Friday, December 16, 2011

Interview with Kevin Bennett, writing as K J Bennett

Tell us about you.
I am 54 years old, English, and work in public service - my employers won't allow me to say what I do when I am publicising my writing efforts. I have two teenage children and a lovely wife. We live in Hertfordshire, England. I’ve been seriously writing for about twelve years.

Tell us about your book.
Pike’s Quest is a comedy/fantasy that broadly falls into the Young Adult category. It was never intended to be YA, I wrote it, and that where it seemed to fall.

It is set in the year 911 of the New Dawn, in a future where horses are revered as gifts of the gods, and sheep and hounds are the beasts of burden, and ancient magicks have been rediscovered. But there are those who wish to uncover the technology of the past and take control of the world for their own evil ends. Now, more than ever, the world needs a hero. No one expected it to be Pike.

It's a fight between good and evil, with lashings of humour and a tub of moisturiser.

What inspired you to write this particular story?
My brother, Paul Hennessey. He’s actually a half brother, and we only really met up about four years ago. One of my cousins in Australia ran a family website, and she decided to start an on-line corroboration novel, just for the family. Paul came up with a synopsis where the main character was called Pike and he lived in a medieval world. I wrote the first chapter, which is similar to the existing first chapter, and around eight of us wrote around three chapters each. My novel bears very little resemblance to the original concept, and aside from my opening chapter, no resemblance to the family novel.

What can readers expect when they open your book? Give us something that isn’t on the book blurb.
I will say this only because it’s been said to me by others in a position to know: it’s a very well-written story with heaps of laughs. I tried to get at least one moment of humour per double-page spread. The humour works on many levels, so parts will be funny to some and not to others, but hopefully there’s fun in there for everyone.

How old were you when you started writing?
I tried writing my first novel at the age of twelve. It was in a school exercise book and was called (grimace) Little Lost Rocket. I hand-wrote about forty pages. It took me about another six years to make a second attempt, but I did invent various characters through the years, some of which are in my more recent efforts.

Do you stick with one genre, or have you branched out to others? Which ones?
I try to branch out. The problem is that I tend to merge and cross genres, and that’s not what agents and publishers want from an untested author. They want a safe bet who writes like the last safe bet.

Do you think you would ever branch out into another genre? If so which one(s).
I am writing a thriller for a more grown-up readership, but it still has a particle accelerator and a sci-fi streak running through it. I’m unlikely to attempt romantic fiction or erotica, but other than those, I’d try most things.

Where do you get your ideas?
Interesting question. Most the time I sit and write with no clear idea. Something usually pops up. I have a short ghost story on my website called Flesh & Blood, which was a dream I had. The first version was almost a direct transcript, which was quite freaky, so I toned it down a bit and wrote as a female. I think it turned out ok, bearing in mind I don’t get the whole short story thing. I also use a lot of my life experiences, I’ve have a varied history.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
Probably I’m supposed to say Nelson Mandela, or something, but quite honestly, my sense of humour is so irreverent that I’d be hard pushed to cite any one person except, perhaps, Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel). I think I could also cite the writers Ben Elton, Richard Curtis and the Monty Python team, along with Jonathan Stroud, Colin Bateman, Suzzanne Collins.

What are you reading right now?
The National Trust Handbook! I’m deciding what ancient sites to visit on my next writing weekend in Wales. I’ve recently read a whole series of Colin Bateman novels (crime fiction with funny bits), and The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzzanne Collins (the film comes out next year, hope they haven’t ruined it).

Who are your favorite authors?
Novels: Jonathan Stroud, Colin Bateman, Suzzanne Collins. But that could change after I’ve read your stuff.

Screenplays: Joss Whedon

What is your current project?
The sci-fi thriller. It’s actually a re-write of something I did a few years ago. A total re-write, not just a tinkering session. Plus a follow-up to Pike.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
Getting Pike’s Quest published on Kindle, and actually getting it to pass the .epub world standard on Smashwords ‘ which means I can get it marketed on the Apple book store. I’d have loved to have had it published the traditional way because that would be  kind of affirmation, but in the UK publishers just won’t look at unrepresented authors, and agents seem reluctant to represent anyone. I’ve had high praise for Pike, but still they wouldn’t take me on in this overcrowded market place.

Have you experienced any setbacks for your writing along the way? If so, will you share with us.
I've written four novels and a screenplay, and I have to say that multiple rejection isn’t for the feint hearted, and trying to publicise Pike as an e-book is like walking through treacle, but I keep my spirits up, mostly.

How did you overcome these setbacks?
I’m fighting back with Kindle and Smashwords!

Do you believe in writer’s block?
No. We can make excuses ‘ I do all the time ‘ but ultimately, if you sit and look at a blank page, write the first drivel that comes into your head, then the second, eventually you’ll end up with a load of drivel, but there may be a gem in there. Better be careful, some might think I left all the drivel in.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Erm, kill all literary agents! No, no, that wasn’t it. Ha, I remember now: ignore rejection.

What is the best advice you have for other writers?
Ignore rejection (I can’t condone murder). Actually, ignore most agents. I submitted Pike to one particular London-based agent back in February this year, and it cam back to me a couple of days ago date stamped 19 October. You could die of old age waiting for this kind of response.

What is more important to you, plot or character?
Character. You can get away with a thin plot, but if the characters are characterless, no one will read it. Look at the Terminator and Die Hard movies ‘ thin plot and lots of character stuff going on.

Are you a panster or a plotter?
Er, what’s a ‘panster’? If it means, I sit and write and let it flow, then that's mainly what I do (see 'writer's block', above.

Preferred POV to write.
3rd person, or first person. Not at all keen on the omnipotent pov at all.

Preferred POV to read.
As above.

Tell us 5 random things about you the person, not the author
1. : I catch the tube (London Underground) every day to get to work, but being claustrophobic I avoid the very crowded trains. I have been known to let four trains pass before getting on one. 
2. : I love freshly brewed black coffee, but I don’t rate Starbucks. I also thing that if the menu tells me that an Americano coffee is two shots of espresso with hot water added, it’s a black coffee. Why, then, do they ask me if I want milk with it? They wouldn’t ask ,’Do you want bones with that?’ if I ordered a fillet steak, would they?
3. : I have been known to be grumpy.
4. : suffer an adverse reaction to instant coffee: that reaction is known medically as 'revulsion'.
5. : I love Darjeeling tea, black, with no milk. Don’t offer me milk. With tea or coffee.

Where to connect online

What format does your book(s) come in?
Amazon kindle, Smashwords - most e-book formats 

Where to buy your book
Amazon US
Smashwords
Barnes & Noble : Will be there soon, once Smashwords have updated their premium catalogue.