Ben Galley is an author of dark and epic fantasy books who currently hails from Victoria, Canada. Since publishing his debut Emaneska Series, Ben has released a range of epic and dark fantasy novels, including the award-winning weird western Bloodrush and standalone novel The Heart of Stone. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed Chasing Graves Trilogy.
When he isn’t conjuring up strange new stories or arguing the finer points of magic and dragons, 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, or loitering on Facebook and Instagram. Get The Iron Keys, an exclusive, free short story set in the world of Emaneska when you sign up to Ben’s Guild Newsletter. Or, just go to his website for all Ben’s info, as well as Goodreads.
First off, describe yourself in six words or fewer.
Tell me about your book.
The latest tome of mine to hit the shelves is The Forever King – a brand new Emaneska book that kicks off a whole new series set in the same world. I liken Emaneska to Game of Thrones meets Die Hard, and this new instalment follows that trend with a host of new and old characters, each forced through hell and high water for my own amusement and readers’ enjoyment. The world is packed with dark forces, dragons, daemons and gods who play games with humanity.
The story in a nutshell is this: all use of magic has been banned in Emaneska under the Arka Empire. Only the Outlaw King in the far north continues to rebel, but thanks to the emperor’s lies, few hold him a hero. Least of all Mithrid Fenn, a cliff-dweller of Hâlorn, who finds the war has arrived at her doorstep all too abruptly.
What makes you and your books unique? Shine for me, you diamond.
*sucks in breath* Well, if I may toot my horn, I pride myself on being as original as possible. It’s a tall order these days, but I try to be unpredictable, to break rules, and to drag into the light areas or concepts that have only been touched on. I feel – hope – that I’ve done that with my books.
What are you working on now/any future projects you want to talk about?
Right now, I’m working on the sequel to The Forever King – Heavy Lies The Crown, and at the same time, I’m co-authoring a book with fantasy legend David Estes.
Let’s celebrate. What’s one of the best things that’s happened to you as an author? Don’t be shy.
Here’s that horn-tooting again, but the finest moment has to be becoming an Amazon bestseller and rubbing shoulders with George RR Martin. If only for a few weeks.
Let’s talk about CRAFT
What is one thing that you’ve learned about yourself as a writer?
That I use the words “gurn” and “smirk” in amounts that, frankly, should be made illegal under the Geneva Convention.
If you had to start over with writing and publishing, what would you do differently and why?
Though the idea of writing all those books again makes my brain want to flee for its sanity, if I were to go back in time, I would stay in my comfy wheelhouse for longer. When I first published, I was writing epic nordic fantasy – The Emaneska Series. This series was – and continues to be – a great success thanks to its characters, world, and my penchant for brutality. Yet instead of capitalising on that early triumph, I was so excited to jump into a new world, I jackknifed hard into the realm of western fantasy and alternate history. Actually veeeerry different in fanbase compared to epic fantasy and sword and sorcery. Even though I’m convinced everything happens in its order for a reason, I see now it made more business sense to stay in my established genre, and build, build, build. That’s actually what I’m doing now, 10 years later. NO REGRETS.
Tell me about something odd you do when you write? Something about your particular process that is distinctly YOU.
If I’m writing in an accent or specific voice, I mumble along in the accent or voice to get inflections and cadence right. What’s funny is I forget to stop it when other people are around. Like the general public.
Do you listen to music when you write? What kind?
Constantly! I find music fuels me, lends me emotion or verve, and sets a soundtrack to my scenes. As for the kind, it switches depending on scenes. For snark and action, I usually lean towards my favourite genre of metal, or something at least with a fast beat and lots of energy. Otherwise, for scenes with a lot of concentration or emotion needed, I stay away from anything with lyrics, usually OSTs from films such as American Beauty, or Theory of Everything, for example. Every now and again I simply use white noise of rain or thunderstorms.
What are some of the most interesting rabbit holes you’ve found yourself lost down?
The Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and the Art Goetia, detailing the Goetic Demons, and the idea that King Solomon was so wise because he simply summoned all of these daemons in his basement and asked them the answer. The most elaborate Google ever conceived.
