1. When did you start putting pen to paper?
On and off professionally since 2000. I’m a freelance editor, working on business plans, venture capital proposals, articles published in specialist magazines and some fiction. Previously, I have written some short items and received encouragement for that but I felt my writing never really took off till quite a bit later.My upcoming novel was inspired by the loss of my partner at forty-five years of age to ovarian cancer, just thirteen weeks after her diagnosis. In the aftermath, an old friend challenged me to turn that grief into something positive. Remembering a conversation with a charismatic Polynesian fisherman (I visited there once) about his people’s vision of death and the afterlife, I began to write. The book kind of took off from there…
Here’s the blurb for the book:
What if to be with the man of your dreams… you had to give up your life? On the verge of losing her job, a side-lined journalist is forced to travel to the South Pacific to untangle a mystery where she meets a reclusive ex-boxer with a message. When a syndicate of corporate criminals invades paradise, she must either defend the island with her life or accept the plum promotion that will save her career.
Also at http://www.ben-starling.com/books/upcoming-release/
2. What’s your literary poison – prose, poetry, etc.?
Cinnamon Danishes. Which are pure poetry. I spend entirely too much time on them at the deli. Gouges holes in my writing time. In terms of the written word, however, I enjoy everything, everything. I’ve written poetry, a screenplay, a novella, short stories, non-fiction articles. There is something to learn from everything. Every form teaches something new and informs the next project’s challenges.
Poetry teaches imagery and rhythm. Short stories hone tight scene writing. Novels need structure and pace. Structure and pace lift poetry. My upcoming novel even includes a poem!
3. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
Bertie Wooster of P.G. Wodehouse fame. Brilliant characterisation. A hero with a good heart and good intentions – and a wonderful knack for disaster with Honoria Glossop.
4. Which famous writer can you most identify with?
Well, I don’t think I am anything like Hemingway but he was a boxer who loved the ocean as I do, so that’s something in common. And he lived in Florida Keys where I spent a lot of time in my teens and early 20s.
5. What are your current projects? (*Include books, novellas, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.)
Right now I’m working on a series of prequel short stories to be released from September 21, 2015. They are set in the same world as my upcoming novel.
6. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book or writing piece?
At this point no, as I’ve juuuust finished. But I’ll probably be close to changing something tomorrow. In a month or two, I’m sure I will want to change everything!
7. Do you have any advice for other writers?
I spend a lot of time in contemplation before I begin and even cover my wall with postits itemising plot tidbits I’d like to include in a tentative order. Then I ignore it all and begin to write!
The other imperative is to walk near water regularly. If you don’t have a stream, fill up your bath! Water is the best conduit to inspiration.
8. What were your grades like in English class? (A, B, anything less than this is shameful 😉
Quite good to my own and everyone else’s surprise. Particularly to my older brother’s who had hoped to beat me. I was once given a special award for literature in high school.
9. How much research do you do for your writing?
A lot. I am a bit obsessive when it comes to researching oceans – and my upcoming novel is set in a marine environment. I wanted to get it right.
But I also enjoy the research so much that days can pass as I follow up on details. Time very enjoyably spent though.
10. Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
Papyrus and quill. With humanely-acquired (the tickle method) octopus ink.
11. What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Swim 60 lengths every morning before writing.
12. What book do you think everyone should read?
There’s a groundbreaking novel by Ben Starling coming out on January 21, 2016 (title reveal coming soon) that I could recommend highly.
13. Two-part question: Do you play a musical instrument? And what instrument would you like to learn to play?
I was bemused by flute lessons as a child for an astonishingly brief period of time. I was also incarcerated in choir hall daily after school for many years.
However, I would like to play the violin – it’s the most romantic instrument I can think of. Just once I’d like to bring tears someone’s eye through the beauty of music. I brought tears to the eyes of my flute teacher, but that was an entirely different story…
14. What process did (or are you going) you go through to get your book published?
My novel will be released by Edington Press on Amazon and Smashwords.
15. Who would you like to change places with… i.e. live someone else’s life for a week?
The little black cat I found on the wall during my walk today. She mewled at me and I stroked her back after she jumped down and wound through my legs. She was feline fine.
16. If you weren’t a writer, what would be your ideal profession?
I’d like to be an artist. It’s another delicious mode of thinking. But even if I weren’t a writer… I’d still want to be one!
17. Two-part question: Bill Murray or Chevy Chase? And John Cleese or Michael Palin?
Chevy Chase. It’s such an excellent name. His full name is actually “Cornelius Crane Chevy Chase”. Wow.
Palin. He’s known for his travel expertise. I like that.
18. What’s your most rewarding literary accomplishment to date (one that just blew your mind!)
The way three of the plots/subplots in my novel came together at the end seemingly without any direction from me at all. I had been struggling with a plot snarl for days and suddenly it all crystallized before me. It felt like shooting the rapids in a white water raft for the very first time.
19. What quote do you live by?
“Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” – Albus Dumbledore
20. What would be your ideal writer profession ambition? (famous Pulitzer prize winning author, successful self-published author as a day job, etc.)
To be recognised with formal awards and prizes is important to many. But for me, I’d like to be sitting in a café at the edge of a park one day and see someone sitting on the grass across the way reading my book, smiling. That would be the best.
21. Would you like to ask me a question?
Certainly. Lisa, what’s your writing style? Are you a plotter or a “pants-ter”?
I would say I’m more pantster than plotter… a ratio of 75% former and 25% latter. My writing style is a visual image in my head, sort of like a movie reel with scene snippets that helps build the character and surroundings as I write, creating the story. It’s not traditional, but it’s a natural gravitation for me.
Special thanks to Ben for participating in what’s turning out to be an enjoyable and informative interview series here. I’m thankful to have met Ben and other fellow authors on Goodreads. I’m eagerly awaiting Ben’s upcoming novel, which is sure to be exceptional. Keep up with this talented writer at his websites: