Author Interview: Benjamin J. Ryan

This photo was kindly provided by Benjamin for use in this post.

Hi everyone! Today I interviewed Benjamin J. Ryan, who kindly sent me a digital copy of Beckoning Of The Gate in exchange for an honest review. Before I get into this interview, I would like to say a massive thank you to him for his kindness and his time!

When did you realise you wanted to become an author?

Funnily enough, I’ve never actually aspired to become an author precisely, only to write and someday publish that writing so I could share it with others. The means by which I would do this never really crossed my mind until it came to the crunch a few years back. When I started Beckoning of the Gate, I was fifteen years old, however I didn’t realise what I was getting myself into at the time. All I’d wanted was to write a short story, but I soon found a tale emerging of its own accord, and keeping it confined to a few thousand words would be an impossibility. It was a winding journey, for both the characters and myself as a writer. I have learnt so much and it still feels weird to say I’m an author—so instead I’m a writer, and I hope it remains that way no matter my successes and setbacks in years to come. 

What inspired the story behind Beckoning of the Gate?

When I was twelve years old, I came across a book called The Ill-Made Mute by Cecilia Dart-Thornton. I already had a significant number of readings under my belt by that age but had yet to venture into adult fiction. One of my aunties told me to give it a go, so I did … but it just didn’t sink in. It felt, for my underdeveloped brain, too complex, so I put it away. Fast-forward a year and thirteen-year-old me found the book again and decided to give it another go. 

It was like a key clicking inside a lock—suddenly, everything made sense, and the richness of the story and prose for such a young mind was awe-inspiring. The use of Irish and Scottish folklore in particular blew me away. It was then I fell in love with writing, I think, and not just reading.

My story came after that, and apart from Dart-Thornton and her Bitterbynde Trilogy, I have been influenced by the likes of David Eddings, Garth Nix, Juliet Marillier, Jane Austen, Eoin Colfer and, more recently, Brandon Sanderson.

Which character in Beckoning of the Gate was most fun to write?

Madame Vorsha! I know, I know, everyone keeps expecting me to say Biahnd, and I’ve been told countless times she is everyone’s favourite character, but I have a special place in my heart for the sama’harad

What some people probably haven’t realised is that the world I have built is influenced by real world cultures and societies in our history. English/Irish for Seratora, Gaelic/Scandinavian for Gorus, Latin/French for Calig, and Indian/Sri-Lankan for Vaera. This is why the language and names might be hard to pronounce sometimes (sorry about that!).

My grandmother is Anglo-Indian and was born in the British Colonies before India gained independence. Vorsha is somewhat of an amalgam of my grandmother, mother and her sisters—their mannerisms, logic, compassion, and culture all seeped into the character. Vorsha sees to the heart of things just like these strong women have all my life. 

And who knows, the sama’harad may make an appearance again if all goes accordingly …

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

My advice is something I’ve learnt over a decade, so it may not resonate with those who are just starting out and prefer to learn from their mistakes. I have three tips which I have incorporated into my life (with different levels of success and fine tuning, even to this day):

1. Plot, don’t Pants: A “pantser” is someone who writes with no overall goal in mind, just the act of writing. This works well for unstructured writing or exercises to hone your skills, and how I actually started my first book. “Plotting”, on the other hand, will make you think ahead and won’t allow the story to get away from you. It’s also easier to ensure continuity of plot and character details. 

2. Consistency is Key: Schedule a time and write. Even if you only get the pad out or the word document up and read a little of what you’ve written so far to get the juices flowing. A single sentence, perhaps daily, even weekly, will build up over time and create good habits when inspiration does strike and you find yourself writing until 3AM the next day. 

3. Writers are Re-Writers: Leading on from the previous point, this reminds me not to get bogged down by what I’ve written already. Rather, that there will be plenty of time to review it later. Writing is creative while editing is analytical—the two don’t mix well. Keep the creative flow. Forward motion is important, without it we will never finish anything.

What inspired the idea behind the seelie and unseelie in Beckoning
of the Gate?

This particular concept isn’t new. It has been grounded in Gaelic and Irish folklore for centuries and used by many authors, particularly Cecilia Dart-Thornton and Juliette Marillier. Both types have uncanny origins (the fair ones, the sidhe, faeries or fae, the wee ones) with influences over nature and the five senses. Seelie infers a benevolence (or at least, no outward aversion) to humanity, while unseelie is considered malevolent with particular scorn for all mortals and a cruelty harboured for millennia. They have their own courts, their own hierarchy, and a set of rules they follow—some known to us and others a complete mystery.

I delved into this world through these novels but also an illustrated book called Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee, who were in turn heavily influenced by stories collated by none other than Lady Jane Wilde, Sir Oscar Wilde’s mother. Without her, these stories might have been lost as Irish folklore is primarily oral. She took it upon herself to scribe these tales, told and re-told by the hearthfire in Irish and Gaelic homes for centuries. This glimpse into history and these beliefs inspire me still. 

If you could meet the characters from Beckoning of the Gate, what would you say to them? Do you think you’d get on?

Many of the characters have drawn on my own life experiences, in particular Santha’s relationship with her mother. The give and take, the stubbornness and baiting, arguments and heartfelt need to be there for one another, but not always knowing the right way to go about it, Santha and I share with our own mothers. With regards to this, I would tell Santha that her family loves her and nothing will change that. That Papa is right and things always work out, given enough time. 

Apart from that, I’d say Dandon, Biahnd and I would get along swimmingly! And that I’d love to spend hours with them poring over ancient texts and learning about the histories of such a magickal place. 

