So who am I? DJ Bennett. The author of Hamelin’s Child, that dark and deep psychological thriller everyone’s talking about--
Well, I can dream, can’t I? And yes, I am the same person as Debbie Bennett, who is well-known in the fantasy genre for running the British Fantasy Society, editing many small press publications and organising fantasy conventions. I was even once spotted banqueting at the same table as Neil Gaiman!
—Oy!. Stop name-dropping …
Sorry. Can I mention I once asked Stephen King to dance? Or that I had tea with Alan Garner?
—No. Get on with it. Why have two different names anyway? Sounds pretentious to me.
Why indeed? My reading and writing roots are firmly established in fantasy and although I have been known to veer to the darker side, it’s mostly always been relatively tame stuff that you wouldn’t mind your mum reading. But my thriller is very different – dark and explicit – and I wanted just a subtle change in author name, to reflect that there are two sides to my writing. It may turn out to be a huge mistake but I figured that the two markets are completely separate so I had nothing to lose.
—So have you been writing long? Been published before? Only you sound like a bit of a know-it-all.
I’ve been writing all my life. When the kids in primary school were handing in 2-page stories, mine was 10 pages. Then at secondary school, when my best-friend at my posh private school decided she’d rather be best-friends with someone else, and my local friends who went to the grammar school forgot to invite me out with them, I found myself with lots of spare time, so I started writing properly. I wrote what I wanted to read – we’re in the late 1970s here and there was no concept of YA fiction beyond Nancy Drew and Malcolm Saville and the like – so the story Cleveland & Co was born. I still have it, handwritten in a fancy notebook and it’s self-absorbed, self-indulgent rubbish, but at least I finished it at age 14. After that I wrote a sequel and then a post-apocalyptic sf/fantasy (I was reading John Wyndham and Robert Heinlein by then). None of them will ever see the light of day, but I do read them occasionally to see how far I’ve come.
My first published story was a sale to the UK’s Bella magazine when they still published twist-in-the-tale fiction. I was paid £300 (and this was back in the mid 1990s *and* I got a nice murder-mystery weekend thrown in too as it placed in a competition). It is, I am not proud to say, the only short story I have ever been paid for – although I have received royalties for stories in anthologies, so I guess that sort of counts. Some of my best stories are available in my kindle collection.
—Yep. Definitely a know-it-all. I thought as much. (Sigh). So what's the actual writing, then?
I’m a character writer. For me, plot comes out of characters being themselves. My novels are all 3rd person past tense, fairly standard stuff, although I usually have 2 viewpoint characters and sometimes more than 2. But somehow when I write short stories, I tend to slip into 1st person present tense more often than not. I’m not quite sure why I do that. It just seems the more natural form for me. Most of my characters are as real to me as any of my friends and they talk to me at the most inconvenient times. Oh and I don’t plot. I wish I did – it would be so much easier. But I don’t generally know what is going to happen to my characters before they do, which means that their reactions are fresh and genuine. I’ve written myself into more corners than a Mueller yoghurt (if you’re not from the UK, you’re so not going to get that reference, or do you have Mueller yoghurt where you live too).
—Moving on from yoghurt …
So – fantasy or thrillers/crime? Is there really a difference? In essence my fantasy stuff is about good versus evil, and so is crime; it’s just played out on a different stage. I have a YA fantasy novel I’m hoping to publish on kindle soon that has the tag line What do you do when you realise that the bad guys care more about you than the good ones? And that sums up a lot of my writing, exploring the similarities between good and evil. Even my currently-published adult thriller Hamelin’s Child – where the bad guys are very definitely bad – looks at how what starts off as a horrendous situation can change according to your perspective. Nothing is ever as black and white as it seems in my fiction.
When I first uploaded my short story collection Maniac to kindle, I used a work colleague to design my cover for me. He did a fabulous job – there are elements of all my stories in there and the overall effect is perfect. Pete did Hamelin’s
Child for me too – it was originally black and white, moody and effective. But when crime writer, agent and editor Al Guthrie told me quite bluntly that it wasn’t working as a thumbnail, I knew he was right! But he put me in touch with US designer JT Lindroos, and the three of us worked together on the new version which I’m really happy with. I’m about to upload a crime short story to kindle, so I’m off to Liverpool to take some photographs of the Liver Birds, so I can blow them up later in my story (the Liver Birds, not the photos).
—Yeah, yeah. Can we wrap this up now? The pub’s open. Anything more to add?
Check out my books at either my website or at kindleauthors. You know you want to…