Ben was a great sport about answering all of my questions, so let's give him a warm welcome.
Saranna: Before we get started, I have to take a moment and fangirl you like crazy. I bought your book Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live after reading an article you’d written about the seven most badass Vikings and I was laughing so hard Nutella shot out of my nose. So, thanks so much for being here.
Now, let’s tie you to the rack. You’re a badass, so it won’t hurt too much. *grin*
In that article you wrote called 7 Badass Vikings, a particular favorite of mine was the story of Freydis Ericsdottir, Eric the Red’s daughter. She’s so badass, I want to get her tattooed on my bicep. If I was still working corrections, I would get a bracelet that says WHAT WOULD FREYDIS DO? Which badass has inspired you the most and why?
BT: Thank you for the kind words! I have a tough time picking out a favorite badass, just because there are so many incredibly hardcore real-life heroes out there that we can take badass life lessons from. When I'm describing the book to people, I usually like to point to an awesomely-named dude known as Wolf the Quarrelsome. Wolf was an Irish warrior who defeated the Vikings in battle, then avenged the murder of his brother by slicing open a dude's abdomen, tying one end of his intestines to a tree, and forcing the guy to walk around the tree in circles until all his entrails came out. Wolf ultimately didn't actually do a hell of a lot to alter the course of history, but his story is so over-the-top awesome that it needs to be told. That's kind of what BADASS is all about.
(Now, there's a man. I love all of the testosterone in this book. Le Sigh.)
Saranna: Your voice in the book is unique and you manage to impart mass amounts of information in a way that has your readers saying, “Wow, that’s badass.” Something that should be obvious with all the face bashing going on, yet, it doesn’t seem to sink in until told in your voice. Are you like that in your every day life or was that something you developed for the book?
BT: I'm way more laid-back in my regular life than I come across in the book, though I still like to try to say things in the most straightforward way possible. Ultimately what it boils down to is that I don't understand why people need to take these great historical stories and make them as boring and dry as possible… there are tons of really interesting people out there, yet many historians seem to be so interested in explaining these characters' significance on history that they lose sight of the actual stories.
Saranna: Do you have pets? And if so, do they plot world domination?
BT: I have two cats, one of which is seventeen years-old. They both have very busy schedules of sleeping and eating, and don't seem to have much spare time to plot anything more complicated than their next meal.
Saranna: A big thing on our blog here at the Carnivale lately has been hermaphrodite fiction. We even have a list. Have there been any hermaphrodite badasses that you’ve come across in your research and if so, how did that affect their baddassery?
BT: Wasn't Jabba the Hutt supposed to be a hermaphrodite? Aside from that, I can't think of too many famous hermaphrodites off the top of my head right now… or at least nobody who revealed themselves as such. One of my main arguments in the book, though, is that it doesn't matter who you are, where you came from, or what sort of materials you're working with – as long as you don't back down from adversity (and crush all who oppose you in the process), anyone can be a badass.
Saranna: Is there a book that changed you as a writer or a person?
BT: I really love reading the old-school histories, because guys like Herodotus, Plutarch, and Gibbon didn't pull any punches with their writing. If they thought a guy was awesome or a total douchebag, they didn't worry about boring crap like objectivity when they told the story. Their versions of history ended up reading like hardcore adventure tales rather than brain-crushingly obnoxious textbooks. In terms of more modern writers, I particularly love "The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody" by Will Cuppy. He was a huge inspiration for what I'm doing.
Saranna: Many authors have soundtracks for their work. Do you have anything you like to listen to while you’re working?
BT: I actually require complete silence when I'm writing… I'm terrible at multi-tasking, and I find any kind of background noise completely distracting If I were to choose three songs that epitomize the book, however, they would be "Tiger Woods" by Dan Bern, "Freya" by The Sword, and "Through the Fire and Flames" by DragonForce. If I were to provide suggested listening while reading the book I'd go with something by Jack Johnson or John Mayer, simply because anything less mellow might drive the reader to violence.
Saranna: Do you have word lust? Are there certain words you just have it hot and heavy for all the time? What about words you hate more than a yea—um, that one doesn’t apply here, I’m thinking. More than jock itch? (There we go.) Me? I hate “conversate” and “anyways”. Both make me want to climb a clock tower with a modified mini-14 fitted with red pen bullets *and* punch someone in the face simultaneously.
BT: My editor at Harper made me go through my entire manuscript and remove every occurrence of the words "numerous" or "countless". I have no idea why. I can't think of any words I particularly despise, though there are plenty that I over-use. I actually have to keep a Word document on my desktop that has several hundred synonyms for the words "crush", "awesome", and "douchebag".
Hm… I was really hoping to work the words "conversate" and "anyways" into my response, but I see that I have failed to do so.
Saranna: Have you ever read a romance novel? Now, this question might seem out of left field, but many romances are chock full of testosterone-laden heroes who are in a word: badass. Some of them are even based on real badasses.
BT: I've never read a romance novel before, but if you have any good suggestions I'd be willing to conversate with you about it anyways.
(Oh, damn. look at that. He did it. Ben Thompson is definitely a badass for braving the wrath of the Amazon Goddess of Doom. )
Saranna: What’s your most embarrassing moment? (C’mon. We’ll only laugh for a few minutes. And point.)
BT: One time I asked a girl out, and before she could even answer me I tripped over a fire hydrant and fell down a hill. We're married now, so I guess it worked out, but holy crap I wished I was dead.
Saranna: Who is your favorite comic book character? *picture*
BT: I've always been a huge fan of the Punisher and Wolverine, but there are plenty of awesome comics heroes out there. I particularly love guys like Thanos and Galactus… they don't just plot world domination, they completely physics-hump the entire galaxy!
Saranna: I read on your Character Sheet that you’ve written something for Penthouse. Do tell us more about where your work has appeared and where we can get more badass and Ben. (It’s like cowbell.)
BT: I did do a piece for Penthouse! Once the issue is off the shelves (it's the July/August 2010 issue, for those who are looking for a good excuse to pick up some porn) I'll be posting it on my site. Pretty much everything else I've written is linked into the site either through the Badass List or the Miscellaneous Articles section.
Saranna: Finally, do you take requests? I’d love to see a book titled The Sex Lives of Badasses.
BT: That could definitely be cool. I'd need to go through and update my custom thesaurus first though!
(Try the The Bald-Headed Hermit and the Artichoke .)
Thanks, Ben for being here! It was great having you. Let us know when you have another release and we'd be glad to dress you up in hooker boots and pimp you like crazy.
x-posted at Culinary Carnivale