Author interview with Ben Galley

Author interview with Ben Galley

Author bio:
Ben Galley is a best-selling purveyor of tall tales and dark fantasy from the UK. He is the author behind the gritty and epic Emaneska Series, as well as the upcoming western fantasy series, the Scarlet Star Trilogy.

Aside from writing and dreaming up lies to tell his readers, Ben works as a self-publishing consultant and Guardian Masterclass tutor, helping fellow authors from all over the world to publish and sell books. His guide Shelf Help will tell you all you need to know about DIY self-publishing.

Ben can be found being loquacious and attempting to be witty on Twitter (@BenGalley), Facebook (/BenGalleyAuthor) or at his website


Hi Ben, Welcome over at The Book Plank and thank you for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.

BP: First off could you give a short introduction as to who Ben Galley is? What are your likes and dislikes and what do you like to do besides writing?
BG: Thanks for having me, Jasper. In short, I’m a young fantasy author from the south coast of the UK. I’m an avid fantasy reader, gym-fiend, rat-keeper, all-round geek, and have recently become obsessed with drones. A like a spot of cooking, scotch whisky, and I’m a self-professed film nerd. My dislikes include most vegetables, tequila, and tiny dogs with an passion for incessant yapping.

BP: You have been writing for over a few years now, what made you decide that you wanted to start writing?
BG: I’ve been writing ever since I first learned to scribble my ABCs. After devouring classics such as the Hobbit and LotR at the age of 7 or 8, I decided I would try writing, instead of just reading. I wrote my first book at age 11, and was instantly hooked. What drove me to write was the opportunity, the blank canvas every book starts as. It was the excitement at the prospect of building my own worlds, forging my own characters, and spinning new yarns. I’ve always had an unstoppable imagination, and writing was the perfect way to pour it all out. I haven’t looked back since, and that passion has only increased over the years.

BP: Your debut series Emaneska received many positive reviews, did this put any extra pressure on your shoulders when you were writing the first book, Bloodrush, in your latest series, the Scarlet Start Trilogy?
BG:   It absolutely did. I am proud of my debut series, and I always feel humbled and privileged when I look through its reviews. And it wasn’t just Emaneska’s success that set the bar high, but also the fact I was trying something new in western fantasy, and wasn’t sure how it would go down. But I like pressure, as I believe it drives you to exceed your own boundaries and improve yourself. From what I’m hearing since Bloodrush’s release in December, I’ve done that, and that brings a big smile to my face. Now I’ve just got to write the rest of the trilogy…!

BP: What gave you the idea behind the story of Bloodrush?
BG: I’ve always been fascinated by the themes of the Wild West. The trailblazing, the grit and sweat it took to reach the Pacific. So I’ve always wanted to dabble in that genre at some point in my writing career. But the specific impetus behind the story was the magic system of Bloodrushing.

A few years ago, I started to dabble with ideas for new magic systems. I wanted to create something that wasn’t dependent on spellbooks or script or invoking the powers of the gods. Instead, I started to toy with the concept of blood-drinking, which opened up a whole massive vein (pardon the pun) of mythology and folklore. The Scythians for example, were known to drink the blood of their enemies, and the idea that blood can carry and transfer power is prevalent in multiple mythologies. This is what my magic system is inspired by, and in turn that is what inspired Bloodrush and the series overall.

BP: Starting up a new series can be just a challenging as a debut, how did you go about and plan to start writing Bloodrush?
BG: Firstly, I had to build the word. Bloodrush is set in an alternate 1867, where the world is very similar to the history we know, with one or two large differences in amongst a few subtle changes. For instance, the western coast of America has not been discovered yet, and the new world has been dubbed the Endless Land. Apart from that, it was a thin line to tread between reality and fantasy, and so there was a huge amount of research into the transcontinental railroad, Wyoming history, native American culture, and of course, life in the wild west and the British Empire. I’ve never done so much research for a book before, and that process was quite a long one.

Then it was a case of pouring out my mind onto paper, and teasing out all the little bits of the story. I’m a keen planner, rather than a pantser, and for any book that I write I spend a lot of time planning out each chapter and scene, and writing backstories and histories. And, as I knew this would be a series from the start, which I didn’t with Emaneska, a lot of deep thought went into the overall plotline. In short, it was a process that took about two months, but it helped me dive straight and for the words to flow easier.

BP: Bloodrush was released last December, if you would have to sell your book with a single sentence how would it go?
BG: Guns and magic, what’s not to like?!

BP: Did you encounter any specific problems when you were writing Bloodrush?
BG: The main problem was treading that fine line between history and the strange world I wanted to create. As an Englishman writing about, and messing around with, the finer points of formative US history, it was very difficult making sure I wasn’t treading on any toes. The main problem of course was the depiction and alteration of the peoples and figures prevalent in the late 1800s, such as Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Disraeli, who both feature in the storyline. I had to stay respectful as I tweaked them. It was difficult, but fun, and I hope I’ve done the history (what remains of it in Bloodrush) justice!

