Five Minutes with Benjamin Ryan #LoveAusAuthors
Benjamin Ryan writes ‘all things fantasy,’ and says that he has been nurtured by the genre since he was very young. He was given many fantasy books to read by his mum and aunties, and so, the genre he loves the most, became the genre he wanted to write. He is fascinated by the intricacies of folklore from around the world, particularly those of Irish and Gaelic origin.
‘I was given a book by an aunt and uncle when I was young, called Faeries, by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. Since then, I’ve always been fascinated by traditional faerie tales, their darker undertones and life lessons–it’s been a rich experience, especially later when I discovered Lady Jane Wild and her collection of Irish tales (I highly recommend anyone wishing to research Ireland’s folklore to peruse this masterpiece).’
Benjamin writes in third person narrative/past tense, because this has always made the most sense to him as a reader. He finds that past tense indicates something has happened already, and that reading present tense tends to ‘befuddle his mind.’
‘Past tense, combined with the traditional third person narrative, where the reader doesn’t live inside the narrator’s head the entire time, allows for more creativity with writing (in my opinion, of course). That’s not to say I don’t enjoy other points of view, but for me personally, it is much easier to comprehend and write effectively when I’m writing a tighter third-person narrative in the past tense.’
He has been told that his writing style is quite expressive, without being ‘overly flowery’.
‘I had no idea this was the case, but have had significant feedback stating this is the best part of my writing, along with the world building. I’ve never been one to ask these sorts of questions, putting oneself on the line and getting others to read my work was always daunting, but after a dozen or so people providing feedback, I guess I have to accept this may be true.’
Benjamin features strong female protagonists, ever since he first read The Ill-Made Mute by Cecilia Dart-Thornton, when he was thirteen years old. He says at this point he fell in love with writing, and not just reading.
‘At the time, there were very few fantasy books where a woman took the lead, and Dart-Thornton’s protagonist was such a strong character, I had to emulate it in a story all my own.’
Five Things About Benjamin’s History
- I was born and raised in Townsville, with my considerable family close by. I enjoy the heat over the cold and have never felt the need to move to a big city—yet.
- I am a qualified physiotherapist and work in community-based rehabilitation. I assess and treat participants with neurological conditions such as stroke, Cerebral Palsy, spinal injuries, as well as those post-surgical intervention, like knee and hip replacements, amputations and cardiac treatments. I love working with older people, although I do have experience with participants as young as eighteen months old, all the way to 104 years old.
- I enjoy keeping active: jogging, gym, judo, CrossFit, and more recently, rock climbing. It helps with stress and keeps me focused afterwards when I’m trying to write. I’m also an avid video gamer (Elden Ring currently on PC) and love hanging out with friends to watch movies and play board games.
- I first started writing when I was 15 years old. The first 20,000 words were hand written, until I felt comfortable typing. My Year 10 English teacher was the first person to read a chapter and critiqued it for me. In hindsight, this was an amazing, selfless act. Considering how much work he would have been doing, he still found the time to inspire his students and not dismiss them offhand as many others might have. Thanks Mr Deer!
- I have a general anxiety disorder which can make work and certain daily tasks feel overwhelming. I didn’t realise I had this until I was 22, and thought everyone went through the same thing and just handled it better than I did. No-one really talked about it. It took me years to finally understand speaking up was okay. Without realising it at first, writing has been an outlet for almost a decade now, where I can put pen to paper, pour myself onto a page and let everything else go. Cathartic to say the least.
Five Things About Benjamin’s Work
- Beckoning of the Gate is my debut novel, a fantasy heavily influenced by Gaelic and Irish folklore. It took me 15 years to write, between high school, university, and working full time.
- I thought I only had one book in me. What I found out instead, was that I was a one-project-at-a-time person, and when I finished my full first draft of Beckoning of the Gate, I started to get ideas for sequels—with a twist.
- Writing my second book has been WAY easier than the first, as I fully plotted, profiled and summarised each theme, character and chapter this time around. It was something I learned the hard way and now I couldn’t see myself doing it any other way.
- I am currently writing book two, titled, Princeling. It is set about 70 years after the first book with a completely different protagonist. The time shift allows the reader to see what has happened from the events in book one from a new perspective, while also exploring a drastically changed world. It was something I always wanted to do—I just didn’t realise it yet when I started writing my first novel. I am sitting at about 100k words currently, and still going (slowly, slowly).
- The series will be a trilogy, again many years after the first book (almost 200 years, or more) and the protagonists will be a male and a female. This will be my first foray into multiple points of view and I’m a little nervous about it, but also a touch excited. I expect I will take a short break between books two and three before getting stuck into some vigorous plotting!
Five Things That Help Benjamin Keep Writing
- Scheduled Writing Times: Stephen King says to write daily, about six pages, 2000 words. Due to my work, I only get the end of my week to write, but I try and stick to it. It normally equates to 8-10 hours, and sometimes I stare at a page for three of them. It all counts though, as it helps form good habits.
- Read, Read, Read: As Emilia Clarke says, “Don’t trust a person whose TV is bigger than their bookshelf.” Reading also helps with research, finding your own voice, and understanding what works in the genre you’ve chosen to write in. Besides, enjoying the labours of others comes part and parcel, and there’s a supportive online network out there for indie authors like me who love to beta read.
- Plot, Don’t Pants: Pantsing essentially means writing without clear direction or an end goal. I find that this can be great to start things off, or for writing practise, however it can lead to headaches long-term. This is what I did to begin with, however since changing to plotting, I have definitely been more efficient with better continuity and a firmer picture of where I want to end up.
- Writers Are Re-Writers: This means that we write only once and re-write countless times. You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank one. It reminds me that being consistent with my writing, and getting a first draft, no matter how rough it is, is more important than editing an incomplete story. I still get bogged down by this every so often but now it’s easier to move on, even though the chapter I finished isn’t “perfect” yet.
- Publishing is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Kate Forsyth once told me this. I understand it now as the whole process—conception, writing, editing and publishing—is a long one. The last phase with my publisher, Odyssey Books, took about nine months with a lot of preamble and consideration before even that (all in all, about 18 months or more). Pace yourself and manage expectations. It’s a fun ride but it’s a long one.
In the future, Benjamin hopes that his eyesight doesn’t go on him as he ages, so that he can continue to read. ‘Audio books are fine but I would go stir-crazy if I couldn’t read character’s voices, the pacing and the emphasis on different syllables and sentences in my own head. Perhaps future proofing could be learning braille!’
Within the next few years, he would like to have a working holiday in Ireland to study the history, do some research, and keep writing his third book in his series.
‘Australians are often well-received there and I’ve done bar work in the past, which could tide me over. Fingers crossed!’
At home, he is aiming to install a floor to ceiling library to hold all of his books. Like many avid readers, he is continually running out of space, although he says, his circular rotating bookshelves have bought some time. For now! He wants to collaborate with cover artist, Nino Is, for book two and three.
‘He delivered such an amazing work of art for Beckoning of the Gate, and the process itself was exciting and eye-opening. I recommend checking his stuff out on Art Station and Instagram.’
Finally, Benjamin is considering getting a new pet.
‘Seti was my little guy, an Italian Greyhound, and the perfect breed to accommodate the duality of my life: lounging mode (when I’m writing or relaxing) and energy mode (when I’m exercising or exploring). Losing him was tough and I’ve been umming and ahhing for some time now on whether or not I can go through it all again. “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”, or so they say. Watch this space!’
You can find Benjamin and his books here.
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