Thursday, 26 July 2018

Celebrating #Windsor Writers: Meet Author Ben Van Dongen…

Today, I have Windsor author and entrepreneur, Ben Van Dongen for a mini Q&A and spotlight on his newest novel, The Thinking Machine. Ben’s shy demeanor never stopped him from pursuing his dreams. He’s brilliant and the co-owner of Adventure Worlds Press based in LaSalle, Ontario, Canada which releases fringe titles including Horror, Science Fiction, Short Story Collections, Anthologies, Graphic Novels, and more.

Welcome, Ben! Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write The Thinking Machine?

The initial idea for The Thinking Machine came from the scene where Zed first meets Belle. I just wanted a character who was a stranger to the world being led around by someone who was completely steeped in it. I am a fan of cyberpunk stories, like Blade Runner, where the worlds are so big and the characters so insignificant. Where the future isn't bright and shiny. A noir style world with retro-future plastered on top.

“A noir style world with retro-future plastered on top.” Love that line! What sets The Thinking Machine apart from other books in the same genre?

I'm not sure what sets Thinking Machine apart from other cyberpunk books. Maybe the scope, maybe the perspective from someone new to the technology. It's really series of run-ins with a bunch of interesting and nefarious characters where Zed learns more about the world each time. I like to think there is an underlying mystery to the story. There is a lot about puppets and pulling strings (people controlling others who may not know it) and I hope the reader can see that and recognize who the real villain is.

It sounds like anyone who loves reading cyberpunk or science fiction will enjoy your book, Ben. How long did it take for you to start and finish The Thinking Machine?

The Thinking Machine started as a short story for my first collection, No Light Tomorrow, but wasn't ready in time for the release. I really wanted to do a novella (and a book without other authors involved) so I took the unfinished story and made it The Thinking Machine. Since I was working on getting All These Crooked Streets out while I wrote Thinking Machine, it took a lot longer than I'd hoped. I probably spend six weeks writing it and a month editing, but that was over eight months or so. Working on the unconnected sequel is going much faster.

I wish you all the best with your sequel and future writing projects! Do you have any advice for other writers, Ben?
For writers just starting out, go to a writer's group and get your stuff torn apart. I can't emphasize enough how much I improved from that. Also, having a partner to do events with has made the non-writing side of things so much easier. Also, do lots of events. You meet all kinds of people. If you can keep the writing side going, you will end up with plenty of opportunities.
About The Thinking Machine:

A Man and a Monster with the Same Name
In a city that spans most of the eastern seaboard, there is a creature that used to be a man. A stranger, from the shrinking wilds of the north, is called by a spirit to enter the city and destroy the abomination. The thing that shares his name. Zed.

Read an Excerpt:

Zed searched the edges of the yellowed lights and watched for movement. He
thought about the information he had. The name. A Giant came to him while
hunting—the tree sized spirit that children often see. It told him to go into the city to
destroy the other Zed. The rest was in his hands. The only information he’d been able to
gather was that he had to find a broker. Someone with the ability to find the information
he needed.
The brakes engaged, throwing up more flashes in the tunnel. The train jerked as it
slowed to a stop. Zed put his face to the window and peered into the darkness. He saw an
open space, something beyond where the tunnel walls should have been, but it was too
dark to see anything else. In the reflection, he saw the sleeping woman was slumped
forward in her seat, snoring.
The rest of the passengers moved to the far side of the car. A kid with big cups
over his ears and a tattoo across his face put up his hood and faced the other direction. He
looked like he was shivering, but the train was warm. Zed tensed.
He leaned closer to the window until his nose touched the filthy glass. Far back,
or extremely dim, lights danced through the empty air. They bobbed and swayed glowing
brighter, getting closer. A scream cut through the snoring and the woman flinched.
A flame sailed in an arc and smashed against the train, lighting the side with a
swath of fire. Zed jumped back. More whoops and screams echoed over each other and
several more fires crashed against the car. The blaze was difficult to see through, but Zed
made out the dozen or so oddly dressed figures lighting bottles on fire.
The train lurched forward again, causing Zed to stumble.
The speakers built into the ceiling crackled. “Attention passengers.” The other
people in the car stared at the empty space in front of them. “Due to a disturbance on the
Oxley Platform we will not be making our scheduled stop. Please keep your voucher for
this trip to receive a transfer for a Skyship or Magtram when we reach the next station.
The TXRC apologises for any delay this may cause. Have a pleasant trip.”

Book Info and Links:

You can find The Thinking Machine on, through Adventure Worlds Press, or locally at Anchor Coffee House and Bibilioasis.

Meet the Author:

Ben Van Dongen grew up in Windsor Ontario. He likes to think that if he tried harder he could have been an Astronaut, but he is happier writing science fiction anyway. He co-authored the books No Light Tomorrow and All These Crooked Streets, and is one half of the founding team of Adventure Worlds Press. His newest book, The Thinking Machine, a cyberpunk novella, is out now. You can read more of his crazy notions on his website:

Connect with Ben Van Dongen:


  1. Thanks for the interview and the post, Sharon. And for all the kind words!

    1. You're very welcome, Ben! All the best in this crazy publishing world! Cheers!