September 22, 2023
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Author's Interview

Exploring Fantasy Realms with J.W. Bendall: An Author Interview

Step into a world where fantasy merges with Australian landscapes as we delve into an exclusive interview with the talented author, J.W. Bendall, the creative force behind the captivating fantasy series that has captivated readers with its unique blend of wonder and environmental themes. In this interview, Bendall shares insights into their inspirations, world-building process, and the powerful messages woven into their debut novel, “Resurrection.”

But First, who is J.W. Bendall?

J.W. Bendall

J.W. Bendall is an accomplished author known for weaving fantastical worlds with captivating narratives. Born and raised amidst the vast deserts of Australia, Bendall’s unique upbringing infuses his writing with a distinct touch of Australian landscapes and a fascination for the natural wonders of his surroundings.

With a passion for fantasy and a desire to bring his own experiences to the genre, Bendall embarked on a literary journey that has captured the hearts and imaginations of readers worldwide. His debut novel, “Resurrection,” showcases Bendall’s ability to seamlessly blend elements of fantasy, adventure, and mystery, creating a mesmerizing tapestry of storytelling.

J.W. Bendall Books:

Book Nerdection Interviews J.W. Bendall:

  1. What inspired you to write “Resurrection”, and how did you come up with the idea for the story?

I grew up way out in the desert in the middle of Australia. Most Christmases were about 45 degrees celcius, and just sand and scraggly little bushes as far as you could see. So when I was reading fantasy and there was descriptions of rolling green hills and huge oak trees, I just couldn’t relate. How could you have dragons and deer in the same universe? When did that become the default? So I wanted to bring that Australian-ness to a fantasy world.

Also, given the state of the world, and especially from an environmental perspective, I was really interested in this idea of the Nine nearly but not quite defeating the dark lord, and leaving a ruined world for the younger generation to pick up the slack. I really wanted to explore this idea of a myth growing around heroes of the past to the point where they become more than they really were, and how they’re certainly no longer the right solution for the present times.

  1. How did you develop the world-building and magic system in the book?

The stories I write are very episodic, so the world-building kind of comes in patches, I guess influenced by whatever I’m reading at the time. It’s a great opportunity to always keep things fresh. Usually it starts as an idea for a mythology, and while that’s often not enough to carry a story on its own, a town and a people and a culture all grow from there, with their own little idiosyncracies. And then you just force them to border one another, and suddenly you’ve got this really diverse world full of conflict.

The magic system actually began as something very different, where the main character was having to make very dodgy deals with demons, but in the writing it progressed beyond that until it wasn’t really recognizable.

I’m a strong believer that magic should have a cost, and it frustrates me when that cost is so ill defined. Like, wizards will do a big spell, and maybe they’re really tired, or even close to death, but how close? How can you quantify that? So it becomes meaningless. My response to that was that you could literally risk bleeding out, or being away from your body for so long that your heart would forget how to beat. That felt like a real cost you had to weigh up.

  1. Can you tell us about your writing process? Do you have any specific routines or rituals that you follow?

I really wish I had more time to write. I’m usually just trying to pinch time around work and family, so it’s hard to develop a solid routine. I’m sharpest in the mornings, so that’s when I’m most creative. I find myself writing in my head while in the shower, and then trying to write while I’m still pulling on my socks. Then I’ll just write until I run out of ideas. I find there’s not much point in trying to force my way past that point.

I like to write with a hot drink on hand, but I’ll always boil the kettle and then forget I’ve put it on because I’m already deep into writing. So I guess that’s a ritual!

I always write a first draft by hand, and then the first edit happens while I’m typing it up. Usually I’ll buy a new lined text book when I’m starting a new story, so that it’s all contained in the one place and I can feel it building. But palm cards are a useful canvas too, since they let me easily shuffle parts around.

  1. What challenges did you face while writing “Resurrection”, and how did you overcome them?

It’s always hard doing the first book in a series. You have to try so hard to balance yourself between putting in all the good stuff, and not overwhelming the reader with five hundred pages of exposition, which is really difficult particularly in a fantasy. It’s also kind of the reason you want to do it in the first place! You want to do Lord of the Rings straight away, and you have to constantly convince yourself to start at the Shire. But that’s a bit easier when you know it’s for the best.

