About Benjamin Percy
Benjamin Percy is the author of three novels, most recent among them The Dead Lands (Grand Central/Hachette, April 2015), a post apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga. He is also the author of Red Moon (Grand Central/Hachette, May 2013) and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), as well as two books of short stories, Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf Press, 2007) and The Language of Elk (Grand Central/Hachette, 2012; Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2006).
His fiction and nonfiction have been read on National Public Radio, performed at Symphony Space, and published by Esquire (where he is a contributing editor), GQ, Time, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and Tin House. He also works for Detective Comics and is the lead writer for the Green Arrow series with artist Patrick Zircher.
His honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Writers’ Award, two Pushcart Prizes, the Plimpton Prize, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics.
He is adapting Red Moon as a series with Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, I am Legend) with producer Ilene Staple for FOX TV. He is also currently at work on the screenplay adaptation of The Wilding for filmmaker Tanya Wexler (Hysteria). His original crime series Black Gold, which takes place in the oil fields of North Dakota, is currently in development at Starz with James Ponsoldt attached to direct.
He has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is currently the writer-in-residence at St. Olaf College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University.
Sam: Can you tell me a little bit about The Dead Lands (Grand Central/Hachette, April 2015)?
Benjamin Percy: It’s a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga. Think of it as the curious offspring of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Lord of The Rings. A super flu and nuclear fallout have a made a husk of the world, and these adventurers are setting off to face unknown wonders and terrors in an effort to reunite the states.
SS: What drove you to write it? What are some of your inspirations for it?
BP: I grew up in Oregon, in the shadow of Lewis and Clark. My family visited Fort Clatsop as often as some families visit Disneyland. My mother’s bookshelf sagged with the weight of the titles devoted to the expedition. I’ve always wanted to write about them — and originally I thought I would recreate the passage myself, accompanied at different junctures by people from my life, and make it ultimately a story about modern-day adventure…
But my wife very reasonably said, “How long would that take exactly?” So—plan B—I decided to make some stuff up instead. It’s a quest story that blends adventure, horror and fantasy. I hope people have fun reading it. I had a hell of a lot of fun writing it.
SS: You’re involved in quite a few different projects. Can you give me a highlight reel of some of the upcoming ones?
BP: I’m taking over the Green Arrow series at DC Comics, teamed with artist Patrick Zircher. Our run begins in June with the primer issue. I sold an original TV series to Starz called Black Gold and I’m working on the pilot now. It’s a crime show—with a Sons of Anarchy vibe—set in the oil fields of North Dakota. I’ve been working on several screenplays, two of which are being shopped presently. And I have a craft bookcalled Thrill Me—which focuses on the art of suspense and momentum. That’s coming out with Graywolf Press in 2016, I believe.
SS: What are five words you would use to sum up TDL?
BP: The. Greatest. Novel. Ever. Written.
SS: What drink would you say best characterizes TDL? You don’t have to name a specific brand (unless you want to). I’m looking for an answer like beer, wine, bourbon, vodka, coffee, et cetera.
BP: Bourbon is my poison of choice, so let’s go there.
The Greatest Post-Apocalypse Drink Ever Made
Inspiration: You can’t go wrong with bourbon, but I tried to get in the mindset of what would be available after the end of the world. This drink is an amalgamation of a little bit of a lot of things—working under the mindset that you’d mix it all together to get the job done quickly.
2 oz. bourbon
1 oz dark rum
.5 oz orange vodka
.25 oz walnut liqueur
.25 oz coffee liqueur
1 dash angostura bitters
1 tablespoon cranberry sauce (not whole berry)
Put all ingredients in a shaker, shake until the cranberry sauce mixes in, and pour over ice. Pray to god the zombies don’t get you before you finish.