Author Q & A - Ben Hobson

Reading Blog

Ben Hobson is a remarkable rising star of Australian fiction who lives in Brisbane with his wife and two boys. Ben pursued his passion for philosophy, theology, writing, and reading through his stories while teaching high school English and Music. 

To Become A Whale, his first novel, was published in 2017 and was a big hit among readers as an extraordinarily vivid and haunting novel of Australian literature. The book follows the story of a 13-year-old Sam Keogh who learns with a hitherto absent father who takes him to work at Tangalooma, the largest whaling station in the southern hemisphere . This book was a fascinating read and is very moving as it explores whaling and the cruelty that occurs.

Ben’s most recent novel Snake Island released in 2019, is like reading a morality tale Western but in a beautiful Australian setting with outstanding clarity and power. This book is about actions and their consequences and is a gripping tale about the destructive nature of revenge, the complexity of love and forgiveness, and an exploration of morality. Snake Island was a very thrilling read that kept us on the edge of our seat.

Now that you know a bit more about Ben and his fantastic novels, here is our Q & A:

What was one of your biggest challenges when writing Snake Island, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge of writing Snake Island was probably the structure. It took a long time to figure out how to tell a linear story from so many points of view. I think there are over seven perspectives in the novel. They would inevitably overlap! So figuring that out while making each chapter interesting and not just “wheel spinning” was quite tricky! I think I managed it in the end though.

What inspired the storyline for your books?

The biggest thing that inspires the stories in my novels are, if I’m being honest, the media I enjoy! For To Become a Whale, as an example, I’d just read The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna, which I adored. And for Snake Island I’d just finished watching season two of the Fargo television show. I think every story teller is made up of the thousands of stories they consume.

Tell me about Sam Keogh in To Become A Whale?

Sam Keogh, from To Become a Whale, has a lot of me in him. I grew up in country Victoria, and always felt like I didn’t quite fit in with the picture of masculinity I was surrounded by. Big, beer drinking farmers, whereas I was more into Nintendo, or catching frogs and keeping them as pets. So Sam has a lot of my sensitivities, my tenderness, and is forced to reckon with his father’s view of masculinity, which is a lot “tougher”.

What do you want readers to take away after reading your books?

After reading my books I want readers to walk away feeling entertained, but also challenged. I love complexity in stories – no easy answers. If I can have readers, after reading my book, asking questions of their own lives, and the world we live in, then I’ll feel like I’ve done my job.

It was a pleasure to chat with Ben and learn more about his books and the inspiration for his books. The Q & A has given us great insights into his thoughts behind each novel and how Ben overcame various writing challenges. A big thank you to Ben for taking the time out of his busy schedule to inspire us even more. To learn more about Ben Hobson and his novels, click here