Sunday, January 19, 2014

An Interview With Author Benjamin Smith!

I am pleased to introduce my guest author, Benjamin Smith!

Where are you from?
You know that state Superman crashed in (fictitiously? If that had actually happened, it would have been the coolest thing that happened in my home state.
What inspired you to write your first book? What genre is it?
Such a boring question. Couldn’t you ask me “If I gave you an elephant, where would you hide it?” or something like that?  My novel is called Atlas. I wrote it because I wanted to bring together some of the things I felt I loved in literature like noir mysteries, science fiction, strong female characters, and dystopian badassery. The result was this police procedural set in 2066 San Francisco.

Do you write full-time or part-time? How do you balance your writing life with your family/work life?
I write when I can. Unfortunately, paying authors is in nobody’s budget these days. They have to provide voodoo dolls for the marketing people. I work as a teacher and I enjoy it. I am also a new father and I’m struggling to scribble chapters on napkins and post-its. Actually sitting down to write at the computer is getting to be the hard part. Not that I’m complaining.

How did you come up with the title?
Well, I wanted to do a trilogy from the beginning and I wanted one-word titles for each book. As my book brushes up against a future in which extremely wealthy interests have segregated themselves from the rest of society, I naturally saw a parallel with Atlas Shrugged. Atlas just seemed like a good title for both my main male protagonist and for the book. The sequel I am planning to call Orpheus.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Are experiences in your book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

What books have most influenced your life most?
I was a great fan of Sherlock Holmes and James Bond growing up. In college I read Patricia Highsmith and Tom Perotta. Christopher Moore is always fun for me, I still devour his books. I studied play writing for my Masters and fell for Shakespeare like everyone does and David Ives and Chris Durang and William Inge. Raymond Chandler and Issac Asimov were influences. Raymond Carver and Hemingway round out the list I guess. Oh, Mark Twain, can’t forget him.... This could go on and on, you know? I’ll stop.

What book are you reading now?
I just finished Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness and I’m halfway through City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’ve just been reviewing some fellow indie authors and I must say I found Jami Brumfield’s Lone Wolf Rising a pretty interesting read. Amalie Jahn’s Among the Shrouded was rather gripping as well.

What are your current projects?
Well, I’m working on a book between installments of my trilogy just so I don’t get burned out on the same characters and can offer some variety to my readers. The current project (I’ll probably finish it this summer) is called In A Dark Wood. It’s a paranormal steam punk novel based on the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Supporting characters include Teddy and Edith Roosevelt, Jules Verne, and Nicola Tesla. It’s been quite fun to write and now I’m just editing and re-editing.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Should I? You read it and tell me.

Sounds like an idea, Mr. Smith! We'll see what we can do. ;)
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m going to post a video along with this interview. I will read the prologue and first chapter for your enjoyment.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding the happy medium between structure and spontaneity is hard. There is a lot of pre-writing work that I do that I feel helps almost as much as it hinders sometimes. Also, taking off the creative cap and putting on the editor cap and refraining from switching back and forth is excruciating.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I didn’t want the Science Fiction to be overpowering and I didn’t want the relationship between my lead characters to be too clich. I wanted a couple that would have problems to overcome as individuals and overcoming those individual conflicts would in turn disrupt the ease with which couples tend to fall in love in books. Too often I’ve felt that love in fiction is either too easy or too formula. I’m not saying certain formula aren’t addictive, but I did feel like I wanted two people to end up together who could argue, disagree, possibly never agree on certain things, but still stay together because they can’t imagine ever being apart.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Rejection slips aren’t as helpful as comment threads and New York Literary Agents aren’t as fun to vent at as Trolls in Manila and East Texas. I doubt I’ll ever publish in the mainstream. They’d have to offer me a million dollar advance and provide all the marketing and distribution for by book free so I can shoot the breeze with Ellen and John Stewart.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
People will reject you and ignore you and other writers of lesser quality will appear more successful and earn more than you for all the days of your career. You will be denied grants because you are not “recognized” as legitimately published. You will be told repeatedly that you are inferior because your book doesn’t bear a Penguin or the initials of William Morris. There will be no end to this. You will be poor and obscure for a very long time. You can give up or you can keep writing.  I cannot encourage one over the other, but I can say that more writers who should keep writing give up and it is sad.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Stop buying James Paterson AND ______ books. He’s like the kid who hogs the bathroom on the old Brady Bunch. Get him off the bestseller lists so we can give someone else a chance.

Do you have an agent or publisher? How did you go about finding one?
No. Myself. And I gave up looking after two years. Agents and Publishers were all far too busy dealing with a down economy and poor book sales to try discovering new authors so I took myself out of their equations and decided to let them publish Snooki and Phil Robertson.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
On a planet larger than Earth with lots of small shallow seas and greater mass to protect me better from radiation. Either there or somewhere near the Pacific Ocean.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Taking the Lariat of Truth on Fox News would be a fun day.

For More on Benjamin Smith: