Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am very pleased to be bringing you all an interview with fantasy author Ben Galley, author of the upcoming book The Heart of Stone (releasing March 30th 2017).
Welcome Ben and a massive thank you for agreeing to appear on my blog and taking the time to do this interview.
1 – Would you please tell us about The Heart of Stone?
BG: It’d be rude not to! The Heart of Stone is a brand new fantasy set in a 16th century-style world called The Realm. The story begins with the arrival of Task – a Wind-Cut Golem – on the grey beaches of Hartlund. The country has torn itself apart after almost a decade of civil war, and Task has been bought by the losing side, the Truehards, in an effort to turn the tide. As a war-machine, he is almost indestructible, immortal, and bound completely to his masters’ will. After centuries of fighting, Task’s grown tired of warfare, withdrawing into himself. He cared once, but now all he sees in humans is loathsome bitterness and violence. He has given up on change, on things like compassion and caring, but then he meets a waif of a stable-girl in the Truehard camp, who is intent on proving him wrong.
2 – If you had to sum up The Heart of Stone in one sentence, what would it be?
BG: A grim and bloody tale about war and the facets of humanity, with a big cast of characters, a pinch of magic, and plenty of skull-crushing.
3 – Is The Heart of Stone a standalone or part of a series?
BG: The Heart of Stone is actually my first standalone. I’ve been writing series for the last six years, and thought it was time to hark back to some of the books I devoured as a small child. Those stories, like The Hobbit for example, were self-contained – they started at the front cover and finished at the back. There’s something rewarding in the ability to do that, like watching a film instead of bingeing a Netflix series and waiting a year for the next instalment. It was also a challenge to myself, to see if I could condense an idea into one book, instead of three or four. When I started scoping Task’s story, I realised it deserved not to be drawn out, and so I was adamant it would be one book. A big book, mind you – 150,000 words, but one book nonetheless.
4 – What was your favourite part of writing The Heart of Stone?
BG: That had to be writing Task himself. After writing solely about humans (and a few dragons here and there), it was quite liberating to write about a creature that has few limitations. I could let my imagination go wild, and it made for a great excuse to write some suitably bloody encounters and battle-scenes. And, at the same time, it juxtaposed some of the fragility of Task’s mind.
The other reason I enjoyed writing his character so much was the ability to view humanity from the outside, which Task does with frequent disapproval. The Heart of Stone is about what it means to be human, so a cynical, non-human was the perfect point of view for this story.
5 – I’ve got to say, that’s one badass cover, did you design it yourself?
BG: I bloody wish, but my talents lie elsewhere. That badboy is the work of artist Shawn King, who outdid himself on the job of bringing Task to life. Shawn was great to work with. All I gave him was a rough set of concepts, a few images for inspiration, and a synopsis, and he did his magic with them. He’s done a fantastic job of capturing Task’s strength, as well as some of the urgency and danger of the setting. I’m looking forward to working with him on future projects!
OK, we’ve learned about your book. Now, I’d like to change tact for a different section of the interview. I think it would be fun to find out what type of character you would be, if you were writing yourself as a character in a book.
1 – What would your character name be?
BG: This is a fun idea. I’m going to with Beyran Gully. “Bey” to his drinking buddies.
2 – What would your background be? Noble born? Royal Bastard? Farmer? Slave? Poor? Orphan? Mad God?
BG: I’m a bastard alright, but not a royal one. Not an orphan but wished I was. Abandoned on the docks at nine, I’ve been working ships for the better part of twenty years. The only respect I have left is for the sea and the goddess that rules her.
3 – What type of character would you be? Good guy? Bad guy? Anti-hero?
BG: Morally flawed, solitary, bitter consistently drunk, and fiercely protective of my dilapidated houseboat and the one-eyed black cat that I share it with. (Boatcat?)
4 – What would your profession be? Warrior? Mage? Annalist? Assassin? Evil Overlord? Government official? Spy? Concubine?
BG: A dour and deceptively useless dock-worker by day, and cunning shipwrecker by night, preying on the fat carracks that dare to negotiate my stretch of the coast.
5 – What would be your weapon of choice? Is the pen mightier than the sword or do you choose something to illicit visceral limb severing carnage?
BG: A crossbow I’ve tinkered with for years, and should that fail or I miss (which I hardly ever do), I’ve got an old farmer’s sickle hanging from my belt.
Last part of the interview. We’ve talked about your upcoming book, your character and now I think it would be interesting to find out more about you, a sort of uncovering the veil and seeing the person behind the book.
1 – When did you decide to become a writer?
BG: I think it was the moment I read The Hobbit. Clichéd, I know, but Tolkien weaved his magic on me early on in life, and as soon as I realised that a simple book could house an entire world, I wanted to build my own. I started writing around eight and had written three books (which shall forever remain unpublished) by the time I was 13. Once I was done with school and uni, and after dabbling unsuccessfully in the music industry, I chose to go back to that original dream of writing. That was in 2009, and I self-published my official debut, The Written, in 2010. I haven’t looked back since.
2 – Why do you write/What inspired you to become a writer?
BG: Stories, or even just the inklings of them, have a habit of hooking me and refusing to let go. I adore designing worlds and the characters that live in them, and once I have an idea for either the former or the latter, I’m driven to explore it. Task was the hook for The Heart of Stone. Once he’d popped into my head he refused to leave. From there the first threads of a plot formed around him, and with that comes the excitement stage. That’s when it becomes truly lodged in my mind, and that’s it: I have to write it. It might not be right away, as that depends on the level of excitement and what I’m currently working on, but in any case, I get my notes ready for when I can.
