An Interview With Den Patrick!
20 January 2015
10 Things You Didn't Know About Den Patrick.
Lucien de Fontein, the very stylish hero of your first novel, The Boy With The Porcelain Blade, seems pretty damned particular about his clothes. Like anybody we know here?
I do like my clothes, though my colour palette is somewhat restricted, I admit.
I think clothes are often overlooked in novels. We take the costume department for granted these days when we watch film and television. It’s incredible to think the costumes from the Star Wars prequels went on a world tour by themselves.
Lucien takes refuge in his finery as way of deflecting attention away from that which he lacks, namely his ears, but also confidence. A character gives away a lot about themselves through their attire. If a character wears splendid but slightly out of fashion garments it’s fair to guess they’ve fallen on hard times or are slightly eccentric.
Absolutely. I loved Games Workshop from about 12 years old and worked for them later in my twenties. I still play games now, but I tend toward Star Wars X-Wing as the miniatures are pre-painted. I don’t have much time to spare between work, writing and having some sort of social life.
I also enjoy big, co-operative board games like Battlestar Galactica and Zombiecide. I’m equally happy on consoles or playing CCGs such as Magic the Gathering. They all provide grist for the mill, are all inspiring and influential in their ways.
You used to be a burlesque reviewer? What?
It’s true. I have this philosophy that if you’re going to write you should try and write as many different things as possible. I have a background in performing arts, I went to stage school, so I have a sense of performance and dance and so on. I was unemployed at the time, so I would turn up to these wonderful venues and nurse a single beer while scribbling down notes.
It’s a interesting exercise trying to communicate a visual medium into words on a page. Burlesque reviewing also teaches you to hold back on the superlatives unless they’re really deserved. The scene has a variety show feel to it, where as I think people hear the word ‘burlesque’ and think ‘arty stripping for Guardian readers’.
Marvel or DC?
Marvel. No brainer. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the comics, though I do own plenty of Iron Man graphic novels. The Matt Fraction run was superb and Warren Ellis’ Extremis was so good they borrowed ideas wholesale for the third Iron Man film.
Jen Williams, author of The Copper Promise, and The Iron Ghost said The Boy with the Porcelain Blade was like X-Men meets Gormenghast, which has to be one of my favourite descriptions ever. It makes a lot of sense if you think of the Orfani as feared and misunderstood mutants.
It take a lot of self discipline to finish not one but five books. What makes you get up in the morning and write?
I want to know how each story ends. I want to know if a story ends the way I planned it. I want to find out if I can write the thing I’ve planned, because I never really know until I sit down and get started.
I’ve actually finished six books. The Girl on the Liar’s Throne, the concluding part of The Erebus Sequence, is in the can. I’d also love to write a fourth book in that world, but time will tell. I’ve got the first act down, it’s a road trip style story with a playboy noble finally growing up and being responsible.
You've written a prestigious amount of short stories for various publishers. Any plans to develop these further?
Time is the great enemy. I went back to work full time recently. Carving out time to write means I can’t get distracted with projects unless I’m reasonably sure I can sell it to someone. I could happy go back to Jago Fox, who appears in no less than five stories for Fox Spirit. Equally I’d enjoy a chance to expand the stories of Harry and Valente, who appear in a couple of the free Stocking Stuffers by Pornokitsch. Unfortunately my short story writing is on hold as I pursue longer form projects but I’m excited for an anthology called Sharkpunk, which is coming out from Snow Books this year.
If you had to recommend one novel for us to read what would that be?
Naturally I’d say The Boy with the Porcelain Blade as I enjoying paying my rent. Check out The Boy Who Wept Blood, too. Outside of that, the novel that has really stayed with me is The Scar by China Mieville. It’s this huge beast of a novel, which is fitting given that it charts the fortunes of a floating pirate city trying to hitch itself to a leviathan. The protagonist is a translator who finds herself at the centre of events. It’s gorgeous, baroque, maudlin, ferocious and, well... you should read it for yourself.
What would your superhero power be and what are you going to do with it?
I don’t really like heights so that discounts flying. You can’t really trust anyone who admits to wanting to be invisible. Probably the most useful power would the one that Elixir has from the Marvel universe. Elixir can heal just by being in close proximity to people and cleanse people’s bodies of drugs. You’d always have a job with powers like those but you’d never be able to call in sick, ever.
Which character, from somebody else's work, would you like to introduce into Landfall?
I’m not sure about characters, but it would be amazing to have a Culture warship show up from Iain M. Bank’s novels. That would certainly cause some upheaval for the citizens of Landfall. The Orfani (a caste of disfigured children with extraordinary abilities in landfall) would fit right in given that so many citizens of the culture are physically augmented.
And what will happen in the new Star Wars movie?
I sense a great disturbance in the Force. As if a million cameras suffered from lens flare and were temporarily blinded.
Seriously. Who knows? That trailer really did tease. I can’t help wondering if a certain Stormtrooper has a change of heart after discovering an affinity with the aforementioned Force. We shall see. At least there is a glorious deficit of ewoks and gungans.