I would like to thank author Ben Burrell for agreeing to be interviewed and making us a part of his blog tour for Red Leaves and the Living Token After the interview enter for your chance to win one of 2 ebooks being given away internationally in your choice of formats.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm six foot five. I live in South Jordan Utah with my wife and three kids. I love hiking and biking and taking my kids to the park.
Six foot five?! Just hearing that makes me feel short at 5 foot 1 inches lol
How long have you been writing?
I started writing my first long format story in junior high. I didn't take it further than the outline. But the interest in telling stories was there. In high school I started exploring computer animation. But everything I made had a story behind it. I remember making the interior of this big space ship so I could do a short film featuring an alien invasion. Cause, what teenage kid doesn't want to make an alien invasion movie. Unfortunately, my ambitions were a little ahead of the technology and my film making abilities. In college I made a 6 min animated short film called the "Multiple Voices of Albert Ross." It was about a guy with a temper that had a bunch of people living in his thumb. When they didn't like what he's doing, they came out and yelled at him. It was a bit crazy, all hand drawn in charcoal. Took me 6 months full time to make. Along with that short I did about ten live action shorts before graduating. "Albert Ross" and one called "Man in a Box" did pretty well in the film festival circuit.
At the festivals I was asked if I had any feature length scripts. Seems thats the point of short films and film festivals, to promote longer form work. All I had at the time was a crazy sci-fi script about a boy who goes inside this microcosmic world and discovers he's inside his own mind. Unfortunately, what the people I met at the festivals were looking for was something simple that could be made for under 100k. So I spent the next few years writing feature scripts trying to find the magic formula of cheap to make yet awesome.
Eventually, my interest in computer animation led to the opportunity to work on "The Little Magician" as an animator. At that point I had to put my writing on the back burner. But before I did I finished the first draft of the "Red Leaves" script.
Has it been hard to balance writing with other aspects of your life?
Yes, absolutely. It takes a long time and a lot of failed stories to polish the craft of writing. It also take a lot of life experience to have something worth writing about. When I was in college it was easy to spend all day writing. I had time but not enough life experience. In the years after college it got harder and harder to fit in time. Now I have a family and a career, I have much less time, but, inversely, the writing comes much much easier.
Red Leaves and the Living Token is an unusual story, how did you come up with this concept?
I had an incredibly vivid dream many years ago where I saw a little glowing plant in the middle of a forest. There were warthog looking creatures standing around it who were attacked by tall, slender plant like creatures who had arms like spears. The story of the father taking his son to the plant to be healed was also part of the original idea.
The three races seem to represent plants, animals, and earth/rock, where did this idea originate?
The animals and plant people where part of that original dream. The rock creatures developed later on. I wanted to balance out three parts of one whole, so the earth portion of the three was a natural fit. I really liked the idea that in this world there was a natural harmony in its design where things weren't most efficiently. But because of the agency of individuals the three different types of people fought against each other regardless of the mutual benefit of working together. For example, each of the nations of people have natural strengths and effiecies in one specific area. The Zo are closest to the animal kingdom and most able to leverage animals to their advantage. The Botans are most able to use plants to their advantage and the Petra with the minerals of the earth. So if you take one part you only get one part of what it takes to build a society. You still need the other parts.
Was it difficult to research these ideas for Red Leaves?
Yes and no. It helped that the races of creatures were so clearly defined and unique from each other. But at the same time, its a challenge to come up with new societies in all their details that fit those very specific parameters. You can't just pick a time period from earth and copy it, for example. Everything has to be custom tailored to the new historical and genetic context of the people. I imagine its the same for most fantasy with heavy world building.
Am anxious to see how this story will continue, when will the next book in this series be released? How many books are you planning for the series?
I've been working on the sequel for a while so It should be finished in about 6 months. I don't want to rush it out before its ready, but at the same time I want to get it out to readers as soon as I can. Before I started the sequel I outlined the next five books in the series. I think the overall story will fit nicely in 6 books.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
Yes, in addition to the Red Leaves series, I have two sci-fi scripts that I plan on adapting to novels. I don't want to talk to much about them because I'm sure they'll mutate before I'm finished with them.
What authors have been an influence on you?
Willa Cather, Dickens, Orson Scott Card, Peter Hamilton. As well as the contemporary greats, I love authors that come from a different time and place and write about their own world. I love reading about what life was like for people in radically different places. When you read those stories you see how similar life really is. Studying film history in school revealed the same thing. OZU made films about pre-industrial Japanese struggling with the death of loved ones and communicating with his wife. Post war italians made films about making personal sacrifices as parents to make sure their kids had food and shelter.
One last question just for fun, if you could visits one period from history when and where would that be?
I love the period of early industrial revolution where technology was magical and the possibilities seemed infinite. It seemed, dreams were bigger then, before we started to discover the limits of what was practical or safe. Jet packs and flying cars don't seem as likely now as they did in the 50's. Could you imagine the potential for liability lawsuits if flying cars were brought to the mass market. If Toyota gets sued for sticking gas petals...
Thanks again for agreeing to answer all of my questions and letting us be a part of your blog tour.
If you would like to check out my review of Red Leaves and the Living Token you can find it here.
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