A short interview with AC Cobble, author of the Benjamin Ashwood fantasy series.
What do you like most about the writing process?
My favorite part is at the end of developmental editing and when I start copy editing. That is when I get a sense for what the book has turned into. That’s also when I’m putting in the finishing touches, including most of my best lines. I really enjoy reading over the book at this stage and making those final tweaks. Usually, I find it’s turned out better than I expected (which isn’t always saying much).
Which books have had the greatest impact on your writing?
Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World had a huge impact on me. I think Jordan nailed the perfect fantasy opening with that novel and it spun my imagination into overdrive. There were some stumbles later in the series, but that book was special.
Several people have noted some similarities between how Eye of the World and Benjamin Ashwood begin. Sometimes I regret it now, but I did that intentionally. I meant it as an homage to both Jordan and Tolkien’s work, but the plot quickly goes in an entirely different direction. It’s fair to say though, without Eye of the World, Benjamin Ashwood would be a different series.
Which of your characters is the easiest for you to write, and which is the most challenging? Why?
Ben and Rhys are very easy for me to write. Ben has a clear moral compass which guides his actions, and Rhys is just a lot of fun. In some scenes, the two of them function as the angel and the devil on my shoulders.
I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, but I spend a lot more time thinking about Amelie than the boys. This is Ben’s story, and because of that he has to be the leader and the focus, but it’s important to me that Amelie comes across as a strong person as well. I like to think that there could be an equally compelling story written from her point of view – not that I plan to do that. Writing the opposite gender authentically can always be a challenge too. I frequently worry that I’m not getting it right.
Do you plot your books in detail, or develop the story as you are writing it?
I start with about a 3-page outline which includes all of the locations, major scenes, and turning points. From there, I start filling in the blanks A to Z. I frequently throw out sections of the outline and insert something new as I go. Those spur of the moment modifications have never changed the overall plot, but they have frequently turned into my favorite scenes.
What do readers most enjoy about your Benjamin Ashwood books?
The pace and the action. I received a lot of feedback about that after Book 1, and I’ve made intentional decisions to keep things brisk and hopping in the later books. I have to stop myself sometimes from lingering on some obscure bit of world-building or a treatise on economics. The lesson for me is that no matter how much fun I’m having imagining the world, the readers want to know the character, like the character, then keep the damn story moving!
Which fantasy books written in the last few years would you recommend to fantasy readers?
Jonathan Renshaw’s Dawn of Wonder, Alec Hutson’s Crimson Queen, Phil Tucker’s Path of Flames, and Will Wight’s Unsouled.
When and where do you do most of your writing?
I recently went full-time as an author and now nearly all of my writing is done in my home office. I’ve tried going to coffee shops and other places because there are three kids ages four and under running around the house, but, home is more comfortable. I’ve gotten pretty good at making coffee too.
Prior to going full time, I travelled frequently for my “day job”. Huge portions of my first three books were written on planes and all over the world. Singapore, India, Germany, Poland, the UK, the Netherlands, and the Philippines all snuck into the pages. You can see some of the influences if you are familiar with those countries.
Who would you want to play the role of Ben if the Benjamin Ashwood series was filmed for the big screen?
An unknown up and comer. Ben is set so strongly in my head that it would be difficult for me to separate him and any other character I was familiar with. I feel the same about Amelie.
Recently, I had a discussion with some fans and several of us felt Idris Elba would make a great Rhys.
If you could have written any book in history, which would it be and why?
The Old Man and the Sea. I don’t mind admitting I’m a complete hack compared to Hemmingway. The simplicity of his language and the complexity of his themes are stunning to me. I know I will never be able to write like that, but I wish I could.
** This interview was conducted in late 2017, and was first published on The Book Base website **