Ben Julien is an ex-Brisbane boy and writer, now Canberra transplant. He’s also a dad, a Clarion South survivor and the author of the Runes Saga (of which you can read an extract here). He blogs over at Narrated Worlds, and has an all-inclusive approach to donuts and danishes.
1. I first knew I was a writer when…
I held my first published novel in my hands. Of course, it was the culmination of years of dabbling, then brainstorming, drafting and editing which were all completely new to me. I knew I was a novice in the business, but that if I could do it once, I could, and would write another novel. And another. Doubts are ever-present, but that first achievement is my foundation, and proof positive that this is the business for me.
2. The five things I wish I’d known when I first started writing are:
-that practice is key, and if I keep writing and trying and submitting, I’ll get there eventually. I didn’t start for so long, because the idea of finishing a book, let alone getting published, seemed too magical and too unreal. I couldn’t see myself published.
– that there is community: I knew nothing about the writing community, about writing competitions, events, awards, blogs etc(yes, I knew nothing at all). I simply didn’t know any other writers. My first experience of a group of writers socialising and working together or in parallel, was at the Clarion South Writers’ workshop.
– that short story markets there be. I wish I had known they existed, that I could learn my craft with much shorter length stories. I think I would have begun writing seriously much sooner. Of course, I have no excuse, I didn’t know they existed because I never bothered looking, but any aspiring writers I talk to now, I suggest writing a complete short story, submitting, writing another, submitting etc. I can’t think of a better way to learn with tangible feedback (rejections almost certainly – good practice).
– that money doesn’t always flow from publication. I wish I had known how little money there was, how long the timeframes were for publication, how much more work was needed before becoming semi-professional or professional (and I’m not there yet). I made some poor day-job decisions based on a starry-eyed, naive view of the returns from publishing novels.
– err, that’s only four. Hmm. Really though, the learning about all this is the journey, which is the end, so I have no regrets and am enjoying the struggle.
3. The inspiration for the new series was…
Ambition. I wanted to create my own world, not borrow this one. Several years ago I lived in France for a short time, helping out a friend who owned a newsagency in a little village near Luxembourg. I did the newspaper delivery for a month, driving around in a strange, pre-dawn place with a map that I followed among the dark, labyrinthine streets. A boring job, in a weird place. What more do you need to let the imagination free?
4. Which book did you read that first made you think ‘I want to do something like that!’?
When I was tyke, I discovered these sword and sorcery choose-your-own-adventure books: Fighting Fantasy. I was hooked. They were mostly medieval / fantasy settings, but there were more than a few sci-fi and post-apocalyptic ones. They were the gateway drug to making my own stories from scratch.
5.Donuts or danishes?
By “or”, you mean “and”, don’t you? And the answer is, “yes, please”.