Interview With Patrick W. Carr – The Author of The Staff and Sword & The Darkwater Saga


Interview with Patrick W. Carr



Hello Patrick,
I’m absolutely delighted to interview you today for

I discovered your book, A Cast Of Stones a few years ago and it instantly became a favorite. You have such an inspiring gift as an author, surpassing the quality of many other contemporary authors, and you’re a math teacher! What was your motivation to write a novel?



I’d read to my kids for years, and one day I decided to write a story that was about them. That’s probably a fairly typical beginning, but I had so much fun at it that I never wanted to stop.


Being a teacher and father are already two full-time jobs, when do you find time to write?


Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different approaches. I used to write at night, but found that after teaching all day, I didn’t have enough mental gas in the tank to write much or write well. A few years ago I settled on writing early in the morning before anyone else gets up. I wake up at 5 and start the coffee then take Mel (the dog) for a quick walk. When I come back, I have a big cup of joe with a couple of squares of dark chocolate and within an hour I can usually get 700-1000 words in. The odd thing is that they’re usually pretty decent even though I’m not a morning person. I attribute that to the fact that the creative part of my brain must wake up before the analytical part does. That way I’m not critiquing every word as it goes onto the page.


In The Staff and Sword series Errol Stone has a fantastic arc as a character, from a drunkard to a hero. You have stated that your books are character driven. Do you plan the characters first when developing a book?


It’s not the first thing, but it’s definitely the second. The first thing that happens is usually the “what-if” moment that drives the story. For example, in The Staff and the Sword, the what-if was “what if the Church still used lots to decide everything?” For The Darkwater Sage the what-if was “what if the clues to a crime that could change your world were hidden in your mind.” A funny side note: I entered A Cast of Stones into the Genesis competition years ago at ACFW and one of the judges told me it would never get published because it had a teenage drunk as the protagonist. Turns out, that was one of the things people liked best about it.


There are so many instances of a publisher telling a writer why their story won’t be published; you are among some famous authors!

All of us have challenges and that is why we all love Errol as a character. If he stayed a hapless drunk it just wouldn’t have worked

Another broken character is Willet Dura in your second series, The Darkwater Saga. It appears that Willet’s scars are deeper than Errol’s. How would you define Willet compared to Errol?



When I wrote Errol, I set out to write a character who was very obviously flawed. Since it was a medieval-ish time frame, alcoholism worked well, though I did think about some type of drug abuse. I’m glad I chose alcohol. I think drugs would have been too uncomfortable for a lot of people. I got an email from a fellow years back who had been sober for quite a while through AA, and he was nice enough to tell me that he thought I had totally nailed the longing and shame that went into being an alcoholic.

For Willet, I wanted a character whose scars were inside, down deep in his psyche and heart. My Dad was actually the source of inspiration for him. Dad fought in the Korean and Vietnam War and came back with heartbreaking losses and PTSD. Over the years, I saw him struggle with what the war had done to him and I’ve come to appreciate that as one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen. I took the idea of loss and PTSD and re-wrote it in terms of a fantasy world. Willet is broken in a few ways, but God (Aer, in my book) has a way of using Willet’s brokenness to solve problems and bring healing to others. It’s his wounds that make him so empathetic to the other characters in the book.


With your characters you approach some tough subjects, like alcoholism and PSTD, which is why they feel like real people. Because Willet’s scars are internal from the horrors of the Darkwater the series has a darker tone. Was this your intention?


I had always intended for the series to have the tones that they do. When I wrote The Staff and the Sword, I was striving for an epic fantasy that had a warm tone to it, like the feeling I get when I settle down to read a good book in front of the fire during winter. For The Darkwater Saga, I was actually going for a noir-ish feel similar to the classic detective stories by Raymond Chandler about Phillip Marlowe. Originally, The Darkwater Saga wasn’t going to be a medieval epic at all, it was going to be a modern-day detective series. My agent and publisher convinced me to stay with epic fantasy, which is why you have this kind of genre-bending series of books. In short, yes, they were both intentional (if I hit the mark on the tone I was going for), but The Darkwater Saga had a fairly convoluted path getting there.


You totally captured the intended tone in both novels! One of the things I like about your books is that they have distinct tones, characters and plots. It shows that you have done extensive world building.

Even though characters are so important, because they are driving the plot, you still must have a system to develop the stage for the story. How do you work through building a plot with your robust characters?


Ha! This is going to sound a bit complicated. Most people envision writing styles as a continuum with “plotters” on the left and “pantsters” on the right with a line joining them. Most people find themselves somewhere in between, though there have been notable writers who were purely one or the other. Robert Ludlum, for example, was a ferocious plotter, so much so that he had to do very little editing to his first draft.