BP: besides the hardest part, which scene, chapter or character did you enjoy writing about the most?
BG: It had to be the scene with the railwraith, where Merion and Lurker finally see one up close. Too close, if you ask me.

In Bloodrush, humans are trying to conquer the unknown of America by building a railroad through the deserts. However, the deserts have other ideas, and railwraiths are one of the creatures that plague the railroad. They are ghosts that usually inhabit tumbleweeds, rolling about the wilderness and preying on wanderers. However, when they come into contact with a railroad, they rip it to pieces, building their bodies out of the rail and the dust. This scene was where I finally got to reveal one in all its glory, and have a showdown between it, Lurker, Merion, and some unfortunate sheriffsmen.

BP: If you would be able to retract Bloodrush from the shelves and make one final adjustment, would you do so? And if yes which part and why?
BG: I have to be honest and say no. Thanks to all my planning, I know that what I wrote won’t need to change as the series progresses, and I am proud of what I’ve written. I believe that if you decide to publish a book, it should be the very best it can be before reaching the reader. I spent a lot of time polishing Bloodrush, and I’m very happy with how it’s turned out. If I retracted it, it would mean it wasn’t quite right.

BP: Normally you have an agent and editor and publicist in between when you publish a book. You choose to self-publish all your books. What is your view on self-publishing compared to traditional publishing? What are the limitations, pitfall and advantages?
BG: That’s a very good question. I’m a zealous advocate of self-publishing. That’s why I also work as a self-publishing consultant and speaker as well as an author. The primary reason behind this is that self-publishing is an enabler, and has provided authors with a new option for reaching readers. Myself included. Without self-publishing, I might still be working a dead-end job and daydreaming about a career as an author, instead of actually having one.

Both self-publishing and traditional publishing have their pros and cons, but what matters is options, and getting the books that deserve to be read in front of the reader. Nowadays, authors can take the control into their own hands as well as walk the traditional path, or they can even seek a hybrid of both. The options are there, and books no longer have to languish, unpublished and unread, on hard-drives, or hidden in a desk drawers.

For me, I like the control and the self-reliance self-publishing provides, and that was why it was a first choice rather than a last resort. It can be quite a steep learning curve, a higher workload, and you do forego any sort of advance. However, self-publishing provides higher royalties, greater agility, and complete creative control.

This doesn’t mean I stand against traditional publishing by any means. I’m a big admirer of what traditional publishers can do, especially in the print domain. We’re lucky in having some great fantasy publishers and imprints, and long may they stick around.

BP: if you a new writer trying to break through, what are the best steps to undertake when you want to be heard by a broader audience? I.e. do you have some tips and tricks for self-publishing?
BG: Professionalism is the key when it comes to self-publishing, and sadly there are plenty of indie authors out there who don’t work hard enough on the writing, the cover design, or the editing. That can be a death sentence for a book, no matter how brilliant it is. Professionalism is the over-arching factor when trying to make sales and market your books. People shout about great books. Poor books just sink to the bottom of the pile.

I’m an advocate of the DIY approach, which means outsourcing and working with pros like cover designers, editors and formatters to make sure your book is top-notch. It’s slightly more expensive, but paramount.

Another recommendation would be to join an indie author community, like the Alliance of Independent Authors. ALLi promotes professional self-publishing, and in the social media groups authors regularly swap advice and developments with each other.

BP: If a publisher would be interested in your books to take over and publish them, would you be willing to do this?
BG: I’m always open to new opportunities for myself and my books, so I would absolutely welcome and consider any offer. Like I said, I’m a big admirer of what the fantasy publishers and imprints do for us fantasy readers, and so it would be an honour to work with them in some way in the future.

BP: Do you have any other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future besides finishing the Scarlet Stars Trilogy?
BG: I have a very daunting “to be written” list that’s quickly creeping up the 20’s mark, so the quick answer is yes indeed! I’m tinkering with the idea of a further western fantasy series set in the same world, as well as a sequel series to Emaneska, called the Scalussen Chronicles. I’m also producing more audiobooks, as well as some interesting children’s stories.

BP: If you would have to name your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
BG: That’s a swine of a question! I’d have to go with, in no particular order:
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (cheating a little on that one)

BP: And lastly, can you tell us a bit of what might be in store for readers of the Scarlet Stars Trilogy and possible continuation in the sequel?
BG: The next book, Bloodmoon, will raise the stakes as Merion starts to delve into what he can do, the secrets surrounding his father, and why the Empire is so eager to get its claws into the Hark estate. We’ll also see more of the Fae Kingdom, learn more about the magic system as a whole, and focus more on Lurker and Lilain as the story moves eastwards, into the wild heart of America.

BP: Thanks again for your time Ben and good luck with your future writing projects!
BG: Thanks Jasper!


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