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Interview: Amber Benson

I'm kicking this year's Summer Blog Blast Tour with my friend, the multi-talented Miss Amber Benson.

Once upon a time, I introduced you to author Christopher Golden, and the rest is history. When collaborating with Chris, how do you split up the writing duties?

I like to say that I went to Christopher Golden University and got my degree in creative writing. Literally, all that I know about writing prose, I learned from Chris. When we were working on the Ghosts of Albion book, we would get on the phone and sort of break the story by going back and forth, throwing out ideas, saying yes to some, no to others. Once we'd kind of hammered down the basic storyline and the scene breakdown then one of us would write the first pass at the outline and then that would go back and forth via email until it was to everyone's liking. Finally, we would break the outline down into chapters for each of us to do. For example, I'd do Chapter one and two, send 'em to Chris and he'd do a pass on them then do Chapters three and four. He would send everything back to me, I'd do a pass on three and four and then write five and six. It would go like that until the whole book was done.

Your newest book, Death's Daughter, is your first solo novel. You've said that the main character, Calliope, popped into your brain fully-formed and ready to go. Did she tell you her plans for all three books in the series at once, or did the story arc unfold as you wrote the first book?

I had originally planned one book for Callie. It was actually Ginjer who read the outline and the first ten chapters and said that there was a whole lot more Callie to write about, so we'd better do a trilogy. I was a bit scared by the enormity of writing three books, but I loved the idea. In the end, I decided that it would be kind of cool to model the trilogy on Dante's "Divine Comedy" - not that what I'm writing is literature, per se. It's really more of a fun, fast read. So, the first book takes place in Hell, the second in Purgatory and the third in Heaven.

Though the Calliope books are for adults and your next book, The New Newbridge Academy, is for kids, they loosely tie together: Calliope went to that school! Is this a stand-alone book or a series? Will this be for a YA audience or for the younger crowd, ages 8-12?

Yes, The New Newbridge Academy is loosely connected to the Calliope Reaper-Jones novels. The series takes place where Callie attended boarding school, but the story in this book actually centers around her best friend, Noh, and her first summer at the school. It's a middle grade book, so it definitely skews a lot younger than "Death's Daughter", but I think it's just as fun of a read. At the moment, we're just doing the one book, but there is definitely hope for more, so keep your fingers crossed.

Tell me more about Drones, the movie you co-directed with Adam Busch. (...and tell Adam that I said hi!)

"Drones" is an indie feature that I co-directed with Adam Busch in Baton Rouge, LA, written by our friends, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker and starring Jonathan Woodward and Samm Levine. I think the best way to describe it is that it's an ensemble office comedy with supernatural undertones - and a lot of very witty dialogue. Now that we're in post-production, I have to say that I am getting mighty proud of how it's all turning out.

You've written screenplays, stage plays, novels, comics, and more. Do you approach each medium differently? Which, if any, do you find the easiest - or the hardest?

I think I approach each medium in pretty much the same way: I just jump in feet first. I come up with a story and then I do a beat breakdown . When I'm working on a screenplay or a comicbook, I have to allow for stage directions and panel info/actions, but otherwise the writing process is very similar. I think that writing screenplays and comicbooks comes the most easily to me. Prose is definitely the hardest and most time intensive medium that I work in.

What are you currently working on?

I am finishing up the post-production on Drones with Adam, writing the third Calliope Reaper Jones novel and finishing up my last pass on The New Newbridge Academy.

How do you balance all of your acting, writing, and directing projects with some semblance of a normal life?

I guess I work in two different ways. Sometimes I'm just inspired to write a story and I'll sit down and not leave my computer until it's done. When I'm writing something that I was contracted to write, I treat the writing more like a job. I make myself sit down and write for a few hours each day, usually until I've gotten about 1500 to 2000 words on the page.

What keeps you grounded?

Reading is definitely the thing that keeps me sane. As far as staying grounded, I guess I'm just one of those people who is happiest when I'm busy. I don't do well with time on my hands. I always say that I need a vacation, but frankly, I'd probably be bored.

How has your acting informed your writing, and vice-versa?

I think that being an actor makes a writer more sensitive to dialogue - at least, I hope it does! :)

Which books or writers have most influenced your own writing style?

I think Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris and Christopher Moore are definitely writers whose work inspires me and informs my own writing.

What are your ten favorite books of all time?

1. The Idiot
2. The Secret History
3. The Wasp Factory
4. Pride and Prejudice
5. The Master and Margarita
6. The Westing Game
7. The Harry Potter Books
8. The Alienest
9. Only Forward
10. The Journey To The East

Learn more about Amber Benson at The Essence of Amber website

Visit Calliope Reaper-Jones at http://www.deathsdaughter.com

Read my 2005 interview with Amber Benson and Christopher Golden.

Today's SBBT Schedule
Andrew Mueller at Chasing Ray
Kekla Magoon at Fuse #8
Carrie Jones at Writing & Ruminating
Amber Benson at Bildungsroman
Greg van Eekhout at Shaken & Stirred

Learn more about the GuysLitWire Book Fair for Boys.
Tags: amber benson, blog tour, books, interviews, sbbt
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