While finally, I’d like to meet Vorsha. She would intimidate the heck out of me but having someone so wise in the way of the world, so calm and reassuring, I can only imagine she would give the best advice, especially when you need it the most.

What was the hardest scene to write in Beckoning of the Gate?

The first few chapters, actually. Originally, it began in Santha’s estate and nothing had started in her hometown—no whispers of scandal, no rumours. And the plot for Percival McKascey had been penned as a near miss rather than the attack it turned into. However, after getting guidance from sensitivity beta readers, many said I needed to go further and I used female experiences from both my family and friends to bring out the raw brutality, shame and journey of self-acceptance that many women have gone through in similar circumstances. 

With the final touches by my friend and editor, Kim Baker in the United States, I hope I have been able to do it justice. 

Are there any key ways Beckoning of the Gate changed from the first draft? If so, how?

As per the previous question, the start of the book was the hardest to write and had the most changes overall. The relationship with mother and daughter also adjusted over time to mirror the brutality of what Santha had to go through.

Apart from this, there were whole scenes I deleted! Being a “pantser” in the beginning meant I had no idea where I was going with my story, only that it was a journey of discovery. There are whole scenes and plots which were cut, in particular one where Santha escapes across the river in the Tabescĕre Forest and comes to a great oak inhabited by many eldritch creatures and fae. 

When writing a novel, mostly for indie writers who are debuting, there are certain rules of conformity we have to follow in order to appeal to a wider audience, as we untried fantasy readers (myself included, I discovered) are a suspicious bunch who rarely like to try new things. This resulted in a shortening of the story, getting rid of unnecessary dialogue and exposition, and making certain scenes more concise. In the end it was much better for it and the parts I didn’t use now become fodder for new potential stories, which is always a bonus for writer’s block when it inevitably arrives. 

Do you have any plans for future books? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?

First and foremost: I will get my next project done in a timely manner that doesn’t take fifteen years to publish. Good habits, good habits, good habits!

Other than that, certainly! The idea is that The Vāyilian Threads will be a distinct trilogy—but with a twist. Every book will have a different protagonist with a complete story arc. This means each book will be somewhat of a standalone with an overarching plot that ties it all together.

I actually started plotting the second book about five years ago and have since commenced writing the first draft (currently at fifty thousand words and counting). Its working title is “Princeling” and will be set seventy years after Beckoning of the Gate. The final book has been outlined too which will assist me with continuity and will be from the perspectives of two characters, again dealing with a different plot but with a firm conclusion of the overarching story.

Some characters will make reappearances, some certainly will not … apart from that, I will leave it up to the imagination of the readers to guess what they think is coming. 😊

Finally, in a sentence how would you describe Beckoning of the Gate?

Beckoning of the Gate is the story of a young woman who, finding an ancient and powerful key, is thrust into a dark and dangerous world she’s only ever glimpsed in the stories of her childhood. 

Phew. It’s always harder than I expect—every time. 

Have you read Beckoning Of The Gate yet? Do you think you’ll be picking it up soon? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed this interview!

Ceri

41 thoughts on “Author Interview: Benjamin J. Ryan

  1. Loved reading this interview! I love that Benjamin started writing so young and that his first raw draft served as the stepping stone he built his finished story up on. Writers are re-writers is also a piece of advice I so easily connect with.

    Thanks ever so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That summary sentence has made me want to read the book immediately – so it might have been hard but it’s definitely worth it! Really interesting interview, especially the bit about writers being re-writers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes I think I’m a combination of the two as well – and I definitely agree that sometimes you just need to be a pantser and go with the flow a little. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      Like

  3. This is an interesting interview. Have not heard of this author before. I will definitely check him out. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I did not know the author or the book but I really loved how the idea for his story grew since he was a kid. I do agree with him that most of the writing part is actually rewriting. It is always great to know the person behind a story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it’s such a lovely story isn’t it?! Oh absolutely, there can be so much editing involved. I’m glad you think so too, I always find it fascinating! Thank you so much for reading and commenting 🙂

      Like

  5. What an incredible interview! I really enjoyed your questions to Benjamin. Beckoning of the Gate sounds wonderful and I loved his advice on being consistent, even if it’s writing a sentence a day. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’d definitely recommend giving Beckoning Of The Gate a go and I think his advice was super helpful too, it’s something I’ve been trying to do recently and it’s such a help! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

      Like

  6. Well okay, I officially want to read this book now! Learning more about the author definitely piqued my interest in the story and how it came to be. I loved reading this interview so much and I immediately added the book to my ever-growing TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. His tips for aspiring authors are very good, particularly defining the plot very tightly. Most of us fail because we’re “pantsers”!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing your interview! I really loved your questions. They are much better and far more interesting than most author interviews I’ve read. This is fun and enjoyable! I’ve never heard of the author (I don’t get out much lol) but I’ll definitely be checking out some of his books in the future!

    There is a small possibility I posted this twice…sorry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you so much, that means a lot to me – I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, thank you so much for reading and commenting!

      (and don’t worry haha, it was only the once!)

      Like

  9. Great interview! I love to hear about other writers’ methods and see what tips they have to offer. I am in awe of folks who can create fantasy worlds – he’s right that readers are hesitant to try new writers, it’s because sometimes the writers don’t capture these worlds well. Taking 15 years to write a book shows a lot of dedication, and most people don’t make it that far so he should be very proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! So do I, I really hope to have a career in the field at some point so I love getting other people’s advice. Yes absolutely, I think with fantasy in particular it can be really hit and miss with the world building so some just stick to what they know. It’s an amazing achievement, that’s for sure! Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      Like

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