Author Spotlight Interview: Ben J Henry
Today’s interview is with teacher turned author Ben J Henry. Ben writes fantasy full of wonder, inviting readers to explore lucid dreams. It was truly fascinating to hear from Ben about his writing process, inspiration and future projects.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
BH: My favorite works of fantasy hold a mirror to our minds. I was fascinated by His Dark Materials, and how Philip Pullman’s daemons represent our personalities. I was left asking: What animal would my daemon take? What would happen if someone had a split personality disorder? Great fantasy leaves you wondering not just about the plot and characters, but about yourself. These are the stories that I strive to write.
HG: That’s fascinating. I understand your books center around lucid dreaming. Can you tell us more about what lucid dreams are and what prompted you to involve them in your stories?
BH: I’ve been lucid dreaming for twenty years now, and it still blows my mind. In a lucid dream, you’re aware that you’re dreaming and can sometimes even manipulate the environment. You’ll be standing in a room that looks as real as waking life, and can conjure anything that you can think of. It’s like virtual reality, but drawing from every experience you’ve ever had, and limited only by your imagination. In my trilogy, we take the concept one step further: what if, through lucid dreaming, you could escape your mind and interact with other lucid dreamers?
HG: How incredible! And thank you for that explanation. You have two books of The Order of Chaos Trilogy available on Amazon, with the third coming later this year. What can you tell us about each of those stories? What kind of readers will enjoy these books?
BH: The first in the trilogy, The Order of Chaos, is a murder mystery, centering around the kidnapping of Alicia’s younger brother, David. Since David disappeared, his mother started exploring lucid dreaming, and Alicia follows in her footsteps. Her hunt for David leads her beyond the waking world, where his kidnappers are using him as bait to lure her to the immaterial realm. The second in the trilogy, Burnflower, follows on from the first. We continue to explore the realm of Vivador, where Alicia’s insecurities are laid bare, and survival depends on the strength of her will.
HG: What feeling do you hope readers are left with when they finish one of your novels?
BH: Honestly, I want readers to pick up a notebook, start recording their own dreams and dive into lucid dreaming!
HG: Love that! For fun, if Burnflower, your most recent release, was turned into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
BH: My dream choice for Alicia (see what I did there?!) would have to be Millie Bobby Brown. Alicia has that blend of strength and vulnerability that Millie demonstrated so beautifully in Stranger Things. If you’re reading this Millie, please get in touch. I’ve been writing the trilogy for ten years now, and a while back I would have picked Dylan Minnette from 13 Reasons Why as my ideal choice for Alicia’s neighbor Gus, but he’s probably too old to play an eighteen-year-old now!
HG: Fantastic. Switching gears, tell us a little bit about your actual writing process. When and where do you write?
BH: A huge part of my writing process involves walking. I moved to Bristol last summer, and I love walking the Downs, Leigh Woods, Blaise Castle… I lose myself in the plotline and probably look a little unhinged strolling around talking to myself. Once I’ve got the scene playing in my head, I grab a coffee, make my way home and get that first draft down. At my desk in the living room, occasionally with the sound of the lions in the nearby zoo, I write it again and again until it starts to make sense.
HG: Oh wow, I love that. Tell us more about your transition to writing fiction full time.
BH: I taught in the classroom for eleven years, and was fortunate to make the switch to tutoring and writing for the past three and a half years. I’ve missed talking to my classes about reading and writing, and watching them lose themselves in their story ideas; but I’ve loved having the time to finally get the trilogy published.
HG: What have been the challenges you’ve faced in your publishing career?
BH: I decided to self publish in 2020, and have really enjoyed learning how the industry works. Did you know that sales of adult fiction are now 70% digital? I certainly didn’t. There’s been a lot to learn, and when I started out I didn’t realize I would spend about an hour a day exploring the world of self publishing.
Also, no matter how much you tell yourself not to focus on reviews, those first couple of 2 star reviews sure do sting!
HG: Forever evolving, that’s for sure. Is there anything you’d do differently? Advice to aspiring authors?
BH: The world of social media (Bookstagram, Twitter…) can be a bit of a sinkhole. Be strict with when you use it, and how often. While walking to the gym or waiting at a bus stop, a writer’s default line of thinking should be about their next chapter, not their latest post.
HG: That’s great advice. Switching gears again, what do you enjoy doing when not writing?
BH: Like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, I’m a huge fan of improv acting. Thrown into a random scenario, acting on the spot without a script is pure creativity and great fun. When I have a dialogue-heavy scene coming up, I get the characters to improv, to keep their exchanges more lifelike.
HG: Awesome! Now, if you could ask your author idol one question, what would it be?
BH: So, Mr Pullman, what would your daemon be?
HG: So good. Before we wrap up, what can you tell us about any projects you have in the works?
BH: I’m currently working through the first draft of the third in the trilogy, Immortal Thoughts. If all goes according to plan, that one should be out by Christmas.
HG: Oh, great! We’ll keep an eye out but certainly keep us posted. For fun, to finish things off, let’s do a fast five! First one…coffee or tea?
HG: Bonfire or fireplace?
BH: Fireplace – nothing like the sound of logs crackling while you’re on a comfy sofa having a chat.
HG: Are you a morning person or night owl?
BH: Night owl.
HG: eBook or paperback?
BH: eBook – packing for holidays has become considerably easier…
HG: Tropical beach or rustic mountains?
BH: I love a good mountain.
HG: For readers that want to find out more about your stories and keep up with you, where should they go to connect or learn more?
BH: Follow me on Instagram: @the.order.of.chaos. I’ll try not to message you while waiting at the bus stop…
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