In the vast landscape of modern literature, there are authors who possess an uncanny ability to captivate readers with their words, whisking them away to worlds both real and imagined. Among them stands Ben Wolf, the award-winning author of multiple Children’s and Middle Grade books, as well as the Blood Mercenaries Fantasy series and the Sci-Fi Horror series the Tech Ghost Trilogy.
Ben Wolf’s origin story began with a remarkable event at the age of nine, when he slayed his first dragon—at least, that’s how he tells the story on his website. As the dragon breathed its last, he writes, it imparted upon him the unique ability to lie creatively. The dragon’s final words urged him to use this power wisely, and Ben embarked on a journey of discovery that ultimately led him to become the accomplished author he is today.
In the Beginning
Despite his early encounter with the creative, Ben didn’t pursue his writing dreams straight away. “I went to school and studied for a four-year degree to be a pastor,” Ben says. “I was working with youth and really enjoying it; however, the writing was always there, and I had story ideas that wouldn’t leave me alone, and new ideas kept coming, and I realized I had to make a choice.
“It wasn’t fair to the kids in the programs that I was working with when so much of my heart belonged to writing,” he says. “So, ultimately, I made the very difficult choice to resign from my position and pursue writing, and I haven’t looked back since.”
It wasn’t a journey Ben made alone. His wife, Charis Crowe, is also an independent author. They live in America’s Midwest with their two children.
“We both took the plunge in the fall of 2017,” Ben says. “I’d been rejected for the third time when I was right at the finish line with a traditional publisher. My book had gotten all the way through committee, and it made it to where just one or two people needed to say yes, but they didn’t.”
Inspired by indie success stories such as that of Shayne Silvers, and with a backlist of ten books, Ben decided to self-publish his work instead. “I figured ‘I’m just going to take a shot and see what happens.’ That was 2017, [and] here I am in 2023 with twenty-seven published works,” he says.
Of course, there’s a little more to Ben’s publishing journey than feeling the call and taking the plunge. A pivotal moment occurred in 2009, when he attended the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference—his first writing conference of any kind.
“That was when I learned that I was not as incredible as I thought I was,” Ben says with a laugh. “I was very headstrong and thought just the fact that I can finish a book and make it action-packed and super fun … was going to be enough for publishers and agents to want me, and I had to be humbled in that regard.”
The realization was one he now credits with getting him to where he is today. “After that conference, I realized there is so much about the craft of writing that I didn’t know,” he says. “I dedicated myself to reading books on craft, attending more writers’ conferences, and putting it all into practice through some freelance editing and writing.”
In 2009, Ben had only written one book, but he knew if he wanted to make a career out of writing, he needed more. He set to work revising that first manuscript, which he is adamant will never see the light of day. But his second book did. He mastered the art of outlining after discovering that “pantsing” his way through each book did not end well, and he put his time and energy into developing the tools and skills he needed as a writer.
Part of that toolset was his skill as an editor. A self-confessed grammar fiend, Ben has carved a niche for himself as an editor and mentor for many other writers over the years. Back when he’d first made the commitment to his writing, he’d wanted to supplement his author income, preferably in the publishing field. Editing was the solution. “I’ve always been the type of person that couldn’t necessarily tell you every rule grammatically that I’m following, but I inherently know what they are, and having studied as part of learning the craft, I got better at it,” he says. As his skills developed over time, he transitioned from editing for free to charging for his services.
Ben has also published a couple of craft books of his own, not to mention the craft blog he runs through his author website, https://benwolf.com, which is jam-packed with advice for writers at any level. It’s perhaps little surprise that some of that advice emphasizes the importance of the editing process in bringing a book to life.
“No matter how good your manuscript is, it can be better,” he says. “Find a good freelance editor who understands genre and understands the craft of storytelling, or if you’re writing nonfiction, understand how to construct the type of nonfiction that you’re doing. Not only will you walk away from that experience with a stronger manuscript, but you will have sharpened your tools for the next time you sit down to write a book.”
Editing is just part of Ben’s recipe for success. He also recommends authors ensure their books have an eye-catching cover and, most importantly, that they stick with the book until it’s finished. “If your book isn’t finished, you can’t do anything with it,” he says.
Beyond technical and craft skills, Ben says writers also have to have the courage to take the plunge and put their work into the world.
“I am a very risk-averse person, and I had to accept that … maybe if I’d started self-publishing some of the stuff that I had written earlier, I might have found more success online, just by virtue of being in the game sooner. I don’t have a time machine—yet—so I can’t go back and change it, but if you don’t put your book out there when it’s ready, then you’re not going to advance your career or your dreams.
“Don’t get in the way of your dreams; don’t be the thing that keeps your dreams from coming true,” he says.
The Next Adventure
Even with years of experience and several titles now out in the world, Ben’s author adventure is still just getting started. After having undertaken a Kickstarter campaign a couple of months ago, Ben is currently preparing to launch his next children’s book, as well as another book that he co-authored with two friends.
He is also incredibly excited about an idea he came up with in 2014—one that he’s taken on a nine-year development journey since. The project has taken more definitive shape over the last two years; Ben credits the connections he has made with the right people via the 20Books conferences in Las Vegas. The established Fantasy and Sci-Fi author is stepping into the world of GameLit, or LitRPG—short for Literary Role-Playing Game—to write additional content for the expanded audio edition of Dungeon Crawler Carl, in partnership with Soundbooth Theatre. These books are stories that involve gaming worlds and systems—the book version of watching someone play a video game. The book will be released this fall. “It’s excellent training for me because I’m working closely with Matt Dinniman, who is, in my opinion, the best LitRPG author out there,” Ben says.
This dragon slayer continues to conquer.