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12 Questions / X Truths [Jan. 30th, 2008|03:34 pm]
My interview with author benpeek ran in this week's issue. It was a wee 500-word thing, so I'd hoped to get a longer Q&A up on the website. No such luck, so it's going here instead. Thanks for your time, Ben, and everyone else: Enjoy.


Were there any personal repercussions for you after the publication of 26 Lies/One Truth?

A few, but it’s really no different than the usual kind of stuff you get just for being an author, I don’t think.

For example, a friend of mine recently started seeing this girl, and I don’t know why, but he got her to read 26lies before meeting me. Maybe he thought it’d impress her. I certainly can’t see the logic in it, even now. But anyhow, she read the book, and took from it a certain understanding of me before she’d met me, which was not how I saw myself, and so our first meeting didn’t quite work out in that way that you want your bud’s first meeting with your girlfriend to go. But that could have happened off anything--it’s the same thing as having your friends tell stories of you to someone before they meet you, y’know? I’m just the smart fellow who decided to have his put in a book and then gave copies to his mates.

But outside a few things like that, it’s been fine. I wasn’t particularly worried about it, either, I guess, which may just be me being ignorant. But the book is designed to test the reader for what they want to believe, more than it is meant to test their personal opinion of me, and most people have gotten with that concept.

Did anyone object to the way they were portrayed or has anyone treated you differently after reading the book?

Well, one of my friends, D in the book, he won’t show it to his girlfriend because he reckons he comes across sleazy and addicted to the pornography of elderly people, which I suppose is fair enough. We all have a good laugh about that, though, so it’s not like anyone cares, and every now and then I threaten to send her copies for a birthday present.

But no, my friends are cool with it. They think it’s a laugh. Part of how they reacted is what inspired me to write a straight, autobiographical comic, Nowhere Near Savannah.

For the people I don’t know, I’ve really no idea what they thought. I do know that Helen Demidenko, who was once Helen Darville, but is now Helen Dale, bought a copy, and reads my blog, so I guess she must’ve found her little note somewhat amusing.

Will Nowhere Near Savannah cover some of the same topics as 26 Lies or is it more of a sequel, "What Ben Peek Did Next?"

It’s hopefully neither, really.

The idea behind Nowhere Near Savannah is to write a straight little indie, offbeat humoured autobiographical comic, filtered through the weekly format of online comics. In theory, it’s meant to be directly influenced by things that happen as I continue to be alive, so it’s not plotted out in great arcs, and doesn’t have a predetermined thematic, and all that stuff that was fairly crucial to 26lies (and pretty much everything else I write).

That said, I figure it’ll appeal to people who dug 26lies, but I think that’ll mostly because the humour in the two will be similar, and there’s that autobiographical touch. Dig those two things and Nowhere Near Savannah is all sweetness for you.

Don’t dig it... well, y’know, such is life.

Are you worried that an employer might read 26 Lies and have second thoughts about you?

Nah--I don’t spend my time worrying bout what people I don’t know will think about me.

Though, with that said, some of the kids I tutor--I run my own tutoring business part time, which means I’m self employed and don’t have an employer, anyhow--some of the kids tell me they want to read the book, and I just tell them it’s not really their kinda thing. I don’t teach to shill my work, so I’m actually quite happy when my books aren’t being read by students. I guess it’d maybe make a few parents think twice about me, but that doesn’t bother me. Most parents think I’m a little on the odd and unorthodox side anyhow, so a book like 26lies would probably just end up confirming what they thought of me.

If Oprah wanted to repackage 26 Lies as her book pick, would you let her?


Not only would I make lots of cash, I’d get to be on Oprah. Tell me you wouldn’t want your five minutes with her, if for nothing than to take a glance at what she might be like.

But mostly, I’d say yes because of the cash. The kind of money you make from an Oprah book club is real decent, and the audience jump that comes with it nothing to ignore, either. I could funnel both of them into new projects and pass on some of the cash to people like Deb Layne, the publisher of Wheatland Press, who works on that borderline of independent press money that so many do, and I could pass some on to Anna who did the interior art, and Andy who has become famous in Germany for his typewriter art, which we used on the cover. And after that, I could take Oprah’s money and go and do something very uncommercial, and not matter if it failed hugely, because, like I said, I’d have Oprah’s Money.

Have you read many autobiographies?

