The Debut Collective is a supportive tribe of authors (both published and aspiring), editors, formatters, and cover designers working together to foster a new generation of stories and authors. We will be publishing 5 short story anthologies in June 2016.
We are pleased to share the following interview with contributing author, Christina Benjamin!
Please share a little about yourself and your background.
Hi! I’m Christina Benjamin. I’ve been a storyteller ever since I learned how to speak. I’ve studied art, have degrees in English and Criminal Justice and have honed those skills to craft some pretty adventurous YA Fantasy fiction. I grew up in Pennsylvania but now enjoy living in sunny Florida. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan – 100% Gryffindor, love music, hate milk, always want to be on the water and am the proud owner of quirky character inspiring pets.
Please share information on any published or upcoming books.
I’m the author of the award-winning series, The Geneva Project. It’s a YA dystopian fantasy series about a girl who finds out her true identity is hidden in a legend. She and her friends set out on an epic adventure to unravel the legend, revealing magic powers beyond their wildest dreams. There are 4 books in this series. Truth (vol.1), Secrets (vol.2), Lies (vol.3) and the 4th and final book in the series will be published this summer. I have recently written a fan-prompted series of short story prequels that go with The Geneva Project. The Geneva Project: Prequels – The Christmas Gift debuted last fall. Then next prequel, The Timekeeper’s Daughter, is due out March 24! And The Floating Stone is due in May. And my first audiobook for Truth is due out 2nd quarter!
Besides The Geneva Project, I have quite a few other titles releasing this year. Two Anthologies – The Debut Collective and Utopia Revolutions. Two Non-Fictions – 99 Epic: St. Augustine and 52 Sunrises. And Auntie Lea’s Night Time Nonsense, an illustrated Children’s book with a portion of the proceeds going to support foster care.
Which Debut Collective anthology/anthologies will you be published in?
Acts of Bravery! I wrote A Midsummer Nightmare, which is a twisted new look at one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.
Share a brief teaser or logline for your story/stories.
With her head lost in sonnets and Shakespeare, Allie Wood was never part of the in-crowd until she literally falls through a magical rip in time with one of the most popular boys in her school. Allie’s favorite play comes to life as she and her least likely ally, a handsome jock, must fight their way back to their world. Feral Fae and vicious beasts lurk around every corner. The only thing that cans save them both is Allie’s knowledge of Shakespeare’s iconic play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Will Allie get the guy and save the day or will this dream turn into a nightmare?
Share an insight into your main character. What made you want to write a story from their perspective?
So I’m a HUGE Shakespeare fan. And Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my favorites. I always talk about how important Shakespeare is when I speak to students. His writing has influenced so much of what we grew up reading. I thought it would be really cool to do a retelling, sort of bringing Shakespeare back to our century. I named the main character Allie because I want her to later find out that she’s a descendant of Alice Little, of Alice in Wonderland, and that’s why these fairytales are sort of following her and trying to suck her back in. I’m excited to continue this story into a full-length novel, maybe even a series. I’m imagining Allie having to fight her way through many of Shakespeare’s plays to free herself from her ancestor’s curse going all the way back to Wonderland.
What genre(s) do you write and what draws you to that genre?
YA!!! I’m a proud YA nut. It’s like candy, I can’t get enough. I truly just love the YA genre because that time in life, when you are moving from childhood to adulthood is so important. At no other time in your life do you find yourself standing on the precipice of your future, with endless possibilities. The path you choose will shape the rest of your life and that’s so exciting! YA characters are figuring out exactly who they are and battling with who others think they should be. I just love all the tangible angst of that type of character. I have so many wonderful memories from that time in my life. Sometimes I think I’m still a teenager, perhaps that’s why I enjoy writing in the YA genre – it’s like you get to go through it all again, but thankfully without the hormones and homework!
Describe a typical writing day, or is there such a thing for you? Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? Write in Scrivener, notebooks, or on cocktail napkins?
My days are crazy. I’m a full-time author, which means that not every day is spent actually writing. A lot of time goes into marketing, event planning, social media, etc. But when I do get to write – which those days are my favorite days – I go into my writing room with my dog, put my DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door, stream some great instrumental tunes, light a candle and plug away. I usually try to write in spurts. Like a full week or two is just devoted to writing and nothing else. That way I feel like a get a good chunk done. When I’m doing this I try for 5k days. I use sticky notes – they’re everywhere – and notebooks.
Are you a plotter (outline plot) or a pantser (prefer to run with an idea)?
