Author Interview with Ben Peek

Author interview with Ben Peek

Author Bio:
Ben Peek is the controversial and critically acclaimed Sydney based author of Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, Black Sheep, and Above/Below (with Stephanie Campisi). In 2014, two books of his will be released. The first of these will be a collection of short fiction, Dead Americans, published by ChiZine Publications in March. Later, in August, the Godless, the first novel in the series Children, will be released by TOR in the UK and Thomas Dunne in the US. 


Hi Ben, welcome over to The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.
BNP: No probs. Always happy to do so.

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Ben Peek is? What are your likes/dislikes and hobbies?
BNP: I’m a vaguely opinionated author who lives in Sydney with his partner who is a photographer. Her name is Nikilyn Nevins, if you’re curious to see some of her stuff.

Beyond that, I’m a pretty average person. My love is literature, both writing and reading, and my partner and I own a number of books we don’t consider enough, but many others consider a lot. I like music and film, and I can do a bit of TV, though I have this strange aversion to British SF shows, for some reason. They all feel cheap like Red Dwarf and the Goodies, which I loved as a kid, but which means I struggle to sit through them. Maybe other people have this problem, I don’t know. Maybe I need to start a support group for people who can’t enjoy British SF shows.

BP: You have been writing for many years already mainly short stories, do you still know the moment when you decided that you wanted to become a full time author?
BNP: Sure, it was at the end of High School, when I was faced with the various jobs you could do to make a living, and I didn’t like any of them.

Of course, I’ve still done a number a jobs, much to my regret. I even still do some to pay the rent.

BP: In your writing years you have written books across many different genres. Your latest book, The Godless, is pure fantasy with Gods! How did you come up with the idea of the Children series?
BNP: I had a rough career patch a while back. A part of it was my own fault, a part of it was the global financial crisis hitting its stride, and like a lot of authors, I got tossed around in it.

At the end of it, though, I had to ask myself what I wanted out of my writing, and I had to ask myself why it was that I got into it, so I sat around in my place and reread all the books of my youth. Well, not all of them, but a number of them. They were all fantasy novels. I had loved fantasy as a teenager. I had lived off it. I sorta drifted away from it as I got older and found a wider word of literature, but I’d still read some of the new stuff that came out. Anyhow, at the end of this period, I thought I would write a fantasy novel for myself, for the love I had had when I first encountered fiction, and maybe it would sell, and maybe it would not, but either way, it might be my last go at writing a novel. I’d see how I felt at the end of it.

Once I sat down to write it, the rest just sorta flowed out. Every odd daydream, every odd thought about fantasy I’d had, I tossed in. Some of it I took out during edits, others changed, but it all became the book and the series.

BP: The Godless is out August 19th later this year, if you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, how would it go?
BNP: The gods lie dying on the ground and the responsibility for your actions are yours alone, now.

BP: Having written numerous short stories, do you think it has given you experience that you were able to use when you were writing The Godless?
BNP: Every story, every year, is part of learning when it comes to fiction, so yeah, naturally. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning from the experience of writing (which of course, is a nice juicy opening for anyone who doesn’t like my stuff).

BP: Did you encounter specific problems when you were writing The Godless?
BNP: Only mental ones. The emotional state I began in meant I would write strongly for a few months on end, and then leave it for a few more.

BP: What was the hardest part when you were writing The Godless?
BNP: Just the self confidence to keep going.

I mean, look, writing in itself is at times easy and hard, and it will often depend on the intent of the author for that particular scene. But it has never come close to the difficulty that seeps into you when you don’t have a deadline, and when there is no one waiting for the book. It’s very easy to tell yourself that you don’t need to write today. That you don’t need to hit that self imposed deadline. That you should spend more time with your girlfriend (Nik has always been supportive, I should add, and the Godless would never have gotten finished without her). All these things, small and large eat into you, and it breaks a flow, breaks your confidence in what you are doing, and you begin to think maybe you ought to be doing something different, so you can afford to go here, or see this, or buy that, or so on and so forth.

BP: Besides the hardest part of the book, which chapter/scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
BNP: I enjoyed it all. I tend to rewrite a lot, so I work until I think it doesn’t need working on, and I take a view of the book as a whole being one single piece. Maybe I’m a bit weird compared to other authors – but you know, for each time I struggled a bit with Ayae, I was good with Zaifyr, and when I struggled with him, there was Ayae and Bueralan, and so on and so forth.

BP: If you would be given the chance to rewrite any particular scene of The Godless before it hits the shelves in August, would you do so? If yes, which part and why?
BNP: If I read any part of the book again, I’d want to rewrite it all. I have no idea how others can read their stuff without wanting to rearrange words, or put emphasis on some new take on the scene. Of course, maybe they can’t and that is why editors make it very clear to authors in the final steps of editing that rewriting costs money and they’ll stab your hand if you do it.

BP: The Godless is the first book in the Children series, have you already mapped out how many books will follow?
BNP: It’s a trilogy under contract, so far. How it sells will depend on if there is more – and there is more, but I want the three books to be complete, so the central storyline will wrap up there, as if it were season three of a TV show. Obviously, you should tell your friends about the book and share it and organise midnight readings in cinemas, so we can get renewed for some more.

BP: Do you have any other projects that you would like to pursue now that The Godless will be published?
BNP: My partner and I are working on a mosaic novel about Sydney. It’s already written – I wrote it as part PhD a few years back, and my partner is arranging it with her photos, and after she has finished with that, I’ll go back and tweak it around to fix her vision. But its a slow burn project – my emphasis is on the third book of Children, and she has her own projects she is working on as well – so we’re taking our time with it.

BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?

BNP: I like its diversity, in scope and in intention. It hasn’t been a surprise to me that the genre has pretty much seeped into mainstream in the last decade, really.

BP: If you would have to give you top 5 favourite books, which would they be?
BNP: Heh. Well, today, they kind of look like this:

Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter.
Lydia Millet’s Oh Pure and Radiant Heart.
Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series (I deeply love the novel, The Swords of Lankhmar).
Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.
Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.

On another day, another set of authors, really, but this will do for today.

BP: And just lastly, can you give us a sneak peak as to what will be in store for the readers of The Godless and possible continuation of the series?
BNP: Innocence.

Once you’ve read the book, you’ll understand what I mean.

BP: Thank you very much for your time Ben and good luck with your future writing projects!
BNP: Thanks, man. Appreciate it.

Ben Peek will also be making a LIVE appearance at LonCon3 this year! On Friday the 15th he will be signing your books from 12pm-1.30pm and at 3pm you can join him at a kaffeeklatsch in London suite 5.


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