Ben Oliver, author of The Loop – #intervistiamo
Hi Ben, welcome!
Your novel The Loop has just been released in Italy. It is the first volume of a YA trilogy.
It is a pleasure to have you here! Let’s start this interview.
In addition to The Loop you have written other short stories over the years. Is there one that you are most fond of? If so, why?
Hi, it’s great to be talking to you, thank you for having me. Yes, before I wrote my first novel I wrote short stories, and I got my first story published when I was 18 years old. Since then I have had a lot of stories published. The one I’m most fond of is probably one called The Many Deaths of Michael Finch, which is a story about a boy who – whenever he dies – come back to life a few weeks before his death, and can avoid it next time. It has a very dark ending that I really like.
At what age did you start writing? And what were your first topics and / or subjects you liked to write about?
When I was six or seven I used to rewrite Roald Dahl books and add new scenes to them and new characters. But I really started to write my own stories when I was about eighteen. My first attempts to write a novel were all horror stories that were heavily influenced by Stephen King… they were terrible! But you have to start somewhere. It took me fifteen years from my first attempt at writing a novel to getting published.
Do you have any particular ritual that you do before you start writing? Do you do something particular that puts you at ease to concentrate and write? (for example, if you make yourself a hot chocolate before you start writing, or listen to music etc.)
I don’t really have any rituals. My life has been so crazy over the last few years that I don’t have enough of a routine to come up with a schedule or anything like that. Usually I get an idea in my head and I won’t start writing until the idea has grown in my mind. It’s like the idea is incubating, and when it’s ready to be written – I sit down and start writing. I don’t write out a plot or a plan, I just sit down and write and see what happens.
I read in an interview that your technophobia inspired you to write the YA trilogy. How?
I think technology is fantastic for the most part; especially when it comes to helping people and speeding up medical advancements and keeping us connected, but it’s also a very dangerous, manipulative, insidious thing. Companies harvest our data so they can manipulate us, social-media corporations make their platforms addictive so we keep coming back, politicians can use algorithms to find people who are easily swayed and aim adverts at them so they’ll change who they vote for. All of that stuff scares me.
Has The Loop always been called like this or has it changed over the course of writing?
The Loop was untitled for about two hours, and then, once I could fully picture the prison that the inmates were trapped inside, I knew that it would be called The Loop.
Do you have a favorite character on The Loop? Or a particular scene?
My favourite character is Pander Banks. I love that she is no-nonsense, fearless, ready to jump into battle at any moment! She’s funny too, and likes to sing. My favourite scene is probably Luka’s trip through the subway tunnel, where he is attacked by mutated killer rats. Clearly my horror influences haven’t completely gone away!
Inside the prison, Luka Kane secretly receives some books, seeing reading as a source of escape – and somehow salvation. Do you agree? Are the books that Luka reads some of your favorites?
I definitely agree! Books were an escape for me during difficult times, they can be the best hiding place. IF you can get lost in a book for a while you can take a holiday from your own life, which is an amazing thing. I love all the books that Luka reads in The Loop, and he’ll read a few more in the sequels that I love too.
Can you tell us something about the sequel of The Loop? Have you already written it or are you still writing it?
I can tell you that it’s even better than The Loop (in my opinion, anyway). A lot of action and a few gruesome scenes. I’ve had so much fun writing it and it’s almost finished, I’m just working on a final draft with my editor.
I know that the rights to acquire a TV series of The Loop have been acquired, congratulations! Are the filming of the TV series already started? Do you already know something about the cast or who will make it?
The rights were sold, which was an amazing and exciting experience. I’m not allowed to talk too much about it, but we have a producer and a scriptwriter on board… hopefully there will be some news that I’m allowed to share soon.
Do you have someone in particular in mind who could play the character of Luka Kane?
I don’t have anyone in mind who could play Luka. The problem is – Luka is sixteen years old and I don’t know any young actors! What I would really love is for an unknown actor to play him. Someone to start their career by playing Luka would be brilliant.
Have you read any book you like during this quarantine, and would like to recommend them to others? If so, could you name us a few?
Recently I’ve read the Scythe trilogy by Neal Shusterman, which is absolutely brilliant! And I’m currently reading A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes which I’m loving so far.
Thank you for your time and your kindness, Ben, we really appreciate it!
All the best,