1. You state on your website that you started writing ten years ago. What compelled you to make that first move and ‘become’ a serious writer?
I’d had my own human resources consulting company for 5 years. I was making incredible money, and hated every minute of the work. I was stressed out, grumpy, bitchy, and depressed on Sundays because I had to go back to work. Then a good friend of mine, who had loathed his job for years, died six months after retirement. He was 42.
It was a wake-up call. I decided that life was too short to do something you hated. It took me a year to be able to close my business, and our income dropped dramatically, but it was the best decision of my life. Six months after I quit, I looked ten years younger.
2. Besides being an author, you’re also a freelance editor. Don’t you find it hard to edit when there are hundreds of classics out there that break the ‘rules’ of writing? Why was it okay to use so much ‘telling’ and adjectives and adverbs one hundred years ago but it’s not okay now? To what do you attribute this change?
I’m so glad you asked this question. In Dickens’, Dostoyevsky’s or Tolstoy’s time, there were no visual media. It was critical to the story to describe the setting in every detail to situate the protagonists since most readers had never been to places outside their small town, their farms, their cities.
Today, if I talk about the pyramids in Egypt, most people have seen them on TV, in a picture book, on the internet, in the newspaper. It’s not necessary that I take three pages to describe them in detail. The use of adverbs and adjectives served a useful purpose: it cut down on description. Today, we don’t have that excuse.
Besides, with life being so much faster today, the emphasis is on action, on punch. Take out extraneous words. Get on with the story. Use action verbs.
3. Tell us about your book series and your main character, Jack Meter. What was your source of inspiration for this character?
Jack popped into my head all grown up. Metered Space started as an exercise for Writelab, an internet writing course. For almost six months after that, Jack kept invading my mind, screaming for me to tell his story. I wrote Metered Space (originally titled ‘Til the Fat Lady Sings) because I couldn’t not write it. It was my first “serious” writing exercise, and I still had my company at the time. I found a publisher, now defunct, and went on to write Synergy (published this March). But Jack had other adventures in mind, so I wrote Meter Made, a semi-sequel. The more I wrote about Jack, the more stories jumped up at me, so it became a series. Meter Destiny will be next, hopefully by the end of the year. Meter Parents is already written, ready for editing, and another in is the works, Meter Dreams.
4. Your website has links to genetic engineering, cloning, biotechnology, and evolution sites. Why are these subjects important to you? Are these your brain food?
I became interested in genetic engineering during the controversies about Genetically Modified Organisms. Then I came upon a newspaper article about genetic warfare, and, I followed avidly the issues around cloning with Dolly the sheep and the race to map the human genome. This gave me ideas for stories. Synergy, coming out this March, is about genetic modification and warfare. The next in the trio, Catalyst, is about human cloning farms. The third, which I’m working on right now, is entitled Entropy, and deals with the consequences of monoculture and genetically modifying food staples like rice, maize, and wheat.
I was so fascinated by the entire body of work that I felt it would be interesting to have a collection of links for people like me who wanted to know more.
5. What type of books do you read to feed your brain in order to create your stories?
I’m an eclectic reader. I read everything from literary fiction to science fiction, with mystery, fantasy, romance, thrillers in between. My very favorite book from the past few years has been Blindness, by Nobel prize winner José Saramago. On my current TBR pile are Joshua Palmatier, Neil Gaiman, Tanya Huff, Richard Benoit, Scott Westerfeld, Donna Leon, Wally Lamb, Salman Rushdie, Timothy Findlay, and Doris Lessing.
6. Tell us about your upcoming release.As mentioned above, it’s about gene modification and warfare, but it’s also about two people who complement each other like yin and yang. Torver Lockwood is scarred emotionally, Demetria Greyson is disfigured. He can travel other people’s lifepaths and find their innermost secrets to use against them; she is unwaveringly honest and has visions that hold the secret of the cure needed to save a very sick child. They can only find the solution if they work together. But there are two major problems: genetic engineering on humans in prohibited by law and, in developing the cure, they may build the ultimate genetic weapon. The question is, does the end justify the means? Is it worth developing a doomsday weapon to save the life of one child?
7. Do you have a website where readers may learn more about you and your work?M. D. Benoit’s World, which has descriptions of my books and a first chapter to read is at http://mdbenoit.com. I also have a blog, Life’s weirder than fiction, at http://mdbenoit.com/blog. Jack Meter has his own blog, where he discusses his own take on life and his most recent cases, at http://jackmeter.wordpress.com. I’m also associated with a group of mad authors, and post to our blog, It’s a mad, mad, world, at http://madten.wordpress.com.
8. Who is the author (or book) which has influenced you the most as a writer?
Hmm. I’d say the first one I remember with awe is my father. He wasn’t a writer, but an incredible storyteller. Every night for years, when we were growing up, he would tell us a story. Of course, my two brothers and I were the protagonists. There was always a dark forest, alien beings, caves and bats, witches, keypads to press that led to strange, dangerous worlds. We had to overcome many obstacles, and the story lasted for weeks. I learned the skill of building cliffhangers from him. I have a picture of me sitting on his lap (I must have been two or three), my face rapt as he tells a story.
9. Is there one famous author in your genre who you think has been overrated? Why?
Not necessarily in my genre, but I find nowadays that many of the “big” authors –King, Chrichton, Brown, Grisham, to name a few –are selling their names rather than their stories, which are essentially crap. The books are poorly edited, the stories mundane and repetitive. I find I’m much more interested by the emerging authors, like Holly Phillips, for instance, a Canadian who writes literary science fiction that will send shivers of delight down your spine.
10. What is your schedule like? Do you have any ‘mad author’ quirks?
I listen to classical music when I write, especially Bach and Beethoven chamber works. I’m addicted to Mah Jong, so I have three different computer games that I play when I want to take a break. I do an online crossword every day. I’ll usually start by reading my email, maybe comment on some entries in my LJ and Mobile Reader communities, post on my blog. Around 9am, I’ll start writing and write until 11:30. I have lunch, read while I eat, then go back to writing until about 2pm, which is the end of my writing day. I’ll usually break to do my yoga, then I’ll take a shower. Errands if I need to, work on marketing issues even if I don’t want to. Repeat in the morning.
11. What is the easiest part of writing? The most difficult?
For me there are more things difficult to do than easy ones. Starting a new story is for me very difficult and scary. It’s always as if it were the first book I’ve ever written. Finishing a book is also hard, but there’s tremendous satisfaction in writing “The End”. Editing my work is difficult, as well. I usually will have a minimum of four drafts. The first draft is the easiest and most fun to write. Once you’re in flow, it’s like feeding on Belgian Chocolate.
12. Are you the quiet, anti-social, secluded type of author, or a Hemingway styled, ‘live to the fullest’ writer?
I’m definitely a recluse, and have been for most of my life. To paraphrase Joyce Carol Oates, I often find the characters in my books more interesting than the real people I meet.
13. Would you please leave your readers with some witty words of wisdom?
This is why I write:
“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” -Pearl S. Buck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1892-1973)
Thanks for the opportunity of telling your readers a bit about myself!
Read Full Post »