Interview with Benjamin Smith

What makes writing exceptional?
Heart. If a story has heart--and by that I mean something worth caring about at the core of it--then it's already made it halfway to exceptional. I think formal training and practice helped me become more confident as a writer, but I knew from early on that what I wanted to do was create characters people could love and respect. To put those characters in high stakes situations and test them as human beings is how you make them compelling and by extent, give them a life all their own in the minds of the readers. It's more fun when the writing has heart.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I think the best moment comes about a year after you finish a piece and you get some distance from it. I always get a little jolt of pride when I read something after a few months or a year have past. You get to experience lines you wrote with a freshness added and you kind of get a little giddy. "Wow, when I wrote this I just thought it was good. But it really is great!"
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are the true democracy of taste and I love them. Every new fan is a gift and I can't imagine where I'd be without people encouraging me to keep writing because they actually find value and pleasure in the stories and characters I create.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on several projects, the primary project is a stand alone novel based on the Grimm Fairy Tales. I'm thinking of calling it In A Dark Wood. I have also outlined and begun working on the second installment of The Atlas Trilogy, a book I plan to call Orpheus. In this book I plan to deal a little more with Phillip's rags to riches story while tossing in a new series of juicy murders and the evolution of Perpetua and Sam as artificially intelligent humanoid beings. I am also toying around with a play (although that is still in the rough stages and I don't feel comfortable talking about it too much beyond my circles of trusted advisors).
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords enabled me to publish in one spot and have my words transfer across multiple e-reader platforms. It was truly liberating to have so much control over my coupons and have access to my SEO and sales reports all in one place.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My family gets me up each day. I have to be both an example to my children and a contributor to the world in which they live. I found it startling this past year when someone told me that a person born today would live to be 150 years old. I think about my newborn son living well into the next century and I want to somehow make an impact on his life by being a productive and creative person today.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Working. Unlike some writers, I still have a day job. I teach and I enjoy it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I wrote about a turtle that a boy found in the basement of his house. He put it in an aquarium on his dresser and at night when the lights went out, the turtle's eyes would glow and it would speak, whispering "Go To Sleep. Go to Sleep." And the boy tried to stay awake but eventually succumbed to sleep only to turn up missing from his bed the next day when his mother called him for school. I was about nine when I wrote that, I think. I was apparently a very disturbed child.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I frequent goodreads.com and various discussion groups. I still buy printed books at my local indie bookseller (they have a cafe, I like quiche... what can I cay?)
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Apart from children's books, I'd say the first story I truly read for myself and enjoyed was The Adventure of the Speckled Band. I instantly had to read all of Sherlock Holmes and once the doors opened on the mystery genre, I had to find more and more stories and thicker and thicker books by more and more authors. It all started with a damsel and a snake... Kind of Biblical, really.
What is your writing process?
Sit. Write. Finish. Edit. Re-write. Really Finish. Wait. Re-read. Pick fights with people on the internet about Twilight. Play with my son. Edit. Re-write. Go to the dentist. Have my mother read it and tell me she doesn't get it. Have my wife read it and tell me it's not in line with all the nerdy stuff she's an expert on. Edit. Publish. Re-publish. Re-publish. I basically never stop tweeking something.
How do you approach cover design?
Less is more. I liked Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s covers because of their simplicity. Not to say I don't occasionally pick up a book with a pretty girl on the cover holding a gun... There are just certain kinds of "fine" no man can pass up.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), Frostbite (David Wellington), Stardust (Neil Gaiman), Lamb (Christopher Moore), and The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith. Read them all to find out why.
What do you read for pleasure?
Always fiction or plays. I love comedy and satire.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I was gifted a Kindle over a year ago. I like it, but at the same time I'm always going to be a sucker for print books. I just like the actual feel or paper and the crack of a book spine. And nobody puts a kindle or a kobo in their back pocket (I was the guy who tore paperbacks to shreds on camping trips when I was in scouts).
Describe your desk
My writing desk at home is bought from a second hand furniture store that get's its merchandise in hotel auctions (mostly in Las Vegas). My desk, the lady disclosed when she found out I was a writer, actually came from the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. I think she was just trying to squeeze an extra 50 bucks out of me, but now I tell everyone that my desk is haunted.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Kansas. I really don't think that can influence anybody's writing too much.
When did you first start writing?
I got serious about it when I was about 18. Prior to that I'd fiddled with writing a little on the family computer. Other kids wanted to play video games, I wanted to play with the word processor.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The fact that nobody in mainstream publishing was motivating me to become anything different made me into an indie author. I would love to have an agent and professional editors and a marketing team to support me, but the long and short is, that mainstream publishing isn't innovative enough to give new voices a chance. They'd rather publish James Patterson With _____.
Published 2014-01-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

June Cleaver: Sexual Deviant
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 17,190. Language: English. Published: January 30, 2013. Categories: Plays » American / African American
An absurdest comedy spoof about the American Television Matriarch, her Nuclear Family, and the nature of motherhood and women's' rights from the 1950s to the present.
Sketches: An Erotic Collection
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 19,270. Language: English. Published: January 29, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Erotica » General
Seven erotic tales to heat up your nights. First Couplings, Incandescent Trysts, Voyeurism, Threesome Erotica, and Supernatural Encounters.
Atlas
Series: Atlas. Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 86,710. Language: English. Published: April 22, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Police Procedural, Fiction » Science fiction » General
(4.80)
Double-Homicide rocks economically segregated San Francisco in 2066.