Total pantser! I tried to plot but it was like banging my head against the wall. I let my characters lead the story. I often know where I’d like to see it go, but it’s fun when the story surprises me and takes on a new direction. I’m so organized and plan everything out in my normal life and I think that’s why I love reading and writing so much. It’s an escape and it’s exciting to not know where you’re going to end up.
What book(s) are you currently reading or would you recommend?
So I haven’t read any YA books in about three years because while writing my series I didn’t want to be influenced by anything similar. So I’m making up for lost time now, so forgive my dated list. I’m obsessed with Cassandra Clare, Sarah J. Maas, Melissa Meyers, Chanda Hahn, Amy Bartol, Alys Arden, Jolene Buchheit (I know, I know, you’ve probably all read them ages ago! Lol. I’m always late to the party.)
What is your favorite writing/reading related quote?
“A book is a gift you can open again and again,” by Garrison Keillor and “Books are a uniquely portable magic,” by Stephen King.
Tell us 5 random facts about you:
I’m obsessed with Harry Potter – Gryffindor!!!
I’m pretty sure Rob Pattinson and Jamie Campbell-Bower are my boyfriends. (It’s cool, I told my husband and he seems okay with it.) 😉
I hate milk. I’m severely lactose intolerant and it’s seriously insane the amount of things they put milk in. Did you know some potato chips have milk in them? Potato chips!!!
I used to play field hockey, run track and ride horses. (I swear it was another lifetime ago, or maybe I used all of my athletic ability up as a teenager, because now I break a toe just walking around my house!)
I have a gigantic cat named Hank. He weighs 23 lbs.
Does music influence your writing? If so, can you share a song that inspired your Debut Collective anthology story?
YES!!!! I love music. If I had a musical bone in my body I would have been a songwriter. I’m always inspired to write something when I listen to music. For some reason putting words to music just gives them a form of tangible emotion that speaks to my soul. I can’t think of one song in particular that inspired my story in the Debut Collective, but I’m a huge Snow Patrol fan and I mention that my main character, Allie, really liked Snow Patrol and is even wearing one of their t-shirts and gets teased about it. Here’s an excerpt:
Today she donned an old pair of jean shorts worn soft by wear, and her favorite band’s tee shirt – Snow Patrol. It was black and had a pixelated blue snowflake printed on it. Someone in first period had made fun of her for it.
“Nice snowflake. You know we live in Florida, right?”
“Maybe I’m being facetious,” she retorted.
No one ever got her jokes or comments, so she kept them to herself.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? How has participating in the collective and the anthology project inspired or pushed you creatively?
Too funny, I was just talking about this last night. I get asked this question a lot and my silly answer is marry your graphic designer. (My husband is a graphic designer and he gets all the credit for making my books so beautiful.) But for real, my answer is to just make time to write. Make it a priority, don’t make excuses that you’ll do it next month or next year or you’re not good enough yet, you need to take a class, etc. 99% of being a writer is sitting down and writing. Just try to do it for 30 mins a day. The other 1% is sheer determination. You have to really want it and not be willing to give up or get discouraged. It may sound simple, but that’s really the hard part. It’s not an easy career, it’s not a get rich quick career, it’s long nights in front of the computer, it’s crying over edits and bad reviews, it’s stumbling through the publishing process through which ever route you go. But for every hard part there’s something amazing that outshines it. Someone who says you’ve inspired them to write, a reader who says they found themselves in your characters and that made them feel less alone, fellow authors who share the same crazy passion for words as you do. I write because I have to, because I feel like something is missing if I don’t. So my advice is to tell the story that means something to you, not what you think others want to read, but what you must write because that story is in your soul. And find a group of likeminded writers and surround yourself with them. Make them your tribe so you can champion each other. That’s what Utopia and the Debut Collective Anthology project has done for me. I met so many incredible people at Utopia last year. I have had the pleasure of building relationships with them and being involved in this amazing project with them. It’s strange and wonderful to be a part of a project and community like this. We don’t get to see each other as much as we all would like to, but we chat all the time through social media and I know that we are all their for each other, to help answer questions, share successes and truly enjoy knowing that people like us exist. I share a bond with each person that is a part of this anthology because we’ve each contributed a part of our soul.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Christina-Benjamin/e/B009UZM14O/
Any other book links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiCohgNTKIg
Thank you for participating! Please join us on Saturday 3/5/16, when the Debut Collective will feature an anthology organizer Colleen Nye. Colleen wrote a story for all five books!