BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Interview with Benedict Jacka

UF author Benedict Jacka has stopped by for a brief chat today. He's the author of the Alex Versus series and also a MG series, the Ninja series, now out of print. The first two Versus books were released this year: "Fated" in February and "Cursed" in May; the third book, "Taken" is due to come out this summer, in August.

A little about Benedict, in his own words: One overcast day in November I sat down at a study cubicle in my school library. I was 18 years old and in my final year at City of London School, and the library was on the third floor, looking out over the River Thames. I was supposed to be working but instead I stared out of the window across the water, and when I finally picked up my pen what I began to write in the back of my exercise book wasn’t schoolwork but the notes for a story.

To this day I can’t tell you why I started that story that afternoon. I’d written stories before, but no more than any other bookish kid – usually they were done for a school assignment or quickly abandoned. But for some reason this one stayed in my head and sometime over that winter I opened up a Word file on my computer and started writing. I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to see what would happen.

I kept writing, and then kept writing some more. Winter turned into spring, spring turned into summer, and by the time I finished at the end of that year what I had wasn’t a story but a 100,000 word novel. Somewhere along the line I’d had it suggested that it might be publishable, so I sent it to some agencies to see if they were interested. They weren’t, but by the time that had been established I’d finished a second novel and was ready to send that out instead.

I kept writing through my time at Cambridge University, leaving three years later with a BA in Philosophy and a very good agent, Sophie Hicks from Ed Victor Ltd. My first three novels had been children’s fantasy, but the one that finally got published was children’s non-fantasy, a book called To Be A Ninja (later reprinted as Ninja: The Beginning).

It took me a little under 7 years to go from that day in the library to being published for the first time, and it’s been just short of another 7 years from that first publication to today. As I write this it’s the first days of 2012, I’m 31 years old, and once again I’m home in London – I’ve lived in different cities and countries, but London’s the place I always come back to. Along the way I’ve worked for a year in the Civil Service, taught English to kids of various nationalities in England and Romania before doing it full-time for six months in China, spent an interesting period working in North London as a bouncer, and most recently went back to college for a GDL/LPC in order to become a solicitor. I’ve also studied a few martial arts (boxing, Krav Maga, and ninjutsu), gone in for competitive ballroom dancing (yes, seriously), spent an enormous amount of time reading (especially Agatha Christie, Tolkien, Jack Vance, Jim Butcher, and Robert Jordan), and skated across most of London at one time or another (still my favourite way to get around. Don’t laugh, it’s more fun than a car or bus and with London traffic it’s about as fast.) I also love gaming, both on computers (Final Fantasy, Suikoden, Fire Emblem, Halo, EVE) and tabletop RPGs (Star Wars, WoD, and especially D&D – I play once or twice a week and GM too).

Where to find Benedict online:


Bea: Benedict, what inspired the series, was there any one thing or was it a series of ideas and events?

Benedict: "Fated" was the adult evolution of a setting I'd used for multiple books in the past – I'd written four novels in the setting already, but they were all children's fantasy rather than adult. I never really expected "Fated" to get published (the last four hadn't been) but somehow it did and things just kind of snowballed from there!

Bea: Is Alex inspired by or based on anyone you know?

Benedict: Personality-wise he's mostly based on me, although it's filtered through a different background. I do tend to use my own emotional reactions as a starting point when writing him, but over the series he's developed into more of his own person.

Bea: What's next for Alex and the series? Do you have a long term story arc, or are you winging it?

Benedict: I'm starting to work out a long term story arc now, but I didn't have one at the beginning. Fated, Cursed, and Taken are all semi-standalone books – it's only by the time you get to Taken that the changes start to get noticeable. Right now I'm in the middle of Book #4, and I'm starting to seriously lay out how the long-term story will go. Of course, that assumes my publisher keeps printing them!

Bea: When you write, are you a planner or do you make it up as you go?

Benedict: A mixture of both. I plan out the skeletal structure of the book in advance, but individual details (especially character interactions) get made up as I go along. I deviate from the plan pretty often, too.

Bea: You've written childrens books and now adult urban fantasy, do you think you might try another genre sometime?

Benedict: Not sure. I'm really enjoying adult urban fantasy at the moment, so I can't see myself changing any time soon, but who knows!

Bea: Does you family read your books? What do they think of them?

Benedict: They do, and they're very supportive. :)

Bea: Do you prefer print books or ebooks?

Benedict: I'm about 50/50. I like ebooks for the convenience of getting hold of them so easily, but to actually read I prefer the paper kind.

Bea: What are your favorite genres for reading? Your favorite authors?

Benedict: I read a fairly wide spread – fantasy, sci-fi, crime, childrens, thrillers, and a bunch more. Favourite authors change over the years, but the long-running ones have been Tolkien, Agatha Christie, Jack Vance, Jim Butcher, and lately Lois McMaster Bujold.

Bea: I noticed on your site, that your only social media link was for goodreads. Do you prefer not to do social media such as twitter, facebook, linkedin? Do you think that there is too much emphasis on social media for authors?

Benedict: Oh yeah, I forgot about that page! Wait a sec while I go update it.(Note the clever avoidance technique, he didn't answer either question. lol But, he DID update his page with his twitter and facebook accounts - Bea)

Bea: What would be your ideal day, whether a work day, school day or day off?

Benedict: Uh . . . you've got me on that one. I never really think about how I want my days to be.

Bea: Benedict, thanks so much for visiting and answering some questions for us. Best of luck with "Cursed"!

Benedict: Thanks for having me! Cursed's now out in the US and UK, and Taken will be coming out at the beginning of September. Nothing I can say yet about future books in the series, but things are looking good!

Liz has "Fated" in her TBR pile, and I've got "Cursed" in  mine, so reviews will be coming sometime this summer. In the meantime, go get your copies now so you'll be ready when "Taken" comes out at the end of August!

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