Hi Benjamin, how are things with you?
Extremely hectic and busy, but I’m trying to pull through!
Can you please give the readers a little bit of background information on yourself?
I’m a thirty-five year old Southern Californian author whose novel, BLACK & ORANGE, earned a Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in first novel. Outside my writing career, I also work in the environmental compliance field, specifically protecting the waterways and the ocean. At my home there are four people and an animal. The people: myself, my wife Irma, my daughter Rachel, and my cat Twinkie. The animal: my son Joshua.
Why horror, if that’s what you would call it? There has been a lot of discussion lately about what is horror, and what to call it?
For me, it’s not just horror. It’s also fantasy, science fiction, crime, suspense, and thriller. The dominating marketing of my books has been called horror because the subject matter can be dark at times, but I prefer a large tent over my stories. I have yet to just write a horror-only novel, but I might someday. That freedom is what keeps me writing.
And what is it about the genre that you dislike?
It’s a difficult genre because there’s an expectation to cause a solitary emotional reaction over all others. I imagine comedy is the same way. Jeff Strand does both well, which makes him an incredible writer in my eyes. The dilemma with horror is you can write a great story but if it isn’t scary, it fails. Other genres are more forgiving. For instance, take a space opera: what is the ONE expected emotion a reader is supposed to get while reading a Star Wars novel? None, of course. You don’t have to worry about such expectations, do you? A range of emotions will suffice and as long as the story is interesting, characters compelling, then it’s a success. Not so with horror. Caveat: the other genre that should be mentioned here is Erotica, which also shoots for a certain emotional response. I would say that Horror is more difficult to write in this case, because nobody truly wants to be frightened—reading horror is taking a dare, risking the chance the author has what it takes to unsettle you. A reader goes into horror with their suspension of disbelief on the precipice. Erotica readers are different. They open the book, emotionally available, overeager for horniness to befall them.
Who would you say has been the biggest influence on you and your writing?
Too many to choose. James Joyce and Stephen King are still at the top though.
If you could give any book to someone who doesn’t read horror, in an attempt to change their mind, what book would you choose, and why?
Wonderful question. I hate to wedge my response but different people want different things. For someone who says horror isn’t really horrifying, it’s just inelegant, mindless guts and gore, I would have them read THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jack Ketchum. For the more literary minded, who think only hacks write horror, I would have them read THE SHADOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD by Thomas Ligotti.
Can you remember what first motivated you to start writing, and has your motivation changed over the years?
Time. It was slipping past me. I could feel it. Soon I would be somebody who looked back and said, “Damn, I never really tried, did I?” Now that motivation is behind me. My new guide is to put together an astonishing body of work that will make my fans, friends, and most importantly, my family proud.
And how would you describe your writing style?
Erratic. I’m a stylist, though economical at times, but I really try out different styles for the sake of telling different stories. I try to be subtle, so it’s not a complete change for my readers, but I steadily believe certain styles suit some stories better than others.
And what aspects of your writing do you think are the strongest and what do you think are the weakest aspects of your writing?
I’ve always had an affinity for dialog. I can easily hear my characters speaking. I would say that’s one of my strengths for sure. Action scenes are bothersome to me, and therefore my weakness. Anytime I don’t feel like writing something, it’s going to end up needing major editing later on. This is good to know because while editing, I’m always on the lookout for the action scenes I’ve rushed.
Let’s talk a bit about the mechanics of your writing. How do you go about the writing process? Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow?
A little of both. I begin the story with an ending already in mind, plot ahead a few chapters and see what develops while writing.
How important is research to you?
Very, if the subject matter requires it. My current novel NIGHTMARE BALLAD deals with dreams. I researched for a while on different dream manifestations, but this was only really to prime me and most of it won’t end up in the novel.
Do you have any rituals that you go through when you write? Or when you finish the final draft of your story?
I do not check the news, Facebook, Twitter, or my email before writing my first 1500 words. And if it’s in the morning, I don’t allow myself a cup of coffee until after those 1500 are on the screen.
How do you edit, do you edit as you write, or do you edit after each draft is finished?
If I feel abysmal about something I just wrote, I’ll go back and edit it to feel better. Normally though, I don’t look back on anything I write until the draft is finished.
In your relationship your first publisher was there anything that surprised you? And was it anything that you believe is commonly misunderstood by new authors?
Not really, only because I’d had colleagues who published under the same house and they’d told me everything to expect.
As an author with a good history of publishing you must have had your share off odd reviews. Do less than flattering comments have an effect on you?
Although I know it shouldn’t, honestly, yes it does affect me. I immediately want to know more about the person so I can discredit there opinion. Oh, let’s see... ah-ha, they gave THE STAND only one star. Loser! Heh.
And on that note what’s your take on sock puppetry?
