I recently caught up with author Benjamin Gorman, who recently released his book, The Sum of Our Gods. Check out the interview and deets below!
Please tell me about your current release. What inspired you to write it?
The novel (The Sum of Our Gods) is about a guy who has been cursed to have coffee with God every week and listen to God complain about His problems. I honestly don’t know how the idea popped into my head, but it just struck me as too funny to pass up. I’d been going through a difficult process of losing my faith, and I suspect I just needed the release that comes with a good laugh.
So it comes from a very personal and self-reflective place. How did writing this story affect you?
It was better than I could have hoped. From the outset, I thought the project would just be funny, but the deeper I fell into it, the more it allowed me to be brave and turn off those internal censors, and that freed me to allow my characters to wrestle with some heavy issues.
Heavy indeed! So what can we expect next from you?
I’m currently working on a very different book, a novel about the aftermath of a second American civil war. However, since I’ve been eating, drinking, and sleeping the marketing process for this book, it has caused me to think about a sequel, and I think I have a fun idea for that one, too. We’ll see which one gets finished first.
Good luck with that! Now tell me, which of your characters would you want to be and why?
There’s actually a point in the book where one of the characters, a novelist, tries to explain that he is all the characters in his writing in some way. I think that’s important for the people closest to me to understand when they are reading my book and wondering if they have inspired this character or that one. In so much as they have changed me, they have affected those characters, but all the characters are manifestations of my doubts and fears and hopes. If anything, I wish I were a little more Thor or Apollo and a little less Christy and Joe: A little more confident and less resigned to my own conception of my faults. But they are all me.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I have a terrible memory. I wish I could hear a person’s name and store it in my memory forever. Instead, I have to take very careful notes just so I don’t forget the names of the characters in my own books. I’m good with faces and details, and I know a lot more about my characters than ever makes it into a novel. In the same way, I can remember all kinds of details about a person I’ve met. But that doesn’t really cut the mustard when I can’t remember someone’s name.
What are you currently reading?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’ve already read Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, and I loved them both, so I felt I had to go back to her most famous book. Reading a writer like Atwood produces a complicated mixture of emotions for a writer. On the one hand, it’s inspiring to see just what words can do. On the other hand, it can be disheartening to be exposed to work that is so obviously better than one’s own. I’m loving the story itself, but her prose is so beautifully crafted that it makes me feel inferior.
Of all of the books you’ve read, which book has impacted you the most?
That’s a toughie. I think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road forced me to stop and think about how a writer can control a reader’s pace through a book. It also appealed to me because it offered such a slight glimmer of hope that I didn’t feel like I was being sold a bill of goods. It’s a tricky thing, pulling off an ending that doesn’t feel trite or tragic in a melodramatic way. Jonathan Irving is really good at it, but I’ve learned that he writes his endings first, then crafts the books to work towards them. It’s a smart strategy.
What gives you the most joy in life?
My family. I dedicated the novel to my wife, Paige, and my son, Noah. They not only fill my life with a lot of laughter, but they provide me with direction; I do what I do for them.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
When it comes to fiction, ignore that axiom about writing what you know. That can lead to very pedantic stories. On the flipside, don’t write about what you don’t know at all. Your readers deserve better. Instead, write about what you aren’t quite sure about but want to get to know. Use the writing to explore and learn. If you’re willing to let a story change you, you’ll craft something that can change the reader.