David Anthony Durham and Benjamin Percy present selected readings

Authors Benjamin Percy and David Anthony Durham speak to a packed Sun Room in the Memorial Union on March 23. Percy, the author of three novels and who works with DC Comics, alongside with fellow author David Anthony Durham, who is the author of a handful of different novels, answered questions about how they got started as authors and their time as authors. 

Alexander Gray

Authors David Anthony Durham and Benjamin Percy both read excerpts from their writing to a captivated audience Thursday night.

Durham read first, reading the first chapter from his second novel, Walk Through Darkness. The story follows a slave named William, and opens with him escaping from his owner in the night, to be reunited with his wife, who has been taken far away from home.

Next, David read from his most recent novel, The Risen, following Spartacus’ uprising in ancient Rome. The excerpt he chose from that was from the perspective of one of the female characters in the book, a slave as well, as she was taken to be executed. Durham paints a vivid, and violent picture in an uncommon storyline.

Benjamin Percy read next, from his upcoming novel, The Darknet. A major inspiration for him was what he called one of the worst weeks in his life. In the span of seven days, his sister’s Facebook account was hacked and started posting phishing scams, his father’s hard drive was held hostage for Bitcoins, and his credit card information was stolen by someone in Spain.

For those that don’t know, the darknet is a real thing, accessed through the program Tor, which allows you to anonymously browse, and access websites offering everything from pirated films and music, to illegal arms, and hitmen.

When researching for this novel, Percy spoke to hackers, met with employees at Verizon, and visited the Apple and Google campuses.

The Darknet features a young, blind girl as the main character, a Spielberg-esque protagonist as he put it. She has been equipped with experimental technology that allows her to see again, but not just the physical plane – also the digital plane where she can see things no one else can.

Ben chose to write a girl as the protagonist for his novel after one day taking his daughter to a comic book shop, and much to her dismay, there were very few books featuring women as protagonists.

After finishing reading the first chapter from The Darknet, he read the final essay in his collection book, Thrill Me, called “Going the Distance.” Throughout the essay, Percy wrote about his “bull-headed” personality and how he has gained inspiration in his life from Rocky Balboa (which in his reading he gave an excellent Stallone impression).

Percy admits he wasn’t the best writer in his classes, but he was the hardest worker. And his work ethic also meant that he never let failure get him down. He received rejection letters from 39 different literary magazines, before finally getting a call saying that he had finally been accepted to one.

After both authors had finished their readings, the floor was opened up for questions, and here we learned both authors have two things in common: success through failure and Werewolves.

Durham spoke first on the initial difficulty of writing The Risen. Wanting to try something different than others who have written about the same topic, Durham started the novel with a more mythic feel. After writing about thirty pages, he would present his work to his wife, who said it was great, then hit a wall in the writing process, and start over.

This continued in a cycle for about two years, before he approached his editor about taking a different angle on the story. Here, he began rewriting the same idea, but this time with werewolves and vampires injected into the historical fiction.

He wrote 150 pages, sent it to his editor, and was rejected. His editor said to him, “Either it was really good, or really bad, but I can’t tell the difference.”

With that criticism, he took what he had already written and stripped away the vampires and werewolves. Durham then took the characters’ supernatural abilities and replaced them with strength granted through their beliefs in higher powers.

Percy was asked how he got his position as a writer for DC Comics. Earlier in his career, he had been talking with Scott Snyder, who later pitched to DC, and got hired as a writer. Snyder would eventually go on to helm DC’s biggest character: Batman.

Percy saw what Snyder was doing at DC, and wanted to do the same. He pitched a werewolf comic idea (which would later become his novel Red Moon) to a couple publishers, first being rejected by Vertigo, who were already publishing a vampire series. He flat out never heard back from Dark Horse Comics. Despite this rejection, he kept on pitching stories.

Around the same time, Percy had been writing film scripts, one of which, called “Terminal,” had been well liked but rejected by all the studios he pitched to. He took that script, put Batman in it, and was met with success.

In 2014 he received a call from DC Comics, and was shortlisted with other writers, and eventually chosen to write the Green Arrow comic.

Now he writes Green Arrow and Teen Titans.

 “Comics have taken over my life now,” he said.

Durham and Percy were both asked about how recent world events had affected their ability to write fictional stories, when the lines between fiction and nonfiction seem to be blurred.

David said that despite his negative feelings towards events that have happened, he has been able to write what he never would have been able to before, and now feels compelled to write a more politically inclined piece.

Benjamin had to scrap a lot of ideas he was already working on, but feels the same as Durham, and feels like a whole new array of ideas have been presented to him.

David Anthony Durham’s novel The Risen is available wherever books are sold. Benjamin Percy’s novel The Dark Net is available for pre-order, and will be released August 1.