Hi Ben! I’m so glad you could drop by the Village today and tell us about the sequel to your debut novel, THE EYE OF RA. What’s the name of the next book in the series, and can you tell us a bit about it, please?
Thank you for having me, Kathie! It’s an honor to be featured on MGBookVillage. You and the others do such great things for the middle grade community. Thank you.
My new book is SOL INVICTUS and picks up where THE EYE OF RA left off, specifically following John and Sarah. In book two, I tease a bit more about the overall series arc, but the meat of the adventure is when John and Sarah travel back to an ancient Roman frontier town called Aventicum in modern day Switzerland. They’ve been given a cryptic message that they must unite the Roman emperor of Gaul with one of the Alemanni (Germanic) “barbarians” if they wish to fulfill their quest. Along the way they have to survive in the Alps, battle fearsome wild beasts in the gladiator ring, and evade capture during a chariot chase. And all while dealing with their own internal struggles around the balance between independence versus being part of a whole, and how those two things can coexist.
How did writing the second book differ from writing the first one, and what’s one thing you did differently this time?
I plotted a lot more from the outset with this book. I love to just sit down and write and let my mind wander and follow the movie along, so to speak. That is how book one started, in collaboration with my sons. Then, of course, once we had some meat to a story, I did outline the whole thing and went back and revised heavily so that the outcome is different than it was when we started. But with book two, while I did brainstorm with my boys for ideas, I completed a more thorough outline before diving in to the writing. I also plotted more of the overall series arc and completed a skeleton for book three at the same time as book two. The day I stop learning is the day I die and this writing process is no exception!
Do you find that feedback from your readers influences the direction of the series, or do you have an idea ahead of time where it’s going?
Definitely both. I love to hear feedback about what worked well and what maybe didn’t excite as much. You can learn from both types of feedback. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything, and I certainly need to remember that this is my story and story-telling can be a subjective art, but I do incorporate a lot of the ideas from my readers (especially my sons, of course!) because often they are brilliant ideas! For one example, my sons introduced the idea of a puppy into the mix and that spawned my thinking about a wolf, and research led me to the story of Fenrir, and… Well, I do like to keep some surprises…
Have you changed your writing schedule over the last few months, and if so, how has that impacted you?
Well, my writing schedule has changed quite a bit, but not primarily because of COVID per se, which is what I think you’re driving at. What has most impacted my writing schedule is the various multi-tasking necessary with having multiple books in various stages of development or production. I’m still marketing my first book, but that’s taking a bit of a back seat because I’m now focusing more of those efforts on Sol Invictus – this cover reveal, contacting ARC-reviewers and bloggers, etc. And I’m also writing the third book. To be honest, I don’t love the marketing aspects of book selling. Or, said more accurately and in the positive: I most enjoy the writing part of being an author. 🙂
Let’s talk about the new book’s cover. I know you have the same illustrator; can you tell us about the experience of working with them?
Anne Glenn (http://anneglenndesign.co.uk/) is a very talented and distinguished illustrator and designer. She’s worked with a lot of big names and big publishing houses so I feel very lucky to be working with her. Her beautiful work speaks for itself!
It’s time for the big reveal!
Oh wow, there are so many great details in this cover; it looks like an action-packed ride!
What is it that you hope young readers will take away from your books?
The thing I loved about reading when I was a kid (and still do, of course) was the ability of a book to transport me to another time and place, or even to within another body, to see the world outside of my own horse blinders. I could be and do anything. I love the adventure, the possibilities, and the learning that come with that shift in perspective. And, though maybe I didn’t fully grok it at the time, reading let me work through my own “stuff.” In the best books, I could empathize with the character. They may be completely different from me, but I subconsciously learned from our shared humanity and shared challenges. I feared with them, I reveled with them, I overcame with them.
And besides, a little escapism isn’t such a bad thing, as long as there’s a good story wrapped inside of all the thrills.
Are there more books to come in the series, and if so, can you tell us anything about what you’re working on right now?
I am working on book three now! All will be revealed about who John and Sarah really are, and why they’ve been traveling in time. Their character growth will ratchet up along a self-actualization curve and bring them more into their own skins.
For the core of the adventure, they’ll be traveling to the time of the Aztec people (who actually called themselves the Mexica) in modern-day central Mexico, around the ancient city of Tenochtitlan (where Mexico City now resides). One of my challenges with this third book will be the names! For example, Huitzilopochtli was the sun god (among other things) and a primary deity for the Aztecs. Yes, I listened to pronunciation guides.
Where can people go to find out more about you and your writing?
Pre-orders for SOL INVICTUS coming February 2021 are available now:
All the Digital: https://books2read.com/sol-invictus-ben-gartner
Print pre-orders: Coming soon! You can sign up for my newsletter to learn more here: http://bit.ly/ben-gartner-mailing-list
Thank you for allowing us to be part of your cover reveal, Ben.
It has been my pleasure! Thank you so much. And thank you again for all the time and effort you volunteer for our middle grade community – authors, readers, teachers, librarians, thank you!
Ben Gartner is the award-winning author of The Eye of Ra adventure series for middle graders. 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.