Interview with Ben Gilbert

What are your five favorite books, and why?
Well, that's a big question ! I think for pure descriptions of landscape that makes it so clear to the reader, as if you are there treading every steep and experiencing the geography being described, there can be no better book than Hemingway's, Green Hills of Africa. Outstanding !

For a story full of drama and landscape (yes, landscape is a big one for me) with tough gritty characters who tell the story of how the American West was made and how the landscape was ravaged and nature reduced to a mere product, Peter Matthiessen's Killing Mr. Watson.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a Biafran soap opera; an important book because it tell the tragic story of the Ibos and their systematic and deliberate starvation through an easy read - a subject that would be normally difficult and inaccessible to most. This is a favourite of mine because my own novel, No Place Like Home, is partially set in Nigeria during the civil war and this book gave me a completely different perspective on the war. My own knowledge comes from a mercenary who fought against the Ibos, shot their commanding officer because they were offered more money by fighting for the Ibos - such is war - and he spent 6 weeks being pursued out of the county in the most beautiful landscapes. It's from this nameless guy and from Half of a Yellow Sun that I built a picture up to write about.

Jean Genet's, The Thief's Journal turns the world on its head. What a life that guy lived ! And somehow through all the poverty and hard times he finds it right to celebrate that which most would find abhorrent. A real eye opener for me alright !

It's tricky to name number 5 in this list; there are so many important and favourite books ! But here I just want to mention 1984 - a vision of the future which we are now making - George Orwell saw it all coming - Big Brother and absolute control of people by fear and manipulation - in this age of technology we seem to have such a complacency to actually what's happening - it just sucks us in - a brilliant book, brilliantly written and so simple.
What do you read for pleasure?
Trashy novels usually ! I won't name any here as some authors may not like the word 'trashy' !

I like the ease of simplicity, a read that takes me along and surprises me - definitely not one that is written by formula or one that is scared to go its own way.

Also I am a fan of magazines - you know the old fashioned ones that you can hold in your hand, screw up, push into a backpack, spill tea on, tear a page out, give to someone or leave on a train - outdoor magazines, 4x4 mags, boat mags, Rolling Stone mag....etc
When did you first start writing?
Now, this is a good question.

I had a journal from running a trekking agency in Kathmandu. I decided to write it up, into a book of sorts, or rather a journal and the result was The World Peace Journals. It did not get published and I soon forgot about it until recently. I think this story was just to risky and politically incorrect for most publishers - it tells it like it is - well, you have to read it yourself to find out I guess....

I started to teach English as a foreign language and wrote my own resources - short stories, dialogues and poetry - this collection later got published, pretty much as I wrote them for school, except the rude poems were never shown in class - I did not want to lose my job !

And finally I was asked to write a film script - it was simple - action, love, sex - you know the usual stuff for a no brainer movie. So I wrote a couple of pages and it was liked and I was asked to finish it - well, I did not finish it but wrote a dialogue based script of 70 odd pages. And the film business moved on and never read the thing. I was pissed off and read through it again and thought - Mmmm, this is like a proper trashy novel, wonder if I can actually write I did and No Place Like Home is the result. Nice and Very Trashy !
Describe your desk
I write with pencil in a notebook. I can do this pretty much anywhere I am not disturbed physically - a café, a park, the beach,, but not a desk, that's for sure. But there comes a time it needs to put into the computer - for this I can use any computer and a USB drive. So, to answer the question - there is no desk !
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm an outdoor guy. All I want to do is hike, swim, be in nature, not wash or shower for days on end, go camping, have adventures. Oh, and stay away from these damned computers.
What is your writing process?
Always with a pencil in a notebook. I write as if I am speaking to someone - I let it come out, not much planning and then I organize what I have written, and at some point go to a computer and write it up - I may change a few things but not many and not generally. I then print it out and the next day or whenever I read it and make adjustments. I then go back to the pencil and notebook and then print out what I have written that time only and join it with the other print out. At some point when a lot of changes have been made and I reprint the whole lot out. It uses a lot of paper and ink - but I would not write if it was screen time only.

You see I don't like computer time much so this way I stay away from the screen as much as is possible
How did you manage the sex scenes in No Place Like Home
Writing about sex is like writing about eating a meal. Unless you are write pornography where it is all about sex, I find it best kept simple and not too much detail. Lets take a meal - do we really want to know how many peppers are in the soup or what pottery the plates are from ! It becomes boring quickly and the story or plot is lost if you don't watch it.

So for me I just write about the moment, give a flavour so to speak, a taste of what's happening so I don't lose the reader with details. We all know about sex like we all know about meal times - it's the act that is important - love, romance, lust, disgust, awkwardness, rape and pillage or whatever - I just try and to get the point across.

I'm not into writing about titillation, suggestion - all that repressed kind of stuff - just say it as it is - that's best for me.
How much of you is in your writing ?
I can only write about what I know - what I have experienced in some form. Otherwise it is not believable I guess.

One criticism of No Place Like Home has been that I don't write from the women's perspective really. Well how the hell can I ? I'm not a woman - I just don't know. It's that simple. What a phony I would be if I tried ! So I get labeled macho by some.

But back to the question: all the geography is true and most of the action that people do - like fishing and boats etc - that's all from me - so yes. a lot of me in the books (who else would it be ! )
Is the World Peace Journals really all true ?
Yes, every gritty bit is true. You know, I just got on with it, looked for adventure, found it, usually through some mishap or quasi disaster. I changed 2 names - Katrina and Hanna are not real names - people need their privacy here in the West. This tale is just something I did - a big experience, but I've had many others and continue to have them.

Some people ask if I miss Nepal - well, not really actually. Roads have ruined lots of trekking areas and wild animals are a thing of great rarity. There are so many other places to visit. But I would love to walk the Great Himalayan Trail - 155 odd days of high altitude trekking from one end of Nepal to the other. Fantastic ! Costs money though, even with my experience - so that will have to wait until I sell a few more books or get a client who can afford it !
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is an extraordinary thing. It gives authors such freedom, unlike other book selling website or distributers who try and get you to only distribute through them - Amazon being the number one culprit here.

Even things such as this author interview, allowing outside web links - it is author friendly and generous with the royalties.

It is a very handy and significant website..

Maybe they have a job for me ? !
Published 2013-11-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Breast Fed by Telephone
Price: Free! Words: 5,420. Language: English. Published: November 13, 2013. Category: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
A collection of modern poetry, from playful and provocative to profound and poignant, through these poems Ben Gilbert shares his unique and refreshing perspective on many aspects of modern living.
The World Peace Journals
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 102,800. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2013. Category: Nonfiction » Travel » Trip Journals
A Himalayan Journey into Madness, Mayhem and Adventure ! "Adventure as it should be - just do it and damn the rest!" - Ian Thurlby, founder of The Blue Space Guides' Co-operative.
No Place Like Home
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 109,130. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2013. Category: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
A perilous journey full of love, deception and delusion. "This will be a book for the decade. A true and gritty adventure, but with so much real humanity and emotion bursting out of every page." - Elizabeth Dalkeith.