Q: Benita...what made you become a writer?
A: I don't believe I became a writer - I always was a writer! Perhaps it was the Little House on the Prairie books that first inspired me to get writing. I remember, when I was a little girl, writing a book about a girl named Lucy Larson. The story itself is long lost, but I know it began with her making a list of words that started with each of the letters of the alphabet. (I recall this because I thought myself very clever for using "Xerxes" rather than "xylophone," my usual go-to for X.) Later in the story, she went blind; hence why I think Little House was one of my earliest inspirations.
Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: I generally set aside some time in the afternoon during which I snuggle up in bed with my laptop. I need to be comfortable to write. Depending on my mood, I write as little as a sentence or as much as two or three chapters. With Starscape, I found it took me about an hour to write one page, so three chapters is about my outer limit for one sitting.
Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: For my first draft of Starscape, I had an outline. However, the first draft turned out pretty awful! When I wrote the new version of the story, I knew, in general, where the story was going in the end, and I had some ideas for the middle, which I wrote down; but other than that, I no longer try to outline. It seems to make my writing dull and lifeless. And after all, Tolkien didn't outline - so why should I?!
Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
A: Starscape went through three different versions. I tend to do my revising and editing as I go.
Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
A: Print the manuscript, put the pages into a Duo-Tang so it feels like a printed book, and then read it through, making notes of typos etc. I find it's very hard to edit well on a computer screen.
Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
A: To be honest, I don't know. None have particularly influenced me, although I'm sure some of them have snuck into my mind and influenced me without my realizing it.
Q: Do you ever suffer through writer's block? If so, how do you fight it?
A: Oh, yes! Writer's block is my nemesis! When it attacks, I let the story sit for a few days, until I have a great idea for later in the story. A desire to get to that [later] part enables me to force myself to write whatever I'm stuck on.
Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
A: I've gone through numerous preferred genres, historical fiction being a biggie in my tweens and early teens. Around that time, however, I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time. From then on I've loved fantasy.
Q: Do you utilize beta readers?
A: Four of my best friends, plus my two younger sisters, always want to read what I'm writing, so I suppose you could say that I do have beta readers. It's not a formal thing.
Q: In your most recently published novel, what's one scene you really enjoyed writing -- and why?
A: The scene where Eloderay is running from the wraith and falls into the underground lake was my absolute favorite scene to write. It was from her POV and of course she was terrified in this scene, so I wrote it in long, run-on sentences that were slightly disjointed at the same time. That was very different from the way I've always written and it was extremely fun.
Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
A: There are really four or five (or six) main characters in Starscape, and I think what makes them special is that each one ceased being a character and became a real person to me as I came to know them better.
Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?
A: Be yourself! Yes, I know that's trite, but it's true. I personally have a wacky sense of humor, so I let that find its way into my stories, blogs, and social media posts. From what I can tell, people enjoy that.
Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?
A: Ignore the unconstructive negativity and learn from the constructive.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: I love having final say about everything that goes into my book, including cover design, interior design, and so on. Organizing things is one of my compulsive traits, so that part of me has had a field day over self-publishing. I also enjoy the feeling of being truly independent.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: It's so hard to get the word out about my book. When I do reach people, there can be negativity due to its being an indie book.
Q: What is your current writing project?
A: Here's where I'm supposed to begin enthusing over how I'm writing a sequel to Starscape...but no. Starscape is a standalone. My current story, Seascape, is another fantasy set in a totally different world. It's the story of a teenage boy, Einur, who is sent to find a lost tribe and their king. After this, a sacrifice must be made to bring down the evil cult of the Great Achiel. Einur's second task is to discover what this sacrifice might be. I already have a plot for a third book in mind!
Q: What are three of your favorite novels?
A: The Lord of the Rings will always come first on this list. Second is John Buchan's The Thirty-nine Steps, along with the other Richard Hannay novels. (Richard Hannay is the closest I've come to a literary crush since I was twelve and obsessed with Aragorn from LOTR!) Third would be all the Jeeves novels by P.G. Wodehouse, who is a comic genius for sure. I always laugh at his books.
Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would you talk to them about?
A: I would love to have lunch with Tolkien and get him to teach me Elvish properly. Online Quenya courses could never take the place of that!
Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
A: Do not write for the riches you might receive. Write because you love writing, and write what you love to write. If other people love it too, that is simply a plus.
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
A: I have a lot, but this one by Thomas Edison is high up on the list: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."