“No one can write their own happy ending.” This complex and intense theme is part of the basis for Patrick Elliott’s debut book, Old Odd Ends. I don’t know about you, but I like a book that can explore even the most powerful person’s inability to control their own destiny. Likewise, Elliott follows through with this theme in his writing planning, saying he can’t plan an ending because it’s very hard to predict ahead of time. Many writers share this school of thought (pantsers, unite!), and seeing just how dark Elliott’s writing can get, I’m not surprised it takes its own twists and turns.
Old Odd Ends is your first book. How long did it take you to plan it before you began writing it?
I would say that for the most part I don’t really plan my books. The exception to that is the one series I have been working on for so many years I don’t like to think about it. One day I decided I was going to get serious about writing as a career option. I had all of these ideas buzzing around in my head. So I sat down and typed out some working titles and the idea surrounding each one of them. The active planning probably took about a minute. The idea running around was a few weeks for this one. I know that probably sounds cocky but that is part of my process. The ideas are always there. Sometimes I will write out characters and settings for a few hours before I start. With Ends it was a matter of sitting down and keeping track as places and people added themselves to the story.
Is this book part of a series? If so, when can we look forward to the next book being published?
No, Old Odd Ends is not part of a series. It is a stand-alone and was my push to get over a fear of success by actually finishing and publishing a book. The one series I have is an act of love that will come out eventually but other one-shots will precede it and come in between the volumes.
As for when you can look forward to the next book being published. I am striving to put two compilations of shorts up by the end of April. I am also editing another full-length novel that needs a good title as the working title, The Detective, is a bit too bland. That one I will query agents about. So if there are no nibbles I hope to have it published by September, if some amazing agent picks me up…who knows? That will then depend on the powers that be I guess. So I would say September for the next actual novel.
Do you mostly write in this particular genre or do you dabble in other genres? If so, which ones?
I don’t write in a genre or a style. I write in the story and the characters. I have read many great authors who write in their genre, but it is not my style. I start with the story, add in the characters and see where it goes. So I let what I am writing define its classification that way. To answer specifically, I wouldn’t say I dabble, but I write in all genres, even the ones I would normally exclude because pieces of them will show up throughout the story. My writing does tend to fall mostly into horror, dark versions of urban fantasy, dystopian, and occasionally high fantasy and soft science fiction. I think life might actually be easier if I could pick one.
What do you think makes your work stand apart from other works in your genre?
This is another place where I will have to speak to the genre of horror, as literary fiction of any kind, and genre fiction too, stands apart from itself by being what it is. When it comes to horror what makes my work stand apart is a grounding in classical definition with a vision of the future and a setting based on the present.
Horror has become a parody of itself, with some notable exceptions. This started with movies but slowly moved into the realm of novels. Today what you see are thrillers and chillers, based on the idea of the slasher film and the school of thought that gore and graphic violence are what is truly frightening. I follow a classic train of thought where you should sympathize with the monster. I don’t mean making the monster a hero, which leads to other types of novels that I hope I stand out from, but being able to look at the monster and say, “I get it. This guy is evil, but I can understand what drove him to it. If I had to face that I might go the same route.” Then you are really scared because you think this monster might win, but even more because you understand you have something in common with it. The focus on the cerebral and leaving the really graphic stuff mostly in your readers’ minds are part of what I do. It is an art that has been lost.
Then you have the setting. Much – not all but a lot – of the horror out there is supposed to be modern, but it isn’t. It feels like a campy seventies or eighties movie. We are given props and backdrops that do not feel real to us at all. The feeling is either an idealized society that does not exist anymore, if it ever did, or a place so dark it belongs to the past or the future. Give me gritty, give me believable. I don’t care about real, but I want to believe this could be now if it is set in the present. I strive for that in my own writing.
Last is the eye on the future. Most horror tells a story. They are often good stories but usually there is no connection. You want to scare me? Show me where we are going in the case that whatever your monster represents is not stopped. That nugget of truth, be it fact or your own opinion, will keep me up nights worrying about what could be. Even if I don’t understand what you were thinking when you wrote it, I will make a connection because you wrote based on something important to you. That is something I bring, which horror in general has lost. At least in my opinion.
Are any of the characters in your book based on people you know or have seen/talked to in real life?
No, not in this book. In many others I will take snippets of personality or a look or even one side of a person. In Old Odd Ends there is none of that, though some of my friends think there is. If you want that keep on the look out for future published works and you will find it.
