Mason Cooley said, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”
A Center Stage Moment shines a spotlight on writers who give us great places to visit with the characters we love and want to call friends.
Today I thought I’d do something different… a meet the author featuring ME! So sit back and get to know yours truly.
I’m a quirky chameleon (just look at the many faces of me), an avid bookworm, a wife, and a mother. I love being creative as much as I can. Sometimes it’s hard to harness my brain and make it stick to one thing, but when I do… look out! I’m a Michigan native living in Georgia. Before coming to the south, my family lived in Southern California. It’s my daughter’s birthplace and our second home. I’ve worn many hats—administrative, vet assistant, and cashier to name a few. Being an author has to be the most interesting, enjoyable hat.
I love reading author bios. Many of them did not start out as writers. Sometimes people stumble upon the craft. Did you always want to be a writer? I’ve always wanted to be creative. Back in high school I had a friend who asked me what I wanted to be in life. I gave her a long list—writer, actress, artist.
Why did you choose to write your genre? I like answering the ‘what if’ question. Speculative fiction allows me to do this—especially dystopian, science fiction, and paranormal.
What is the strangest story you’ve ever written? I’m going to tackle writing about alien shapeshifters. It’s a reptilian species with the power to take on the shapes of other beings, including humans.
What are you currently working on? I keep more than one project going at a time. I’m working on a prequel to the Alliance Chronicles series. Release is Asher Jones’ story and includes how the Street Wars and subsequent Revolution happened. I’m also expanding my short story “Cursed Hearts”. It will be part of a duology slated for February 2017. Plus, there’s the alien shapeshifter short story to be submitted for an anthology in December. I’m also in the planning stages of the third book in the Alliance Chronicles series, Rebel.
What motivated the plot for either WIP or current published book? The Alliance Chronicles grew out of a dream I had about cloning. I set the story in Detroit after seeing numerous pictures of abandoned homes on the Internet. I started toying with the ‘what if’ question—what else could have caused such devastation?
The novella I’m working on is about citizens “releasing” their frustrations with the government at that time. It has remnants of the sixties and Civil Rights struggle in it. I want to weave in the prevailing attitudes of that time and mesh it with today’s attitudes in this country toward people of color and the dissatisfaction many people have voiced with the way the country is being lead.
As an African-American author, do you feel obligated to write about people of color? No. I’m obligated to tell the best story I can regardless of what color their skin. I do, however, make sure to include diverse characters in my stories. The world isn’t just black and white and neither are my dreams. I have an urban fantasy project with a Lycan who just happens to be part Native American. In “Cursed Hearts”, the supernaturals are a rainbow of colors. Why should the paranormal world just be cast with all the same skin color?
What was the hardest story for you to write? My short story “The RELIC Experiment” is zombie fiction, something I thought I’d never write. The story is set hundreds of years into the future when people have pretty much abandoned the Earth for another Earth-like planet.
What process do you use to plan your novels? I’m a recovering pantser. I love sitting down and letting the characters drive the story. Of late, though, I’ve discovered that some of my stories need more of a road map. So I’ve been learning how to plot, loosely. I still veer off the road from time to time, but if I get lost I’ve got something to direct me. I now use Scrivener to plan and write.
Do you use music when writing? What do you listen to? Yes. I love making playlists for everything I write. I have specific ones and generalized ones in Spotify. My musical tastes are varied. You’ll find classical, country, rock, r&b and even pop on my playlists. Check out my Starred list: https://open.spotify.com/user/sfhbenson/playlist/5wzAqLn7NM2wPCISECYlej
Who has been your favorite character to write? Why? Tabitha Reynolds from my unpublished short story “The Sweetest Bite”. She’s a young woman who becomes a vampire and is full of rage. She wants revenge against the rogue who turned her. Tabitha is learning all about controlling her hunger. She was a lot of fun writing. The way she describes her hunger and how she tries to satisfy it is very sensual.
Do any of your characters reflect facets of your personality? Most definitely. There’s a little of me in every character, female and male. It might be a habit, a way of saying things, a favorite color. If it’s not directly affiliated with my personality, it might just be something out of my history. For instance, in Regress Tru Shepard lives in apartment 207. That was our family’s apartment number when we lived in an apartment back in the sixties.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it? Yes, and no. In the past, when I got stuck I called it writer’s block. I embraced the term so much that I stayed stuck. I’ve learned, through other authors, that being blocked is a manifestation of doing something wrong in the story. It might be the plot needs fine tuning or the actions are wrong for the character. It might even be the dialogue. Now when I get stuck, I look at the plot. I ask questions. I might even re-plot. I read passages out loud. Sometimes, it might mean quitting for the day. Nothing like thinking through stuff in a hot steamy shower.
If you were to choose another genre to write in, what would it be? Why? I’m toying with the idea of writing paranormal erotica under a different name. No real particular reason other than it fascinates me. It’s the ‘what if’ question.
Which authors inspire you? Tons! What got me to reading YA as an adult and which encouraged me to write Regress was Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. Another inspirational author for me is Stacey Marie Brown. I read her Darkness series and it inspired me to try and write paranormal and urban fantasy. Lila Felix is another inspirational author. The way she uses language is brilliant. I inspire to her excellence.
What novel would you read multiple times? As a kid I’ve read Esther Hautzig’s, The Endless Steppe several times. As an adult I’d read any of Stacey Marie’s books, Claire Contreras’ books, Corinne Michaels’ books, Shawn McGuire’s Wishmaker series, and KD Woods’ books. That’s if I can find the time to re-read. Here lately, I’m good with a one-pass.
If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or deceased, who would it be and why? (Person could be a fictional character) Before he died I wanted to meet Prince. I’d still want to sit down and find out what made him tick. The man was a creative genius.
What is your favorite quote?
Every author has a brand. What’s your personal brand? Spreading good karma in words and deeds. I believe in helping where I can. I started as a blogger while I was working on my first book. I got the idea to start featuring authors on my blog’s site and eventually my website. I put up promos for authors. It’s all about paying it forward. Eventually it comes back to you. But in the meantime, I’m networking and making friends. I’m learning and getting some great experience making graphics, learning the ins and outs of writing… it’s fun.
What is your favorite animal, real or imaginary? Hands down—dogs! Specifically, Samoyeds.
What is your favorite color? Much like Tru Shepard, I have more than one—blue, red, black, and purple.
Tell me one random fact about yourself. I was a cheerleader and then, a pom-pom girl in high school.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing? I’d want to be an artist. Before leaving California, I was a painter. My medium was acrylics. I hope to get back to it.
Is writing a full-time or part-time career? If part-time, what’s your other job? It’s a full-time gig. My husband gave me permission to give this 100%. So that’s what I’m doing.
Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little better.
Things go back to normal next week with my featured author, Jaci Wheeler.