For author Ben Hobson, the release of his third novel is just as exciting and nerve-racking as his first.
The Bribie Island State High School English and Music teacher spoke with Moreton Daily as his book The Death of John Lacey hit the shelves this week.
“It definitely feels like when you’re a child in the lead-up to Christmas. It’s definitely that but, because you’re an adult, it doesn’t feel real,” Hobson says.
The feeling of excitement and trepidation has not diminished, third time around, and his latest offering has been the most challenging to write.
“It’s going to be one that people really respond to and love, but I also think there will be people who don’t like it as much … it’s a bit more grim and dark (than my previous work),” Hobson explains.
The Death of John Lacey is a searing Australian western set in the goldfields of Ballarat and a powerful story of greed, power and violence.
John Lacey's lust for power and gold brings him riches and influence. Only he knows the terrible crime he committed to attain that wealth. Years later, as Lacey ruthlessly presides over the town he has built and named after himself, no one has the courage to question his power or how he wields it.
Brothers Ernst and Joe Montague arrive in Lacey’s town while on the run from the law. They commit desperate crimes to avoid capture.
Lacey vows retribution and galvanises those in the town to hunt them down. But not everyone is blind to his evil, and a reckoning is approaching.
Hobson explains the inspiration for the tale designed to challenge readers and make them think …
He says one of his favourite films is There Will be Blood, a 2007 epic American period drama. Its main character, the ruthless Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis was one he wanted to emulate in a novel.
“I wanted to write a character like that,” he explains.
“There are a lot of people who make immoral decisions … these absolves other people of responsibility. John Lacey is that kind of character.”
The Narangba resident says the book started with the character and he chose the harsh Ballarat goldfields as the setting to remove the distractions of a modern-day setting.
“When you strip that away, you get to the meat and potatoes of it. How to live a good life … what are you going to compromise to get your own way,” Hobson says.
So, what is he hoping readers will draw from The Death of John Lacey?
“I have a real urge to please people. I want to get good reviews and for people to be positive about the book but I’m not sure if it’s really that sort of book,” he says.
“People may feel challenged and uncomfortable. I’m hoping it’s a page-turner. It will make people think and feel things, they wouldn’t have thought about.”
Writing’s a long game
Hobson says he started writing soon after moving to the Moreton Bay Region from Victoria in 2008 to be with his now wife, Lena.
He was missing his old band, Sounds like Chicken, and Lena suggested writing could be a good creative outlet for him.
Hobson used the internet to research ‘how to write a book’ and got started.
He published a few short stories, which was enough to keep him going and in 2017 his first novel, To Become a Whale, was published. His second book, Snake Island, was released in 2019.
“It was a long time,” he says.
“There is something different about writing a full novel. You spend a year researching and developing a manuscript. You put everything into it. Looking back now, I don’t know what kept me going.
“I needed to develop. I look back at how much those rejections hurt but I’m glad those books didn’t get published because they weren’t that good.
“Those failed novels are the ones that prepared me to write the ones that I write nowadays.”
So, what is the secret to bringing all the right elements together to create a gripping tale? Has he nailed it yet?
Hobson says he’s still developing as an author and ‘each book is its own thing’, which evolves as he writes it.
“You have to have the guts to go back and refine ideas and expand on them. Get some good early readers, collaborators and find out what works and how it can be stronger,” he says.
“Have fun with it. It’s such a joy.”
Hobson is supported by his wife Lena and their children Henry, 8, and Charlie, 10.
The Death of John Lacey is now available from all good book stores.
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