I recently met Ben Chandler for a chat in Glenelg, Adelaide. Glenelg beach was teeming with summer beachgoers and we met in nearby coffe shop, Cibo.
Ben discussed life as a newly full-time writer, thanks to an Arts South Australia grant, as well as Beast Child (his second novel and the sequel to his debut novel Quillblade), and his upcoming urban fantasy novel set in Adelaide.
Ben discussed his love of speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy), especially young adult spec fic. Ben described Quillblade as a steampunk novel. Steampunk is a term which many readers would not be very familiar with, but is becoming more and more familiar to spec fic writers and readers. There are different ideas about and versions of steampunk, so I asked Ben what he considers steampunk or the best kind of steampunk. Ben explained that he considers steampunk to be closely linked to Victorian England (England during the period in which Queen Victoria ruled) because that was the time and place where steam power started being concentrated and put to industrial use on a large scale. For Ben, steampunk is about shifting to more concentrated uses of energy and the different ways people think and behave with this newfound power and the technology which is enabled by it.
Ben is a fan of fiction writers such as Michael Pryor, LL Hannet, Scott Westerfield, Kate Forsyth, John Flanagan, Sean Williams and many more. He listed a lot of favourites not wanting to leave anyone out (so if you’re a young adult spec fic writer who knows Ben and was not mentioned here, don’t blame Ben; he probably did mention you). He also loves comics, animation and Japanese movies. We spoke about english language Japanese animation, from Astro Boy to The Twins of Destiny, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Steamboy, and Mamoru Oshii’s movies and the TV spinoff Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex.
I asked Ben if there was any sort of fiction he would especially like to see more of from Australian writers and he said comics/graphic novels (as well as just more of everything).
Ben said he tends to like main characters who are not just an invincible or faultless hero who goes about overcoming challenges but prefers main characters who are flawed or ‘damaged’ in some way through their journey. We discussed The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and When Courage Came to Call by LM Fuge in relation to characters who become ‘damaged’ over the course of a story, physically and psychologically. Look out for Beast Child, due for release in September 2011, for a novel with a ‘damaged’ main character.
Ben also discussed his writing process, explaining that he begins with the main characters (once he has the characters sorted out, everything else starts to fall into place), then develops a plot (which, once developed, does not change much throughout the writing process) and gets down to the actual writing (which he can get through quickly, as long as he has thought about the characters and plot, and sorted them out in his mind before he begins writing). When doing the actual writing, Ben tends to focus on one project at a time for an intensive period of time until the story is finished. When writing in that way, it can be tempting to have long gaps between intensive writing periods, but Ben recommends some advice he received from Fiona McIntosh [interviewed here and here] after finishing his first novel; when you’ve finished a story, put it aside and start another one straight away.
Coming soon – a chat with Rebecca James in Port Macquarie.
The Australian Literature Review