Today I talk with Ben Black, an up and coming author who writes in a similar genre to myself.
GJ: What brought you into the world of writing post-apocalyptic fiction?
BB: I started writing when I was 8 or 9, you can imagine the quality of this, I imagine, but the post-apocalyptic writing started when I was 15. One of my classes was pretty boring, so I started writing this piece of fiction just to pass the time, show a little of that control I mentioned in question 2 (a 15 year old doesn’t have much control of anything in his life). My friends liked reading it, it was something to do during the lesson (other than learning the curriculum, but it didn’t matter anyway as it turned out the teacher was going through the wrong curriculum with us anyway…) and it all just started to evolve from there.
GJ: What do you find is the hardest part of being an independently published author?
BB: It’s probably a toss up between the exposure, getting your work out there, or clamouring to get the reviews to start cranking up. It can be disheartening when you see sales figures on Amazon, and it shows that you’ve sold x-amount of books, but you’re still sitting with a fraction of your sales or reads resulting in reviews.
GJ: Other than writing, what is your favourite aspect of being an author?
BB: I think it’s a thing of being in control. I’ve got a regular 9-5 job (actually, it’s 8 – 4.30 but you know what I mean), and within that role, there’s certain limitations you have to fit within, there’s not much give. I come home, fire up the laptop, and I’m in my own world that I control. Someone’s pissed me off? That’s fine, someone may end up being based loosely on that person and meet a grim demise. It’s the catharsis that comes with it, a release.
GJ: Can you describe the type of books you write?
BB: I like to think that there’s some horror in there, some fantasy, and in some cases a little bit of sci-fi. I’ve got one solid tome out there already that’s big enough to bludgeon a whale with the paperback form, and that’s horror/fantasy – a zombie story, set in the not-too distant future, and based in the UK. That’s the only one I have published so far, but I’m working on getting that changed.
GJ: Do you write in any other genres or plan to in the future?
BB: I’ve got a few ideas set up on the back boiler; sci-fi dystopia, post-apocalyptic with different flavours: A nuclear winter, more zombies, and a take on the book of Revelation. I’ve also been working with one of my friends for years on a gritty noir tale, but it’s difficult trying to nail that style. I like to stay within the genres I feel more comfortable with. I guess in a similar way, I’m in a metal/punk/rock band and I’ve written a lot of the lyrics to our songs, too – So I can hold my own at poetry, too.
GJ: Can you describe a typical day where you get chance to write?
BB: Typically, what I like to do is get in from work, do an hour of weights, then after I’ve eaten, spend a couple of hours trying to work through some words. I used to write well into the early hours of the morning, but through editing it became apparent that these late-night spates were a lot less clean and refined than early hours. Now, it’s not very often I’ll be up typing after 10:30 or 11:00pm – There is the odd exception where I may power on until after midnight, but it’s not very often that happens now.
GJ: If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice without breaking the time-space continuum, how old would you be and what would you say?
BB: It’s difficult to say. We don’t normally address time travel in this house, because the very essence of Terminator and the many paradoxes it produces is just way too much for me to even try and explain to my other half without it devolving into frustration. Trying to think what advice I would give to myself without changing anything is too mind-boggling. Maybe “Don’t back the first version of the Evil Dead 2 board game on Kickstarter”?
GJ: What’s your favourite ever book you’ve read and why?
BB: One of the books that I like the most, that I’ve read more than others (if you don’t count graphic novels) is ‘I Am Legend’ by Richard Matheson. I found the book after watching the film Omega Man years ago, and after getting hold of it I really enjoyed it, the different take that it ended up presenting, and truth be told, it’s the only book that I’ve read that got some tears (that damn dog…). I think I’m on the third paperback copy of it. I’ve also got the graphic novel adaptation of it, and it doesn’t compare one bit to the Will Smith film.
GJ: What’s on your bucket list of things you want to do before the end of the world?
BB: Pressing the button that ends the world? I think I’d like to finish my main zombie story (I think I’ve got them planned out over something like about 6 or 7 books, so I’ve got a lot of thumbs to pull out my ass to get on this, as that’s a lot of words to lay down). I quite fancy going mental with some automatic weapons, too: it’s not a thing we can do too much of here in the UK, but I understand Vegas has a place where you can fire a mini-gun, so that’s a good place to start.
GJ: How would you describe your style of writing and what makes your zombie books stand above the crowd?
BB: I’d say it’s visceral, gruesome and descriptive with some strong character building; I like to be really gritty when I can, ideally be able to make people uncomfortable, and like to think that no topic is taboo (One of the songs I’ve written is about bondage and necrophilia). I think it stands out mainly because of its sizeable length, but also because of the evolution of the zombies – It’s hinted at in the original, and will be played out further as the story progresses, with more reveals planned.
“Imagine waking up with the hangover of all time as someone pounds on your door telling you to get out quick. You have to evacuate to where? From what? That’s the premise of this story as it unfolds in sleepy Cornwall. Their terrifying flight to safety is not guaranteed. Behold the undead risen.”
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review of IN THE END
GJ: So what can readers expect from you in 2020/21?
BB: I’m hoping to have my next book, Arachnocide, out in the next couple of months – A sci-fi novel (no zombies!) loosely described as ‘mutant spiders, evisceration, lasers and zero gravity’. Beyond that, I’d like to think that the follow-up to Pestilence Reigns could be out next year, continuing the story arch from a different point of view, but it could be too early to say with that – I’ve not finished writing the first draft for this one.
GJ: One for the authors in the group, what do you find is the best way you have found of getting your books in front of readers?
BB: Honestly, this is probably what I struggle the most on. I’ve paid for advertising campaigns, but the cost of them isn’t really covered in the costs incurred. People tend not to be able to use social media correctly, nor understand that in sharing something they’re not necessarily saying “this is all me”, but they’re putting it out there for someone they know that may be interested, and so on.
If it’s not a cat playing a piano, a list of names of people who deserve a holiday this year or meme it tends to die a death before it can get out there. Word of mouth seems to have been the only thing that’s worked to some degree, but there’s a lot of tight-lipped people out there…
GJ: How are you coping with the lockdown and are you finding it helps or hinders you to write?
BB: At first I thought it would be a great help, but as it turned out that I was going to be in the house, and my wife was going to work, it was agreed that I’d have to do things around the house which we’d normally do together, chores wise. So instantly, my free time was taken up by other things I needed to do. I’ve certainly managed to keep on top of some thing, though, and I started writing a short daily update for my Facebook author page, which I’ve kept on top of for 30+ days now.
Considering my scarcity of posting on facebook prior to this, this in itself has been somewhat of an achievement in itself. As far as coping, goes, I genuinely think I’m doing fine. I had no money to spend on things before now, so the fact shops are closed doesn’t really affect me too much. I might even come out of this better off!
GJ: Thank you Ben for taking the time to talk with me today. You can check out Ben’s novel PESTILENCE REIGNS and his Facebook pages using the links below.