Welcome to the six hundred and ninety-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Benjamin Gorman who I also interviewed back in July 2011. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Benjamin. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Benjamin: Well, the simple story goes something like this: Boy moves from San Diego to Cincinnati during eighth grade. He does not adjust well, and decides to hide in books. When his English teacher assigns a short story, he turns in the first 60 pages of a novel and decides he could write the books he loves to read. He spends the next 20 years learning that the quantity of prose does not equal quality, and studying how to craft the kinds of books he enjoyed so much. That’s the simple story.
But then, simple stories are all-too-often deceptively simple stories. A more honest version of how I came to be a writer would require my whole autobiography, because almost every part of who I am is intimately connected to my writing.
Morgen: “hide in books”, I love it, and that’s what it feels like to write them… for me anyway. And I’m definitely consumed by writing. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Benjamin: My first completed novels were Sci-Fi. Then I tried and failed at horror. Then I had some really bad luck: I wrote a book about some Old Testament miracles taking place in the modern day and being covered up by the government. I finished it right before 9/11, and afterward it would have read like a crazy conspiracy-theorist defence of the 9/11 hijackers. Disheartened, I went to what I knew; since I teach high school kids, I wrote a couple YA novels. My most recent novel falls into the loose definition of literary fiction. More specifically, it could probably be described as contemporary fantasy (since it’s an adventure story involving the interaction between mythological characters and modern people) or magical realism (since the world of the supernatural and the natural overlap seamlessly in the book). I admit I wasn’t driven by much of a commercial impulse when I wrote it, so I didn’t have a clear genre in mind, but the final product came out so well that I feel compelled to publish it even if there isn’t a specific shelf for it at your local bookstore.
Morgen: It’s interesting that you tried different genres. I did the same and have settled on crime, although I’m currently taking a break for NaNoWriMo and continuing one of my 5pm Fiction stories, about a talking dog with attitude! What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Benjamin: So far, I’ve only had short stories published. That frustrates me because short stories really aren’t my strength. I still have the copy of the literary journal from my university somewhere, and I was pretty excited to see my words in print, but now short stories are a means to get my name out there. I’ve had stories published with a few online literary journals (like amwriting.org) and I’ve tossed three of them up on Amazon. Now I’m excited to finally publish a novel, a form I’m far more comfortable with.
Morgen: Most writers are, although if I had to pick, I’d write short stories. Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
Benjamin: I have self-published The Sum of Our Gods. Technically, it’s published by a small publishing company called ‘Not a Pipe Publishing’. Since I’m the publishing company’s sole proprietor and only employee, I think that qualifies as self-publishing. I resisted self-publishing for a long time, sending out query letters because I was under the increasingly archaic perception that the gatekeepers had the power to provide authors with legitimacy and certain marketing advantages. While I waited and checked my inbox 10 times a day, the reality of the publishing industry was shifting under my feet. Now I wish I’d jumped into self-publishing a couple years earlier, when the market was younger. My reluctance probably did me some favors, though. It made me go out and hire a really excellent editor, something any self-respecting author should do before letting an error-riddled manuscript accidentally reach the eyeballs of readers. My reluctance also gave the market time to mature enough that I could find a host of excellent resources and models to use as I built my website, designed my cover, tinkered with interior layout, etc. I may have decided to self-publish, but I want my novel to look and feel just as high quality as anything coming out of a New York or London publishing house.
Morgen: I did the same thing; submitting / meeting 15 agents but they weren’t looking for what I was presenting them with (my chick lit novel). I’ve written the first two of a serial killer series which I think is more their thing, but I’ll see when I eBook the other four I’ve written (two lad lit, a mystery and a standalone crime). Readers, on the whole, want you to have more than one book available so that if they enjoy one, they have more to buy. That’s what we’d like too. Is your published writing available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?