An Interview With Author Seth Patterson
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Pre-order The Woethief by clicking here
On Friday, October 20, Nantucket E-Books will be publishing The Woethief by Seth Patterson. I have published four short stories and one comic-book by Patterson, under the pen name Riley Duffield. This is Patterson’s first novel on the site. The book follows WoeNyl, a woman split between two minds with the power to steal people’s pain and shame. WoeNyl lives in the underground world of Ildylia, an outcast human amongst bats, spiders, and silkwings. An unexpected victory in the gladiatorial arena thrusts WoeNyl into a deadly conspiracy, which may hold the key to her mysterious past.
This blog post contains my interview with Seth Patterson. Later this weekend, I will publish an interview with Autumn Patterson, who illustrated the novel and designed the cover. I will update this post with a link to the interview with Autumn Patterson when it’s ready. EDIT: Read my interview with Autumn Patterson by clicking here.
NJB When did you first get interested in writing?
SETH PATTERSON I first enjoyed writing during an Excellence in Writing class at my homeschool co-op. When I was a teenager, I completed the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum. Ever since, I have been writing stories.
NJB You have previously been published under the pen name Riley Duffield. What prompted you to drop that nom-de-plume?
SP I switched to my real name, to improve discoverability for my friends and family. They were confused about who “Riley” was. I also want to be accountable to my friends, family, and church for what I write.
NJB What are some of your favorite books, and what draws you to those books?
SP My favorite books are The King of the Trees series by William D. Burt, The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau, the Men of Grit series by John J. Horn (I’ve only read the first three books), the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet series by Carey Rockwell, and The Defiant Agents by Andre Norton.
I love these books because they ask interesting ethical questions, focus on correct portrayal of technical details, and/or explore worlds in imaginative ways.
NJB The Woethief is incredibly imaginative: empathic powers, telepathic insects, a talking dress, bat-creatures who see with their ears. What have been some of your influences in creating these characters?
SP The empathic powers is based on my grandmother, mother, and sister. In real life, they are as empathetic as people can be without having superpowers.
The telepathic insects are based on my desire to subvert the “only good bug is a dead bug” trope in science fiction. They may also be influenced by the insect queen, who used telepathy to appear like Ender’s sister in the movie version of Ender’s Game.
I think the talking dress was driven by story needs, not inspired by anything particular.
I don’t remember if there was an inspiration for bat-people’s echolocation. I mainly wanted to create a fantasy world that wasn’t a copy of The Lord of the Rings.
NJB What author have you been most proud to meet personally, and what author would you like to meet, if you could?
SP Todd Friel: I grew up listening to his radio show and audio content, so it was fun to meet him at his studio.
I would love to meet William D. Burt, my favorite fantasy author.
NJB Your novel takes place in Ildylia, a world of lightless underground caverns. What were some of the challenges of writing in a setting where few characters can see?
SP I needed to remember that color is meaningless to most people in the world. I also needed to decide on a light-source for my human characters, since Ildylians have no need of lamps or torches.
I needed to imagine details about architecture and writing, since anything that is not engraved or raised is invisible to Ildylians. It gave me an opportunity to think about fun details like Ildylians not knowing if they are dressing in clashing colors.
I needed to change common expressions and words to match a lightless world. For example, “Onlookers” became “onhearers”.
NJB In The Woethief, the main character has the power to steal people’s pain and shame. When I read the story, it’s ambiguous whether or not this ultimately helps or hurts the people she meets. On top of that, who takes WoeNyl’s pain and shame away? It’s an excellent moral question. What were some of your inspirations to explore WoeNyl’s predicament?
SP The main inspirations were The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Last Sin Eater movie. Both stories address the question of how societies deal with shame and pain. A radio dramatization of Brave New World and Scaled and Icy by Twenty One Pilots were also influences.
The Judeo-Christian idea of a scapegoat (an innocent substitute that takes away guilt) was also an influence. Many stories have messianic figures, who are inherently flawed. I created WoeNyl to explore the idea of a broken savior who needs a savior.
NJB One character in The Woethief is Crystal Comfort, who readers may remember from Cocoon and its comic adaptation, one of the most popular titles on the site. How is Crystal different in this story, and can readers expect to find any other characters from your previous stories?
