Earlier in the week, Tellest worked with talented urban and historical fantasy writer Patrick LeClerc when we promoted his latest release, an explosively entertaining Victorian-era fantasy with shades of steampunk and Lovecraft, The Beckoning Void. We were then afforded an opportunity to learn more about LeClerc by way of an interview. Read on to learn more about LeClerc’s inspirations and history with writing, and then do be sure to check out his growing catalog.
Tellest: Hello Patrick! Let me start off by thanking you for sharing some of your time to talk about your historical fantasy, The Beckoning Void. There’s almost a running gag at this point that all the writers I interview are impossibly busy, but perhaps none so much as you, as you’re literally writing your book between helping to save lives. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know you between those ambulance calls, and I know the readers will too!
Patrick LeClerc: Thanks for having me.
T: Writers always have a reason that they began exploring their imagination and began pulling stories out of them. I always like to know about where the people on the other end of the interview grabbed that inspiration. Was there a favorite author or a talented family member that you latched onto early? Or was there some other strange happenstance that sent you down this road?
PL: My gateway drug was “The Hobbit.” I read it in fifth grade, and that was the first time I actually realized “Hey, we can DO that? Just like, make up stories in a fantastic world and write them down?”
I was always drawn to adventure stories like Robin Hood and King Arthur and Treasure Island, but Tolkien was the first traditional fantasy author I read.
T: How do you think the films held up compared to the books? And on a similar note, do you think that those films are still in the upper echelon when it comes to fantasy adaptations?
PL: I think the “Lord of the Rings” films did a great job. I don’t see how they could have done more. The changes were more or less necessary in going from one medium to another, and because there’s only so much material you can put into a film, even a three-hour film.
I think “The Hobbit” suffered from the attempt to pack in too much stuff from outside the book, and to extend it too much. The love triangle was totally out of place, and while I get the desire to tie the film to the LOTR, as far a setting and history, it really was a departure from the book as it was written. I think Legolas’ role and the addition of Tauriel was Hollywood being Hollywood. The tone was changed as well. “The Hobbit” was written as a children’s story. It’s never really all that dark. The films kept the tone from Lord of the Rings, which I get from a marketing perspective, but they took a light novel and turned it into an epic trilogy.
T: While you’ve worked up a nice backlog of books, we’re here to talk first and foremost about The Beckoning Void, your latest release which is sure to earn you a whole new following. What gave you the idea to dive into Victorian England and explore the supernatural?
PL: The Victorian Era is great story fodder. You have enormous technological and societal changes going on, and that’s really where science fiction is invented. Look at Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (which is probably technically Georgian, not Victorian, but on the cusp) and Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne and H G Wells. This is where authors started looking at technology and asking, “What if?” which is the basis of all science fiction.
Plus, you can still combine all that tech with swashbuckling swordfights.
T: What’s your approach to action? Do you choreograph in your mind, or diagram, or is it all straight off the cuff?
PL: I have been fencing for thirty odd years, and doing HEMA for quite a few, as well as a bit of other martial arts stuff, so I feel comfortable writing action. I have to resist the temptation to go too “blow by blow” and try to concentrate on the emotions and flow and momentum of a fight, and just throw in a few carefully described “Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro” exchanges to highlight a skilled character and to appease my inner swordplay nerd.
T: Perhaps the “blow by blow” would make a great deleted scene or extra for your newsletter subscribers!
PL: That’s a thought! A Director’s Cut for sword nerds.
T: The Beckoning Void delivers an eclectic cast of characters that fits very well with the type of media that people are consuming these days. How did you come up with your heroes for this tale, and how difficult was it putting them in challenging, dangerous situations?
PL: The characters came first. The characters almost always come first in my process. I wanted a diverse, eclectic cast, and that fits the era better than people think.
The colonialism of the age creates the perfect circumstances for a character like Alyah. Mixed race, Afghan-English, who doesn’t really fit into either world, so she finds her own way. The realities of the Famine and the new mobility of the era makes Emilia’s arc plausible. Connolly and Count Roderick are both products of the Wild Geese, Irish exiles turned soldiers in foreign armies, albeit with varied success. Captain Little is a great character. Escaped slave turned airship captain.
