Dear readers, please welcome author Darrell Drake! We chat about Sassanian Iran, Chinese literature, creative cursing, and plenty more. You will definitely be entertained! Also, make sure to check out the GIVEAWAY of Drake’s forthcoming book at the bottom of this post.
Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?
Dream of the Red Chamber, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Journey to the West, which are three of the Four Great Classical Novels (Chinese). I have read Water Margin (the last of the Four), and it’s had an undeniable influence on my work moving forward and my appreciation of Chinese literature. So now that you’ve reminded me, I am back to kicking myself.
With the exception of some of the more popular works, I also haven’t delved far enough into the rich history of Persian poetry. Most notably, Rumi’s works. I’ve always preferred prose to poetry, and I feel as if I’m missing out, especially considering the setting of A Star-Reckoner’s Lot.
Is there a genre or literary niche that you feel hasn’t gotten it’s deserved amount of attention?
As someone who has spent the last few years researching Sassanian Iran, I’d rank it as an underserved era of history. This is due to a wide array of issues—from a general scarcity of extant source material to the empire being one that’s overshadowed by contemporary civilizations (namely, Byzantium) or Muslim Persia.
That in turn has had an effect on historical fantasy and fiction. I never expected to have written what may very well be the first modern English novel in the setting (unsure if there are non-English ventures).
Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?
I think it’s most notable in science fiction nowadays (though it could be argued that fantasy eventually becomes science fiction). Zombies and aliens are the first and most prominent myths to come to mind. And while the jury’s still out on the latter, I think it can be agreed that they’re ubiquitous in popular culture. You have people making serious preparations for a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested Earth. You have the many UFO enthusiasts, and a seemingly pervasive belief that aliens may very well exist.
Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?
With A Star-Reckoner’s Lot being historical fantasy, I wanted to stay true to the historical half of the genre. But also to strike a healthy, readable middle ground. No one—or nearly no one—wants to read about every time that nature calls. However, profanity certainly plays a part in dialog where suited.
I believe the only typical profanity I resorted to was “fuck”. Because, well, it’s such a versatile word that I couldn’t fashion an alternative. Besides that heavyweight, I went about putting together phrases better suited to the culture and beliefs of the time: still damning, but curses like fingernail-swallowing or tortoise-loving.
Where travel is concerned, I did my research into what is appropriate for humans, horses, camels, and other beasts. But when it came to writing, I thought it’d be better to offer glimpses and expedite the rest. I can think of at least one book that covered every day of travel, and I found it mind-numbingly boring.
Oh, boy. Where do I even begin with this one? You can check out a partial list of those I read for A Star-Reckoner’s Lot. Those that cover history and mythology are the most obvious. I think that having an idea of the more intimate and everyday aspects of life lend to better fictional worlds. One that comes to mind is The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life. While it didn’t do much for what I was writing, it still goes a long way in describing the daily minutia. Books that cover topics like travel, psychology, and natural sciences also help on that front.
Who are your non-writer influences?
I feel as if it’s an evasive non-answer, but I have a hard time pinpointing anyone in particular. I can’t ascribe what I’ve written to any people in particular. We’re the sum of our years, and the daily interactions therein. I don’t channel anyone in particular when writing or thinking, just what I’ve learned and experienced over time. Anyone I’ve had any meaningful interaction with has contributed to who I am today.
If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you choose to do?
Sleep. All day. Is there somewhere I can sign up? I might choose to enlist, if I weren’t in a strange situation with citizenship. And perhaps be too old to. Despite the perils and uncomfortable nature of being deployed, it’s something I’m still interested in. I’ve discussed the idea with recruiters several times in the past, and have taken the ASVAB, but it always fell through.
There’s this series of books about a blue bug, fittingly titled Blue Bug Books. I don’t really remember anything about it besides the obvious, but it stands out as one of the first I can remember reading. I know, it’s a children’s book, but my highly selective memory has burdened me with remembering something that isn’t high brow!
What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?
Sassanian Iran: Ctesiphon, or Tisfun, was the capital of the empire, and surely gave a condensed view of the civilization.
Tang Dynasty China: Either the Eastern or Western capitals of Xi’an or Louyang. Tang Dynasty is considered by many to be the Chinese golden age.
Rome, during Bacchanalia: It sounds like a good time. A damn good time.
Darrell Drake has published four books, with A Star-Reckoner’s Lot being the latest. He often finds himself inspired by his research to take on new hobbies. Birdwatching, archery, stargazing, and a heightened interest in history have all become a welcome part of his life thanks to this habit.
Places to Find Darrell Drake
Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been. Witness her treacherous journey through Iranian legends and ancient history.
Only a brave few storytellers still relate cautionary glimpses into the life of Ashtadukht, a woman who commanded the might of the constellations—if only just, and often unpredictably. They’ll stir the imagination with tales of her path to retribution. How, fraught with bereavement and a dogged illness, she criss-crossed Sassanian Iran in pursuit of creatures now believed mythical. Then, in hushed tones, what she wrought on that path.
Darrell is giving away 3 ebook copies of his fantasy historical fiction novel, A Star-Reckoner’s Lot. Open internationally. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Is there a sub-genre or literary niche that you feel hasn’t gotten it’s deserved attention? 2) Leave a way to contact you. Thanks! Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.