My special guest author today is Ben Lyle Bedard. He’s chatting with me about his coming-of-age post-apocalypse book, The World Without Flags.
Born in Buckfield, a rural town in Maine, Ben grew up reading Tolkien, Stephen King, and Charles Dickens. When he went to college at the University of Maine at Farmington, he published his first piece of fiction in the local college journal. While in Buffalo, New York, he met his future wife, Fernanda Glaser, a Fulbright scholar from Chile. To meet the requirements of her scholarship, she had to move back to Chile, and Ben followed her. They were married a year later, under crimson bougainvillea. He is currently living by the Pacific Ocean in La Serena while he researches and plans his next book.
Welcome, Ben. Please tell us about your current release.
The World Without Flags is a stand-alone sequel to The World Without Crows. The book takes place ten years after a plague nearly destroys humanity. The story is of a young woman, Birdie, who must protect her father when the plague mysteriously returns.
What inspired you to write this book?
In the first book, Birdie is a little girl, and I wondered what would happen to her in ten years or so. This book is an answer to that question.
Excerpt The World Without Flags:
There’s not much time to think about the revelation that I haven’t forgotten my own father, that he’s still hidden somewhere in my mind. I don’t have the luxury of time. I can’t just sit around the cabin, thinking, hoping I will remember more of the man I thought I had forgotten. I don’t have time to imagine that there might be more memories inside my head waiting to come out. I don’t have time to ask myself why now? Why are these memories coming back now? I don’t have time for any of that. I have to keep moving.
I have to get Eric far away from the Homestead, and I have to do it tonight.
But first I have to spend the day at the Homestead, acting like I’ll be here with them for the rest of my life. Norman and Franky come for me pretty damn early in the morning. It’s hardly dawn when they bang on the door. After a quick breakfast of a dried old apple and a fried egg, I have to follow around Franky like his personal pet, or like, well, like his princess, going from house to house, checking on people, solving problems, holding people’s hands as they cry.
I’ve been too shocked by the whole resurgence of the Worm and Eric’s horrible transformation to think about anyone else. But as I follow Franky, I see that the damage of the Worm to the Homestead was more than a pile of ashes where our friends used to be. People are barely keeping it together. Some people can’t even get out of bed. Others are walking in some kind of stupor, like zombies. Franky tells them what to do and they do it, more like machines than people. Others throw themselves into work, people like Crystal who basically starts doing the work of like four people in the kitchen. She works without break. Pest too is like that. He works by himself in the field, all day long, as if trying to resurrect his friends by doing what they normally would have done. As if they would live again if he could only do all their work. When we visit him, he looks up, gaunt and filthy, his eyes haunted like a child’s should never be. He doesn’t look at me the whole time. He only takes the water that Franky offers him and drinks until he’s full. Franky claps him manfully on the back. Pest picks up his hoe and goes back to the field. I feel sorry for him, but I can’t think of anything to say. Queen is sitting at the edge of the field, watching Pest protectively as if she can sense the danger around us. I watch Pest attack the earth with his hoe, wishing there was something I could do or say. I never thought I’d feel bad for Pest.
As we move from place to place, I see that Norman and Franky were right. We need each other. The Homestead is just barely hanging on. If it wasn’t for Crystal, I could easily imagine that everyone would just wander away on their own, in some kind of daze, and the place I grew up in would be no more. I used to think that the Homestead was unbreakable, something as unshakeable as a rock, but now I see it as it probably always was—fragile and precarious. It’s another revelation to me. Like most of the others, it’s discomfiting.
All day Franky is like the old Franky. He’s kind and gentle and helpful. He walks from house to house and person to person with his tool box in his hand, as if it was like the old days, as if he was coming to ask about some broken hinges and not to make sure you weren’t in the process of hanging yourself or guzzling rat poison. I feel most of my rancor toward him dissipate. Most of it. Sometimes, when we are alone, I can see him looking at me with distrust. And maybe something else, something dark and intense. Although I know the Homestead needs him badly, it’s dangerous for me to stay here. I can feel it. I am more certain than ever that if Franky found Eric, it would be the end of Eric’s life. I have no doubt.
All day I plan out the evening. I think about Eric up in the Land Rover. I know that I have to leave, and I have to leave tonight. If I stay much longer, I may find it too difficult to leave. I know it’s going to hurt people when I vanish. It will be yet another blow to the Homestead. It’s not really that I am necessary here, but that I am, like Franky and Norman said, a reminder of Eric. I’m like a walking memory of more secure times, like a promise it can be that way again. I’m sorry I can’t be that for them, but I won’t let Eric die. If I stay, someone will eventually find him and, “for the good of the community,” they will kill him.
They will have to find their own hope.
I will have to find mine.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m taking a break from the apocalyptic genre to write a fantasy book about enslaved people needing to tunnel under a wall to escape and save their families. It’s a prison break out story except it takes place in a world with swords and myths.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Good question. Very young, I suppose, when I used to copy about Oz books on my mother’s typewriter.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I live in Chile and teach English, but on my days off, when I write, I usually start by reading what I had written the previous day, making corrections, thinking about the overall structure, and then continue for that day. I usually stop work for lunch, then hit it again for a couple hours before calling it a day.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if it’s interesting, but I don’t like to talk about a book I’m planning or writing. Once I’m done, then I can talk about it.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
According to an old report from my 4H Club, I wanted to be a chef.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes, let’s all be careful out there and keep each other safe, and we’ll get through the COVID-19. This may be a post-apocalyptic novel, but it’s hopeful.
Thanks for being here today!