It’s Monday, a new week and a new visitor to the Emporium for this week’s Monday Merry Meet. Amber slipped Ben Peyton’s debut novel, Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George into her bag to read as soon as she saw it. She maybe older than the book’s target audience but if it mentions dragons, she needs to read it. Her review is here.
Grab a cuppa and join us for a chat about his book, spells and of course, writing.
Monday Merry Meet: Ben Peyton
Willow: Welcome Ben, we’re so excited to have you here. Come through to the back but excuse the mess, Vincent and Black Cat saw a ghost mouse and caused havoc. What would you like to drink? Yorkshire tea, herbal tea, coffee or something stronger. Since Christmas, we have a selection of homemade wines left or beer.
Ben: It’s lovely to be here. Those ghost mice are terrible liars. You can see right through them. I’m giving Dry January a go, so as tempting as some wine sounds, I’ll stick with a tea. Milk and one and a half sugars, please.
Amber: I’ve just finished your new book, Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George. In my view, every book should have a dragon in them. Yours is from the legend of St. George and when Luke visits the National Gallery; he sees Tintoretto’s painting. Was this your inspiration behind the novel?
Ben: Yes, it was. I was at the gallery with my family and noticed Tintoretto’s painting. For some reason, it really stood out to me. As I was looking at it, an idea began to take shape. I read a lot of books (mainly thrillers) and struggled to think of one that had featured St George. I bought a postcard size copy of the painting, took it home and began to jot down some ideas.
Rosa: It is action packed with inventions to escape from the baddies and obviously you had fun writing those scenes. When my son, Alejo, is older, I know he’ll love reading them. Did you always want to be a children’s author?
Ben: No, I was originally going to be a teacher. I was very sporty (I went to a school called Millfield which is renowned for its sporting achievements) and got into university to study PE. At the last minute, I auditioned for drama school on the advice of my drama teacher, won a place at Guildford School of Acting and had a fairly successful career as an actor until I retired at the grand old age of 30 to work full-time. Writing a book was something that came to me much later in life. I was about 42 when I began, Covid hit and things took a back-seat and I picked it up again at the end of 2021.
Amber: This is your debut book. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Ben: I would certainly change things. In my eagerness to try and get a literary agent, I sent Luke out to potential agents before I was 100% happy with it. I rushed the process, which was daft. For example, I sent the first 10,000 words to one agent and immediately after, I noticed a spelling mistake in it that I hadn’t seen before. Must’ve read that part a thousand times but “author blindness” had its claws into me.
A good friend of mine has been hugely successful as an Indie author. Carl Ashmore (do check out his wonderful series “The Time Hunters”) has guided me along my journey with patience and kindness. He recommended particular software for the best formatting , helped me through the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing process as well as offering advice on my story. Very grateful to him.
Trying to get an agent has been incredibly frustrating. It’s similar to when I was an actor auditioning for roles. You do your thing and then don’t hear anything back, so you’re often left in limbo. So many agents have different submission policies. Some want 5,000 words, others 15,000, others a synopsis with the opening three chapters, so you’re constantly having to adapt to their requirements. And the standard rejection email is always disappointing to receive. Just once, I would have liked something personal from one of them. I know how busy they are and how many submissions they receive, but a tiny bit of human interaction featuring a comment on plot or character would soften the blow.
I paid for the brilliant team at House of Editors to help proof-read and edit my book too, and they did a magnificent job. They raised a question about the plot, which blew it wide open and made nearly all of it pointless! It was hilarious. All I needed to fix it was one additional line of dialogue, but again, I hadn’t picked up on it. Thank goodness for them.
Willow: That was lucky. We always love hearing about how authors write. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have a strict writing routine?
Ben: I have a desk in my living room that I like to sit at and write whilst listening to film scores. John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Patrick Doyle or Craig Armstrong are favourites. Alternatively, ambient music such as Kinobe or U137 help me concentrate. If I can write about 1,000 words on a writing day, I’m happy. I usually write down ideas as they come to me on a Word document and develop the story around them. When I started LSATBOSG, I didn’t have an ending. That came during the writing process.
