Ben Gartner - Engaging, Eventful, History-Based Fantasy
Ben Gartner is the award-winning author of The Eye of Ra time travel adventure series for middle graders (ages 8-12). 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. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, The Eye of Ra.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Eye of Ra is about.
The Eye of Ra is about Sarah and John, two siblings who inadvertently travel through time to ancient Egypt. There is action, mystery, and some humor. They’re meant to be exciting, fun, and a little educational as well. In book two, Sol Invictus, they travel to ancient Rome and the plot thickens in terms of who they are and why they’re time-traveling. In book three, People of the Sun, they travel to the time of the Aztec. Plus, all is revealed about who they are and how the fate of the universe is in their hands. People of the Sun publishes February 1, 2022 everywhere fine books are sold.
Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write this story?
My sons! This started as a little side project I dreamed up with my boys, who were 8 and 11 at the time. It was definitely a “journey, not the destination” type of reward, just working on it with them. But at the end of that, we realized we had a pretty darn good story that others might enjoy too! Fortunately, we were right. :)
Why did you pick siblings as your protagonists?
I wanted to explore the dynamic of two siblings to try and subtly lay down some lessons for my own kids. Wink.
This is a history-based fantasy. How much research did this require from you?
Lots! And I love research. We were discussing doing something about ancient Egypt, so I started exploring the nooks and crannies of that history because I most appreciate those not-super-famous edges of our shared history. I think that’s where the “realness” of the era really shines. I came across the story of the first pyramid, architected by Imhotep, for King Djoser. The very first pyramid, but probably one you haven’t heard of before. It is in Saqqara and doesn’t get nearly as much press as the famous ones in Giza, but it’s arguably as much, or even more, important to the history of that great civilization. I wanted to explore that hidden past.
The plot includes a lot of twists and turns. How did you pull this off?
I love a good twist, don’t you? Some of these I’ll claim responsibility for, and I’m proud to say that others were dreamed up by my kids. :)
What did you have the most fun with when writing The Eye of Ra?
I’ll cheat and answer this with two things:
1. Working on it with my kids. That was a joy in itself.
2. Working in this age group was, I realize in hindsight, perfect for me. I’ve worked on a few adult thrillers too, and those are fun as well, but this middle-grade age group really speaks to me. I’m loving this journey.
Please tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
I was lucky enough to land Anne Glenn (anneglenndesign.co.uk) to work on all three covers. She’s worked for a lot of big houses and big names, and it’s obvious why—she’s very talented!
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Oh, most definitely. Sometimes those forays make it into the book, and sometimes they’re a good exercise in understanding the character but maybe not relevant to the immediate plot. Even in those instances where I end up cutting bits, inevitably some little nuance of that characterization tangent surfaces somewhere else as additional color. So I always say that there’s no wasted writing.
What does an average writing day look like for you? Any interesting writing habits? Favorite place to write, sources of inspiration?
I have a day job, so finding time to write can be challenging. My ideal writing stretch is a couple of quiet, uninterrupted hours. With a busy house and a busy life, that can be difficult to find! But at night and on weekends, I try to squeeze in as much as I can handle. Writing to me is a relaxing, fun, therapeutic endeavor. I enjoy letting my imagination run free.
What are you working on right now?
The third book in The Eye of Ra series, called People of the Sun, releases February 1, 2022 everywhere fine books are sold. I’ve been ramping up and preparing for that. In terms of writing, I’m working on a “space fiction” story about some kids who win a prize to travel around the moon. It’s inspired by the forthcoming Artemis trips from NASA. The main character, Fin, is escaping some trouble back at home, but when disaster strikes during their space travel, he realizes what’s really important. It’s a book with tons of action and extremely high stakes, and some hopefully-subtle lessons about being honest with yourself, and with others. It’s a work-in-progress, but I’m really loving the space angle.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
https://BenGartner.com is the best place. I’m also active on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BGartnerWriting, a bit less so on Instagram at https://instagram.com/BGartnerWriting, and even less so on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BenGartnerAuthor. I love to hear from readers, teachers, librarians, and parents, so don’t be shy!