One of this summer’s big releases, which has garnered a lot of buzz, is Ben Peek’s The Godless. I reviewed it yesterday and found it an interesting opening to a new big fat epic fantasy trilogy with intriguing world building and great characters. Today is the book’s official release date and to celebrate it, I’ve got an Author Query for you. I hope you enjoy Ben’s answers as much as I did!
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Ben Peek?
I’m an author who lives in Sydney and my previous books are Black Sheep, Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, Above/Below, and most recently, Dead Americans and Other Stories, a short story collection.
I live with my partner, Nikilyn Nevins, who is a photographer.
How would you introduce people to the world of The Godless?
It is a world that, fifteen thousand years ago, was damaged by a war between the gods. A fractured sun orbits the planet. The sea has turned black with blood. The gods, who lie upon the ground, or beneath it, or in the ocean, are still dying – and in some cases, they are dead. But their divine power, which seeps into the ground, into the water, into the air, also seeps into men and women, and over the last ten thousand years, those men and women have changed the world, not always for the better.
What inspired the world of The Godless? Because building your houses on the dying and decaying bodies of Gods? That’s a somewhat disturbing visual!
My original idea was to write a fantasy novel without gods, but once I brought in the powers that some of the characters end up with, I was forced to bring in the gods, and once I settled on that, I wanted to do something a bit different. Gods feature quite heavily in fantasy books, but I wanted to do something a bit different with them, and so the idea of having them strewn across the world, a reminder of a giant war that happened thousands of years ago, is how I went.
Your main character Ayae is a character of colour and is portrayed as such on the cover (hurrah!). How important was it to you that she be portrayed correctly?
Well, firstly, it should be said that the idea to have Ayae on the cover was Julie Crisp’s, my editor. So all credit of that should go to her, really.
Once we got into the design of the character, the artist, Alejandro Colucci, presented a handful of images based on descriptions in the book, and a little bit more information that I provided (I had based Ayae’s appearance on South East Asian women – Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, etc – and Julie and I went through them, listing pros and cons. It was important for both of us that we did it right, because like most things, if you’re not going to do it right, then why bother? About the only thing we differed on at the end was if we would take the final image of Ayae and design the cover on a full face or partial face reveal. I thought the former was better and, since we were going to have a person of colour on the book, why go to that effort and hide it? But as Julie pointed out, research from buyers tends to favour the partial. Anyhow, both our points had merit, and to see which one would resonate better, we through it out for discussion on the Tor blog, and the full face cover was preferred.
Will Ayae be the main character for all three of the books in the series?
Ayae shares the main character role with two others, Zaifyr and Bueralan, and the series is really an ensemble piece for the three. In fact, the plan with the covers is to use one character on each – three books, three characters. The second one will have Zaifyr on it, from what I understand.
Ayae’s power is all about fire. But from the synopsis there seem to be other powers out there. Which one was your favourite and would you choose to have it yourself?
I would have Zaifyr’s power. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone, but I would have Zaifyr’s, and all the madness that came with it, sadly. But to me, it is the most interesting.
What’s next for you? Are you working on the second book in the Children series or are you completely done and have you moved on to a new series? Any appearances or conventions planned?
I just finished writing the second book, which is currently called Leviathan’s Blood, and I’m about to begin on the third one (well, I will have begun the third one by the time this appears).
As for appearances/cons, living in Australia restricts that, a little, but I will be in Loncon in August, so if you’re there, come say hi.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
I really love music.
I have no skill in it, and that’s okay, but I love music.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Lucius Shepard’s final novel, Beautiful Blood, will be released soon, and I would like to direct everyone to that, if I could. It is a novel based on his classic short story, ‘The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule’, which is the story of a giant, comatose, but malevolent dragon who people plan to kill by painting it, and letting the toxins of the paint seep into its body. I would be a poor author if I did not acknowledge that the Godless did not owe a debt to Shepard as both an author and a man, and I think everyone should find the book, and the collection, the Dragon Giaule, as well.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
It might be that my girlfriend and I devised a system by which we shelve our books based on the year that the author was born. It may be that, at the start of our house, by the front door, the 1990s begin the books we own, and that, at the back of our house, sits the old classics by people such as Homer and Dante. It may also be that we are entirely too proud of our shelving system and enjoy spending our time digging up the birthdates of authors too much.
Bio: Ben Peek is the critically acclaimed author of The Godless and three previous novels Black Sheep, Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, and Above/Below, co-written with Stephanie Campisi. He has also written a short story collection, Dead Americans. In addition to this, Peek is the creator of the short-lived psychogeography pamphlet,The Urban Sprawl Project. With the artist Anna Brown, he created the autobiographical comic Nowhere Near Savannah. He currently lives in Sydney with his partner, the photographer Nikilyn Nevins, and their cat, Lily.