Benjamin J. Law was born in Colorado in 1996. Like most imaginative boys, Benjamin used to pace around his house, making up stories and acting them out. But before the passion for writing overtook his interests, he loved animals and wanted to become a veterinarian, but soon realized animals didn’t like him as much as he like them.
Instead, he turned to writing short speeches at the age of eight, and soon that evolved into short stories getting scribbled into notebooks. When he wasn’t writing, reading, or doing homework, he was that kid jumping from couch to couch, avoiding the imaginary bullets and defeating the imaginary giants.
By nine, his family moved to Arizona, where he started in on the first draft of what would become his first novel, The Book of Ardilia. Over the next eight years, he rewrote the story three times, and adopted the pen name Benjamin J. Law. In February of 2014, at 17 years old, he published my first book. Since then, he’s turned this passion into a viable career, having published four books to date.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with this young author to learn more about his work and how a 21-year-old can write such elaborate fantasy stories.
You published your first book at 17! What motivated you to become a writer? And how long does it typically take you to write a book from concept to finished product?
The initial motivation was that I needed another world to inhabit. My parents had divorced when I was young, and one of my brothers was suffering with some addiction issues, which is actually why we moved to Arizona—for rehab options. Reading was great, but after so many books, it just wasn’t enough anymore. What pushed me onto the line of insanity and genius that all writers walk was the words of my 4th grade English teacher, named Mrs. Lopez, I think. We had a poetry assignment, and when I submitted it through the online system I used for distance learning she told me that I had a gift. That poem was called Four Friends, and I included it in We Are Humans Collection, which I published in 2016.
The time it takes to write a book has decreased over time. The final draft of The Book of Ardilia took me two years. The War for Yokendale, my second novel, took me six months. And my most recent release, Mordecai – Episode One: Bloodthirsty, took me three months. Editing is where the time is, though. Mordecai, for instance, took me four times as long to finish during the rewriting and editing process, as opposed to the three month first draft period.
What is your focus as a novelist? And what types of stories are fun for you to tell?
My focus is to make the reader feel something—what they feel is generally unique to each reader. I like to tell real human tales, inspired by emotion and the human condition, and then I place those tales in a fantastical setting, filled with otherworldly sights and histories. I hope that striking that balance of a character you can relate to and a world that you have to imagine provides the reader with an escape, but also, at the end of the day, makes the reader think.
Tell us about your latest book. What can we expect from the journey?
My latest book is called Mordecai – Episode One: Bloodthirsty. It shows you the world of Prowlers, which are the inter-world travelers of the multiverse, through the eyes of Mordecai Arda. Mordecai’s father, Jude, was an elf from another world who got stuck on Earth and fell in love with an African American Catholic girl, Eleanor. Mordecai, this African American Catholic half-elf, then watches his father get kidnapped by cultists involved with a group called Dead Wood. Jump forward, Mordecai is now 35, and the search for his father has wrought no return—the story continues from there.
This novel is one of the shorter of my works, but it’s a stepping stone to a vast new world, a new multiverse, that I have big plans for as the series continues. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I will say that the cost and balance of faith is a big theme throughout Mordecai’s story, both in Episode One and beyond. I make a point to show a diversity of religions and beliefs. Mordecai is Catholic, but his two partners are Johanna and Edom, who are respectively an atheist and a Polihaimer, who worships blood as the ‘lifestream’ that flows through his veins and gives him life. Even Mordecai’s mother converted to Lutheranism in an attempt to cope with her husband’s disappearance.
What do you hope to inspire in your readers?
As a writer, I want to encourage people to see the world in a different way, and to face everyday challenges bravely and in their own way. As a person, I want to inspire everyone I encounter to chase their dreams, be themselves, and live life like they mean it. Life is the most difficult story, but if I can touch just one person with my words, then I’ve made a difference.
What is one piece of advice that has changed your life?
It wasn’t said to me so much as it was demonstrated. When I was 10 or 11, my grandma had a stroke. Out of her seven kids, my mom was the one who offered to care for her. My grandma, the only other writer in my family, lived with us for five years as Alzheimer’s disease slowly deteriorated her mind. During those five years, my grandma taught me to take each day as it comes and to love with patience and without condition. That principle has gotten me farther than anything else. She passed away at home with her head in my lap and with all her kids together, via Skype, for the first time in over ten years.
Writing is not an easy profession. Are you self-published or where you able to secure a publishing deal? And what do you recommend for those who want to follow in a similar path?
I contacted several publishers, but at the end of the day decided on self-publishing through Amazon.com. It hasn’t been easy, and in fact has been very difficult. Every connection is sacred—every follow on Twitter or like on Facebook or handshake at a book festival. Publishing houses, while fantastic, are at a high risk with every book deal, and thusly charge high rates for as of yet unknown authors. I do hope, after I’ve established myself even further, to connect with a publisher I can trust with my life, because that’s what my writing is for me.
For those looking to write, first I want to say DO IT. Don’t be scared of what people think or what they’ll say. That’s the hardest part: the criticism. I once had a random mail carrier buy my book, but before he did I had confided in him how nervous I was, 18 years old at the time. He looked me dead in the face and said, “Write. Write what you love, and the readers will come.” It might not be right away—it won’t be right away—but write. Write what you love and publish how you see fit. The readers will come.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a novelist? And what has been the biggest reward to come out of your work?
The biggest misconception is that writing is something you always have to love to do. It’s true that you have love for the craft, but I’ve never met a writer in my whole life that’s said they love everything that they’ve written. I’ll be honest, sometimes it sucks. Sometimes, a writer has gotten so deep into a work, maybe finished a project, only to gag at the thought of it. There’s a George Orwell quote I saw online that said, speaking on writing a novel, “One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
However, in regards to the rewards of writing, there have been so many. I don’t write for money or for fame, though they are hopefully byproducts, but rather for the human connection and the chance at positively affecting someone’s life. The biggest reward I’ve gotten was just words. I’m part of an international honor society called Phi Theta Kappa, which I joined at the community college I attend, and one of my fellow Phi Theta Kappans bought my second book, The War for Yokendale. She was reading it for herself and to her son, who she said watched The Walking Dead and wouldn’t mind the violence of a war story, and one day she sent me a message that said her son was my biggest fan. She told me that he was talking every day about being a writer now, and that hit me harder than anything before or since, because I’d encouraged a young person to try their hand at the craft.
To learn more about Benjamin J. Law or read one of his novels, visit his store on Amazon.