Ben Oliver: 'I'd say the younger generation are inspiring the message of my book rather than me trying to inspire them'

Ben Oliver: 'If anything, I'd say the younger generation are inspiring the message of my book rather than me trying to inspire them.'

Debut author of Young Adult sci-fi thriller The Loop talks about his trilogy in the making, a possible TV series and what he reads during self isolation

After putting his first highly anticipated book, The Loop on our spring reading list, we sat down with author Ben Oliver to talk about his inspirations, why he writes YA pieces and whether his first ever published book will be turned into a TV series.

Can you describe the book's premise?
The Loop is a young adult sci-fi thriller set in a young offenders death row in the future and the prison is run by artificial intelligence. We follow the main character Luka who just turned 16, his life inside this prison is quite boring and repetitive until things start going wrong in the outside world and they realise they have to break out from this prison.

How and when did you come up with the idea?
The idea of a person in prison getting a reduced sentence if they take part in a medical or scientific experiment was in my head in some form or another for a good two years before I started writing. It took a long time before the rest of the plot sort of came together in my head and I got all the characters which is strange because usually I just get an idea and start writing but with this one I sort of incubated it in my mind I suppose.

Why Young Adult? Is there a specific message you want to put out for the younger generation?
I write for a kind of age group of maybe 12 upwards because that was when books meant the most to me, when I could really get lost in a story. I guess I'm kind of writing for me when I was about 14 years old; when books meant the most to me. I wouldn't say I'm trying to give any kind of message because I feel like the younger generation is nailing it right now. More just reinforcing what they are already doing, questioning everything, doing the right thing; basically trying to fix the mistakes the older generations have made. So if anything, I'd say they are inspiring the message of my book rather than me trying to inspire them.

Is it true that you named some of your characters based on people that you actually know?
It sort of started off accidentally with my main character, Luka. Once I realised it, I ended up naming a few characters after family members to put little nods towards characters but mostly they are background figures.

But you have no one named Sarah, your wife.
No, not yet. But there's still two more books in the series to come. So maybe there'll be a Sarah in there somewhere.

So is there going to be a sequel?
I've finished the first draft and first round of edits of the second book of The Loop. I knew I wanted it to be more than one book, I kind of thought I wanted it to be a trilogy but I didn't know what books two and three were going to be about. I don't plot, I don't plan out my books, I just start writing. Which I think scares my publishers a little bit. But book two is looking good now, it is probably coming out April 2021 with book three coming out April 2022.

Ben Oliver: 'If anything, I'd say the younger generation are inspiring the message of my book rather than me trying to inspire them.'

I also heard something about a possible TV series in the making based on The Loop.
Well yeah, the television rights were bought by Louise Sutton who produced two of my favourite Black Mirror episodes (Metal Head and USS Callister). They've done a lot of work on it, have a script ready on board and made some digital sort of walk throughs of the loop. It's really cool, so the next step is trying to sell it to a network or Netflix. I mean it's still unlikely but yeah, it'd be really exciting to see it turning into a TV show.

Would you have a say in the process further on?
I'd definitely get to look at it and add some suggestions but I think it really would be down to the producers and directors. But I quite like the idea of seeing somebody else's version of The Loop. I'm always going to have my version of it.

Who would play Luka in your dream scenario?
The problem is he is such a young character I don't know any actors that young these days. What I'd like is for unknown actors to be cast and see what they can do with it. I feel like it kind of suits the book rather than going with famous ones. Young adult stories are always a good proofing act for starting actors when it comes to the TV show versions of it.

How will the current situation affect The Loop?
Well the book launch has been cancelled and we are trying to put more emphasis on online engagement and marketing. It's definitely the right thing to do, everyone has to keep safe but it's a bit frustrating. It's taken me about 15 years to become a published writer and I cannot even go to the shop to buy a copy of the book. However, it's going to be published in 11 different countries including China, Germany and Russia so I really could not have hoped for anything better. And there's going to be an audiobook as well with Julian Elfer reading the book.

Can you recommend five books to read while sitting at home in self isolation?
Reverie by Ryan La Sala; The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth; The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliot; Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran and And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando. These are all recently published books or ones that will come out soon.

The Loop by Ben Oliver is out on Thu 2 Apr via The Chicken House. Buy your copy now.

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