A Conversation with Patrick W. Carr

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Patrick W. Carr. His novel, The Shattered Vigil (Bethany House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Speculative Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Patrick.

Below, Patrick shares inspiration behind his shortlisted novel including the challenges of writing this story, and whether he’s a PC or Mac kind of guy – plus more!


Victory over the dark forces during the feast of Bas-solas should have guaranteed safety for the continent. Instead, Willet and the rest of the Vigil discover they’ve been outsmarted by those seeking to unleash the evil that inhabits the Darkwater. Jorgen, the member of the Vigil assigned to Frayel, has gone missing, and new attacks have struck at the six kingdoms’ ability to defend themselves.

Just when the Vigil thought they had quenched the menace from their enemy in Collum, a new threat emerges: assassins hunting the Vigil, men and women who cannot be seen until it’s too late. The orders of the church and the rulers of the kingdoms, fearing the loss of the Vigil’s members altogether, have decided to take them into protective custody to safeguard their gift. On Pellin’s orders, the Vigil scatters, leaving Willet to be taken prisoner by the church in Bunard.

In the midst of this, Willet learns of the murder of an obscure nobleman’s daughter by one of the unseen assassins. Now he must escape his imprisonment and brave the wrath of the church to find the killer in order to turn back this latest threat to the northern continent. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What was the inspiration behind the characters in The Shattered VigilI’d always wanted to write a detective story from the time I was a boy. When my agent and publisher said they’d like a follow-up to “The Staff and the Sword” it seemed like an opportune time to indulge that desire. I’d never written one before so I needed a cast of characters to work with. For the lead character, Willet Dura, I decided to research the greatest detective characters of all time. I’d already read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories so I went to the library and checked out every book by Raymond Chandler I could find. His detective is one of the most famous, Phillip Marlowe. I also watched a lot of the old Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie) episodes on Netflix and read some more recent stories by James Lee Burke (gritty stuff, that). All in all, I think I spent about a year reading and watching everything about detective stories I could find. I felt that to make the story work, I would need to hold on to the trope of the hard-bitten but tender-hearted detective. However, since this was also an epic fantasy, I needed a twist.

This twist came in the form of the supporting characters as well as my protagonist. For some reason, whenever I would write about Willet going into the poor quarter, I would get these flashbacks to the book and the movie “Oliver Twist.” By the time I got to the end of “The Shock of Night,” the prequel to “The Shattered Vigil,” I knew I’d stumbled into creating a wonderful set of supporting characters. Every time I brought the urchins into a scene, they completely stole it, which was kind of funny since they’re all thieves. I’ve become especially fond of Fess and Mark who are modeled after my two youngest sons. That’s probably why their scenes tend to get the most comment from reviewers. I’ve toyed with the idea of giving the urchins their own series, but that’s a book for another day. To be honest, the research I’d need to do for that type of story is more than a little intimidating.

The characters of Bolt and Peret Volsk were actually the easiest to write, since they were based on universal types that you’ll find in any fantasy novel. What I tried to do with Bolt was to give him a more nuanced background so that he wouldn’t seem like a cardboard cutout. Having him spout aphorisms that he tended to make up on the spot was one of the better inspirations I had for the series. It made a pretty forbidding figure more approachable and it allowed me to show his admiration for Willet Dura’s courage without having him break character. I’m working on the third book now, The Wounded Shadow, and a fair portion of the book is given to Bolt confronting his past. For Peret Volsk, who also plays a fairly typical fantasy character, I wanted to make him complex. In the end, he may be one of the most realistic characters I’ve written in that readers don’t really know how to feel about him. He’s simply too complicated to pin down.

As for the rest of the Vigil, the challenge was to communicate the weight of time within their characters and still make them characters the reader could relate to. It’s a common wish, I think for people to desire more time here on earth to accomplish our goals, but do we really want the burden of living centuries? I think the answer varies according to the individual, so I tried to keep the inner monologue of the members of the Vigil in keeping.

What were some of the greatest challenges you found while writing this story? By far the biggest challenge was getting the story to feel right. I remember being about 40,000 words into the novel and realizing I just didn’t like what I’d written. The pacing and sequence of events just didn’t feel right. I ended up tearing everything up and starting over. After I made the decision to do that, I moped around the house for a week. I’d put so much time and effort into the manuscript and now I was going to start from scratch. I remember talking to my sister (she’s my alpha reader) and she told me that if I’d made the decision to start over then the only thing I could do was to sit down and start writing.

In the end, she was right, of course, but throwing away those 40,000 words felt like pulling porcupine quills. I wanted so badly to find a way to make them work so that I wouldn’t be surrendering all that time. However, the final product that became “The Shattered Vigil” was so much stronger than the original.

Any challenge after that disaster seems pretty small now in retrospect, but one I didn’t count on was the size of the story. The world I’d created was much larger and more complex than the one I used for “The Staff and the Sword.” As I wrote, I would frequently have to go back and read portions of “By Divine Right” and “The Shock of Night” to make sure that events, characters, and world-building were all coherent. With this last book, “The Wounded Shadow,” the challenge has only gotten bigger, but I have a great set of beta-readers to work with, so I’m hopeful everything will come together.

  1. What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m currently reading “Book of Spies.” It’s an anthology of excerpts from the best spy novels ever written. Everything I read is research for a future project, but I’m not talking about this one just yet. This summer I’ve decided to read “The Baroque Cycle” by Neil Stephenson, a brilliant writer and really the only writer I’ve ever read who can make writing in present tense look effortless.

    Photo: Netflix

  2. What are you currently watching? Mary and I are watching the Netflix series, “The Crown,” which is wonderfully enjoyable. We’re also waiting with baited breath for the next season of “Stranger Things” to come out this fall.
Faceoff Questions:
  1. PC or Mac? I have a PC desktop unit that I built myself, but I also have an ipad that I use for the iRealPro app. It’s a play along for aspiring jazz musicians. Aspiring describes me to a “T.” I think God wants me to try and learn jazz just to make sure I stay humble. Before this I used to think I was a reasonably bright fellow. 😉
  2. Print or Ebook? Print
  3. Comedy or Action? Both, separately or together, preferably together.


Patrick W. Carr is author of the acclaimed and award-winning The Staff and the Sword series, as well as The Darkwater Saga. After graduating from Georgia Tech, Carr worked at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and as an engineering consultant. Patrick’s day gig for the last five years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, Tennessee. Patrick is a member of ACFW and MTCW and makes his home in Nashville with his incredible wife and their four awesome sons. Visit him on his official website.

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Patrick. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight The Shattered Vigil.