I connected with Ben on Instagram over our love of novels about shifters. I thought my shifters were unique but Ben’s debut novel is about a were otter! He agreed to a Behind the Book interview so I could discover more, and share it with you.

What genre is Petrified and can you name any similar books?

Petrified is contemporary fantasy. There are a lot of books that share some elements but I don’t know of anything that is similar. It’s written with more of an adult audience in mind like The Dresden Files. It’s focused around shifters like the Mercy Thompson series. It has a very likeable main character similar, although not as humorous as, The Iron Druid Chronicles. 

With those similarities there are a lot of differences. It focused on shifters but it’s not romance. There are no vampires or Alpha pack structures. There are many different kinds of shifters, Wolves, bears, raccoons, coyotes, rats,even a were-doberman, and the main character is a wereotter.

Why did you choose an Otter shifter?
There are two answers to this: 
Answer One:
The rules are that a Keeper has to be bound to a predator native to the area it works in. In North Georgia USA we have blackbears, coyotes, otters, or some kind of rodent that I could choose from. So I picked an otter.
Answer two:
If I’m being honest, I didn’t want Obie to be a wereotter. It’s a marketing nightmare. People don’t wake up in the morning saying, “Today I’m going to find some wereotter fiction.” Otters don’t have the street cred that wolves do. Some people have a hard time with the wereotter concept and will pass on the book because of it. I’ve had more than a couple sleepless nights debating changing Obie to a werewolf. Ultimately, I couldn’t do it. 
It was like having a child that had a characteristic on the fringe of social norms. I could accept Obie for who and what he was or try to shoehorn him into a more culturally accepted role. I chose to accept him. If that means the book doesn’t sell then that’s okay. 

Which animal would you like to shift into?

Too many to choose from… maybe a Platypus because I seem to keep people scratching their heads. 

This is the first book in the Keeper Chronicles – how many do you anticipate in the series?

I don’t have a set number in mind. I’m working on book three now. I have a lot of ideas for other projects I’d like to get to but I’ll write them as long as the characters want to keep going. 

What challenges did you face in publishing this?

It’s my first book so I had a number of challenges. The biggest challenge was that a year and a half after release I figured out some things I hadn’t done correctly. I took the book down and made some changes. After I fixed everything it was rereleased as second edition. The main thing I changed was the cover. I wanted to get a full body shot of a wereotter so people could better understand the concept.

Can you describe a typical day in the life of author BenMeeks?

I wake up around 7:30. I take my daughter to school first. After that some or all of the following happen in no particular order.  Clean up or work around the house, have a morning writing session, and exercise. My exercise varies depending on how I’m feeling and what else I have going on but generally will be weightlifting, rowing machine, playing disc golf, or mountain biking. After that I get a shower and eat. I’ll take an hour or so to relax and watch TV or read. Then I get back to work on whatever needs to be done that day. I still have a day job and I work 15:00 to 24:00 from home. If things are slow I fit in some writing there too.

Please share a short snippet or teaser from Petrified?

I walked over to find the answer to the mystery of the missing bones. They had been arranged in a central pile about three feet in diameter with three rows on each side of varying lengths pointing off in different directions. The end of each row came to a point with a bone that had been cut sharp. I knelt for a closer inspection. 

“It looks like a weird compass, like you see on old maps,” Holt said over my shoulder. “What do you think it is?” 

“I don’t know, maybe some kind of marker or cantrip? Whatever it is, it’s not good,” I said. The breeze shifted, blowing against my back, bringing with it a smell akin to rotten eggs. “You smell that?” 

“Yep.” 

I stood and turned to see a small grey face peeking up over a headstone. The imp crawled up on the headstone, giving us a clear view of it. It stood almost two feet tall with four arms, grey skin, and long claws on its hands and feet. Its long arms and pallid complexion made it look like a miniature resurrected gorilla, with a Cheshire cat smile. A line of black barbed quills ran down its back. By far my least favorite thing about imps was catching them. 

“What’s it doing?” Holt asked. 

He was right, this was strange behavior. Imps are small and not inherently powerful. They use their speed and size to evade; they never go toe-to-toe or expose themselves like this.

“Something’s wrong,” I said, trying to put the puzzle together. 

It clicked just as pressure, followed by severe pain, shot through my calf. I looked down to see one of the sharpened bones sticking out of the front of my leg. The bone pile behind us had stabbed me with the row closest to where I was standing. Holt jumped to the side, avoiding a similar strike meant for him. 

“Get the imp,” I said through gritted teeth. 

The five rows of bone that didn’t have me impaled moved underneath the center pile, lifting it off the ground like a spider. The orientation of the bones suddenly made more sense: they were legs. I bent forward to support myself with my hands and donkey-kicked its center mass with my good leg, sending it flying back into the woods. The bone piercing my leg was ripped free, leaving a gushing wound that was quickly filling up my shoe. 

Holt was busy chasing the imp around the graveyard and not having much luck catching it. I wasn’t going to be much help until my leg healed. The skeleton monster came shambling out of the woods like a Model T with loose wheels.

Where can we find out more and buy your books?  
You can find out about me on my website, www.authorbenmeeks.com. Petrified is available on Kindle, Audible, amazon or any bookstore. 
Here are social media and website links:

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