Hello everyone, this is Haïfa and today I have a special guest at Novel Notions.
On the occasion of the release of his unique and dark tale of bound ghosts, unsanctioned murderers and dead gods, we are hosting Ben Galley on the blog today to chat about Chasing Graves, his inspirations, self-publishing and his future projects. After deeply enjoying Task’s original and gripping story in The Heart of Stone, and after hearing Chasing Graves, was an Egyptian mythology-inspired fantasy, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. I’m very glad I did because Chasing Graves was atmospheric, unique and both dark and funny! I can’t wait to explore more of the Far Reaches and see what fate Ben is planning for his characters.
Without further chitchat, here is my interview with Ben Galley.
- Congratulations on the release of your newest book, Chasing Graves, Ben and thank you for accepting to do this interview on Novel Notions! Can you give us an overview of your book without any spoilers?
Thanks for having me, Haïfa! It’s a pleasure to be here. Chasing Graves is the first book in a new dark fantasy trilogy, set in an Egyptian-inspired world where ghosts are bound as slaves for the rich. In the Arctian Empire, murder is nothing more than a pastime or occupation. Powerful nobles build fortresses high into the sky while ghosts fill the gutter-like streets. Throughout the book, a range of characters seek to survive or profit from this brutal world, but first and foremost is Caltro Basalt, a master locksmith and foreigner to the Arc and the vast city of Araxes. He soon finds himself deep amidst the cutthroat culture of the Empire, battling for justice and his freedom. All the while, the machinations of others decide Caltro’s fate for him, and dead gods inhabiting dead things keep paying him visits, speaking of chaos and doom. Chasing Graves is part grimdark, part myth and legend, part paranormal, and it comes packed with action and dark humour.
2. When I heard there were Egyptian mythology vibes in Chasing Graves, it was obvious for me that I would read it ASAP. Was Egyptian mythology your main inspiration? What else inspired you to write it and what specific research did you do?
Mythology has always played a large role in my writing and inspired many of the worlds and societies in my books. So it was with Chasing Graves. I knew I wanted to explore ghost lore, and the human obsession with what lies beyond the grave. Ghosts feature in every single mythology and culture on earth, and even predate writing, so there was no shortage of inspiration for the ghost lore of my world. What I needed was inspiration for the world itself, and who more inspiring than a culture utterly preoccupied with death?
Enter the Ancient Egyptians, whose pharaohs started building their tombs the moment a crown touched their foreheads, who believed they could carry their belongings into the afterlife, and who were some of the first to pioneer justice and karma, or “maat”. It was a perfect culture to extrapolate what would have happened if the Egyptians had learned to control and harness death. Or, as in the world of Chasing Graves, to harness ghosts themselves. As such, the society, arts, clothing, the social structures, and even the dead gods are heavily inspired by Egyptian mythology. I spent weeks researching the ins and outs of Ancient Egypt, but it was entirely worth it.
3. I’m very excited (and I’m sure a lot of readers will agree with me) to hear that the other two books of the trilogy will be released very soon (with one or two months gap). This is every reader’s dream! What made you choose this unusual publishing schedule?
That was essentially the plan – to satisfy the reader! In a recent vlog, I explained that I’m a touch impatient when it comes to waiting for sequels. With the Chasing Graves Trilogy, I decided to attempt two things. The first was the write it all at once, and the second was to release it over a very short schedule. The rapid release approach benefited the writing by helping me to avoid long breaks in between each installment, and now it’s hopefully going to benefit the readers as well. It’s a way of giving something back and saying thanks for all the support I’ve been given. Instead of waiting two or three years to continue the story, you reader only have to last a month and a half! More fantasy, less waiting. Sounds good, right?
It’s taken a year and a half and a hell of a lot of work to pull off this rapid release. Three times the work, in fact, but it feels fantastic to have challenged myself, and to finally have Chasing Graves out in the world. Grim Solace, Book 2 will be out in January, and Book 3, A Cold & Ruthless Dagger will be out in March. I’m very excited to see what happens.
4. Can you tell us about your writing process? Are you more of a planner or
I am an intense planner before I start a book, writing at least 10k to 15k words of world-building, character backstory, and chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. It helps to inspire me as well give me direction from page one. However, once I start, I improvise within those notes, pantsing from paragraph to paragraph. If I or my characters come up with better ideas along the way, I’m not afraid to rewrite the plan and continue on. By the time I complete a story, it might have ended up somewhere entirely different from where I’d originally planned, but it’s all worked out for the better.
