Indie Author Interview with Ben Willoughby - Author of the Fantasy Novel Gods on the Mountain.
Ben Willoughby found at a very young age the love for reading. At the age of 12, he found a passion for writing. In his late 20's, he decided to pursue publishing many of the ideas and concepts he had developed over the years. He currently lives in the southeastern United States, with his loving wife and young daughter. When not writing or reading, he spends his spare time sketching and smoking his pipe.
Interview with Ben Willoughby
|Author Ben Willoughby|
Ben Willoughby: I started writing things when I was about 12 or so, just for fun. It stemmed from my love for reading, and my desire to create worlds like a lot of the people I enjoyed. I found that writing was a nice way to be creative, and let story ideas flow. I never published anything in my teenage years, but I didn't care; I just wanted to write and enjoy it.
When I was in college, I went for a Minor in Creative Writing. I almost got it, but my college forced me to take a science class in place of a math class I had tested out of, so I ended up being one class short of the degree. I wanted to take an extra class in my final quarter, but my academic advisers wouldn't let me.
Who are your favorite writers, and who or what are your writing influences?
When I was a kid, I really got into HG Wells and his most well known Sci-Fi works. That led me to become a voracious reader, and Wells is still one of my favorite writers. I also read a lot of Agatha Christie throughout high school, as well as the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Shakespeare, and AE Van Vogt.
When I became an adult, I really got into the works of Victor Hugo. I found that I admired the way he was able to develop characters well – even characters that existed for only a few pages. If there was a janitor who appeared in one part of a chapter, Hugo made sure you never forgot him. I also got into George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, because I loved his world building and how he made the world of Westeros feel so real by adding in little details about their culture and heritage.
An honorable mention has to be RA Salvatore for getting me into fantasy. It used to be that I could never get into fantasy books, but after reading some of his popular Drizzt Do'urden novels, I was hooked into the genre. I loved the way Salvatore did his characters, and how he built the world around him (even if it was, technically, pre-built for him). Without Salvatore, I wouldn't have gone on to read Tolkien, or even start writing in the fantasy genre.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
As soon as I started writing, actually! I had other passions, and chose to pursue those instead, so the act of writing professionally didn't come until fairly recently for me. I don't mind, though – my other skills and hobbies have granted me a sustainable income to support my family, while I venture into the writing world and attempt to gain a wide enough audience for myself.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Oh yes. It was actually an anthology of Christmas-themed stories for an elementary school project. They weren't like any of the other stories: in one, the elves went on strike, so Santa becomes a monster and eats them all; in another Rudolph encounters a Snow Raptor who wants to play with him, but the reindeer is later eaten by a Snow T-Rex; you get the idea. My parents were shocked by it, and started to call me a young Stephen King. They started expecting that every story I wrote involved a lot of death and destruction.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
Oftentimes, my stories start as a series of ideas floating around my head. I'll have the vague idea of a kind of hero in this part of my brain, while over here in the opposite end I'll have a cool idea for a climactic duel. These ideas bounce around, until one day they suddenly all come together.
When that happens, I sit down and write out a synopsis. I write down character names, location names, and brief descriptions for each. I then write out a simple summary of the story, so that I know where I'm going and what I intend to do. I know a lot of writers discourage writing a synopsis because it can limit you, but my synopses tend to be more a guideline than canon; I permit myself the ability to stray from the synopsis if I get a new idea, or I want to add something.
With that done, I get down to writing!
Please, describe your desk/workplace.
I do a lot of writing on my laptop computer, using LibreOffice, which is a free writing software. Because of this, I tend to work wherever I have time to write. A lot of my writing is done in bed, before I go to sleep. Believe it or not, my wife doesn't mind because she says the sound of me typing actually comforts her. The living room and even my workplace have become my writing spots as well.
What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
For me, it's easy to write. I can just sit down and do it. I can also type 120+ words per minute, which leads me to be pretty productive. Sometimes I start projects just to explore, and end up writing a good bit before I set it aside to get to later.
The hardest part is striving to make your writing work. I try to avoid too many tropes or cliches, and I want to try to give readers something that won't make them feel like they're just going through the motions of the genre. I've had to put ideas on hold because I didn't know where to take the story that wouldn't seem too obvious or overused.
"[...] I enjoy the editing process."
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
As strange as it may sound, I enjoy the editing process. It's not that I enjoy editing more than writing, but seeing the change in my work became fascinating for me. I really liked sending my work to beta-readers, listening to their suggestions, and changing things to fix issues in the storyline. I really liked fixing typos and awkward sentences to make the narrative flow better. Watching my work go from a rough draft into a finished product was like watching a child mature into adulthood.
An unfortunate thing about a lot of indie publishing is that authors don't seek out that kind of help, and they don't try to put that much effort into the pre-production of their work. As a result, you have so many indie books riddled with spelling errors and incomprehensible language. My first experiences with editors and beta-readers taught me just how important it is to seek out the voice of others to refine your writing.
Ben, please tell us a little about your Epic Fantasy Novel Gods on the Mountain.