I tend to view the writing continuum not as a line, but as a triangle made up of three points: plot, improvisation (writing by the seat of your pants), and characterization. This describes how I write. I have a fairly well-defined idea of the over-arching plot issues of my story, if not the minutiae. Then I lay out a set of characters in exhaustive detail. I know stuff about them that never makes it into my book, but I keep it in my head. And I keep developing them until they seem as real to me as the people I know. At that point, I put them in the story and I introduce the inciting incident (which is actually one of many) and I sit back and I think. Okay, such-and-such has happened. Knowing so-and-so as well as I do, how is he going to respond.

And I continue to do this over and over again throughout the story until I have a book. It’s a combination of writing approaches that allows my characters to remain true to themselves as they accomplish the plot, but also allows for improvisational surprises in the story. I can’t count the number of times one of my characters has surprised me when I’ve tried to force them to react according to the plot, but they want to behave according to their nature. One of the first, and strangest, compliments I got from my editor at Bethany House was that I write characters like a woman. I like to think of myself as a manly sort of guy, so I kind of took exception to that. Then she told me that all of my characters, even the minor ones, leapt off the page, they seemed so real.


I agree with your publisher, I have often talked about how important characters are in reviewing a book. If the reader can’t identify with the characters, the plot is flat. All of my favorite authors have exceptional characters like Errol and Willet in your books.

You have published your books as CBA rather than ABA (Christian vs Mainstream). Why did you choose this particular venue for publishing?


I don’t really have a preference for where my books get published. There are pros and cons to both. For The Staff and the Sword, since the allegory is VERY overtly Christian once you get past the first level, it made sense to seek out a publisher of Christian fiction. Bethany House was wonderfully supportive for a guy like me who had never been published before. After the first series, they offered to publish the second one, pretty much on faith. I didn’t have a very well-defined idea of what The Darkwater Saga was going to look like. I think it certainly could have landed in either ABA or CBA and I would have been comfortable with either. In fact, as an attempt to reach a broader readership, I asked Bethany House to have it classified as “Fantasy” instead of “Christian Fantasy.” Alas, while Bethany House was willing, the distributors were not, and despite our request, it was labeled as “Christian Fiction” because it came from a Christian Fiction publisher. If you find The Darkwater Saga in B&N or Books-a-million, you’ll have to look back in the corner of the store where they hide books of faith.


How do you define writing a Christian novel?


The definitions vary. I know some people who have a very narrow definition, meaning you have to have a confession of sin and a conversion story, and I know other people whose definition is broad enough to include a moral (fairly clean) story written from a Christian worldview. I work better by example. I would say The Chronicles of Narnia is expressly Christian, but the Lord of the Rings is not at all, even though Tolkien was quite devout. The Staff and the Sword falls somewhere between Lewis and Tolkien, but I think is closer to Lewis. The Darkwater Saga also falls between, but is closer to Tolkien (with a bit of Conan Doyle thrown in for good measure).


Wow! That raises more questions in my mind to mull over. I hadn’t thought about defining Christian fiction by authors like Lewis and Tolkein. I had thought of more recent authors, but I like your way of thinking more. I enjoy fiction with a sense of moral, but not one that is beaten over my head. I think you have placed your books just right.

Fans of your books will want to know if you can reveal any developments in the next installment in The Darkwater Saga?


Absolutely. First, this may or may not be the last book with Willet Dura, time (and sales) will tell. However, this will wrap up the current story and we find out the exact nature of the Darkwater, answer the cliffhanger that is Ealdor, and we also learn quite a bit about Bolt’s past as an Errant. Of course there’s a ton of other stuff going on, which makes this last installment the beefiest in an already beefy series. The editing and rewriting has been intense!




I can hardly wait for the next book!

And, please tell us you have another series in mind! Will it be another fantasy (I like fantasy because it is so flexible as a genre)?


Actually, at this point I have at least three more series in mind, two of which are trilogies — and may or may not be associated with The Darkwater 😉 -– and an ongoing series that I hope to start on fairly soon. Yes, everything is fantasy, though I have a few ideas for some stand-alone books that are not, or, at least not epic fantasy. As always, the biggest constraint is time, but I’ve got another decades’ worth of books to write before I have to go looking for new material.


Just like you started writing because of your love of reading to your children, I believe many avid readers secretly hope to be authors (myself included). What advice would you give to them?


Don’t wait for the muse to show up. She’s wonderful and inspiring and capricious. Set a time to write each day and crank out as many words as you can. The muse will get tired of having you show up without her (she hates being left out) and she will finally consent to accompany you. Keep writing whether you feel inspired or not!


Thank you so much for spending so much time with me today and giving such thorough answers! I plan to read everything you write and am glad to hear that you plan to keep me busy for the next decade. I hope that muse continues to accompany you at 5 am 🙂



Thank you, Michelle. It’s been my Pleasure.



To keep in touch with everything Patrick W Carr is up to go to his official website




About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow cooked in a tagine. Weekly I get together with friends and go to yoga for a bit of mommy time. Some may find me quirky, I prefer to think I am one of a kind.
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