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Welcome to the blog tour for Ross Patrick’s A Dark New Age. I have a syndicated interview with Ross to share with you today. Enjoy!

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  • Title: A Dark New Age
  • Author: Ross Patrick
  • Publisher: Self Publishing Partnership on December 13, 2021
  • Genre: Dystopian
  • Pages: 318
  • Format: Paperback & Digital

Thanks to Literally PR for inviting me on this tour and providing the materials to build this post.

About A Dark New Age

When the collapsing began, in a system where scarcity was a commodity, there was always a need for the unemployed, the homeless, and the hungry. When most people could no longer afford consumer goods, there were riots. The rulers called it an attack on democracy.

The riots were met with militarised, armoured police. With falling tax revenues companies took over financing the police, so the police increasingly functioned as capitalism’s own Praetorian Guard; sometimes supporting rival business leaders, sometimes bringing about their demise, and all the while living standards fell and the state started to crumble.

For Esme Sedgebrook, growing up in the provinces, there is no future other than an arranged marriage, motherhood, and domesticity, fleeing to join the uprising is as much about personal transformation as it is political.

Blurb Provided by Literally PR

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Interview With Ross Patrick

In short, what is A New Dark Age about?

Set in 2061, A New Dark Age 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 of the novel.

What is the overall message of the book?

A New Dark Age uses a time of political, social, and historic crisis as a context to explore the naked human condition, “red in tooth and claw”. The world of A New Dark Age has degraded and is approaching collapse, more than any political implications of this, I’m interested in how these conditions might affect people and the way they live. I’m particularly interested in the tension between the individual and the need to belong. Overall, the message of A New Dark Age is one of individual and collective empowerment and the rejection of heroes and saviours as disempowering, both in terms of personal and political.

What inspired you to write the book?

Long ago, I became interested in the history of civilisations, read about 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 backward. 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. As the state withers, other institutions would grow to fill the void functionally and culturally; likely the influence of religious organisations would grow as was the case, for instance, in Europe after the fall of Rome. I also think the position and limited progress that women have made in our still overwhelmingly patriarchal culture would be vulnerable to regression.

Is this your first book?

A New Dark Age is the first book that I’ve published – I hope the first of many both within a prospective New Dark Series that would further explore this world in collapse, and, beyond this series.

Have you always wanted to write?

My grandmother was a great storyteller and even as a small child, I enjoyed writing stories. I enjoyed the self-expression, the flights of imagination, and a story’s ability to be a vehicle for deep thoughts and feelings. There is a difference between writing and being a writer with serious ambitions – the latter only really began for me several years ago as a distraction and therapy following a period of acute mental ill-health, suicide attempt, and PTSD: my writing tends to explore issues of mental health, trauma, and recovery as something that has to happen as the rest of life motors on because that’s how it is.

What is your writing routine like?

I used to write in sessions in the morning, afternoon, and usually the evening. I would say that they would typically be a couple of hours but could be more or less depending on how ‘in the zone’ I was feeling. Sometimes, I could tell that I was stretching, and though sometimes that can be useful, sometimes I found it could be better to step away.

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.

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.

What was the most challenging part of the writing process? And what was the most enjoyable?

I really enjoy the writing process, especially the editing and revising and I chose to approach the whole process as fun. In recent times, I’ve increasingly subscribed to the philosophy of flow, Daoism, and Stoicism to maintain an inner peace. I try to avoid struggle. That doesn’t mean to say there aren’t aspects that are challenging in terms of achieving the desired effect, but I don’t load myself up with unhelpful pressures of time, or projections about what it should end up like or whether other people will like it. There’s a limit to what I can do about those aspects, so I just try to be true to myself, and experience pleasure in the creation and communication of my ideas, as far as I am able.

Who, or what, are some of your literary influences?

Of contemporary writers, I’m a big fan of Graham Swift, particularly his early work with its preponderance on character, storytelling, history, and memory. I also really like Charles Dickens and the exquisite detail and casts of curious minor characters that lent his work such richness – I’m thinking here specifically of novels like ‘David Copperfield’ and ‘Great Expectations’. Whilst a student at UEA I took a number of courses in modernism and so fell in love with the beautiful and deeply psychological work of people like Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, and James Joyce. I’m also a big fan of Harold Pinter, in plays like ‘The Birthday Party,’ his exploration of the relationship between the individual and society, I think profound. Finally, I’ve recently discovered the French writer, Nicholas Matthieu and I think his 2014 debut novel, ‘Of Fangs ad Talons’ is brilliant – I love his characterisation and ability to address contemporary life profoundly through unassuming characters hewn from a world of ordinary lives.

