With Paul Bennett
Tell me your story.
Born in Detroit, MI, now living in Salem, MA. I’ve always been a student and reader of history. My earliest recollections of that interest are having discussions with my Dad about WWII and of borrowing from the library a copy of Heinrich Schliemann’s book on Troy. Movies such as Spartacus and Ben Hur also fueled my desire to know more of how we got to be where we are today. I attended Wayne State University in the early 70’s with a focus on ancient history and physical anthropology and although I continued to read history books (both fiction and non-fiction) I did not pursue a career in those areas. It wasn’t until I started reading SJA Turney’s Marius Mules series that I began book reviewing/blogging. I finally succumbed to the pleadings of my Muse and began writing my own historical fiction.
Tell me about your latest book.
Clash of Empires is the first book in a projected series called The Mallory Saga. It follows the lives of a colonial frontier family caught up in the French & Indian War of the 1750’s. I intertwine the historical record of the war; the battles, the historical personnel, etc, with the fictional account of the Mallory’s and their involvement in the battles and the suffering and triumphs they face.
Where do you get your information and ideas for your books?
The idea for The Mallory Saga came from looking at a photo of my great-grandfather, Harry Mallory, who came from western PA, the area where a lot of Clash takes place. I wanted to write about a period often overlooked in American history despite the fact that the French & Indian War had a direct impact on the American Revolution 15 years later. A lot of my research was done online and by reading Empires at War by William M. Fowler Jr. I also visited some of the sites used in Clash…Fort Ticonderoga & Fort William Henry for example.
Do you have a specific process when writing a book?
I’ve heard that there are plotters and seat of the pants types of writers. I guess I’m somewhere in between but with a definite leaning towards seat of the pants. I know where I want the book to go and have a general idea of how to get there but the actual process of putting hands to the keyboard is pretty much led by my Muse and so have a tendency to write in a non-chronological fashion. As an example, I am writing book 2 of the series and already have chapters from the beginning, middle and end started – the tricky part is to make sure I tie them all together.
Do you have a writing/reading quirk or ritual?
I do most of my writing in the pre-dawn hours, fueled by good, strong coffee and with my headphones on I listen to one of my writing playlists on Google or Pandora. My Muse seems to draw inspiration from angelic voiced females so I listen to a lot of Loreena McKennitt and goth-rock bands such as Within Temptation, Nightwish and Sirenia. The result of what I eventually put down on paper comes from ideas that I’ve thrashed about in my head. Much of that thought process takes place during my 75 mile commute to work; a two hour excursion that allows my Muse free rein as I drive. By the way, my Muse is named Wanda after one of my favorite movies, A Fish Called Wanda. Anyway, Wanda is quite active during the commute, although there are times when she gets too excited and I find myself thinking about a scene that won’t happen until book 4 or 5 in the series.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself through the process of writing?
The main thing I’ve learned is that to do it right takes a team effort. I have always been leery of changing anything once I’ve written it and so was completely unprepared for working with an editor. Fortunately, I connected with an old friend who is a superb editor and while I have accused her of eviscerating some of my hard written words and belittling my grammatical prowess, she made the story better and has made me a better writer.
What do you think makes a good story?
Engaging, believable characters. A story line that keeps you turning the pages and that makes you stop occasionally while you exclaim, “wow” or “I didn’t see that coming.”
If you could only read one book over and over, which one would you pick and why?
The first one that popped into my head is 4 books – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I guess I’ve read those 8 or 9 times…in fact I’m due for another read through.
What books are currently on your night stand?
I usually have two or three books going at a time (there’s so many good books out there)…one for my Kindle, one for my PC Kindle and a hard copy for bedtime reading. Right now I am reading The Portuguese Affair (The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez Book 3) by Ann Swinfen, Rosa by Jeanette Taylor Ford and Fire and Steel – King’s Bane 1 by C.R. May.
How do you organize your books?
Umm…haphazardly as space allows.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Mark Twain Kurt Vonnegut Christian Cameron
Thank you for joining me on Of Quills & Vellum today, Paul! It was a pleasure talking with you.