If there were ever a perfect author to tackle these ten questions it would be Mr Ben Galley. At the forefront, riding the first wave and hanging-ten over the lip of the great surf-board that is Self-Publishing, Ben Galley has seen it all. This author now teaches self-publishing, has run courses with the Guardian newspaper in the UK, and still finds time to write epic stories. On with the questions!
GRM: Tell us about your book.
BEN: The Heart of Stone is a dark fantasy novel centred around Task – a 400 year-old war machine who’s bought by the losing side of a bitter and long-raging civil war. Task is a stone golem, one of the last of his kind, built for war and nothing else. He is more slave than mercenary, and although he’s practically immortal and indestructible, he is tortured by the decades of war he’s seen. All he wants is change, whatever form that comes in, whether it’s death or peace.
The world HoS is set in – The Realm – is a brand new world for me, unconnected to my previous series. It’s loosely 17th century in nature and a world where technology has stamped out almost all traces of magic. It’s also a world of constant warring over power as well as natural resources, thanks to a phenomenon called the God’s Rent that controls the weather.
Not only is it my first standalone novel in six years, but it’s also the first time I’ve dabbled with a non-human protagonist. I’m pleased to say it’ll be out in Spring 2017!
GRM: Where did your inspiration come from?
BEN: I’m a huge mythology geek, so a golem has always been on my list of creatures to write about. I find them fascinating, particularly the idea that they are formed and shaped by those who control them, and that despite their immense power (some could turn invisible or summon spirits) they can be controlled or destroyed by just a few words. It’s that constant balance between strength and fragility that fascinates me, as well as the inability to be accepted or grasp emotion.
Originally, I was planning to have a golem as a side character or sidekick, but the more I thought about this book, and the more I realised I wanted to address humanity and its tendencies, the more I realised how perfect a golem could be to tell that story.
GRM: Why did you choose to go Self-Published?
BEN: I chose to go self-published for the simple reason of necessity. When I was writing my first novel – The Written – back in 2009, I was working a series of dead-end jobs that I was adamant to escape. I wanted to get the book out as soon as possible so I could begin my new career. Although I have absolutely nothing against traditional publishing houses (in fact I think most do a stellar job) I knew that the timescales were long and the chance of getting picked up was slim. That’s why I chose to pick up the reins myself and dive in!
GRM: What was the hardest part about taking this route?
BEN: The hardest part was getting it right. There wasn’t a lot of info on self-publishing around in 2009, so I made plenty of mistakes in getting The Written out on the shelves. I didn’t use an editor and used beta readers instead, which was an error, and I didn’t use the best platforms initially, which made it tough to get the book seen. However, each mistake helped me improve and figure out another aspect of the publishing process. That’s why I now help other authors by teaching them my DIY process.
GRM: Morning, afternoon or evening writer?
BEN: It sounds like I’m cheating with this answer, but actually it’s all three. I’m somehow able to write at any time of day, which I think comes from how I churned out The Written. Because I was working so much, I learnt to write on my phone between customers and on breaks. I’d then copy and paste it all into my book when I got home, tidy it up and do the same the next day. It’s tough to write like that but it’s taught me how to dip in and out of a book any time I need to.
Saying that, I find that ideas and flow come easier to me in the evenings, and for some reason the later the better. I quite often find myself writing to 1 or 2am.
GRM: Architect or Gardener? Planner or Pantser?
BEN: Architect and avid planner. I don’t know whether it’s obsession with detail or the fact I like to know it all before I start, but I’ve always written like this. My average word count for my notes is around 5-7k, and that’s before I’ve written a single word of a book. However, I still allow myself to adapt and go off the route if another idea comes along. Sticking too tightly to the plan can sometimes be detrimental.
GRM: Silence, music or what when writing?
BEN: Always music. I use it to channel pace and emotion, almost like a soundtrack. That’s why I’ve started publishing my playlists along with my books so people can listen to the same music when they read. Sometimes I can’t have anything that’s too wordy, so I opt for a lot of classical and film scores. Most of the time, it’s just raucous metal.
GRM: What’s the weirdest fact or piece of information you had to research in order to write the book?
BEN: Just the other day I was trying to find out how hard a punch has to be to make a skull explode. Yes, macabre, I know. Turns out a cubic inch of bone can withstand 19,000 pounds before crushing, and a skull can withstand up to 520lbs before crushing. The average pressure a human can deliver is about 200lb. So a human couldn’t deliver the force, but a nine-foot tall stone golem can.
GRM: To steal (paraphrase) from Rod Stewart, what do you wish that you know now, you knew when you started the journey to a finished and published book?
BEN: To go back to an earlier answer, I wish I’d known the importance of editing, or more accurately, the importance of shelling out the dough for editing. I spent a lot of time and energy fixing my early books, whereas if I’d paid for an editor in the first place, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.
GRM: You’re on a deserted island with enough food and water to survive. There no building materials around so you must wait for rescue. What three books would you have with you, to help you pass the time?
BEN: Lord of The Rings, with appendices, because it’s bloody long and will take up a good amount of time as well as being one of my all-time favourite books.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak because it’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever encountered.
And finally, probably Way of Kings as a re-read, because it’s such a deep and rich world, it’ll distract me from the insects and crabs trying to devour me before I’m rescued. I could also use it and LotR as a weapon if needed.
Find out more
You can find me (and a free eBook copy of my book Bloodrush!) at www.bengalley.com, on Twitter @BenGalley, on Facebook.com/BenGalleyAuthor, and on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4522335.Ben_Galley
I'd like to thank Ben for answering all these questions. Tf you've ever a chance to meet up with him and have a chat, you'll find a thoroughly decent fellow with lots of advice. I hope you will take some time and check out his books and, as always, leave some reviews and ratings on Goodreads, Amazon or wherever you prefer.