Amber: We have many would be writers coming into the shop. Do you have any advice for novice writers?
Ben: Firstly, don’t send your work to agents without checking it a gazillion times! And then check it again!
Keep writing. Have a pen and paper with you at all times or use notes on your phone to write down an idea when it comes to you. Read and listen to other authors. Reach out to them as well. Another brilliant author (Rick Jones – he writes thrillers for adults) has also been incredibly helpful to me and shared his advice and experience. Don’t take rejection personally and only let trusted friends read your drafts.
Finally, pay for a good cover. Tim at Dissect Designs absolutely nailed mine. I never met him, but we emailed regularly. He was professional, efficient and used his expertise to design what I envisaged. He pointed out why certain things might not work and was never patronising or rude. I will unquestionably be using him for my next book.
Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Ben: A good night’s sleep, please. I have two kids (12 & 9) so it’s been a while since I had one of those!
Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?
Ben: Either my wedding day, back in St Ives in 2009 or Christmas 2021. It was the last time my whole family were together as my dad died the following May.
Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Ben: I can’t say that it’s influenced my writing, but one possibly unusual thing springs to mind. Back in 1996 when I was 19, I had Bacterial Meningitis. Thankfully, I don’t remember much about it. I was unconscious for about two days in hospital, but I remember seeing / dreaming my grandfather with cigarette smoke surrounding his face (he was a smoker and had died about 10 years before) and smiling. I felt an absolute, serene peace. That’s it. Some spiritual friends of mine tell me that he was watching over me. Who knows?
Willow: If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?
Ben: Flight. Can you imagine? That sensation would be magical. And it would save time and cut down on pollution.
Willow: It truly would. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Ben: Unquestionably book one of Carl Ashmore’s The Time Hunters. They are full of charm, adventure, and love.
Rosa: Amber will add them to the list. I have a Box of Romance books I share with friends and customers. What would you add to it?
Ben: I’ve only read one romance novel in my life. Sorry. But I enjoyed it! One Last Letter From Greece by Emma Cowell. Lovely story of grief and love. Incidentally, she was my girlfriend back in 1996 and undoubtedly saved my life by rushing me to the doctor when I had meningitis!
Willow: We’ll have to source that one then. Without her we wouldn’t have Luke Stevens on our bookshelf. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Ben: I’m beavering away with a sequel to Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George, which is provisionally titled, Luke Stevens and the Quest for Excalibur. Hopefully coming later this year.
Willow: We look forward to seeing it on our shelf. Thank you for visiting. Good luck with your writing and Dry January.
Title: Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George
Author: Ben Peyton
Genre: Children’s fiction
Release date: 1st April 2022
Publisher: Neilson UK
And signed and dedicated copies are available here: https://benpeyton.co.uk/buy-2/
“With a great central concept, this is a fast-paced imaginative romp for the younger reader.” Carl Ashmore – Best-selling author of The Time Hunters series
“Ben Peyton’s debut novel is chock-full of action and suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George hits all the marks that a blockbuster should.” Rick Jones – Best-selling author of The Vatican Knights series
On his 13th birthday and presented with an unusual gift, Luke Stevens suddenly finds himself thrust into a battle between good and evil, with him right at the heart of it. For within Luke flows the blood of a legend, and there are those that will stop at nothing to get their hands on what Luke now has in his possession.
With a group of Guardians to help him, Luke has no choice but to step up and fulfil an ancient prophecy where mankind’s way of life is threatened by a ruthless enemy seeking global domination. What follows is a race against time where one thing is certain: Luke’s life will never be the same again.
Full to the brim with action, humour, crazy gadgets and history, prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that will keep you turning pages long into the night.
Welcome to Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George…
Ben Peyton is a former actor (a regular in ITV1’s The Bill) and now a full-time dad and writer. He has written reviews and articles for Filmhounds Magazine, Time & Leisure Magazine and several online blogs. Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George is his debut novel.