I drew inspiration for all of these characters from historical examples. None are exact analogues, but they certainly all have precedents.
T: How attached do you get to your characters? Have you ever had to say goodbye to one that you weren’t expecting, and how did that hit you?
PL: I get very attached. I try to get into each one’s head when I write them, and it hurts to say goodbye. Sometimes, the story just demands it. And that’s hard. I do try not to include a death that doesn’t serve the story or do justice to the character. If it’s narratively satisfying, character death is bittersweet but I hate offhanded, pointless character deaths. Let them go out like Boromir.
T: What are your feelings on faked deaths? Fantasy sometimes does the superhero thing where you’ll believe that a character has truly gone on and kicked the bucket, only you find out through some miracle one way or another that they’ve survived later on. Is there a way to do that without it feeling like it undercuts the emotion of losing them in some way?
PL: Faked deaths make me uneasy. Sometimes they can be done well. If the death was ambiguous, like we never saw a body, and the return makes sense, I can live with them. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” when the truck blows up and Indy thinks Marion was in it, then he finds her later on, that was played well. It was a surprise. And it should be done sparingly. Do it too often and you rob death of any power. That’s one reason that I didn’t care for Infinity War. You knew Marvel wasn’t going to leave all those characters dead. Death stops being a shock and starts being like they got put in time out.
T: As I mentioned in the opening remarks, you’ve got a very important day job that keeps you with a foot in the real world, though it also certainly gives you some insight into the fantasies you write. Have there ever been any really rough calls that you’ve taken as an paramedic that have inspired anything a reader would see in any of your books?
PL: Most of the EMS calls that feature in the book are based on stuff that’s actually happened. The ridiculous EMS stuff is most likely lifted from experience. A lot of what I draw from the job isn’t specific events, but feelings. The adrenaline rush of going into a situation, the warm, safe feeling of being part of a team you can depend on, the frustration with lousy equipment or hopeless situations. The feeling of being overwhelmed or undervalued.
T: Have you ever conceptualized a supervisor or someone else higher up that you knew, and subsequently found a way to eviscerate them in fiction?
PL: Oh yeah. The supervisors don’t come out unscathed in Out of Nowhere.
T: Would you say that it’s a cathartic experience to kind of give them their comeuppance, even if it’s only in fictional form?
PL: Absolutely. Never cross a writer. We’ll put you in a book and get our revenge.
T: We mentioned your nice backlog of stories earlier in the interview. Among them, you have two series with at least two books, and certainly your latest seems as though it could also succeed as a thriving series as well. Which cast of your characters do you feel drawn to the most often?
PL: I really enjoy my buddy rogues from “Broken Crossroads.” They’re a lot of fun, and the banter writes itself. I’m sure I will be visiting that series again. I’ll probably write more of my EMS urban fantasy. I started a second book in my military s/f, but the dystopian present made my dystopian future seem too optimistic and it was hard to write in a not let modern politics shape it, which made it less fun to write. Maybe if we still have a functioning democracy in a few years, I’ll pick it up again.
T: You have shades of humor in your books as well. Just as it was with life kind of becoming bogged down due to the real life unraveling of our society, did you find it harder to write the more whimsical, jokey stuff over these last two years than you did before?
PL: Actually, the humor didn’t really suffer. I’ve always been a fan of humor as a coping mechanism. I’ll be the guy making snarky comments on my way to the gallows.
I just couldn’t write near future space Marines safeguarding the solar system with a straight face, considering our retreat from global leadership, recent penchant for kissing up to dictators and abandoning allies and the fact that they’d have to beg Elon Musk for rides to Mars.
I could go on but there’s a chance this will get political.
T: You’ve also got a collection of short stories that is growing bigger all the time. How do you decide when to shift from a short story to a longer feature? Have you ever began writing shorter fare only to find yourself expanding it considerably into a larger tale?