What are some of your non-literary influences?

I take many ideas from history; thematic, narrative and in terms of character – most of the best ideas for a story have happened somewhere, at some point in history – the uprising in A New Dark Age is inspired by The Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. I’ve recently been thinking through where to take ‘A New Dark Age’ beyond the first novel and have been finding inspiration in the study I’ve been doing into Chinese history of the Zhou, Qin, and early Han dynasties that I’ve been doing out of pure interest.

I also really enjoy the songs of REM, Bruce Springsteen, Nina Simone, and Phil Ochs amongst others, and snatches of lyrics often find a way into my writing from the lips of characters.

I have quite eclectic interests that can often be inspiring to some small feature of what I’m writing, for example, in A New Dark Age, there are characters who use standing stones as a method of communication and navigation following the collapse of the administrative state in provincial areas. This idea was taken from a lecture I saw given by someone called Mick Harper and its accompanying book, The Megalithic Empire.

What are some of the key themes explored in A New Dark Age?

A New Dark Age explores the nature of a dark near-future society in collapse and crisis from the perspective of ordinary people living through it and how it affects the way they live. Our modern world is very materialistic and very individualistic, and I see something actually quite positive about a society less materialistic and where the tyranny of the individual has to give way to a more relational, collective, and mutually reliant existence.

Nevertheless, modernity clothes our naked animal nature. I believe that all relationships contain power dynamics, these are evident in our society, but in a world denuded of its civilising apparel, these dynamics would be more exposed. Nowhere is this more the case than the position of women. In some ways, the lack of material resources for most could reduce out gender inequality as in the increased intimacy of a shrunken world, there would be much greater mutual reliance between genders – not that I’m suggesting something liberating, but the housebound housewife of the nuclear family was a phenomenon of the capitalist age of suburbanisation. Having acknowledged that, women’s agency in this world I suspect would be much diminished, their life chances much more determined by their gender than personal will, making it an interesting vehicle to explore the relationship between the individual and society more generally.

The inequities of power are also explored in A New Dark Age with reference to wealth, class, and status. As the ruling class increasingly has authority without power, power will increasingly be contested not only between those who wish to inherit the empire but between the ruling class and those subject to the ruling class. The waning power of those in authority would lead to what power they have being wielded with even greater crude brutality.

Are there any parallels with our current world?

A New Dark Age portrays a world transformed by climate change, though this is largely the context for characters negotiating a world transformed. Our age of austerity has exposed to me the precariousness of life in poverty and the normalisation of this suffering by those not affected. Poverty and falling life chances, particularly opportunities for young people, inevitably lead to social tension and attempts to wrest power from those that represent the old order – often these attempts are organic, chaotic, incoherent, and doomed to fail. We are, once again, in an era of protest and A New Dark Age reflects this angst and energy.

If you could bring three guests to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Three people without food or means as they would most appreciate coming along. Its nice to feel appreciated.

Do you plan to write any more books in the future?

Yes, there are further installments to the prospective New Dak Age series, and I’m working on a novel that is not from the world of A New Dark Age but focuses on personal relationships and the need to reconcile the passing of time. I would also like to write something non-fictional about consciousness, spirituality, and materialism.

And finally, what do you hope that readers will take away from A New Dark Age?

I hope that people will be pleasantly distracted by A New Dark Age, for although it contains weighty and often dark themes, I hope that through the characters, humanity is also portrayed in its variety, humour, and above all its transcendent and quietly loving nature.

About the Author – Ross Patrick

Ross Patrick Author Image - A Dark New World

Ross lives quietly in a house by a stream back in the English East Midlands with his cat, Graham. He admits to disliking numbers, though this could be a reaction to his dad’s work in accounting: Life isn’t to be measured but to be experienced, though he says he’s mostly experienced his vicariously. He finds distraction in long walks, studying the philosophy of consciousness and the hope that we are all one dream experiencing itself subjectively from infinite disassociated perspectives. Otherwise, Ross says he suffers persistent disappointments of following Nottingham Forest, and the joyous feel-good escapism of following Ben Fogle’s New Lives in the Wild. He enjoys both cooking and eating Italian food, an inheritance from his mother’s family. He is also vegetarian; Graham the cat is not. Ross believes in the collective whilst Graham is frustratingly individualistic – these differences continue to bring some small amount of tension to their otherwise companionable existence.

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