Den Patrick has made waves in the fantasy book world with his stunning new novel The Boy With the Porcelain Blade, the first part of The Erebus Sequence. His previous work includes The War Fighting Manuals. We caught up with the exciting new author to find out more.
Starburst: Tell us a bit about The Boy with The Porcelain Blade
Den Patrick: The Boy with The Porcelain Blade is my debut novel. It’s set in a Renaissance Italy style world of intrigue and subterfuge and lots of mysteries. There are four quietly feuding houses based around a reclusive king and into this mix are the Orfano, a caste of misshapen children who are all foundlings. Our protagonist Lucien is one of these Orfano. He has a couple of deformities but the main thing is that he is missing his ears and he’s quite self-conscious about that. He is exiled from the castle fairly early on in the novel and that kicks off a whole chain of events.
The thing about the book is that all the odd numbered chapters take place when he is about 18-years old and there is an on-going, continuous narrative on those chapters and the even numbered chapters are flashbacks so at various points he can be anything between eight and seventeen. It’s a little bit coming of age.
It’s quite a dense world; are we going see more of the world of Landfall?
In the first novel I did keep things very contained so there’s this huge sprawling castle which is referred to as Domain. As the novels progress we’ll get to see more of the island. I’m part way through editing book two and that’s still very centered around the castle. I’ve got two stand-alones planned which take place on the road and we get around a little bit more. It’ll be a long time before we see those because I need to write them.
Lucien has a very sharp wit. How much of Lucien is you?
I guess all characters are facets of the authors who create them. Lucien is a much more spoiled version of me; obviously he grew up in a castle and has had all these fantastic opportunities. That’s really why I wrote Raphaella in, to ground him. Some of my friends would say I’m pretty witty; the advantage with a novel is that you can rehearse the jokes and refine them over several edits. So Lucien’s probably funnier on the page than I am in real life.
Can you tell us a bit about the War Fighting Manuals series?
The War Fighting Manuals were an experiment. We were trying to write something that wasn’t a direct story, but almost like a found object as if you’d stumbled into that world. As if you could stumble around a market and pick up a manual on how to fight. The idea was that a human “anthropologist” character would go and live amongst the elves, the orcs and the dwarves for a period of time absorb their ways of fighting and their culture. All the manuals have these snarky footnotes which is the translator giving his little take on the cultures. It’s a nice way of poking fun at those three races. They’re all huge in pop culture now; The Lord of The Rings films are massive and there’s the Warhammer stuff as well which was a big inspiration for me because I used to work at The Games Workshop.
Are you going to write novels based on those worlds as well?
I’ve played with some chapters and some characters in that world. It would be really fun. I guess, ultimately it depends on how well the War Manuals do. If the fans really request it then I’ll write something, definitely.
You’ve worked for Games Workshop and you’re familiar with the worlds of Warhammer. Will you be writing anything for the Black Library at any point?
No, I’ve never even considered it. They have a huge stable of very talented writers. I left Games Workshop some years ago so I’m not as well versed in all that background lore and fantastic background that makes it such a captivating setting. I was always more into Warhammer 40,000. No plans at the moment but anything could happen.
Is there a particular tie-in franchise that you’d like to write for?
There’s really not, I really like doing my own thing. If ever there was a roleplaying game supplement I’d always rewrite the adventure slightly or supplement it with additional material of my own and I do like that act of creation. I like coming up with my own ideas, plot threads, characters and all that stuff. I’m quite happy to keep concentrating on Landfall at the moment.
Any chance of a Landfall sourcebook or gaming related supplement?
Wow, that would be so much fun wouldn’t it? It’s really strange, about a month ago I really go into Magic The Gathering. I played some years ago and I saw the Return to Ravnica cards and thought it looked really great so I’ve been collecting a few of those. It occurred to me that you could do a CCG based on the novel. There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
Why are so many genre authors also gamers?
I guess because we like to be transported to other worlds. All games cut to the chase so you don’t necessarily have the story. We like to immerse ourselves in those worlds like any other fan does. I’m not sure why there is such a strong correlation between gaming and fantasy literature. It is a strong one though.
If you only had one book for company on a desert island, what would you pick?
The Scar by China Mieville; it’s huge.
The Simpsons or Futurama?
Truth or Beauty?