Kathie: It’s so nice to have you back at MG Book Village again, Ben! This time, we’re thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for Book 3 in the Eye of Ra series called PEOPLE OF THE SUN. Can you tell us what’s happening with John and Sarah this time?
Ben: I’m so pleased you had me back! As I’ve said before, you and the MG Book Village folks are such a great force for good in our MG community. Thank you kindly.
In PEOPLE OF THE SUN, all is revealed about who John and Sarah really are, and why they’re traveling through time. This was a fun one to finally write, and I hope my readers have their imaginations tickled as much as I did in scheming it up way back when. In terms of the historical era John and Sarah visit, they go back to around the year 1500 CE in central Mexico before a certain Spaniard rapscallion named Cortés arrives. The people with whom they interact are now known as the Aztec. There is plenty of lore to play with in that culture.
Kathie: Were you surprised by any of the events that revealed themselves while you were writing this draft or did you have a pretty good sense of what was happening going into it?
Ben: When I wrote book 1, I didn’t realize I was going to be writing a series. But when I wrote book 2, I knew I had to plot out the series arc more fully so I didn’t write myself into a corner with that middle book. So I had the framework for book 3 before I even started writing book 2. It feels like forever ago and I just can’t wait to get it out into readers’ hands to hear their reactions. Of course, I’ve had beta readers and other author friends read it over, and their enthusiasm for the story has been very exciting. Now time to let it free!
Kathie: What’s something that you’ve learned about yourself from writing this series?
Ben: Wow, this is a great question. Writing this series, and specifically putting it out into the world, has taught me some concrete lessons about being vulnerable. I’d written a few other books before this series, but this is the first one that made it to print. Overcoming that obstacle was something I wish I’d done years ago, but at the same time it feels like now is the perfect time. And the reception from kids, even more than the awards, has been one of the most thrilling and rewarding highlights of my life.
Kathie: This book reveals so much and ends with a satisfying conclusion for the three-book series arc, while also leaving it open to many more adventures for John and Sarah. Do you plan to continue the series?
Ben: I will not be surprised at all if I end up writing more adventures for John and Sarah. Importantly, I wanted to end book 3 on a satisifying note for the series as a whole. But at the same time, I wanted to leave it open to worlds of possibility, similar to how the Magic Tree House books can go on forever (though we know those are for a younger crowd than our MG friends). John and Sarah will always have a special place in my heart, and I’m sure they’ll be whispering in my ear. But, for now, after writing three books about them, I wanted to explore a different story. My work-in-progress is a middle grade “space fiction” (I’m calling it, or some people call the style “hard science fiction”) where my main character gets to travel into orbit in the near-ish future. I want it to be scientifically and technically accurate with the launch details, the layout of the ISS, the real threat of random space debris — I should stop talking now. 😉
Kathie: Can you tell us about your involvement in the cover design process, and who the illustrator is?
Ben: Anne Glenn is a wonderful talent and working with her is fantastic. She’s created art for a lot of big names and big houses. She’s proven herself many times over as having an excellent gift for making award-winning art. I’m delighted she accepted the work for PEOPLE OF THE SUN. You can learn more about Anne here: https://www.anneglenndesign.co.uk/
Kathie: OK, let’s show readers what it looks like!
Kathie: Oh wow, what a great cover!! I especially love the book title with the lightning around it.
Kathie: Have your own kids read this series, and if so, do they offer feedback? What’s been the most useful feedback you’ve gotten from a reader?
Ben: My kids are invaluable in the process, yes. And, most importantly, it’s FUN to involve them in the creation of the story. In fact, I dedicated book 1 to them. My wife is helpful too, so she earned the dedication in book 2. And my readers, who I am so fortunate to know, earned the dedication in book 3. The most useful feedback I receive from readers (such as my kids) is from their reactions while I’m reading. It is priceless to have your eyes down reading and hear a subtle gasp from a student, or a chuckle from your own kid. That alone is worth more than anything else.
Kathie: Are you planning to start writing a new series?
Ben: I touched on my new “space fiction” book above, but as of now I think I’m going to make it a stand-alone. I thought that about The Eye of Ra too, but I think that this one really will be a stand-alone. For now. We’ll see.
Kathie: Let’s remind readers where they can find out more about you and your writing.
Ben: The best spot is my website https://BenGartner.com. I’m active on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BGartnerWriting, a little less so on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/BGartnerWriting/, and I should probably just formally give up on Facebook because I’m terrible at it (but I’m https://www.facebook.com/BenGartnerAuthor). My website at BenGartner.com has all those links, as well as a sign-up for my [infrequent] mailing list as well, in which I offer exclusive giveaways and updates!
Kathie: Thanks again for letting us be part of your reveal, Ben, and I hope we have the opportunity to do this again in the future.
Ben: I am honored to have had the cover reveal here for both SOL INVICTUS (book 2) and PEOPLE OF THE SUN (book 3). Thank you so much for having me again! Talk to you soon. Until next time, happy reading!
Ben Gartner is the award-winning author of The Eye of Ra adventure series for middle graders (ages 8-12). His books take readers for a thrilling ride, maybe even teaching them something in the meantime. Ben can be found living and writing near the mountains with his wife and two boys.