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Sunday, November 22, 2020

Interview with Benedict Patrick

Hi Benedict, thanks so much for taking the time to chat! First, for those unfamiliar with your work, can you tell us a little about your Yarnsworlds novels? What are they like, and how are they related? 

Thanks very much for having me, Lukasz – always a guilty pleasure to talk about these stories! I’ve recently been describing the Yarnsworld as a place haunted by stories; folktales are important here, and knowledge of them often can be the difference between life and death for the characters who live there. The Yarnsworld novels have in-world folktales between each chapter (often based on real-life folktelling cultures), many of which reemphasise or foreshadow events within the main story of the novel. So far the novels have been set in three very different parts of the Yarnsworld – beneath the dark boughs of the Magpie King’s forest, treading through the dusty alleyways of the City of Swords, or voyaging along the string of tropical islands that make up the Crescent Atoll. 

You’ve published your newest novel, To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl, through Kickstarter first. What lead you to go this route? Would you repeat the process in the future? 

I’m always looking for new opportunities to get my writing out to new readers, and a number of friends - Dyrk Ashton and Robin and Michael Sullivan in particular – had been very enthusiastic that other authors dip their toes into the Kickstarter waters. I couldn’t resist, and the experience was a delight; we now have our first Yarnsworld map (which will be included in all copies of ‘Taniwha Girl’, not just the Kickstarter editions), and many amazing new people have had their first taste of these stories. 

Can you give us a sense of your writing process? 

I do a lot of pre-planning; I like to know exactly where the story is going before I sit down to type. What finally makes it onto the page is often not at all like the original plan, but having that roadmap helps the fingers keep typing; often, the characters tend to hijack the story somewhere along the journey. 

You’ve created a fascinating, folklore-inspired, world. How do you keep track of all the stories in this universe when you’re writing? 


I’ve been made aware of at least one contradiction so far between ‘Where the Waters Turn Black’ and ‘To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl’ (have fun spotting it!). Something I love about dealing with folklore, however, is that contradictions tend to be baked in from the beginning – it depends on the storyteller’s beliefs and points of view. With the Magpie King folktales, it isn’t always obvious who or what the Magpie King is – some of the tales treat the title as an inherited one, and in others the Magpie King is an immortal, shadowy being. In the ‘Art of War’ charity anthology, artist Jason Deem drew the Magpie King as an actual masked magpie, which I thought was brilliant; the story makes perfect sense that way, it just looks very different! And who’s to say someone listening to this tale around a campfire wouldn’t visualise the Magpie King in the same way? 

In your own words, what is To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl about? 

It is the story of one woman, forced to choose between friendship and responsibility, and the price she has to pay for her decision. 

Kaimana is a young musician who has befriended a monstrous taniwha; a wooden beast the size of a building, able to devour a warrior-laden canoe in a single bite. When the people of the islands begin to pray to Kaimana, she finds herself embroiled in a conflict between gods and demons – a conflict which mere mortals should not be involved in. 

What inspired you to write this story? 

I always knew I’d be back to the Crescent Atoll after Where the Waters Turn Black, but I hadn’t thought the focus would be on Kaimana and Rakau again; I thought their story was complete in that first novel, and certainly didn’t want to rehash things just to bring back popular characters. However, as I considered returning back to the islands, it became apparent that Kaimana would be well known across the islands now – the people there would tell tales about her in the evenings, of the young woman who befriended monsters; the Taniwha Girl. And in a place like the Yarnsworld, there is a price to pay for becoming a story… 

Yarnsworld novels tend to contain darker moments but, whew, in Taniwha girl you outdid yourself. Why? I thought you were a good guy. 

You thought I was a good guy? Honestly, I don’t know why; it was all there in the first novel. Here’s a recent one star review that sums it up nicely: 

The world building and character development was good but ruined by literally every character that you liked having the worst possible ending. I don't understand the allure of a book where everybody ends up unhappy. Like honestly I'm regretting picking it up at all. 

If you had to describe To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl in 3 adjectives, which would you choose? 

Hopeful. Bleak. Throw-against-the-wall-able. 

Would you say that To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl follows tropes or kicks them? 

Ha! That’s a difficult one to answer without going into spoilers. When writing, I don’t tend to actively think about tropes too much, but many stories do just comfortably find their way into familiar groves – in ‘Taniwha Girl’ we’ve got the old ‘magical animal friendship’ trope, as well as someone having to choose between their heart and their head. 

But then events can always happen to throw all of that out of the window… 

Tell us about To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl’s protagonists. Who are they? How would you describe them to someone meeting them for the first time? 

Our main characters are Kaimana and Rakau. 

Kaimana is a young musician, who has traded in her dream of becoming a renowned ocarina-player to instead enjoy travelling across the Atoll waves with her friend. She is curious, strong-willed, and her nose hasn’t quite healed properly after the pig-faced god of war broke it. 

Rakau is a wooden cat-dog monster the size of a house. His body is decorated with intricated swirls seemingly carved into him, although these have since been marred by scars of battle, and are often overgrown with seaweed. On first sight, he would probably look like the most dangerous thing you have ever seen in your life. He might very well be. 

Alright, we need the details on that gorgeous cover. Who's the artist/designer, and can you give us a little insight into the process for coming up with it? How does it tie to the book? 

Jenny Zemanek is an actual real life wizard, and is one of the best cover designers in the business. The design process, as always, involved me telling Jenny what was happening in the story, and then getting out of her way so she could work her magic. The face you can see on the cover belongs to a being known as the Spider’s Pawn; at the beginning of the novel, the Pawn has been tracking Kaimana and Rakau across the islands for some time… 

Last but not least, plug time! Tell us what’s next from Benedict Patrick? 

Next, I’m working on the second Darkstar novel, The Return of the Whalefleet, which I hope to bring to Kickstarter sometime in the spring (I’ve already seen the cover – I reckon it is Jenny’s best yet). After that, the plan is to try something different with the Yarnsworld; I have an epic fantasy story I’ve been yearning to tell for a while now, and finally feel I’m ready to tackle a story of that magnitude. At these very early stages in development, I’m calling it The Dunespell Trilogy, and the first volume is Beneath the Weight of Many Grains of Sand.

NOTE: Many thanks to Justine, Timy & the Storytellers On Tours for giving us an opportunity to take part in this tour.


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