Ben answers some questions commonly posed by imaginary readers. 

Q. When is the next book coming out?

A. Do you use the Gregorian calendar? I thought so, but it never hurts to check. Ben just published the newest Blanco County mystery, Weed Killer. So get on over to Amazon and check it out by clicking here! Ben is currently working on a new unnamed Roy Ballard mystery, so be sure to get excited about that vague and pointless news.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?

A. Small wild mammals whisper them into my ears when I’m sleeping. Nyquil is usually involved. Plus, I read the newspaper every day. It’s amazing what happens in real life that makes fiction seem tame. Ultimately, though, the ideas seem to come from out of thin air. I don’t feel responsible for them. They come from above (meaning my attic).

Q. How long does it take you to write a novel?

A. About eight or nine months. The writing isn’t the hard part, the plotting is. You have to track the thinking of multiple characters, and make sure they are all reacting sensibly to story developments. I could probably write each novel more quickly, but I like to give the plot time to “age”—sort of like the body in my trunk.

Q. Do you do research?

A.  You bet. Also, I have a great network of experts who provide input. That includes people in law enforcement, wildlife biology, healthcare, criminal justice, and many other fields. These people answer many questions thoroughly and accurately, and then I screw everything up on my own.

Q. When do you write?

A. From 10:00 a.m. to 10:05 a.m.—every single day. It’s a rigorous schedule, but you have to make that kind of commitment to succeed.

Q. Your Blanco County series revolves around a game warden. Do you hunt?

A. I’ve hunted since I was a teenager, mostly white-tailed deer. Some people don’t like hunting, and this certainly isn’t the place for a debate. So I’ll just say I’m a firm believer in utilizing the skills that lifted us to the top of the food chain. What skills am I referring to? Square dancing, of course.

Q. Should I give one of your books to my twelve-year-old nephew?

A. That’s up to you. I use some bad words in my novels—words like “politician” and “Sansabelt.” Plus other “bad words” I won’t print here.

Q. I can’t find your books in my local bookstore. What should I do?

A. Remain calm. Lie on the ground and cover your head with your hands. Pretend to be dead. Oh, wait—that’s what you do if you’re approached by a bear. Best bet is to buy them on Amazon. If you are wondering why they aren’t in your local bookstore, even though they used to be, see the second-to-last question below.

Q. Where do you get your titles?

A. I pick words randomly from the dictionary. That’s why my next novel might be called Cartilage Bunnies.

Q. Do you ever procrastinate?

A. I’ll answer this question at a later date.

Q. How do you pronounce your last name?

A. Have your ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark? Well, my last name is pronounced the same way. Say it with me: “Ark.”

Q. Will you name a character after me?

A. You might be surprised to learn that your name is already in each of my books. It’s just that the letters aren’t in a row.

Q. Can you help me find an agent?

A. A real-estate agent, maybe. As far as a literary agent, my best advice is to read and use Jeff Herman’s book. I can’t remember the exact title, but I bet you can figure it out if you visit Amazon. You’re a clever boy and/or girl.

Q. Why aren’t you doing many book signings anymore?

A. All my good pens ran out of ink. But more important, I’ve learned over the years that the number-one thing I can do to make my readers happy and promote my books is to write more books. I do enjoy visiting with readers at bookstores, in libraries, at festivals, and in book clubs, but it simply makes more sense for me to focus on writing instead. Every hour away from the keyboard is one less hour I’m working on my latest novel. This decision also has to do with changes in the ways my books are distributed. For more on that, see the two questions below. Actually, don’t just see them. Read them, too, please.

Q. Why are some of your books only available at Amazon? And while we’re at it, why aren’t you using the audiobook narrator I like best?

A. As an author, of course I’d like to reach as many readers (and audiobook listeners) as possible—reach them, tousle their hair, and maybe go have a milkshake. Fortunately, I have more of an opportunity than ever before to do just that. Things have changed dramatically in the last few years in the world of publishing, and authors (and readers) have never had it better. In this new environment, my goal, of course, is to keep all of my readers happy. I also need to make choices that will allow me to 1) continue writing novels and avoid actually working for a living, 2) keep prices low for my readers, and 3) select distribution and promotion options that will allow me to accomplish 1 and 2. That means most of my novels will only be available in Kindle ebook format, and that the print edition will not be available in hardback. It also means my audiobooks will be produced through an Audible program that gives authors more control than ever before, while offering lower prices for listeners—but the narrator you like best might not be part of the program. Yet. I’ve been thrilled with the narrators available through the program, and I’m looking forward to having even more choices as the Audible program grows. 

Q. It appears you’ve published your last few books on your own. Why the change?

 A. Because I am a wildly independent spirit who relishes blazing new trails. I’m a pioneer. A trendsetter. Not buying it? Okay, it’s because of the aforementioned changes in the world of publishing in the past few years, including the advent of ebooks. As a result, authors have more choices than ever before—and I’ve decided to publish on my own. I’m not alone. Hundreds of authors who were previously “traditionally published” by mainstream publishers have made the switch. For me, it’s been the smartest move of my career. My readership is larger than it’s ever been, and I thank you for it.