Gods on the Mountain takes place on the fictional continent of Calambria. Dwarf tribes have mysteriously disappeared, and merchants are being pushed away from the mountains. The International Guilds Commission, a powerful mercantile entity in the world, seeks the help of the Order of Magi, from the humans, and the Sisterhood of Dagger Maidens, from the elves, to investigate the matter. The two respective choices are Edmund, an Enchanter, and Diane, a Dagger Maiden. Together, they attempt to solve the mystery of what is going on in the mountains, and seek to undo the wrong.
The title comes from three “gods” which have some part in the story: a true god (the Almighty); a false god (the antagonist); and supposed gods (the dragons).
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
What inspired you to write the book?
Edmund and Diane were two characters I had created in high school, and were featured in a series of manga-style comics. When I decided to write a fantasy book, I thought I could take them and rework their characters to make them more real and less cartoony.
I'm also a fan of world building, and the various populations, nations, and cultures of Calambria had been rolling around in my head, and I wanted a chance to flesh them out on paper. I'm a history nut (especially military history), so this level of world building is, for me, almost as fun as the writing itself. Some mighty say I got a wee bit carried away.
"[...] for those who love fantasy"
Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
I wrote Gods on the Mountain for those who love fantasy, and want to enjoy a good adventure yarn. One of my beta-readers was a person who read a lot of pulp fantasy books, but who thought I went above and beyond what a lot of them did. I wanted a book where people could enter a fantasy world, but at the same time see different elements explored.
The book can be bought on Amazon, in print and Kindle format (see links below).
"[...] mix spirituality in with the 'magic' of the world."
What makes your book special?
I use a lot of fantasy conventions in the books (elves, dwarfs, dragons, ogres, etc.), but at the same time, I wanted to write a fantasy world that would stand out a little more above the usual trends in the genre. So, my dwarfs aren't Scottish ale guzzlers, and my elves aren't adamant magic users. In fact, the dwarfs I based largely off medieval Japanese society, and the elves are one of the most technologically advanced races in Calambria. I also made the dwarf religion involve the worship of dragons, which becomes especially important in the last third of the story.
I've also tried to mix spirituality in with the “magic” of the world. In Calambria, “magic” isn't inherited by blood (like you see in Harry Potter) nor is it taught to pupils (like you see in a lot of fantasy worlds), but it's gifted by the Almighty, the monotheistic deity of the world. This leads into serious moral issues involving those who use these powers for bad, which becomes a motif of the book.
How would you describe the success of your book so far?
It's gotten a bit of attention, and has had a consistent sale of at least one unit every other day. I never write anything expecting it to make me rich, so the fact that it's gotten that much neither surprises nor disappoints me.
"to edit, [...] edit again, then edit some more, etc."
How long did it take it to write the book?
It actually only took me about three months to write. It probably took another three months or so (I forget how long exactly) to edit, send to beta-readers, edit again, then edit some more, etc. I actually ended up pushing the release date back at least twice.
Can you give some advice for other Authors regarding the writing process?
Read a lot, and absorb the techniques you see other writers doing. How do they describe a certain scene? How do they handle an action sequence? How do they handle touchy subject matter? Obviously you don't want to plagiarize people, but you should study and learn from other authors, and take what you thinks works and incorporate it into your own writing.
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I have a few projects in the works right now, actually. I have a sequel to Gods on the Mountain, involving the further adventures of Edmund and Diane; I've already written out the synopsis and have gotten a start on it. I've also written a semi-sequel to Gods on the Mountain that will involve Valens and Caius, two minor characters from the book, and which will be released as a free novella.
I also have a horror novelette entitled Raw Head which I hope to have released within a month; it's unrelated to the world of Gods on the Mountain, but I wrote it because I wanted to explore the horror genre.
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
How the industry is affected by technological changes really depends on the business decisions made by companies. People thought Barnes & Noble would be gone after eBooks first came out, but Barnes & Noble adjusted and found ways to inspire people to still visit their stores and buy tangible books. Contrast this with, say, Blockbuster, which didn't adjust quickly enough to the rise of Netflix or Redbox, and when they did adjust they made poor, non sequitor decisions; as a result, Blockbuster went bye-bye.
There are also still local mom-and-pop bookstores that have survived the growth of eBooks, and I would highly encourage that authors visit and support those.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle app on my iPad that I use a lot, especially for my personal study. However, the backlight and the temptation to visit my iPad's other apps proved detrimental for my writing. I've recently purchased a Kindle 4 from eBay, and it's awesome. I haven't read this much in a while.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm a full-time father; that often takes up my time, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I also do some drawing, and I smoke my pipe or enjoy a good cigar.
"I love hearing from readers and authors alike."
How can readers connect with you?
I'm on Twitter at BenWilloughby84. Feel free to follow and interact with me – I promise you won't get anything automated! You can also email me at email@example.com, which I check throughout the day fairly regularly. I love hearing from readers and authors alike.
Thank you very much for the Interview, Ben.
About the Book Gods on the Mountain
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
Two are assigned to investigate this mystery: Edmund, a human and Magi, gifted with the ability to utilize the elements; and Diane, an elf and Dagger Maiden, who excels in close combat.
As they attempt to uncover what has happened, they unearth betrayal and secrets not only from outside the continent, but from within as well.
Soon they will discover a plot with dangers that go well beyond the mountains.
Gods on the Mountain takes on the subject of spirituality in a culture, and look at it from a fresh light in a fantasy setting, treating it both realistically and respectfully.