Blog tour: A New Dark Age

Welcome to the blog tour for A New Dark Age by Ross Patrick!

Hi Ross! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of A Dark New Age! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Hi and thank you for your interest. So, A New Dark Age is set in 2061 and follows Esme Sedgebrook, a shy seventeen-year-old who flees her claustrophobic provincial life and the unwelcome prospect of an arranged marriage to join a nascent revolutionary movement and become involved in an uprising that is the chaotic and violent climax to the novel. Although A New Dark Age is a dystopia novel that portrays a society in crisis, the novel is as much about Esme’s rite of passage with personal crisis and change reflected in her changing world.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: I had a skeletal outline to provide structure and direction, although this changed during the writing process, so no, I wouldn’t say the plot was entirely worked out. I write by layering up my ideas and through constant edit and revision – I feel that way it is more organic and less contrived than when I’ve tried to be more meticulous in planning. I tend to start by reviewing and revising what I most recently wrote, and then layering new ideas, or building out from that. I enjoy this approach, but it does mean that a lot of the writing process is in editing and revision.

Was A Dark New Age your working title? Either way, how did you choose it?

A: Yes, A New Dark Age was the working title – the idea of imagining the world of A New Dark Age came before the more character-centred themes and narrative strands, even though I knew I would want the novel to be about character more than the world I was trying to portray. I was initially interested in the history of civilisations, I’d read people like Jared Diamond, Eric Cline and others. I was interested in the patterns that could be seen across different civilisations; commonalities in the nature of their growth, at their zeniths, in the foretellers of their decline, and most of all, after the fall of these societies. It seemed to me that people tend to assume that history only moves in one direction and that technology and state over-reach are the usual future fears. This seemed to me a very 20th century conception and it interested me to imagine a society going backwards. This also seemed to me to open interesting opportunities through fiction.

In a degraded society with a much-diminished administrative state, I imagined life becoming much more local and smaller. Where the bonds between people who share their daily existences would become more important but also more coercive, and where the position and limited progress that women have made in our still overwhelmingly patriarchal society would be vulnerable to regression. And as the role of the state in the society withers, other institutions would grow to fill the void functionally and culturally; the influence of religious organisations would grow as was the case, for instance, in Europe after the fall of Rome – hence, A New Dark Age.

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Esme?

A: I’m not a huge film buff, but as it’s a story set in Britain, it should perhaps be a British actor, so how about Daisy Ridley? If not British, and this probably betrays my age, a young Winona Ryder I could imagine bringing the necessary angst to the part.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: There are two quite different scenes that for completely different reasons presented a challenge. The first was writing about the central character, Esme, being assaulted – there was a need for a balance between the impact needed and a lightness of touch. I didn’t want the narrator to be outside of the events, it had to be focussed not so much on the act but on Esme’s experience of it. Nothing else matters but her experience and so I also didn’t want it to be a stand-alone scene, the trauma that this causes had to be threaded through the novel in inferences and allusions, not too heavy and clumsy but as a constant shadow. This was very important to the success of A New Dark Age but also as a human being it was important to me to do as much justice to these kind of experiences as I was able. I was relieved when my editor told me that she thought I had successfully handled it with delicacy.

The other scene was the novel’s climax built around an uprising, which meant a large-scale set-piece with many characters, and varied actions and events happening concurrently. This provided me a challenge as a writer trying to keep numerous different plates spinning without the scene unravelling. It took many revisions before I was satisfied.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Oh, so, so much. The way that I write, or wrote this novel at least, was to keep constantly writing, editing, and revising. The first finished draft was twice the length of the version that has now been published. I wanted initially to build the novel around a cast of half a dozen characters with the narrative switching between them. Due to the amount of character detail and backstory I was involving this became unwieldy and my approach had to be more focussed.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: Sure, there are further instalments to the prospective New Dak Age series; the events of this book were inspired, in part, by The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, and I’m working on ideas for future novels in the series that will draw on The Anarchy of the 12th century as inspiration and after that another which draw on the period of The Heptarchy, of the early medieval period – both again reimagined for the second half of the Twentieth century.

I’m also working on a novel that is not from the world of A New Dark Age but focusses on personal relationships and the need to reconcile the passing of time. The working title keeps changing but there is a novel in development about a family break-up told through the subjective experiences of the family members and the people who become affected.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’ve recently discovered the French writer, Nicholas Matthieu and I think his 2014 debut novel, ‘Of Fangs and Talons’ is brilliant – I love the slow-building tension of the novel, his characterisation and his ability to address contemporary life profoundly through unassuming characters drawn from a world of ordinary lives.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: I recognise the importance and opportunity that social media presents to authors, but it can be a bit overwhelming and I’m still grappling with how to use this opportunity effectively to build awareness and engagement in my work. In terms of writing schedule, since the summer of ’21, I’ve changed to working nights for my living and this has affected my writing routines. I hoped it would free up more daytime; it hasn’t quite worked out like that and I’m currently trying to establish new writing routines that work for me. So, however much social media presents new demands to authors, it is not, for me at least, the greatest pressure or cause of disruption to my writing schedules at the moment.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Other than to enjoy the writing, the challenges and frustrations included, the best advice I could give is to seek and be open to editorial advice. Certainly, I found it very useful. Sometimes it might make you rethink aspects of what your writing, but from my experience, by working positively with an editor it helped me to better realise my own vision.

Thank you for your time!

A: And thank you! I really appreciate this opportunity to introduce people to A New Dark Age. I hope you enjoy the novel.

 

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