It’s also about the readers as well. Few things in this world give me the same pleasure as hearing that somebody enjoyed my book. It’s a true honour to entertain somebody, to make them think and wonder, or simply to evoke a feeling. That’s why I’m so passionate about my stories, and about constantly improving my craft.
3 – What do you find to be the most rewarding part of writing?
BG: Aside from finishing the damn book, it’s the world-building. I get a huge kick out of designing the breadth as well as the minutiae of a world, which I think comes from having an addiction to Lego and Sim City when I was younger, as well as reading about vast worlds such as Narnia, The Land, and Middle Earth. That’s why I enjoy writing from POVs that are unfamiliar with the world, so I can drag the reader along with the character and they can explore it together.
4 – The Heart of Stone and your previous books are all fantasy, what is it about the genre that makes you want to be a fantasy author?
BG: It has to be the sheer lack of limits. Fantasy is true to its name, and just when you think magic or dragons or swords and dark lords have been done to death, something new comes along that shakes the genre up. Be it a new subgenre, or a particularly bold work, we keep pushing and pushing to see where fantasy can go. I don’t like being constricted by the real world, or well-defined tropes of certain genres. It’s why I can see myself also stepping into sci-fi one day, to see if I can do the same things with technology that I’ve done with magic.
4 – Have any authors influenced your work?
BG: Far more than I can count! Originally, it was JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Brothers Grimm, and Snorri Sturluson. In recent years, it’s been authors such as Neil Gaiman, Joe Abercrombie, Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson.
5 – What are your top five favourite books?
BG: This is a tough one, Drew! Currently it’s:
- American Gods
- The Book Thief
- Lord of the Rings
- Way of Kings
- The Blade Itself
And finally, the last question, you can breathe a sigh of relief as I’m sure you’re regretting agreeing to this arduous journey by now! 🙂 It can be either a fun or a serious answer.
6 – If you could change one thing about the state of the world, what would it be and why?
BG: I’m going to go with one fun and one serious answer. For the latter, I’d change the imbalance of equality, in all possible areas. It’s something I stand for and would change in a heartbeat if I could. For the former, I’d change every bookshop shelf that wasn’t categorised as fantasy to “NOT FANTASY”. Those are the only two genres that matter.
Well, that concludes the interview, many thanks for taking the time to visit my blog Ben, it’s been a pleasure having you on The Tattooed Book Geek and I wish you all the best with The Heart of Stone. Do you have any last words for readers of this interview?
BG: I’d like to say it was a pleasure to be on the Tattooed Book Geek, and if you’d like to get your hands on a copy of The Heart of Stone, it’s available to pre-order in paperback and eBook. All the links are at my site: www.bengalley.com/heart-of-stone. Thanks for reading!
About Ben Galley:
Ben’s love of fantasy comes from a childhood spent devouring the works of authors such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. That, combined with an interest in mythology, spawned a passion for creative writing that occupied most of his pre and early teenage years. By age 13, he’d written three books about anthropomorphised monkeys, which shall go forever unpublished, but were a good foundation of practice.
After pursuing a career in the RAF (and bailing out after realising he was not cut out for military life), music distracted Ben until age 20, when he decided to turn back to that early dream of being a professional author, and being paid to make up stories. After 18 months of writing, working jobs in bars, restaurants and a pasty kiosk, he had a debut book – The Written – and was ready to publish. Choosing to self-publish from the moment he googled “publishing a book”, Ben realised he could apply his knowledge of the music industry and being an independent artist into working as an independent author.
In 2010, The Written was published in paperback, and shortly after, in eBook. Almost 8 years on, and Ben has 11 books published, including a crowd-funded graphic novel, and 7 fantasy novels to his name. He’s about to launch his eighth –The Heart of Stone. In 2016, his 5th novel – weird western Bloodrush – was the bloggers’ favourite of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, and also won the Library Journal’s Indie eBook of the Year award for Fantasy.
When he isn’t being a being an author or a mischief to the local populace, Ben is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer on the subject of self-publishing. He’s incredibly zealous about helping other authors and writers, and currently offers 1:1 sessions to indie authors at his site Shelf Help.
Aside from writing and lecturing, Ben dabbles in music, photography, gaming, cinophiling, and he apparently owns an acre of the moon. Ben can be found being loquacious and attempting to be witty on Twitter and YouTube @BenGalley, or on Facebook and Instagram @BenGalleyAuthor
The Heart of Stone:
Merciless. Murderer. Monster. He has been called many names in his time.
Built for war and nothing else, he has witnessed every shade of violence humans know, and he has wrought his own masterpieces with their colours. He cared once, perhaps, but far too long ago. He is bound to his task, dead to the chaos he wreaks for his masters.
Now, he has a new master to serve and a new war to endure. In the far reaches of the Realm, Hartlund tears itself in two over coin and crown. This time he will fight for a boy king and a general bent on victory.
Beneath it all he longs for change. For something to surprise him. For an end to this cycle of warfare.
Every fighter has a last fight. Even one made of stone.
Pre-Order The Heart of Stone (released 30th March 2017):
Please remember to check back tomorrow and the day after on The Tattooed Book Geek for two exciting extracts from The Heart of Stone!!!
Follow The Tattooed Book Geek on: