Pat Nelson Childs: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Pat Nelson Childs isn't a stranger to Oasis members.

He found the site when looking for avenues to promote his book, Orphan's Quest, but realized there was more he could do here in addition to book promotion. He's taken the helm of the Gay Like Me anthology project, and is an active member of the community here.

It did present a slight problem, though, as Pat happens to write in the small sliver of stuff that I just can't get into as a reader. I don't really do fantasy, sci-fi, comics, or anything like that. (I do have a small window available for sci-fi if it is about some dystopic future, but otherwise I can't read that sort of stuff.)

So, the workaround: we're going to get someone else to do the review at some point (there's already an excerpt available here). Pat and I had a chat about his planned trilogy of Orphan's Quest books, his coming out, his background, his being HIV-positive, and the ability to have sex with guys as a teenager without questioning your sexuality.

I guess we have to take a different tack, since you're not unknown on the site. So, did you first find the site because you were looking to promote the book, or were you aware of it before that?

I pretty much found Oasis looking for venues on which to promote the book. It grabbed my interest immediately, though, and I soon decided that there was a lot for me to do with the site than just promote my book. I've always wanted to work with gay and lesbian youth anyway, and it seemed like a good opportunity to just do something good at the same time as I could focus some attention on my book. So, it kind of killed two birds with one stone.

I see what's posted, but I don't know what your private messages and everything else has been like. You've been getting a good response from the kids on the site who have read the book?

Oh yes, a fantastic response from everyone that's read the book so far. I've been giving out the download to everyone, for the kids who don't have access to GLBT books of any kind. I figure it would be a way for them to read it, and I could get their feedback. And it doesn't cost me anything to give away a download, so I thought that would be good, and all kinds of kids took me up on it and, so far, all of the responses have been very positive.

So, let's delve into the history. Orphan's Quest, although it was written recently, it was something that you thought of a long time ago. Is that correct?

Yeah, I wrote an outline when I was 20, so 21 years ago now, when I was living in Cape Cod and Provincetown. I was taking notes on everything and that was just something that popped into my head and I wrote a fairly extensive outline and I even got so far with it as to get a really bad short story done. Even I recognized how bad it was at the time, so I shelved the whole thing, thinking I would return to it one day and, as it happened, it took me 21 years to return to it. And a lot of it changed.

It wasn't so much that the outline was done 21 years ago and I just took it off the shelf and sat down to write it. I rewrote the whole thing, basically the only thing left from the original outline are the two lead characters. I pretty much started from scratch, but those lead characters have been living in the back of my head for the past 20 years, and I just had to use them, because they kind of became my friends over the years. And now I'm able to give them life, so it's cool.

Well, I don't think you could return to anything after 20 years and say, OK, I'm back, where did I leave off?

Right, well I had no writing skills at the time, and I can certainly see that now. It was just a matter of having the life experience to be able to tackle prose, which I think is one of the things most young writers have. They just don't have the necessary experience to tackle long prose pieces like a novel. And I certainly didn't at the time. The ideas were there, I didn't have what it took to flesh them out and when I started Orphan's Quest in the December before last, it just all came. It was just, 'I'm ready to do this now, and this is the appropriate time.' It just went from there. I wrote the whole thing in about seven months. And I've done the same with book two. I'm almost finished with that. That took about six months.

Even though this trilogy is fantasy, do you think everything you write will be in that genre?

Sci-fi and fantasy are what I read primarily, but I enjoy all types of genre fiction. I like mysteries, so there's a bit of a mystery in book two, so I kind of throw that in. Of course, there's romance. There's a big romance that goes through the whole trilogy. So, it's not strictly sci-fi and fantasy, there's parts of other genres in it as well. But sci-fi/fantasy is pretty much my big love. I think most of my stuff is going to be along those lines. I don't like to limit myself, but I think that's where you'll see my work going.

And I know we've had this discussion on IM, which we won't rehash, but is Orphan's Quest one story told out over three books, or are they standalone books? The Matrix vs. Lord of the Rings argument.

It's a real trilogy in that there is one overall story arc that connects all three books, but each book has a story in and of itself. So while it's certainly much better to start with book one and read all the way through, it's possible to read them out of sequence and still get a complete story. I believe that's what makes a true trilogy and that's the harder thing to accomplish. Unlike... I know everyone says Tolkien isn't a real trilogy, and I agree. It's not.

I think he said that, too.

Right. It's one long story broken up into three parts. Mine isn't like that. Mine is three complete and separate books with one overall, unifying story arc.

For people who haven't read Orphan's Quest yet, how would you describe it?

The lead character, Rokey, grow up in a monastery. For reasons I won't give away, he's banished from the monastery and has to go and live out on his own. He meets up with a king-of raggedy bunch of misfits that are also out on the road, and at about that same time, someone starts trying to kill him.

The rest of the book is he and his new friends traveling throughout the land of Firma, trying to figure out who he is exactly, because he doesn't know where he came from, and who it is that's trying to kill him. That's pretty much the gist of the book. There's a lot of traveling, some falling in love, and some action, but that's basically the story.

And for the people who have read the first book, I assume Rokey is in all three books?

Rokey and his elf friend Flaskamper are the heroes of all three books. There are several other characters in all three books, as well.

And what does the second have in store for readers of the first?

Let's see. What can I say about the second book that won't give anything away about the first? Hmm...

Well, don't start any sentence with 'After the death of...'

No, I won't do that! I will just say that the second book takes place three years after the first book leaves off. Rokey is taken prisoner by his enemies, and a good portion of the book is the team that goes to rescue him. But that's all I can really say about the second book until people have read the first one.