I had to look that term up, and I’m glad I did, because my first answer about the original Kermit the Frog puppet would’ve been controversial. So, sock puppet reviewing, yes… I think we need to study the creature in question here. Writers are all trying to do the same thing. They want more readers. Advertising is tough and expensive. The market is competitive. Reviews and word of mouth are a great way to build an audience. This temptation to load the deck though should be avoided for all the right reasons, but also for one very wrong one: where will it end? You’ll drive yourself crazy writing all those reviews for the endless downpour of new literary threats. New books will come out and new writers with them. Embrace them as friends, not as foes. We’re all in this together. You’ll feel better about yourself if you come by your praise honestly and let others thrive and keep people reading.
Do you think this muted code of practise is a good idea, that some authors are talking about?
I’m not sure what you mean, but I usually think everything is a bad idea.
Let’s talk about your books. I’ve had the pleasure of reading your novel Black and Orange a while back. Can you tell the readers what it’s about?
It’s about a cult from another dimension attempting to merge our world with theirs. The ideal moment is Halloween, when a gateway has opened between the worlds. The gateway can only open wider through a sacrifice that comes around every year. In Black & Orange, the sacrifice is so potent it may bust open the gateway for good. The heroes of the book, the Nomads, are bound to preventing that from happening. However, the monster of the gateway, Chaplain Cloth, has plans in seeing the sacrifice through.
What was the synthesis for the novels main ideas?
I wanted to write a story about the spirit world that is often referred to in Halloween lore. I asked myself, “Well what is that place? What if it wasn’t a literal world of spirits? What if it was another world completely—ghastly, but as real as ours?”
The story is as much about love, as it is about Halloween. But the book is not a romance is such, were you ever tempted to pitch more as a romance story?
Not really. The love story evolved from the material. I’m fascinated by love triangles but tired of their common form. I wanted to explore different types of love, from the self-serving, to the sacrificial, to the lustful-destructive type.
How easy was it to get the book published?
It was rejected about five times before I found a publisher.
How happy are you with how the book has been received by the public?
It’s had a great run for an indie book, no doubt. I hope people continue to discover and enjoy it, especially those who “get” what the novel sets out to do, rather than someone who expects a quaint small town Halloween spook-fest and is therefore disappointed.
Your second novel has just been published, and again I enjoyed it greatly. This time you subvert, the idea of the river Styx, and the Ferryman. Do you enjoy twisting well known tropes into your own world?
Oh yes! That’s what I live for. Trope twisting is dance I could do for days. And that’s saying a lot because I don’t dance!
Like your previous novel it is an emotionally charged novel. How invested do you get in the novel’s protagonists?
For Bottled Abyss I was closer to the subject matter. I have a daughter and the main characters are coping with losing theirs. It was difficult to put myself into that mindset. As all parents know, it’s an awful idea you don’t want to imagine, but you certainly can.
What made you decide to use a different tense of writing for certain passages in the book? Were you ever concerned that your readers might not get it?
The FURY chapters had to stand apart from the others and I’d been hankering to write some stream of consciousness (SOC) writing. The tense change just seemed to fit the SOC better than the past tense, so I kept it—but yes, I was nervous that readers might stop reading after the first FURY chapter. It’s been off-putting for some readers who have a special brand of hate for experimental writing styles, but it hasn’t been as much of an issue as I initially feared it would be.
What would you say is the main theme of the book?
Pain defines our lives. Though we long to, removing it completely would destroy who we are.
The book has been getting rave reviews, does this put an added pressure on you for your next book?
Very much so. My next book was actually my second novel, and I’m a different writer now. Bottled Abyss was written this year, 2012, whereas my next book was written a few years ago. I hope an older work can hold its own to a later one. Not to mention that it is dark Science Fiction and I’ve only dabbled in Fantasy so far.
And just how much can you say about your next book? I believe it’s a sequel to Black and Orange?
This October I have a new novel DUNGEON BRAIN, the dark science fiction piece I just referred to. It follows the story of a woman who has thousands of people living inside her mind, but cannot remember which one, if any, are her true identity. She’s locked in a hospital room by a sadistic nurse who does everything she can to prevent the woman from discovering her past. Therefore she must escape the room and learn anything she can about who she was. In regard to the sequel to Black & Orange, entitled NOMADS, it’s release will be next year.
This time sections of NOMADS are based in Scotland. Now please tell me you haven’t gone the way of a certain US author who thinks all Scottish people act as though they come from Brigadoon?
I have activated a professional Scot to keep that from ever happening!
When is the planned date for publication?
October 31st, 2013
Are there any other future publications you can talk about?
NIGHTMARE BALLAD from JournalStone books will be available in the spring of 2013. It’s the beginning of a very twisted trilogy that involves nightmares merging with reality.
Thanks for popping over for a chat, do you have any final words for the readers?
First, thank you for having me over again at GingerNuts, and to my readers, those ghosts in the machine, thank you for the support and all the great feedback. Keep it coming!