2016 Snapshot: Ben Peek

Interview by Tansy Rayner Roberts.

authorphotoBen Peek is the Sydney based author of Leviathan’s Blood, The Godless, Black Sheep, Above/Below, Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, and the collection, Dead Americans and Other Stories. You can find him on twitter attwitter.com/nosubstance and at www.theurbansprawlproject.com

Since the last Snapshot, you have had two novels of a fantasy trilogy released from Tor – The Godless and Leviathan’s Blood. How has the experience been of working with a major UK publisher as an Australian author, as compared to with your previous novels? 

All my books but Above/Below have been done in a different time zone – the UK, US, and Canada – so I’ve kept that strange sense of everything happening while I am asleep, and the first hours of the morning being for responding to email. But after that, everything has been a bit different.
Primarily, it’s the size of it. Pan Macmillan have all these people who do promotion, edits, line edits, covers, marketing, and so on and so forth, and there’s a very real sense of a book being taken away from you to be worked on by those people. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I should add. Saying that a book is being ‘taken’ away sounds bad, but honestly, line editing, marketing, and all of that can be taken by whoever wants that particular pain. But my other books were independent presses, and you’re often working with the same person through all of those parts, and there’s a sense of it always being with you, from beginning to end. In some ways, you feel as if you have a little more control, but it’s mostly an illusion created by being targeted at a smaller audience, I think. Yet, at the same time, there is a very real sense of a book being out of your control with a larger publisher, that you have little say over who sees it, hears about it, reviews it, and so forth. In some ways, it’s good, in some bad.
Being Australian hasn’t really meant anything, I am afraid. It’s biggest detraction, as always, is simply distance.

Leviathan’s Blood was very recently released! Why should everyone immediately run out and buy a copy?

Because it’s mine?
Well, on the off case that that doesn’t work for you, you ought to rush out and buy it because it’s big and crazy. It is a epic fantasy series linked together by a thematic concern of power, in particular divine power, and how you define what a god is, how a god defines your world, and so on and so forth. It’s full of dead gods, live gods, people who were once gods, the dead, the living, big set piece sword fights, huge artificial countries built out of stone across a black ocean, and terrible people. It is also a work that is built to show a multicultural, diverse world, one that I think is very Australian, if I may say so, and if you want to see big epic fantasy with diversity and all this other out there crazy stuff, you ought to give it ago.
Also, I saw someone say it was the best book published this year. Now, obviously, I don’t know what else they have read, but lets assume everything, and allow them to be right.

What are your plans for the next thing, after the trilogy is released? Are you working on a Shiny New Thing right now, or are you still elbows-deep in Book 3?

No, I’ve finished the third book, and I am writing a new book, which is strange, and about things that don’t exist.
I don’t actually want to say too much about it, at the moment. Hopefully everyone will love it once I am done, and people will get to read it, but I’ve found talking about new things while you write them kind of talks it out of you, a little. You want to keep it inside you until it is done,  I think.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

You know, I haven’t read any Australian work recently. I have ordered Kaaron Warren’s new book, I have Rjurik Davidson’s new one, and few others, but I haven’t read much local. It happens. Maybe in the next half of the year it will pick up. I believe Coetzee has a new book out in a few months. He’s a transplanted South African, but his last book was put out by Text, so it’ll count, right?
Right.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Right now, it’d be Roberto Bolano.
I finished his magnificent book 2666 a few weeks ago, and I would, entirely, spent a plane ride with him, talking about the themes of it, in particular the notion of violence, and how we create it around us. From violence against women, to the violence of men against each other, to that of war, of literature, of culture. Such a great book, really. I can’t stop thinking about it and I’ve been reading his other work, since (hence why there is no time for Australian authors at the moment, only Chilean ones). Sadly he died in 2003 at the age of fifty, so it would be a conversation with the remains of Bolano, but still, I think it would be fascinating.
Actually, I just had a thought: one of the primary translators of Bolano is Chris Andrews, who is Australian, I believe. So, that counts as an Australian I’ve been reading. Of course, 2666 was translated by Natasha Wimmer, who is an American, but Andrews has done eight or so of Bolano’s books, and surely it still counts, yes?
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