5. Something I really love about your books (granted I read only two for now) is how original they feel and how unique and well developed your characters are. What are the most important elements for you? Characters, world-building, lore, plot, novelty? Do your criteria change depending on the story you want to tell?
Thank you! That’s quite the compliment. I see them all as vital ingredients to a story, and I always aim to develop each and every aspect of my book. To me, it’s a recipe for writing a better book. However, if there are elements I spend more of my time on, it’s the world-
building and character development.
Books are tools of escape, but they work on the premise of being relatable and believable, even in a fantasy world. We live in a complex world full of complex people, and so we naturally look for that complexity in books. If characters lack emotional depth or drive, their choices and actions can seem hollow or random. If a world lacks history, detail, or variety, it becomes a simple backdrop, and not a character in itself. That’s why I spend time deepening as much as I can, whether it’s a backstory for a character, or deciding what foods people eat. And let’s be honest, world-building and character development are just damn good authory fun, as it was with Chasing Graves. Giant dunewyrms? Go on, throw them in. Flying donkeys? Talking swords? Oh, why not…
6. Are we expecting talking swords and flying creatures in the sequels then? Sweet! Okay more seriously, all your books are self-published. Have you ever considered traditional publishing? If not, what made you choose self-publishing instead?
I believe that the two are similar paths towards the same goal, and that goal is to get books into the hands of readers. When I first started out in 2010, I chose self-publishing for its timescales, the ease of its methods, and the fact it suited my entrepreneurial mindset. I had no issue with the traditional route; self-publishing just suited me at the time and was the best choice for my books. Almost nine years have passed and it still suits me. I’ve gone full-time on books and I’m writing more than ever before. However, it doesn’t mean I am stuck in the self-publishing camp, and nor would I want to be. Publishing is not a single or binary choice any more. Whether my future takes the form of self-publishing, traditional publishing, or a mix of the two, I don’t really mind. Just as long as it gets my books into readers’ hands, I’ll happily take whichever path I need to.
7. You created Shelf Help in 2012 to provide help and guidance to authors who choose self-publishing. Can you tell us the most important advice you give them?
I’m fond of the “Three P’s” – Professionalism, professionalism, and professionalism! It’s advice that covers everything, from getting your story edited, to working with a professional cover designer, to how you conduct yourself online. Professionalism helps an author to match the high standards of quality set down by the publishing houses, and to stand out from those authors who sadly continue to perpetuate the idea that self-publishing is low-quality publishing. Professionalism is one of the reasons that I was able to go full-time on writing, and over the last six years, it’s been a true pleasure to share that advice with my fellow writers.
8. Well that’s a great advice and I hope a lot of aspiring and confirmed authors follow it. Last question, now that you completed writing the Chasing Graves Trilogy Book, do you have any new writing projects on the horizon?
Indeed I do, and about forty of them, give or take! New ideas are always springing to mind and I’ve always fastidiously noted them down just in case they’re of any use. After several years of doing this, I now have a long list of book ideas waiting to be written. First and foremost, in 2019 I’ll be working on a follow-up to my epic Emaneska Series – my most popular books so far. After that, I have a few standalone fantasy trilogies I want to tackle, such as a series inspired by the wilds of British Columbia. One thing’s for sure: I’ve got plenty of books to be cracking on with!
I wish you the best of luck for your upcoming projects, Ben! I can’t wait to get my hands on the next books in the Chasing Graves Trilogy and read your Emaneska series next year.
You can order Chasing Graves here guys.
Ben Galley is an author of dark and epic fantasy books who currently hails from Victoria, Canada. Since publishing his debut The Written in 2010, Ben has released a range of award-winning fantasy novels, including the weird western Bloodrush and the epic standalone The Heart of Stone. He is also the author of the brand new Chasing Graves Trilogy.
When he isn’t conjuring up strange new stories or arguing the finer points of magic and dragons, Ben works as a self-publishing consultant, helping fellow authors from around the world to publish their books. Ben enjoys exploring the Canadian wilds and sipping Scotch single malts, and will forever and always play a dark elf in The Elder Scrolls. One day he hopes to live in an epic treehouse in the mountains.
Ben can be found on Twitter or vlogging on YouTube @BenGalley, or loitering on Facebook and Instagram @BenGalleyAuthor. You can also get a free eBook copy of his epic fantasy The Written at www.bengalley.com .