What was your background before you starting writing?
I was alternating being a Critical Care Nurse with Remote Area Nursing when an Australian writer friend, who was starting up a medical drama in New Zealand, asked me to help him out. I was reluctant because, though I’d never watched soap opera, I didn’t have a high opinion of it…
Who introduced you to writing?
I needed a holiday, so I took up my friend’s offer, flew out of a remote Indigenous Central Australian community, back to Darwin, then down to Auckland. There I met the Beast with Six Heads – a story lining team. It was an extreme culture change – from midnight call-outs to sew up machete wounds, to inner-city café culture, working with a small group of smart and educated writers. Outclassed and clueless, I threw myself into it and, despite being a painfully slow learner, I began to take in the fundamentals of researching, interviewing, and story and character creation. Despite the difficulties, I fell in love with the week-in, week-out demands of serial drama. A few years later, after a brief stint as World’s Worst Script Editor (I rewrote every script), I became a scriptwriter, and eventually worked with other shows in New Zealand and Australia.
What was the one thing that impressed you the most about becoming a writer?
Just as body builders sculpt muscle, I learned that writers rewire brains. Mine now generates story and character, constantly. It’s not all War and Peace, I grant you, but my dreams often contain cliff-hangers and commercial breaks. I’ve literally paused in a dream to muse on whether the premise was strong enough.
How is your writing making a difference for you right now?
I’ve been a full-time television writer for twenty years, so while I can pay the bills, it’s a scarier proposition than someone with a real job like, say, nursing. That said, when the urge to scratch that novel-writing itch became too great, I knew a bit about narrative, drama, humour, structure and character. And so I became an aspiring author.
As a child, what was your relationship with books?
My mum read to me, and I still remember that feeling of quiet listening, secure and peaceful. Then, as a toddler, I found a book called The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White, which had no illustrations but a colourful and intriguing cover. I was told I could read it when I was ‘a bit older’. Being a stubborn little sh….ahem, determined little kid, I threw myself at this challenge, year in and year out until I conquered the whole magnificent thing. At that point, our entire bookcase, filled with politics (my father was a Communist and Union organiser), art (mum), and science (Darwin), and a few ‘grown-up’ novels was mine to explore. The Adelaide Children’s Library, which I visited every few weeks to return a stack of books, would also – unbelievably – allow me to take away another huge stack to read. The joy and wonder of it all allowed me entrée to hundreds of thrilling worlds, ideas, characters and styles of writing. I was hooked.
What is the most important thing about what you want to do?
Produce novels that have emotional depth, that take readers to places they’ve never been, and are of a sufficient standard to warrant publication and translation. And sell many, many copies.
Do you believe books can change the world?
Books – and the ideas within them – can and do change the world. It’s why totalitarian governments burn them, and the Kansas School Board produces a Banned Book List every year. The children’s authors who filled my head with ideas were many and varied, and I still carry diverse values and concepts from my early reading. When I studied Children’s Literature at Deakin, I discovered one thing – the ideas we take from the books aren’t necessarily those the author intended, but they are the most powerful. We read unconsciously, but seeds are planted – and the more diverse the garden, the healthier the thinking.
What do you hope people will take away from your writing?
Positivity about the human species. It’s true we’re destroying the planet, but that’s not all we are. On my travels, I’ve seen that human good outweighs human evil. People just need to think a little more, an activity that many resist, and even hate. But, by reading stories that unlock eras of history, mass movements of peoples, and individual beliefs and behaviours, we expand our horizons.
What is your ultimate goal?
Laugh if you will, but I’d like to derive an income from writing historical and spec fic YA novels. If I can manage it in the world of scriptwriting, why not traditional publishing? I’d be happy as…
Has Share Your Story helped you in any way?
Realistic and compassionate writing advice from seasoned professionals.
What results have you experienced, good or bad, about being a part of the publishing industry?
The closest I’ve come to being a ‘part of the publishing industry’ is securing an agent, Danielle Binks at Jacinta di Mase, and being shortlisted for the 2017 QLA Emerging Writer Award.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
[waves magic wand] Extremists of every sort begone! Puppies of every breed appear!
If you would like to find out more about Ben, contact him via his website and social media