1. What is your debut novel and what inspired its story?
My debut novel was “The Lost Tayamu”, the first in a series I call “The Legends of Kiamada”. It’s a contemporary fantasy, with some light romance thrown in. The story actually originated thanks to the dog we had at the time. I remember looking at her one day and thinking, “Man, she’s big, but if she was a lot larger, I could ride her to work and skip all this stupid Orlando traffic.” In an instant, the dog in my story was created. (No names; we don’t want spoilers, do we?) From there, I created the dog’s companion, because a dog that size would have to be magical, and so would its human partner. It all snowballed from there.
2. Do you write one specific genre or are you a multi genre author?
At the moment, I write strictly fantasy. My stories tend to be contemporary fantasy, rather than the traditional high fantasy. I feel like a lot of people automatically dismiss the genre because they find the size of the books daunting or feel that there’s too much plot to keep track of. I try to write stories for people who say, “I don’t like fantasy”. I think readers don’t always understand that fantasy does not have to mean dragons, elves, and dwarves. You won’t find any of those in the Kiamada books!
I’m open to writing other genres, but right now, that’s just a boring thought. I need my magic!
3. Do you have any memorable quotations or ‘one-liners’ that you have written and love?
Ellie, one of my two female main characters, often exclaims, “Pink pigs on a falafel!” when she’s surprised or frustrated. I wrote it more as a joke for myself; I find the phrase “Christ on a cracker” to be patently absurd, and wanted to make fun of it. So, I tried to think of something equally stupid-sounding and came up with “pink pigs on a falafel”.
4. Do you have a favourite character that you have penned to life and why is this your favourite character?
I can’t say I have a favorite character, exactly, but I do have a favorite relationship. The relationship between Doyle and Ellie in the Kiamada series is completely inspired by the one between myself and my wife’s younger sister. I even lifted specific things that happened and put them into the story.
When my sister-in-law bought and read the book, one of the first things she said to me was, “When I see Ellie with Doyle, I feel like I’m reading our story. Was it based on us?”
I try to make the relationships feel real, so I count that as a victory.
5. Are there any close friends/ family who have proven to be a pillar of support to you in your writing?
I dedicated my debut novel to my mom’s parents, who pushed me and pushed me to “get off your arse and finish the damn book!” Unfortunately, they both died before I published it. My grandmother’s death in January 2018 is what spurred me to find a critique partner and get serious. I found an AWESOME one, and published the book in July.
That first critique partner is still the person I go to first with my writing. Ava Larksen is amazeballs, and loves my story as much as I do.
6. What are you currently working on?
The second book in the “Legends of Kiamada”, which is titled “The Uncrowned Queen”. It picks up literally seconds after the end of the first book, so there’s no time jump, no “What happened while we were away?” The story is pretty much set at this point. I’m just making some edits based on Ava’s suggestions.
7. What has been your greatest challenge as an author thus far and how are you dealing/have dealt with it?
Honestly, just putting myself out there. I spent 13 years working on my debut novel. Granted, there were stretches of years when I literally wrote nothing, but I still never quite felt like the story was ready to share. Then, the day after my grandmother died, I got a sudden urge to go to the NaNoWriMo forums and post in the “Looking for critique partners” area. This was not something I’d ever thought of doing, but the urge was powerful, so I shrugged and went along with it. Ava replied within a few hours, and within a few days, we were a team. We both felt like we’d been pushed to post and reply. Once I got past the nerves, I gathered a few more critique partners from Twitter.
8. How do you deal with criticism and how has it helped you as a writer?
Most of the criticism has been helpful and constructive. Well, let me rephrase that. It’s all been constructive so far. Some of it, I didn’t agree with, but that’s okay. Working with teens for 20+ years helps you grow thick skin. I also consider that people are taking the time to try to help me improve my story, so even if I disagree with their thoughts, I appreciate their effort.
9. How has social media helped in promoting and marketing your books?
It’s a struggle. I’m mostly on Twitter, but it feels incredibly awkward to try promoting my book. I know it’s a thing, but it just feels weird to me, probably because I’m an introvert who doesn’t really like talking about my writing. I know I’ve gained a few readers through my Twitter posts, though.
10. When writing your novel which aspect of the writing process do you find to be the most challenging?
Figuring out what the heck’s going to happen. LOL. I’m a total pantser; there’s no grand plan, no outline. I come up with a few key moments, and then it’s a matter of figuring out how to go from one moment to the next. While working on this second novel, I had no idea if I was going to wrap up the story or need another book. I really didn’t know how it was going to end until I got there. (For the record, there will be one more book in this story arc. I don’t currently have plans for a fourth book in the series, but these characters are bossy, so it just might happen!)
11. How do you measure success as a writer/ author?
If I have only one person who says, “Ben, I loved your book! It made me happy!”, then I’ve succeeded in my goal. I’m not trying to make a living as a writer; I have a full-time career that I love and that pays the bills. I write as a hobby; I write to entertain others. (Making money would be nice, yes, but it’s not going to determine my success.)
One person told me that mine was the first fiction book they’d read in almost ten years, and that they were so sad it was over that they went to the library to look up other books like it. They said my book made them want to read again. Is there any higher praise for an author than that?
12. What short term and/or long term goals have you set?
Short-goal: I will publish the second Kiamada novel in the first part of this year. Long-term, I have every intention of publishing the third and (for now, at least) final book in the series by next summer. I have the very roughest idea of what’s going to happen, but that’s about it. I will probably not start working on it until after the second book is published.
13. Do you have any upcoming book releases or events?
In the immediate future, no, but “The Uncrowned Queen” will be out between March and July. Hopefully. 90% sure.
14. What are your favourite book(s) and/or author(s)?
Oh, heavens. I can’t list them. It would take too long. As a sampling:
Books: Narnia, Dark is Rising, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, Dresden Files, Pendergast, Fargo Adventures, Event Group
Authors: Rick Riordan, Clive Cussler, Preston and Child, Jim Butcher, Beverly Lewis, David Golemon, Edgar Rice Burroughs
15. What advice will you give to other Indie Authors or those who are thinking of writing and publishing?
Definitely find yourself a critique partner (or group), and absolutely listen to them without getting angry or judgmental. My partners made my story better, and their suggestions were well-intended. Did I take all of them? No, I didn’t. There were a few things I didn’t budge on, and that’s okay. But don’t automatically shoot down every single suggestion or thought with “I refuse to compromise my story”. Fact is, your story might not be as great as you think it is. Mine wasn’t. That doesn’t mean your story won’t be great eventually!
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