Some. I wouldn’t say I was the best read person of autobiographies around, but I’ve read my a few. Enough to say Joseph Cotten’s VANITY WILL GET YOU SOMEWHERE has a great title, but kinda sucks, and Vladimir Nabokov’s SPEAK, MEMORY has a kinda dodgy title, but is a beautiful, if somewhat blind, love note to the Russia he left when young.

What about Dave Eggers’ book, A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius?

Nah. I tried reading an Eggers book a while back. YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY, I think it was called. Anyhow, I didn’t really click with it, and I eventually just fell out of reading it.

Quite like McSweeneys, though, so maybe one day in the future.

Did you have much input in the design of 26 Lies -- the cover, the illustrations or the format?

Yes and no, I guess. I had no actual input into the design of the book--like how big it was, that stuff, and it was Andy who came up with the cover and the words on the back, but I was there with Deb when we were discussing what would work and wouldn’t. Anna, who did the comic on the inside, however, was my find. She was recommended to me by an author we both know, Kaaron Warren, and I convinced Deb to go with her (which wasn’t difficult at all). Anna’s art is based off panel descriptions in the actual manuscript, since each illustration has to be balanced with all the other sections in there, so their placement and purpose are me, but the actual hard work is all Anna.

Both your books have been published by American companies. Why is that?

‘Cause I can’t get them published in Australia.

Well, actually, in truth, Deb Layne at Wheatland Press contracted me to write 26lies, but since then we’ve tried to sell it to some publishers here, and gotten nowhere. Black Sheep, my dystopian novel just recently published, is something that I wrote before 26lies, and which no one in Australia would give me the time of day for, telling me it was too intense, or too niche market. It’s the kind of comment that would send an author into self publishing, if it wasn’t treated like an STD by the publishing community, and a good way to kill whatever career you’ve got.

I’ve always found it a bit strange, myself, that I’ve been unable to get published here. My books are very Australian, at least to me, and I think there’s an audience here for them, but I’ve got to be the only one who thinks it. For a while I thought--probably just as anyone who is reading this--that my shit just stank and I couldn’t see it, but reviews of my work get me called a genius and compared to people like Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro, so I figure it’s more to do with the fact that I’m a little hard to sell, a little cross genre, a little difficult, therefore, and publishers in Australia don’t want to take the risk, especially when they have to compete against all the Commonwealth imports.

Or maybe I’m talking shit again. Who knows.

Do you have a routine for writing? A certain time of day, a certain kind of music, a drink of choice?

I’m a bit of a binge and purge writer, in that I write, say, intensely for a few months, then not at all for a few more. It’s a terrible habit to have and I’m always trying to break myself of it, but as of yet, I’ve not been able.

When I am working, I sort of shift round on time frames. These days I prefer to write in the mornings, and get it done before I do any of that other stuff, such as teaching, playing video games, blogging, reading, hanging with friends, whatever. I used to be a do it at night kind of guy, but these days, not so much because I work the evenings. Outside that, I cannot listen to music with lyrics as I write--any kind of words just takes me away, which is why the TV is no good, either, so I tend to listen to a lot of bands like Dirty Three, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You Black Emperor, and the like.

What are you working on at the moment?

At this exact moment, I am working on a short story called ‘There is Something so Quiet and Empty Inside of You that it Must be Precious’, which will hopefully sell to the anthology who requested it. It’s about a girl who wanted to be a musician so bad that she ignored the fact that she wasn’t very good.

After that, it’s back to writing the new novel, Across the Seven Continents of the Underworld, which is my bushranger/revenge narrative book set in a weird Australian based world, and writing more scripts for Nowhere Near Savannah. Good times, man.

Finally, please rate the world’s leaders by looks.

Well, I would have started with Junichiro Koizumi, who was the Japanese Prime Minister, but he’s long gone now, and releasing karaoke albums, or something like that. But he had great hair, and I think you’ll agree with me here, that to be a good looking leader of the world, you need great hair. The only time Australia ever came close to such great hair was with Bob Hawke, though lets face it, he wasn’t any kind of good looking man, nor a great leader. He had better hair than John Howard, though. I feel that should be mentioned. Even Kevin Rudd has better hair than John Howard, though the two of them do resemble each other in the looks department, or so I find. Make of that what you will.

[User Picture]From: benpeek
2008-02-06 11:59 pm (UTC)
sorry, man. missed that first off. linked now.
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From: ex_chrisbil
2008-02-07 10:02 am (UTC)
Agreed on the world leaders. It is hard to argue with that hair.
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