SP In The Woethief, Crystal is unborn and just starting to learn how to use her powers. She has not yet become a silkwing or gained her ability to grant wishes. Crystal is also featured in The Last Bridge and True Love’s Kiss.
WoeNyl is mentioned in Operation Firestorm under the name, “Captain Twilight”. I plan to weave my stories into one canon.
NJB Are you reading anything right now, if so what, and why?
I just finished listening to an audiobook of The Year When Stardust Fell by Raymond Fisher Jones. I am listening to an audiobook of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I have heard or watched adaptations, but I want to experience the original story.
NJB You have described The Woethief as science-fantasy. What does that mean to you?
SP I called The Woethief “hard science-fantasy” mainly to set up the series for more science fiction elements later on. Operation Firestorm is more straightforward military science-fantasy. Even though I write fantasy, I try to keep it fairly realistic. For example, I try to make shapeshifting dependent on conservation of mass.
I also approach ethical questions in my stories like science fiction authors do. Science fiction asks questions about whether something is ethical just because it is possible. Most fantasy that I have read avoids hard ethical questions and just assumes that it is ethical to use something because it exists.
For example, in The Woethief, WoeNyl uses superpowers to remove people’s painful memories. Science fiction might use drugs or memory-probes to do the same thing, but I am asking the same basic question.
NJB In True Love’s Kiss, the reader starts off thinking the story is told from a third-person omniscient POV, but by the end the narrator is revealed to be a character in the story. In The Woethief, the titular character has two minds: the defiant Nyla and the compassionate Woethief. Do you enjoy playing with perspectives?
SP I like playing with perspectives. I think it is a byproduct of growing up on radio dramas. As a medium, radio dramas tend to play with perspective and narration. Shows like Adventures in Odyssey or The Pond break the fourth wall and have narrators dialog with characters.
WoeNyl having two personalities was not originally planned. While I was writing, she just started talking with two minds. It was a useful way to portray her inner conflict.
NJB The Woethief will be part of a series. What are your plans for Ildylia and beyond? Do you have a name for this cycle of stories?
SP My overall story canon is called, “WoeNylVal Universe.” In future stories, I plan to introduce a third personality named Valora.
In Ildylia, I have fragments of an idea for what will happen to Gemma after the events of The Woethief.
I have first drafts for three more stories in the series. Shard Mistress will explore what happens to WoeNyl, Denrick, Theila, and Crystal after The Woethief. New Home will explore the difficulties of raising Crystal Comfort. Reconciler will show how Crystal as an adult, who finds love and wants to heal wounds caused in Shard Mistress.
I have outlines or draft fragments for dozens of stories. Many of them will be about WoeNylVal wandering between worlds trying to reunite with her family and other pieces of herself.
NJB The Woethief is a free-culture project, using a Creative Commons license. When did you get interested in the free-culture movement?
SP I think I was introduced to GNU/Linux and free software in college. I wanted to learn about computing history, so I read books about the phreaker and hacker movements. Caring about free software naturally led to caring about free-culture and similar social movements.
NJB What are the benefits to an author publishing their work under a free-culture license like CC?
SP Readers or remixers can use my works without needing my permission, so I don’t need to spend my time working out licensing deals.
Since my works are copylefted, if someone makes an improvement to one of my works, I can use that improvement under the same licensing terms. Most of the benefits are for readers and remixers. I indirectly benefit by contributing to an ecosystem of collaborative art.
NJB Readers can find you on the Fediverse: https://writing.exchange/@NylaWoethief. Who are some other authors on the Fediverse that you recommend?
SP My favorite accounts to follow aren’t on Writing.Exchange, but with federation, that doesn’t matter.
@email@example.com asks interesting questions about storytelling that lead to good discussions.
* @firstname.lastname@example.org is great for keeping up on what is happening in the indie e-book world.
* Trunk is a good place to find Mastodon accounts sorted by topic.
* I often search the “fantasy” hashtag to find writing-related toots.
The Woethief will be published on October 20, 2023. To pre-order the e-book or a comb-bound paperback edition, click here
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