I’ll often start with some pretty good broad strokes of the plot, and then when I try to get stuck into the in between bits, I’ll realise characters aren’t where they need to be by a certain point in the story, either physically or emotionally. So then you have to go backwards to go forwards, and making one change earlier can have consequences much later. Imagine trying to complete a puzzle, but when you’re almost finished you find that somehow the pieces that had already slotted together at the start have now somehow changed colour and don’t fit together anymore.

The easiest way to overcome this is to get a big white wall and some palm cards and write the major parts down. Then stick them up with some bluetack so that you can see everything all at once, instead of as a stack of pages. Then shuffle them around, and add some more with new plot points, or take some down, until it all makes sense.

  1. Which character in the book is your favorite, and why?

I like how Burruk feels every bit of his five hundred years old. He’s a bit like a grumpy old dad. He means well, but he’s too formal, and everything confuses him.

Then Arna is a nice contrast to that, sassy, not really able to take anything seriously. And also quite cynical, which goes against her position as the young one with a lot more to live for.

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  1. What themes or messages do you hope readers take away from “Resurrection”?

I think if Resurrection makes you think about the environment and the damage humans can do to it if we’re not careful with the way we live, that’s a good sign.

There’s one moment that really resonates with me, when Arna doesn’t want to help. She thinks it’s not her problem, it’s Burruk’s mess to clean up. And Burruk says, well, that’s fair, but choosing not to do anything is still a choice. Arna has this power where so many of her people don’t, and maybe she won’t make a difference, but if she doesn’t try, she definitely won’t make a difference. So, some themes around stepping up.

And if it makes young people question their elders, that’s great!

  1. Are there any authors or books that have influenced your writing style or the themes in “Resurrection”?

Resurrection definitely started from a place that was very close to Deltora Quest. Episodic, not exactly monster of the week, but a really self-contained challenge for each book in the series, contributing to the overall quest. It’s a chance to look at a lot of different bad guys instead of just generic orcs all the time.

I guess a bit of Star Wars, with the overarching, seemingly invincible Empire, and a couple of rebels with the tiniest shot of cutting the head off the snake.

I hate to be so generic and say Lord of the Rings, but one thing that I think gets missed about that great text is that Sauron is not really a physical threat. He works through corruption and machinations and powerful generals. The Empress in Resurrection was modelled off that, which I think a lot of people are missing when they pine about the weak villains.

Like, how come every year it’s always Voldemort that’s the problem? Always his direct influence, almost his hand on the wand every time. I think he’s a lot scarier when he’s less confrontable. And the incompetence of the ministry of Magic – now that’s really scary.

  1. What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are looking to publish their first book?

A lot of people are going to tell you it needs more work. You can get stuck in this constant redrafting and perfecting stage. To that I say just do it. Do you know how many people haven’t written anything at all? They want you to stay part of that group, and it’s not about you not being ready, it’s about them having not given it a go.

Just get it done, and then do it again, and don’t let anyone try and stop you. It’s such a thrill to have a printed, physical thing in your hands. Even if it’s not a best-seller, it’s a huge achievement.

  1. What can readers expect from future books in the series?

In each book, Arna and Burruk get embedded in a different Kith-kin species. They all have different ways of living, different beliefs, different connections with the land. I think each clan is worthy of their own cult following.

I’m exploring more aspects of death and the afterlife, and what meaning that holds for people. Some don’t want to let go, some of warped this really important part of life into its own, third thing. So we’re going to see ghosts, zombies, banshees, immortals, all kinds of things that make you question how we spend our years and what happens next.

The longer the series goes on, the more the noose starts to tighten around Arna and Burruk’s necks. The Empire becomes more aware of them, doesn’t want to let them run free quite as much anymore. And they heroes and the Kith rebellion aren’t getting the wins they’re looking for. So things are definitely getting darker as they draw closer towards the Empress.

  1. Lastly, can you give us a hint about what you are working on next?

I’m pretty close to releasing the third book in this series, called Relinquish. But I keep getting distracted by something I’m really enjoying and that is flowing off the page. It’s currently called ‘The City of Four Thrones’. It’s about a civilization that’s trapped in a kind of limbo, and a bunch of different factions are fighting over control for shaping that reality. So yeah, we’ll see what comes out first!

1 Comment

  • Madeeha July 6, 2023

    Loving this !!! Also the ritual where you forget the kettle running… *can definitely relate to this* Overall a fantastic interview (⁠ *‿*⁠ ⁠)

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