liked the style of.

It was pretty obvious to both of us from the beginning that the dragon would be front and center in this one. Jenny came back to me with some different mock-ups of cover layouts, but once we had a rough heading, it was all Jenny’s magic that took us into port.

I believe she is planning on breaking down the process further on her site, so keep an eye out for that!

Q] Since the inception of the SPFBO cover contest, your titles have consistently featured in the top three finishes for both blogger and public polls. That’s certainly unique for Jenny & you. Would you say Jenny has cracked the code for the maxim “never judge a book by its cover”?

BP: I’d like to think Jenny has cracked the code for “This cover is awesome, surely the writing must be awesome”!

Her work just stands out, doesn’t it? I think part of Jenny’s secret is that she is always pushing herself, always exploring new skills and adding to her repertoire. This was our sixth cover together, and none of those experiences have been the same – anytime I think she has reached her ‘A’ game, she astounds me and elevates her work even further.

One of her strengths for book covers, I feel, is that she does not just focus on the artwork – she puts just as much effort into the font choice and location, and colour palette. Also, it is not unusual for her to get back in touch with me after the job is signed off and complete, with small tweaks to the final piece – above-and-beyond perfectionism!


Q] With this gorgeous cover, Jenny certainly outdid herself. I recall you had previously mentioned that this cover took longer because of certain artistic decisions. What was done differently about it?

BP: As mentioned above, Jenny was drawing on her illustration skills that she has been developing for some time. I think you can agree it was well worth the wait!

Q] Could you tell us about the inception of The Flight Of The Darkstar Dragon & vis-à-vis The Darkstar Series and what was/were your main inspiration(s) for it?

BP: I wanted a break from the Yarnsworld – the decision to start a new series came not long after finishing Nick EamesKings of the Wyld, and the sense of fun that pervaded that novel. I wanted to write something like that! Also, the Darkstar books are helping me scratch an itch I’ve had for a while. When They Mostly Come Out At Night first came out, somebody described it as one of the weirdest stories they had ever read, which I took as high praise, but I was a bit confused, as ‘weird’ was not my intention.

With The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon, ‘weird’ is very much on the cards!

Q] This book and series seems to have quite an enigmatic mix of SF, interdimensional travel, Dragons, nautical elements and a whole bunch of quirky weird stuff. What lead you to mix all of these elements into the story?

BP: I wanted the Darkstar Dimension, where most of the novel takes place, to feel like a place where anything could happen. Think about Ducktales, or those other great 80s/90s Saturday morning cartoons – they had created worlds where their characters could jump between genres without it seeming like a totally different story (solving mysteries, rewriting histories etc). This is my ‘anything can happen’ world.

I also had my eyes on the richness that was present in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original Fantastic Four run. In the 100+ issues they worked on that series, they planted the seeds for so much of the future of the Marvel comics universe: they introduced the Skrulls, Galactus, the Inhumans, the Black Panther. Now, I’m not saying that I plan to spin anything off the Darkstar books, but I wanted the characters and worlds people experience here to feel as if they had the depth to be able to carry their own novels.

Q] Please tell us about the main character Min (Choi Minjung)? The name hearkens to Korean lineage. Is this coincidental or something more which we will learn in the book? What else should the readers know about Min & her first mission?

BP: Min does not come from our world, so she isn’t Korean, but there certainly are some similarities between her family’s cultural background and real-world Korea.

Min and the rest of the crew of the Melodious Narwhal come from an island-state called New Windward. New Windward is an attempt to create a utopian society wherein the different seafaring civilizations of their world can work together in harmony against the rampant piracy that has always plagued them.

However, New Windward is still a pretty new idea; Min’s generation is the first to have been brought up in New Windward, so she can often find herself butting heads with some of the older crew members who haven’t quite fully subscribed to the idea of ‘better together.’ That is the situation we find Min in at the start of the novel; this is her first command, after years of grueling training and apprenticeships. Now her challenge is to convince her crew, many of whom are older and more experienced, of the fact that she is the best person for this job.

Q] Can you tell us more about the world(s) that The Darkstar series is set in and some of the book’s major characters? What are the curiosities (geographical, mystical, etc.) of this series?

BP: I don’t want to give too much away of the Darkstar Dimension itself, as discovering its secrets is a big part of the story’s plot.

Other than Min, notable crew members of the Narwhal include:
Jedda – the Narwhal’s artificer (a kind of magical engineer), with poor social skills and a particularly unhealthy obsession for gaming.

Abalendu – a scholar, who research is the prime objective of Min’s first mission. He carries his pet dragontoad on one shoulder, and a massive chip laden with daddy-issues on the other.

ZoyaAbalendu’s bodyguard, one of New Windward’s most deadly soldiers, wielding a magical item that boasts a terrible secret.

Q] So for someone who hasn't read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write, what would be your pitch for The Darkstar Series?

BP: I’d like to think that I write stories that are a little bit different; something a bit off the beaten track, but not far enough away that the track is completely obscured. The Darkstar series can be summed up with its current tagline: Impossible world. Impossible dragon. Impossible adventure.


Q] You will be releasing The Flight Of The Darkstar Dragon later this year. Could you give us a progress report on book two and outline your plans for the series as a whole?

BP: The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon comes out early October. I’m currently writing the next Yarnsworld novel, To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl. The plan after that is to return to the Darkstar series, and I’ll probably alternate between the two for the next few years. Current plans for the Darkstar novels are at least three novels, but that could change based on reception – much like with the Yarnsworld, I went out of my way to create a setting I could happily spend the rest of my life writing in.

Q] So what can readers expect from this book/series and what should they be looking forward to according to you?

BP: I’d like to say The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon is a fun fantasy adventure, set in the weirdest fantasy world I could come up with, with a bunch of memorable characters who I can’t wait to get back to writing.

Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

BP: I’d just like to say a big ‘thanks’ to all the support I’ve gotten from the fantasy community since ‘Mostly’ debuted, particularly to many of the fine folks over at Reddit Fantasy.

I distinctly remember how lost I felt when I first pushed that ‘publish’ button back in 2016, but the kind words and encouragement that have come my way since have helped me to really feel like I belong. Here’s hoping those kind words continue when this book arrives next month!


Find out more info about the book here

Official Book Blurb: Impossible world. Impossible dragon. Impossible adventure.

Lost with her ship and crew in an unfamiliar land, Min’s first command could be her last.

Nothing here behaves the way it should:

The magic that powers her skyship has been drained, rendering it immobile.

The sky is an endless twilight, lit by the luminous fish that swim in it.

Off starboard, there’s also the country-sized dragon that is looking particularly hungry.

It will take all of Min’s training and experience to get her people safely back home, but as the truth about the Darkstar Dimension begins to be revealed, Min will have to prove to her crew - and to herself - that she is still the best person for the job.

From the twisted mind that created the ‘delightfully weird’ Yarnsworld series comes a fantasy adventure like no other.

Grab it now, to set sail on a journey you’ll never forget!

1 comments:

J.M. Martin said...

Great author, great cover, great interview. I’m a fan of Yarnsworld and excited to delve into this new Darkstar realm. Benedict is a gifted storyteller.

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