Today’s feature is Shantella Benson. We’re glad to have her today!
1. Tell us about yourself. May include links to Facebook, twitter, blogs, websites, Amazon author page) I’m a debut author. The first book in my Dystopian trilogy releases March 2016. After that, I will be published in the DC Anthologies, a five book anthology by group of eager and inspired authors who met at UtopYA 2015 (now called Utopia). I have two paranormal short stories in two different books.
I also have a book blog called The WordSmithe at thewordsmithe.wordpress.com. I review books that inspire my writing—mostly YA and NA Dystopian/scifi, paranormal, and urban fantasy. I even will review Contemporary Romance. The only genre I won’t review on my blog is erotica. I’m not opposed to reading it. I’m just thinking of my audience which does include teens.
2. How do you choose names for your characters? I have a few websites I frequent for names. In my trilogy, The Alliance Chronicles, the main characters are ethnically diverse. In their society, multicultural people are known as Hybrids and their names usually reflect their ethnicities. The male main character is Zared Aoki, a Hybrid of Indian and Korean heritage. The female main character’s parents wanted to hide her Hybrid status, but her name (Truly Shara Shepard) has a special meaning in the story.
3. Do you talk about your book/characters as though they are real? Of course, doesn’t all writers?
4. Do you listen to music when you write or edit? What kind? Yes! I actually create playlists on Spotify. Each book in the trilogy has its own list (Regress, Rescue and Restore). I also have a playlist for paranormal writing and one for my urban fantasy.
I like to choose music with lyrics that mean something to the story. They may set a scene (intimacy, loss, challenge) or simply put me in the mood for writing a certain character (Eminem when I’m writing about Zared, for instance).
5. How long have you been writing? I have been writing on and off for years. A year ago, however, I got serious and decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. I wrote the rough draft for Regress: The Alliance Chronicles Book One.
6. Tell us about when you realized you were ‘meant to be’ a writer. This happened recently when I started world building for my urban fantasy. I enjoyed creating maps, doing research, and creating a Pinterest board for the project. I realized this was something I used to do as a kid writing stories. Back then, I clipped pictures of possible characters from magazines and catalogs. I took cardboard and created maps. I even took pictures from decorating magazines to create scenes.
7. Do you have a muse? Yes, and she can be quite temperamental. I tried to plot the second book in the trilogy. She let me write about 6,000 words and then shut up. When I put the carefully crafted plot to the side and returned to my pantser ways, she spoke again. Lesson learned.
8. How do you improve as a writer? (Workshops, conferences, reading) All of the above. I attended my very first conference, UtopYA Con, back in June. It was phenomenal. I participated in workshops/panels and learned a lot. I also picked up a critique partner from that convention. She has helped me immensely. I learned what my writing was lacking, and it has been a delightful journey with her.
9. Writing quirks or superstitions? Not yet. My husband may beg to differ, though.
10. Tell us about your current work-in-progress. I actually have a few things I’m working on. It’s the great thing about writing. It feeds my need to stay busy. I just finished the rough draft for book two in the trilogy, Rescue: The Alliance Chronicles Book Two. I’ll be writing the rough draft for my urban fantasy during NaNoWriMo. It’s based off the folk tale called The Raven by the Brothers Grimm. In their tale, there’s a young child who is turned into a raven because she was bothering her mother. In my story, the girl was transformed into a raven to protect her identity from a demon uncle who wanted her dead. There are shapeshifters and portals into another world.
11. What book are you reading now? I’m reading a few at the moment: Forsaken by J.D. Barker, Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray and Secrets by Christina Benjamin.
12. What genre do you write in? What about POV? Dystopian and Paranormal/Urban Fantasy. I love first person POV.
13. Tell us about writing preparation. Character Profiles? Outlines? Believe it not, the sparks to my writing prep usually start in the shower. I get an idea in my head and I kind of flesh it out in the shower. Once I get an idea, I start imagining characters. I like to do the secret boards on Pinterest. I’ll pin images of the characters and scene ideas.
I don’t really outline. I write out a story premise. For the trilogy, I created propaganda quotes to begin each chapter. So, I decided how many quotes I wanted and that determined, roughly, how many chapters were in the book. For the Urban Fantasy, I just started writing scenes as they came to me.
For the short stories, I used the same process, but I had to determine Beginning, Middle and End. I had to adhere to that structure more closely to stay within the word count required.
14. Do you know how your stories will end? With the short stories most definitely. With the trilogy and even the Urban Fantasy, I listen to my characters. With the rough draft I just completed, I didn’t know how to end it until a few days ago.
15. Do your books have a message or theme? Or are they purely for entertainment? There’s a message in the trilogy. Right now, the Urban Fantasy is just entertainment. Oh, and there’s a theme for the short stories.
16. Do you have any favorite snacks or drinks that you eat/drink while writing? I love Welch’s Fruit Snacks, but I need to eat healthier. So, I gave them up. It’s hard. Now, I’ll reach for some microwave popcorn (not the same pleasure). If I’m not guzzling water, I have a glass of wine for the evening writing session.
17. Tell us about your other passions. I love tv marathon sessions! I also enjoy acrylic painting, sewing and discovering new crafts.
18. What’s something interesting about you? I’ve worked in a variety of industries—tv news, community newspaper, veterinary medicine, video duplication, computer software development—just to name a few. I also use to groom Samoyeds for dog shows. We owned three Samoyeds, one was a show dog.
19. Share a small sample(limit to one paragraph, please) of your writing… can be a WIP or already published.
This is the opening paragraph from Regress: The Alliance Chronicles Book One.
Someone once compared living in New Detroit to having a religion. It was a fanciful idea about living a life full of hope despite the presence of tragedy. Illogical. Irrational. Life in my town required a lot more than hope. It required a blind eye shutting out the ever-present insanity on our streets. It helped if you could block out the scars from our wars. Fortitude was a better word.
20. Anything you’d like to say to your current and future readers? Check out my blog. I post updates on my writing each week. I’ll be posting more about my upcoming releases too.