PL: Mostly it depends on the idea. Some ideas work well in a short format. You have a quick point to make, a single interesting idea to explore. Those are fun. But some takes are just too much, you want a big canvas. Short stories require discipline, and they don’t allow for a lot of coloring outside the lines. With a novel you can meander and explore subplots and underlying themes and pull back for a better view of the world. So, it really depends on what format suits the story in question.
T: Your EMS themed story had a short prequel that you developed for it. Did that precede the other two books in the series, or did you end up writing that after the other two books had been well-received?
PL: I wrote it after the first book. Since I had an immortal character, and a love of history, I figured it would be fun to write some stories across time, featuring the character at various historical events. “Advancing on Paris” is published as a novella. I published “Give and Take” which is a French and Indian War vignette as a short story in “Bard of the Isles” magazine.
T: What’s it like publishing for other imprints? Did you go on your own quest to find out where to publish your shorter stories outside of places like Amazon, or did you have someone reach out to you?
PL: I really should look at the market before I start writing, but I don’t. I write what I want to read, and then I will keep my eye out for open submissions. If I see a place where I think one of my stories would fit, I submit.
People should in no way imitate my approach to a writing career.
T: You were a finalist in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off in 2018 with your Immortal Vagabond Healer series. How did that acclaim affect your reach, and is it something you’ve aspired to aim for again since achieving that near victory?
PL: It was an experience. It did expand my audience, which is always a positive, but it also showed me the limits of some of my stuff. I had been (without realizing it) writing my EMS themed urban fantasy to a specific audience, and they had really liked it. When a wider audience read it, some aspects of the culture…let’s just say failed to resonate.
So I learned how to take a punch.
I did meet a lot of great people, and that has been invaluable. SPFBO is a great venue for writers, but you need to have a thick skin, and it works best if you cut against the stereotypical contest attitude. In other words, don’t go there to win, go there to make friends.
T: You mentioned writing to a specific audience and getting a certain set of results. Do you think it’s better to write to a narrower audience about something you’re passionate about, or would you rather be able to better navigate writing to a larger market on something that sells like hotcakes?
PL: I don’t know that it’s better per se. I do know that things a certain group or profession will just get sometimes don’t work on a larger scale. Every person in EMS who read my urban fantasy thought it was funny and the characters’ attitudes were dead on. Lots of general fantasy readers found the attitudes very off-putting. But I’ve gotten the same reaction telling work stories to EMT and ER staff and then gotten cold stares telling the same ones to lay people.
But I think that’s on me. “Kitchen Confidential” was written with an audience of restaurant workers in mind, but it became a best seller. Plenty of people who aren’t veterinarians enjoyed James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small.” I think there a sweet spot where you speak to the in group without alienating the wider world.
I’m still working on finding it.
T: Earlier, I asked how you thought certain adaptations of fantasy books went when they were turned into films. Do you ever think of your books being given a cinematic treatment?
PL: All the time. I think most authors do these days. We’ve all grown up on movies, and that influences how we think of stories. I think my books would work well on screen, since I emphasize dialogue and action, and those work well on screen. Writers who do very clever things with language, like Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, are harder to do well since the wordplay of narration is hard to film. I think that’s why Good Omens used a voiceover narration. So did the TV adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide.
T: Patrick, I want to thank you for taking the time to explore your catalog and your process, and to find out a couple of other things that make you tick. Now that we’re on the other side of this interview, where can readers find out more about you and your work?
PL: Thanks for having me. It was fun, and I’m happy to ramble on about writing.
If people are looking for more about me and my work, my author website is: http://www.inkandbourbon.com/
I’m fairly active on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PatrickLeclercAuthor
and Twitter at @PatrickLeCler17
Once again, I’d like to thank Patrick LeClerc for joining me on this little side quest to learn more about him and figure out what makes him tick. I know that he’s been incredibly busy not only with his writing, but saving lives, so let’s hear it for this awesome human being. If you’re interested in his latest, a wonderful Victorian-era Steampunk/Lovecraftian Historical Fantasy, check out The Beckoning Void on Amazon today!
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