Interview with Charles Benjamin

What are your five favorite books, and why?
Great Expectation by Charles Dickens. Probably the greatest novel ever written. I think we all have something of Pip in us. The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard. A prescient vision of global warming and human greed. The Gap series by Stephen Donaldson. A space opera with a superbly written heroine, Morne Hyland, and a villain who's near-absolute brutality is marred only by a glimmer of good within him. Damien by Herman Hesse. A novel that I've read twice, and which I still can't quite articulate the significance of. A novel that everyone should read. Lanark: A Life in Four Books by Alisdair Gray. This novel is as rich in meaning as it is entertaining.
What do you read for pleasure?
My first response would be to say science fiction, and it is my favorite genre. But I've been reading non-fiction books lately. Currently reading A Way of Being by the influential person-centered counselor and psychologist Carl Rogers.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have an I-river e-reader.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
This is something I definitely need to work on. Facebook and twitter aren't enough.
Describe your desk
Cluttered with notepads, books, water bottles, soda cans, a graphics tablet and pen, old pc and speakers, and two boxes full of pens and pencils.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Scotland. As a kid, we slowly migrated from West Lothian to Edinburgh, essentially from countryside to city. My dad is a Christian from Pakistan, while my mum is a quarter Native Canadian, a quarter English, and half Jewish, from Canada, with the desert hot and frozen cold cultures meeting somewhere in the middle in rainy Scotland. I left home when I was eighteen and got myself into all sorts of funny, tragic, dangerous and profound situations. Experience, imagination, and skill are, I'd say, the three pillars beneath creative writing.
When did you first start writing?
My academic writing began in 1995, culminating in a doctoral thesis completed in 2005. Creative writing started in 2009 with a short story that grew and evolved into a novel.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Aliens from a distant part of the universe visit Earth. Their arrival, however, is misinterpreted as a divine visitation and nations soon start warring with one another as they position themselves to be the sole recipient of what they take to be a divine message. Thomas Marlow, a theologian turned scientist is one of many people who learn the truth about who the visitors are, but he may not survive the war that threatens to drag humanity to the edge of extinction.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I did a lot of research not only into the creative writing process, but also the process of getting agency representation and a publishing deal. While there are many advantages to having an agent and publisher, it's also a hard reality that the agent will take around 15%, the agency will take 70%, leaving the author with 15%.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has been great in giving me a chance to put my work out there. Uploading work is straightforward and the guidelines are straightforward.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I write because I feel compelled to tell stories, whether through art or literature. Both are my creative outlet. My head is full of science and science fiction ideas. Writing allows me to communicate those ideas in greater detail than art, though art is perhaps more immediate.
Published 2013-09-11.
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