Author Interview: Samantha Benjamin
1. What inspired you to become a writer? It probably sounds cliche, but writing is something that has always come naturally to me. For as long as I've been able to write and talk, I've been telling stories. I wrote my first proper story when I was around 10 years old and from all the media that I intake, people that I meet, places that I visit, and life experiences regardless of whether they've been good or bad, I get inspired and stories just flow out of me like a waterfall. 2. What's your favourite book of all time? The Harry Potter series. At school every week an hour at the end of the day would be set aside for storytime, and one of our teachers would read the Harry Potter books to us. It was when the books had only first come out and my pocket money each week was set aside for chocolate & Simpson comics, so being read chapters from the book each week was essentially the highlight of Primary School. I remember getting so excited and being so enchanted by this magical book, that I did eventually save up enough money to buy Chamber of Secrets so I could secretly read the book at home, because I just couldn't wait for the next week to arrive, and then after that I just kept buying the books and I'd usually get them read inside the week. There was just that something about the series that was so special, and even though I might have grown up since then, it's still a book series that I enjoy rereading every once in a while. 3. What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Just keep writing. It's extremely difficult, not to mention frustrating at times trying to get all the ideas together, on one piece of paper, and have everything making sense, but you will get there eventually. You just have to keep going, be true to yourself and the story. 4. What is the most frustrating thing about being an author? Writers block. I get so many ideas for so many different stories that I want to write, but halfway through I'll get bored or start doubting myself and the story, and then of course my head will get blocked up and suddenly there's no words on the paper. Away from that I'd say it's trying to find your audience. I think every author out there probably thinks they've got a magnificent, wonderful story that everyone would love to read, but struggle to bring said audience to the book, and it can then feel frustrating seeing other authors whose work maybe ins't as good thriving. 5. What's your favourite movie? The original Star Wars trilogy. Like with my love for Harry Potter, it's the first movie series that I ever watched, it made me fall in love with films and was part of my inspiration in becoming a screenwriter and deciding to pursue a career in the media which has seen me veer more towards Film & TV Production. Darth Vader revealing to Luke that he was his father is still my favourite movie twist of all time. 6. What's better, dogs or cats? Cats. I've grown up surrounded by them, they're cute, fluffy, and I couldn't imagine life without them in it. 7. If money was no object, how would you spend your life? Eating a bunch of Chinese food, going to every single Manchester United game and traveling the world. 8. Do you draw from personal experiences when you write? Absolutely. My life has been extremely chaotic, but through all of the bad things that have happened, I do look back on them and manage to find laughter amongst the tragedy. Our personal experiences define us and our character, the way we view the world and the way we view people, and that's naturally going to drip into our writing. I don't think I've ever written a story that hasn't at the very least had a hint of truth or personal experience weaved into it. 9. What is more important? Strong characters or a strong storyline? I think they both go hand in hand because they both have an effect on each other. If you don't have strong characters, there's nothing for the reader to get invested into, and as a result your storylines are going to feel weak, because there's nothing for the reader to care about. If you have strong storylines with weak characters, the reader might be able to get invested into the overall arc of the book, but they're still not going to be emotionally invested because there's nothing in the characters for them to root for. When I'm writing I tend to know where exactly I want the story to go, and thoroughly outline everything, but still when the time comes for me to actually sit down and write the story, I will change courses if things in the scene naturally go differently to originally intended, and that then means going back to the drawing board and taking a look at my characters and whether they have enough substance. 10. What advice would you give to first time writers when submitting their work to publishers or literary agents? It's OK to be rejected because eventually, you will find the right publisher or agent to take you on. It can be a gut punch to get a rejection email or letter telling you that your story isn't what they're looking for, and make you question why you're even doing this in the first place, but in time you will get there. I think it's important for writers to always be more focused on telling a good story with good characters, rather than focus on writing something that is more marketable and more likely to get you a book deal, because that's not writing for the right reasons.