Benjamin Aeveryn is an author of SFF from Cambridge, UK, where he lives with his beautiful fiance and a grumpy old cat. Salt in the Wound is his debut novel. People say his work is grimdark fantasy, but for a vision of England where it’s always raining, infrastructure is crumbling, and nobody trusts their neighbours, he only has to look out of his window.
1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
It was really a case of several things coming together. One was that I got my first professional rate sale for a short story. That really gave me a sense of validation, like, “Yes, you’re ready for this.” So I knew I wanted to publish but was on the fence between trad pub and indie. While researching, I found an interview with Ryan Cahill where he talked about his experience self-publishing and it really put the thought in my head that this wasn’t only possible, it was doable. That article also turned me on to David Gaughran. After taking his free course (and buying and reading all of his books on book marketing) I was convinced this was the right road for me. The control indie allows outweighs the editorial benefits of trad for me, at this moment. I haven’t ruled out trad in future (I’d really love to work with an indie press. There are some folks doing amazing work on the small press side of things) but for now I’m happy self-publishing.
2.- How did the idea for Salt in the Wound appear?
I knew I wanted to write something about a world decaying. That was the starting point. I’d just come out of playing a ton of Elden Ring, so that was a big inspiration. I loved how beautiful that game was, even though everything was decaying. I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic stories. All through my early twenties I didn’t write fantasy at all, I wrote zombie stories and dystopian war-torn sci-fi. For the last five years or so I’ve been very deep in fantasy, so this book was really me bringing the genres I love together. I wanted to write a zombie apocalypse and I wanted to write grimdark fantasy akin to the First Law (by Joe Abercrombie) and ended up smushing them together into something that hopefully feels unique.
3.- Why did you decide to write an alternative Earth, instead of creating your own fantasy world?
There were a couple of reasons for this. One was that I knew I was going to do some weird stuff with the book. The setting is intentionally anachronistic, blending this future apocalypse with Victorian fashions and functionally late-medieval technology. Having it take place in an analog of our world helps ground the story and pins all those elements together. I think it would be harder to on-board people if it was a secondary world.
I also really enjoyed twisting our world as far as I could to give the impression of a secondary world setting. It’s a different kind of worldbuilding, starting with a preexisting framework, but really satisfying when you get it to click.
The other big reason is that I wanted a natural way to include references to King Arthur and old British folk tales. In a lot of ways, this story is a love letter to the often unsung rural British working class.
4.- Salt in the Wound tackles some complicated themes such as disability. Which problems would you say you found while writing about this? How did you made this representation accurate?
This is something that comes quite naturally to me. A lot of the things the characters deal with are either things I’ve dealt with myself, or I have close experiences I can draw from to try to emulate as closely as possible. I’m not an amputee, for example, but I do live with disability, so for those elements of the story, I tried to find the crossover points in our experiences. Then of course some research goes into it as well. That said, you’re never going to get everything right, but I think it’s most important to be respectful and compassionate.
5.- How would you say the Arthurian myths influenced your writing?
When I was a kid I had a small collection of audiobooks on old tapes. I used to listen to them every night before I went to bed. Amongst them was a reading of the tales of King Arthur (as well as the radio play of The Lord of the Rings) and they’ve always stuck with me. There isn’t a whole lot of me in Galahad, but that’s one thing we have in common.
These days people think of Arthur’s knights as valiant and immaculate, but in most versions of the tales they’re kind of chaotic and messy and I wanted to echo some of that chaos in Salt in the Wound. Galahad is the one who originally found the Holy Grail, so he was a natural choice for a treasure hunter protagonist.
6.- Let’s talk more about the self-publishing process. Which parts would you say are the most challenging for you?
This is a tricky one. Kind of everything? The hardest part was just learning. Reading all those books on book marketing, figuring out how to use new software, etc. Once you’ve got to grips with all the different pieces you need to put together, it’s not so bad. At that point the trickiest thing becomes just remembering everything, making sure you don’t forget something important.
7.- Impressive cover, could you tell us a little bit more about the design?
The illustrator, Houss, was really the champion when it came to that gorgeous illustration. I knew I didn’t want to spoil anything from later in the book, and the cathedral makes for an interesting backdrop. We tried out a few different poses for Galahad before finding one that worked. In the end we went for something that represented the themes of the book more than replicating a scene precisely.
8.- What can we expect from Benjamin Aeveryn in the future?
Well, I’m hoping to finish this trilogy in the Rainfallen series by next summer. The next book, Secret of the Thistle, should be out in November, as long as I don’t miss my deadlines. The cover art is already finished and it’s killing me not being able to share it yet! Houss has knocked it out of the park once again. After that I’m already planning out a solarpunk horror, so that’s likely the next thing you’ll see from me, though the first entry probably won’t be out until 2025.