Benjamin Myers is an award-winning author and journalist, whose work has been translated into many languages. His novels include the bestseller The Offing, which was serialized on BBC Radio 4's 'Book at Bedtime,' was a London Times Book of the Year, a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick, and an Observer pick for 2019. It was also a bestseller in Germany. His other titles include The Gallows Pole, which won Walter Scott Prize 2018, the world's largest prize for historical fiction; These Darkening Days; Turning Blue, and Beastings, winner of the Portico Prize For Literature and a Northern Writers’ Award.
Pig Iron (2012) won the Gordon Burn Prize and Richard (2010) was a bestseller, chosen by the Sunday Times as one of its books of the year. His writing has appeared in publications including The Guardian, Mojo, New Statesman, New Scientist, The Spectator, The Big Issue, Le Monde, Caught By The River, and others.
He was born in Durham, U.K., in 1976. He currently lives in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, U.K. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.
In this post, Benjamin discusses the out-of-body experience of having the idea for his new novel, The Perfect Golden Circle, how the writing process for this novel differed from his previous work, and more!
Name: Benjamin Myers
Literary agent: Jessica Woollard of David Higham Associates (London, U.K.)
Book title: The Perfect Golden Circle
Publisher: Melville House
Release date: May 15, 2022
Genre/category: Literary Fiction
Previous titles: The Gallows Pole, The Offing, Male Tears, Beastings, Pig Iron, Turning Blue, These Darkening Days, and more.
Elevator pitch for the book: Two outsiders spend the summer of 1989 creating awe-inspiring crop circles across the rural landscape of southwest England. Themes of trauma, climate change, friendship, and an occult England of stone circles, nocturnal rituals, and more are all explored along the way.
What prompted you to write this book?
It was conceived during the aftermath of a psychic meltdown. My mental health was in a somewhat fraught and exhausted state, and during a period of hyper-sensitivity—actually, let’s call it what it is was: acute anxiety—I wandered out into a cornfield at the height of summer, and the plot and two main characters of the novel just appeared in a fleeting moment.
10 seconds was all it took. It almost felt as if I downloaded the novel from the cosmos; or the universe was at least offering me a way to write myself out of the sense of ennui with which I felt weighted down. I took it and soon felt an improvement.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I had the idea in that cornfield in July 2019, made some initial notes, and then sat down and wrote the entire first draft in 26 days in February 2020 while staying in a remote and ancient weavers’ cottage in the Scottish Borders. I finished it the day before the U.K. went into the first COVID lockdown.
It changed little during the writing but did entail the endless layering in of themes and motifs, and it went through several subsequent drafts. And though the book was written relatively quickly, it took me a year to think of the title. There were about 80 other contenders. I find that titles either arrive early at the first attempt, or they really must be labored over.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
The biggest surprise was that I discovered I am quite popular in Germany, where The Perfect Golden Circle was rush released for publication before the U.K. or U.S., where I am more widely published. I was recently told that I’m the second biggest selling English language author in Germany of the past couple of years. Not bad given I was last in Berlin for precisely one night 21 years ago. That was all a very welcome surprise.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
It’s the first novel I’ve written while smoking marijuana, which didn’t seem to inhibit the process, though I should probably let reviewers be the judge of that. There wasn’t much else to do in the aforementioned remote cottage, and also, I was recovering from some quite hardcore dental surgery on my wisdom teeth; someone had given me some hash, so I used it medicinally to distract from my swollen head. I don’t otherwise drink alcohol or use any other drugs, but I did also eat a lot of soup.
So, the big surprise was that weed, soup, and seclusion in Scotland are enough to fuel an entire novel. That’s something they don’t teach you on the creative writing courses, though I wouldn’t suggest anyone follow this process—everyone must find their own way through this strange and inexplicable business of creation. I’ve written another novel in an around this one, and it has taken four years, and in quite different circumstances. I did a lot of boxing while writing that one.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Entertainment is all I can offer—that and brief respite or distraction from the horrors of the modern world. Maybe there is a smidgen of hope to be found in The Perfect Golden Circle.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Eat your greens.