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Author Interview: Amber Benbow

1. What inspired you to become a writer? When I was about nine, I noticed people didn't listen to my wild and elaborate stories anymore. Apparently you outgrow the patience of your family and friends. So afraid that I might lose some grand idea to the great beyond, I started writing them down. This was a big step for me. I was reading and writing below grade level, even attending special classes to improve my reading comprehension. First I was scratching things along on paper, but by the time I was 11 my family acquired their first computer and I slowly taught myself to type. A few decades later, I have learned to type much faster and the ideas just keep flowing. It's hard to keep track of them all.

2. What's your favourite book of all time?

The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. It's dark, masterful, and her world is so fully fleshed out that I didn't truly appreciate it's depth until the second or third reading. There's just too much to catch.

3. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don't aspire. Take that off your bio and delete it from your mind. In Yoda's words, "Do or do not. There is no try." You either are a writer or you are not.

4. What is the most frustrating thing about being an author? Hands down the rejection. I believe that I have felt all of the stages of grief when it comes to handling rejection--denial, bargaining, anger--the works, but you have to press on. You have to have the grit and the stamina to know that eventually, someone will say yes and it will be the best feeling in the world.

6. What's better, dogs or cats? I grew up with cats, so I am going to have to side with the mewling puff balls.

7. If money was no object, how would you spend your life?

Looking for that special niche in which I could change the world and leave an impact on humanity. Every day I pass homeless people on my way to work. Every day I live with the guilt that I am an active part of the destruction of our environment. It's frustrating to be aware of the ills of the world and unable to take action on it.

8. Do you draw from personal experiences when you write? Of course. The writer needs to be able to feel the emotion running through them. See the scene through that character's eyes, otherwise, we as readers won't be able to connect. But more than just drawing from personal experience, writers need to be really good at extrapolating. For sci-fi, they have to be able to scan the landscape of current technology and society, then predict what it will be like in 20, 50, 100 years based on current rate of development. Or in the case of fantasy, maybe a writer zooms in on a broken facet of society and exaggerates it to explore unique dystopias.

9. What is more important? Strong characters or a strong storyline?

I vote storyline and I will openly admit it's where I struggle the most. Real and fascinating characters that do nothing are boring to read about. But even the blandest characters caught in an exciting plot can be entertaining.

10. What advice would you give to first time writers when submitting their work to publishers or literary agents?

Find a clean and concise query letter template and use it. I received nothing but silence for the first few months because I thought I was better than a template. No worries, man, I have things under control. What writer couldn't write a query letter? Well, uh, me. Mine was overwritten and my point was completely lost in flowery language. After using a template I was getting responses! There were voices at the other end of the line. It was exhilarating.

5. What's your favourite movie?

I saved this one for last because I don't know how to answer it. When I was 8 my favorite movie was Free Willy. Then in my teens it was the Moulin Rouge. But now as an adult, I am completely at a loss. I would have to say my husband and I are enjoying season 3 of the Crown.

Check out Amber Benbow's latest title, Arc City Stories by clicking here.


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