Ask the Author: Ben Gartner
What would you like readers to know about you?
One of my favorite all-time quotes is from the brilliant mind of Albert Einstein. I find it fascinating that a man so well-known for rational scientific thought said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” This sentiment tells you a lot about me and my writing. I love to exist in both hemispheres of the brain. That is, I love trivia and little-known facts about our world, be they about the past or the present, or pretty much any subject at all, but what gets my brain really humming about those things is the kick it provides to the imagination. I love learning obscure facts that make you go “huh!” And I hope to share that love of learning in my books.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My latest book, Sol Invictus, is about two siblings—John and Sarah—who travel back in time to an ancient Roman frontier town called Aventicum, in what is modern-day Switzerland near the Alps. They have some very high-stakes pressure to unite the caesar of Gaul with his enemy, an Alemanni (Germanic) “barbarian,” or else something very bad might happen to their world, and endanger their chances of returning home. As if that wasn’t enough, they are also dealing with many physical challenges like an encounter with a wolf, fighting in the gladiator ring, chariot chases, and more. It’s very exciting, if I do say so myself (my sons agree). And, ultimately, it’s about John and Sarah working together, though they each have their own internal struggles.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
My own two sons, primarily. But, also, my own middle grade self. I am writing for those three and it’s been a wonderful, amazing experience.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I personally really love all of the research details that are peppered subtly throughout the book. It was also fun to put together the overarching storyline for the series, some of which is hinted at in book 2. All will be revealed in book 3, which I’m working on now.
If you ask my sons, they’ll tell you the best scene is in the gladiator ring where John is a venator (“hunter”) slave pitted against fearsome wild animals.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
All of them? That’s probably a cop-out answer, but I believe that I’ve learned something from every book, short story, or poem I’ve ever read. Maybe I learned what I didn’t like, or what works and what doesn’t, but something from all of them. I earned a BA in English, so I’ve read a wide assortment of genres. However, in terms of popular fiction, when I was younger I sucked up everything that Stephen King had written. I really appreciate how he can wrap a complex plot in an easy-going, plain style. Lately, not quite as “simple” as King, another author for adults I really enjoy is Ted Chiang. Especially his “Story of Your Life” novella. I’ve re-read that one a few times and it gets me every time. His latest collection, Exhalation, is great too. On the middle grade front, I really love everything Lauren Wolk has written. There are many, many more and I know I’m leaving out a bunch of highly talented and influential artists.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
I love this question. My advice to that person is the same as I give myself:
1. Have fun. If you get too wrapped up in expectations (your own or someone else’s), remember that you are writing because it is fun for you. Doesn’t mean it will be easy or not take hard work, nor does it mean you can’t explore heavy topics, but hopefully, at the end of the day, you’re having fun. I remind myself of that often. If you’re not having fun, then why are you doing it?!
2. “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Voltaire said that. Another version I like is from Steinbeck who said, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” This is a bit of advice meant to free you from the pursuit of perfection, which means you’ll never actually write anything. In our house, we say, “Practice makes better.” Just do what you enjoy, practice, and put yourself out there. We’re all human. Be brave, be vulnerable. (Yes, I recognize this is sometimes easier said than done!)
If people want to learn more about me, my website BenGartner.com has more. I’m active on Twitter at @BGartnerWriting (same for Instagram).
The Eye of Ra (book 1):
on goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49375615-the-eye-of-ra
at your local indie bookseller: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781734155211
at amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Eye-Ra-Ben-Gartner/dp/1734155213
or anywhere else: https://books2read.com/the-eye-of-ra-ben-gartner
Sol Invictus (book 2):
on goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54837789-sol-invictus
at your local indie bookseller: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781734155235
at amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sol-Invictus-Eye-Ben-Gartner/dp/173415523X/
or anywhere else: https://books2read.com/sol-invictus-ben-gartner