I recently got the chance to sit down with Author P.J. Berman to talk about his book Vengeance of Hope, the upcoming sequel King of the Republic, and all the exciting new things he has on the horizon! He was super accommodating and answered my entire slew of questions! Let’s just right to it!
Tell us a little about yourself!
I grew up in Hemel Hempstead, England, but after a brief but enjoyable spell living in Plymouth on the south coast, I have now settled in my adopted nation, Wales. Here, I have discovered a newfound love of watching rugby and I have been able to indulge my passion for visiting castles.
Is writing your full-time job?
Yes, and no! It’s the only work I do at the moment that I get paid for, but my primary job is being a stay-at-home parent to my one-year-old daughter.
What are your non-bookish hobbies?
When I’m not writing, I enjoy travelling, especially visiting historic sites. I also enjoy watching both football and rugby. I support Stevenage FC and the Scarlets, and I am, of course, very much looking forward to watching Wales play in the Rugby World Cup in September.
What are some of your favorite books right now (besides your own, of course)?
I mostly read fantasy and historical fiction. I have recently enjoyed reading Harry Sidebottom’s ‘Fire in the East’, and am currently reading Joe Abercrombie’s ‘Half a War’. I recently enjoyed reading Amy Beatty’s ‘Dragon Ascending’, too.
When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
I’d say it was around 2013 that I decided that I wanted to turn my writing into a career, but I had been writing short stories for a few years before that.
Was Vengeance of Hope the first book you’ve written? If not, do you think you’ll ever bring those past projects to publication?
Vengeance of Hope is the first book I’ve published, it was my first attempt at a novel, although it has undergone a huge amount of development since those first tentative attempts ate writing the first couple of chapters. It is also my first fantasy work.
Prior to that I had written some short historical stories. I do still write short stories from time to time, and I will be releasing a short story book of historical fiction entitled ‘Blood and Greed’ in 2020.
What is your writing process like?
Given that I juggle writing with parenting, there is a great emphasis on taking advantage of my daughter’s nap times!
Aside from that, there is also the issue of research. There is a lot of it involved in fantasy. It may be a fictional world that you’re creating, but if you want it to ring true as a medieval style society, as is the case in Vengeance of Hope, there are certain things that have to seem authentic when compared to the medieval cultures that existed in our own world. As a result, you spend a lot of time researching castle life, for example, or medieval food, musical instruments, or battle strategies. Some do all of this before they start, but I prefer to do the basics while I’m writing down the skeleton of the story, and I’ll do the rest as I create the novel itself.
What do you absolutely have to have when you are writing?
Silence. If there’s any more noise than that, my daughter wakes and my writing session is over!
Give us a brief rundown of Vengeance of Hope.
Vengeance of Hope is a novel that focuses on three very different freedom fighters, the warrior Queen, Silrith, the vengeful rebel, Ezrina, and the ambitious politician, Zethun. It looks at their ideals, their fears, and most of all, their different approaches to ridding their people of the tyrant Jostan after he usurps Silrith’s throne.
Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
The story has many different origins for me. I like to use history for inspiration. Silrith herself based on people like Boudicca and Gwenllian. For me they both represent a dogged defiance of tyranny.
Who is your favorite character to write in the series? Your least favorite?
Over time, Silrith has been both my favorite and leave favorite, when it comes to actually writing her story. I feel now that I know her well, and her scenes come to me naturally, but it took me a long time to really sus her out.
The cover for VoH is stunning; who created the cover art, and what does the scene portray?
I’m very lucky to have found a wonderful cover artist in Oliver Bennett at More Visual Ltd. He has also created the cover for the second book in the series, King of the Republic. I will be revealing this cover on September 27th 2019 prior to the book’s release in December.
The scene depicted on Vengeance of Hope’s cover is one of the defining moments of the opening novel, when Silrith finds herself besieged by Jostan’s forces.
So, Vengeance of Hope recently got made into an audiobook! What was that like?
This is so exciting! The Vengeance of Hope audiobook, which is available now via Audible, Amazon and iTunes, came into being thanks to ACX. It’s all still pretty surreal to be honest!
How did you go about choosing your awesome narrator, Chris Dukes?
ACX run a wonderful program where authors can create an online profile for their novel/s, and over the following days narrators record a passage from the book and send it in as an audition. Chris has done a fantastic job bringing Vengeance of Hope to life, and I would recommend him to any authors looking to have an audiobook of their work created.
There is also another company called Babelcube, who use a similar process to match up authors with translators. Through this program, Italian and Portuguese translations of Vengeance of Hope are currently in the pipeline.
King of the Republic, the sequel to VoH, is out soon! What can you tell us about it? Any sneak peeks or little hints for us fans? 😊
Well, if Bennvika was a dangerous place to be during the events of Vengeance of Hope, then it is even worse in King of the Republic, and the tumult has spilt well beyond Bennvika’s borders. Silrith, Ezrina and Zethun each stand on the precipice of their defining moments.
What are you most excited for with King of the Republic?
I think the most enjoyable aspect of writing this second book has been the chance to engage in some real character development. I have heard it said many times that in a series, whether we are talking about books, tv shows or film series, the first one is mostly there to set the scene and hook you in for the events to come. It’s during that crucial second installment that things really take off. I’m really excited about the directions that Silrith, Ezrina and Zethun’s various directions have taken, and who they have had to become in order to follow those paths, and who they have met along the way.
How many books do you have planned for the Silrith series?
Currently I plan for there to be four in total, but let’s see where things go!
Tell us a bit about the Bennvikan world. Where did you get your world-building inspiration from?
As with the characters themselves, I enjoy taking inspiration from cultures our own world. Bennvika itself, as well as some of its neighbors, is largely inspired by late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman England, although there are other cultures around them where I took ideas from the Byzantine Empire, the Celts, the Mongols and, in the case of one faction, the colonial age.
What is your favorite thing/feature of Bennvikan and the world you’ve built?
I’d say that would be Bennvika’s complexity. It is a place of contradictions. Socially, in some ways it is ahead of our own world, while in others it is well behind, and not just in terms of technology. For example, on one hand they are closer to achieving gender equality than we currently are, but on the other, their class divide is even larger than our own.
I know you are working in a new website feature called “Silrith’s Portal”, which will give us some behind-the-scenes info for Bennvikan (awesome, btw). What can you tell us about it?
Thank you! Yes, ‘Silrith’s Portal’ goes live on www.pjbermanbooks.com on October 7th 2019. On the first day, I will publish five articles about different aspects of the Bennvikan world, and then a new article will be added every week after that. These will be published via my blog and then added to the ‘Silrith’s Portal’ database.
The articles will vary in subject matter. Some will concentrate on a specific character, while others will focus on a country, city, noble house, religion, deity, political faction or historical event.
What do you see for the future of this series/world? Any plans to step into a new “universe”?
Potentially, yes! I have ideas for short stories to go with the series, as well as one or two spin-off novels set in Bennvika in different time periods.
Last question! What is one completely random fun fact about yourself?
I am fascinated by flags, especially national ones. I’ve no idea why!
Follow P.J. Berman on Instagram for updates and posts!
To grab a copy of Vengeance of Hope, click here! You’ll have access to the paperback edition, the audiobook, and the Kindle edition (which is free for Kindle Unlimited)!