Interview with Tarah Benner

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I've been writing stories my entire life. I remember illustrating my first "book" when I was about four and dictating it to my mom. It was called "Sarah's Snake" and was a blatant rip-off of the original "True Grit" with John Wayne. That's a true story.
Do you remember the first book that made you want to be a writer?
It was definitely "Harry Potter." The first few books came out when I was in grade school, and at the time, everyone was talking about J.K. Rowling's amazing journey from poverty to fame. She was the first author who made me realize that writing books was an actual job. By third grade, I'd confirmed that being a writer was a legitimate vocation (through watching "Harriet the Spy") and made it my life's mission to write a book.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read mostly dystopian books for pleasure and call it market research. But I do like to mix in books from all genres. My guilty pleasure is anything YA (including paranormal romance), but I like to mix in some classics, nonfiction, and books by authors who I consider excellent writers and storytellers.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The idea for "The Defectors" came to me when I was on a run in the middle of winter. The trail was snowy and completely deserted. I'd recently been reading a lot of post-apocalyptic books, watching "Man vs. Wild," and gorging myself on Netflix doomsday documentaries about how the world is running out of oil. I'd recently come off of marathon training and started thinking to myself that if (read: when) there was an apocalypse, I'd definitely survive because I could run wherever I needed to go. The idea for my main character popped into my head, shortly followed by "1984"-meets-zombies. The rest is history.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I didn't really have a plan for publishing until after my first book was finished. I did some research on finding an agent but found the whole process pretty dismal. I'd also just finished an internship in traditional publishing and realized the entire business involved a lot of luck (and getting past the twenty-something interns who read the slush pile).

I started listening to some industry podcasts ("The Creative Penn" and "The Self-Publishing Podcast") and realized there were real people out there who were making a living as indie authors. Their stories didn't involve any "overnight success" or lightning-strike moments; just hard work and determination. They were such happy, positive people who were in control of their own destiny. I wanted that. I decide to go indie, and it's the best thing I've ever done for myself.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love sending off a newly finished book to my friend Nicole, who is always my first reader. She and I read the same books — and like the same things — and I consider her my "ideal reader." I know she's going to enjoy the book, but I also know she'll tell me when something isn't right. That brief window of time when the book has come together but you're just sharing it with the world for the first time — it's incredibly exciting and rewarding.
What do your fans me to you?
Honestly, I'm constantly surprised and delighted that I actually have fans. It means everything — especially as an indie author — because it makes you feel legitimate and keeps you motivated. I can't tell you how many emails from readers have come to me at just the right moment. Maybe I've had a really rough writing day or the story is just not coming together, but just hearing that someone somewhere is reading the books and enjoying them makes my life.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Like a lot of authors, I do have a day job. Luckily, it's one that still allows me to be creative and hone my writing and editing skills on a daily basis. I've also learned so much about marketing and branding from the people I work with.

My fun activity after work is my Krav Maga class, which I got involved with to add some realism to my fight scenes. Now I can't imagine not doing it. It's helped me get in great shape and prepare for when the apocalypse does happen.

Apart from that, I spend most of my time lounging on the couch with my boyfriend and our two cats. We watch a lot of TV: Game of Thrones, House, Downton Abby, Sherlock, Scandal, Bones, you name it. I like to cook, and I like to eat. Pizza, Mexican, Chinese...the delivery guys know our house.

On the weekends, I like to sleep late, write, eat a big breakfast, go for a run, and maybe see a movie. I'm boring, and I like it.
Published 2014-06-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.