Weapons are cool. They often require research. Tell me about a cool weapon you’ve researched and used in your writing.
Weapons ARE cool, and for my Scarlet Star Trilogy (my alternate history weird western), I got a chance to mess about with guns as well as swords for once. Now, I’m not a gun nut, but there’s something visceral about pitching magic against 18th and 19th century guns, or raw elements against technology. For one scene, I had to look up the largest guns ever made. Enter my two favourites, the 1,500 ton Schwerer Gustav, which was built to fire across the English Channel during WWII, and the modern Pfeifer Zeliska .600 Nitro, which is a hand-cannon built around the theme “ridiculous”.
Let’s talk about BOOKS
What book(s) or authors have influenced you, and why?
The biggest influence in my writing career was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. This book was handed to me at a time when I was struggling deeply with where I was headed in life. I’ve always written, but as a career choice, it had fallen by the wayside during college and pursuing the music industry. American Gods reignited the old love for mythology I’d forgotten, as well as taught me a new way of telling the oldest of stories. It lit a bonfire beneath me. 18 months afterwards, I published my first book, The Written. Three years later, I got to thank Neil in person at a World Fantasy Con.
What’s your bookish guilty pleasure?
It started when I found a copy on a train during my school years, but Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels. Predictable as hell, very much a formula that works over and over, but packed full of India Jones-esque action, with marine biologists kicking arse all over the place. There’s always a hidden world order, ancient curse, or Peruvian gold cartels behind the plot. So. Damn Enjoyable. The older ones are the best, such as Sahara or Atlantis Found.
Hobbies & All Things WERID
When you aren’t writing, what can you typically be found doing?
When I do allow myself one of these fabled days off, I can normally be found yelling at zombies or aliens on the Xbox, grilling something, or exploring a new trail or part of the coast. There is also a lot of lying down, these days.
What’s something you want to learn how to do? Why?
I have a thing about sailing at the moment. I guess it’s living on Vancouver Island, surrounded by whales and wildlife and the open Pacific, and the amount of islands here are mind-boggling. The quiet of sailing, combined with being a mere, wind-blown speck on a vast ocean, is perfect. I’ve sailed a few times with friends, but I would love to master the ropes. Literally.
What’s your strangest talent?
I can do the best Gollum impression you’ve ever heard. “Oh, everybody says that!” No. They’re wrong.
Tell me about something in your life that brings you joy. What is it, and why?
Wildlife. The minds of creatures are utterly fascinating to ponder. I’m the guy that will talk to your dog but not to you. Or spend an hour trying to feed a stray. I spend half my day ogling the hummingbirds that come to my feeders. I think that’s why fauna features in my book so heavily.
If you had to pick a superpower, what would you pick and why?
Telekinesis for dual reasons. Reason the first: mischief and mayhem. Reason the second – and one benefit of telekinesis that I think goes overlooked – but I could also fly. However, I actually do have a real-life superpower that should fill you with awe and terror. I have the ability to see any Magic Eye picture almost instantaneously.
We all have family recipes. Share one of your favorite ones.
Witness the “Ben Special” – the ultimate comfort food. Take two giant potatoes, bake them, then cut them open. Put two frankfurter sausages (the good kind – if they come in a jar, put them back) in the potatoes. Smother in baked beans and sharp cheddar cheese, microwave until it’s bubbling. Black pepper and worcester sauce to taste.
Tell me a strange, random fact.
Polar bears cannot be seen by using night-vision equipment, which I believe makes them the perfect modern assassins.
Sarah’s note: HOLY SHIT I DID NOT KNOW THAT.
What’s your favorite swear word and why?
It’s one of the oldest, the most phonetically satisfying, and even though it is used mostly as punctuation in the UK at this point, it seems to retain enough potency to turn the stomachs of many Americans. It is the C-Bomb. Otherwise, we British have the wonderful ability to make up rafts of alternate swearwords when needed, such as the classic “twatwomble”.
Any final thoughts?
How does one go about training a polar bear in martial arts?