Chasing Graves by Ben Galley
What led you into writing?
I have my parents to thank for that. Both of them have always been voracious readers, and they passed that trait onto me, starting me off in life with C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Homer, Brothers Grimm, and a range of other fantastic authors. It didn’t take me long to transition from reading to writing, and I managed to write several books by my very early teens. Distracted by education and general life, I got back into writing in 2008, and hit it hard, inspired by the goal of becoming a professional author. In 2010, I launched my debut quadrilogy, the Emaneska Series.
How does a typical day look?
I always try to put writing first, so the morning is spent with a quick visit to the gym, then straight onto the laptop to meet my daily word count. On average, I aim for 2-4 thousand words minimum, and then the rest of the day is spent on anything else the author career demands. This might range from answering emails and marketing to special projects, and I also help fellow authors to publish and market their books.
In what ways do your characters test your abilities?
Once I get stuck into a book, I find the characters start leading me more than I’m leading them. I spend a lot of time crafting my characters before I start writing, building their personalities using the usual matrices, writing backstories, and making sure their aims and desires are well defined. Apparently, perhaps too defined. As soon as I give them a chapter or two, their personalities start to bloom, and drag the story in the direction they want. I find it adds depth and realism to my writing, so I let them loose, but the tough bit is making sure I shepherd them along the plot I’ve outlined, and identifying which of their urges to follow or shelve.
What’s your setup?
My writing cave is pretty simple for the time being, as I like to get out and about as much as possible, For the moment, a cosy little cove with a couple of screens and a comfy chair – very important!
What lasting effects have your favourite authors had on your writing and style?
To mention but a few, Lewis, Tolkien, and more modern writers like Philip Pullman and Philip Reeve taught me how audacious an author could be with a fantasy world, and how far you can push the boundaries of imagination. The talents of authors like Robin Hobb tutored me on the power of emotion, and taking time with character development. And Joe Abercrombie, Neil Gaiman and Mark Lawrence showed me how darkness can be balanced with humour.
What do you do for inspiration?
I try to absorb a lot of different media, especially being a huge music fan and cinephile. The former inspires me as I write, and the latter often sparks random fragments of ideas. Over time, making sure I note each down, I can combine them into fuller ideas for short stories, books and series.
To the uninitiated the web can be like a demon, long nails, rubber teeth… No wait. That’s a Buffy the Vampire Slayer demon. A real demon is an entity you do not know how to work with, it sucks the life out of you and before you know it your soul is gone and…Too far. The demon analogy sucks. You’re here because you want to know what the hell the web is all about.
What repeating themes do you find yourself pulling into your stories?
I find I usually include a betrayal, or a mystery/thriller aspect in my books. I’m also a massive fan of the animal or mythical creature sidekick, and the overly powered mage or monster standing against hordes of foes. One element that is important to me is representing the broad spectrum that is humanity, and while not having much of an agenda, I do try to infuse current sociopolitical themes, to help readers identify with my worlds, no matter how strange I make them. One example of that would be the ubiquitous corrupt or ineffective government.
How do you wind down?
I’m an avid reader and gamer, and also currently learning to ice skate, which I’m interminably bad at. I’m a better cook, so I try to find an excuse to pretend to be Gordon Ramsay whenever I can.
What sort of challenges do you regularly overcome while world-building?
World-building is one of the first tasks I tackle when starting a new book. In terms of challenges, they’re few due to the fact I find it unbelievably fun to build worlds and settings. Keeping ideas fresh is always an obstacle, of course, as well as the amount of research required when taking inspiration from certain mythologies.
What’s the most useful advice you could give to an aspiring author?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you want to be a professional author, be professional. Aim for the highest quality when it comes to your writing. That means being dedicated, practising your craft and working with editors, organising fantastic covers through designers, and conducting yourself like a pro online. It’s what separates the successful from the middling.
Tell us about the book you’re promoting.
I’m thrilled to say I’ve just wrapped up a new series. It’s called the Chasing Graves Trilogy, and is set in an Egyptian mythology-inspired world where ghosts are bound as slaves for the rich and powerful. It’s a dark yet sharply witty tale, packed with action, magic and monsters that come in all shapes and sizes.