What inspires you to write? Music? Other books? Real life events? Just an incredible imagination?
The ideas come just from my incredible imagination normally. It is like these stories exist inside my head and want to be told, and if I’m not telling them who is going to? Once in a while I will see or hear something in life that makes me think of an idea. However, even with it all being imagination I find pieces of real life and events creeping in. The stories are not about them but they slowly begin to correlate.
Normally I have no problems finding the will to write, but on the occasions that I do, what inspires me to get off my butt can be reading, listening to music, or taking walks – usually while listening to music. That last one gives me such a drive to write that I do it nearly every day before I sit down at the computer. Other art forms also help, but books and music are the most consistent. So I guess all of them inspire me in their own ways.
Are you part of any writers’ groups? If so, what do you like about them? How do they help you or inspire you? If not, why not?
I am part of two currently. One is a group on Goodreads, and I love the support and suggestions. It is my first jump into anything like that. Writing, especially independently, can be a lonely and sometimes terrifying thing. Just being surrounded by others who know that struggle is great, that feeling of not being alone. I am also part of a community of regulars who do writing prompts. While that is not officially a group we are a community in the truest sense. I love that one because it has all of the same things as the first with deeper connections (maybe because I have been there longer) and kind but honest critiques. It has improved my writing exponentially in the time I have been there. I am not part of any groups that meet in person, as the ones I have found are either specific to genres I do not write in often or just not to my taste. I have contemplated trying to form one myself, but most of the people I would start with in my area are rather reclusive and/or shy.
Do you plan your writing out with outlines, character development exercises, and other pre-writing activities? Or do you just write as it comes to you?
I mostly write as it comes to me. I start with a vague setting and a character or two in mind. I write down the basic idea for the story, which is the beginning and a small kernel of what it is about. Then I add in the description of the characters. As I go I keep track of new traits and important events for those characters and add notes on any new people or places. Characters die in my novels, so the ones that do get turned to red font. I will add notes about the world and snippets I want to happen somewhere to these notes but the snippets are not set in stone I am just afraid I will forget them. Somewhere along the way I realize what the most likely ending is, but I never write that down as the story may change it. Outlining works for many writers, but I find the writers who do not hold my attention better and those that do are dryer. My stories have always defied outlines because of that and the few times I attempted it I had to scrap the outline or the story halfway through.
Did you do any research for Old Odd Ends?
Initially, no. I do Google research as necessary for certain words and terms. How much research I do depends on how accurate I want it to be. For Old Odd Ends I looked up a couple of things as I went, but very little as it is a completely darkly fantastical world that mirrors our own. I know what our world is like.
Do you read the kinds of books you like to write? Do you watch movies similar to or the same genre as your writing?
Yes and no. I love to read; I will read almost anything fiction. I am rather picky in which entertainment I choose to spend my time on, in all of its forms. I am actually less choosy about books but I do tend to avoid horror for the reasons stated in a previous question. There are some great horror authors out there who focus on the mental aspects of it but many fall prey to the graphic and the simple, so I tend to avoid it unless I know the author or the book calls to me. The same is even truer of movies. There are some great scary movies out there but most I give a pass. On the literary side, one of the things that defines it is the focus on the character. I love character development and deep, deep characters, so in that sense, yes! I read anything that does that and does it well.
If you could write anywhere in the world – in a fiction or nonfiction place – where would you write?
I love to travel, I love new places, and I love to write. One of my life goals is to use the money from my writing to travel the world and write in every place I stop. So my answer is everywhere, anywhere, all of them. If I had to choose one I guess it would be Ireland. Still, I’m sticking with everywhere.
Patrick has been writing for years while stuck in the corporate world focusing on customer service and management due to his love of helping people and touching their lives. After hearing multiple versions of “Why aren’t you published yet?” along with threats of bodily harm from friends and family if forced to read one more novel before he was published, he relented. By being here you are part of the beginning of a new chapter in the author’s life. He lives in the Seattle area, where he is currently enjoying the rain when it is available.
Book Purchase Links
Amazon author page
Social Media Links
Twitter – @patrickewrites
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/oldoddendsbook
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/u/0/110963505…
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show…
Ello – https://ello.co/patrick_elliott
Blog – http://patrickelliottwrites.blogspot.com/
Interesting interview! I like the title of the book, and I can certainly relate to the desire to write in different places in the world, especially far from the corporate life. Good luck with your book, Patrick!
Thanks for your comment, Daisy. It would be really amazing to write a story/book in each country! What a dream…
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