Most authors have had many jobs to pay the bills in their quest to become successful. What are some of the the jobs that you have held?
Target (cart attendant, cashier, graveyard shift stock team), Substitute elementary school teacher, Environmental compliance inspector, Program/ Project manager
Being an aspiring published author is different for everybody.
How much did winning the Stoker Award so early in your career change your perceptions toward your writing and writing as a career?
The biggest thing I found was that I didn’t have to work as hard to be published. Trying to get published is probably just as much work, initially, as the writing itself. Once I won the award and started selling more books, I would be invited to anthologies and receive book deals (of widely varying degrees). Although rejection isn’t a thing of the past by any means, a new idea came to be: pre-acceptance. Publishers were willing to buy what I was going to write, and that was very strange; it makes you question the quality of your own fiction, whether it will ever really be judged the way it had been previously as a novice writer.
Would you talk about your upcoming books and their production schedule?
I am working on the first novel in a series for JournalStone books. SLAUGHTER MAN: MOON CITY TALE. It’s a SciFi adventure with a little hard boiled mood. It’s taking longer than I expected because dumb errors have cropped up and life has decided it needed to keep on happening. But the novel shall get done soon. It shall.
Have you ever devised a character and then written a plot around them?
Yes, my Slaughter Man novella from the Limbus INC anthology comes to mind. I worked with a lot of decent, blue collar guys in my day and I wanted to create a story about someone who reminded me of them. It’s great to have a character that will keep you excited throughout the writing process, a person that will not always make the choices that will make the story easy to write, and therefore the entire creation becomes that much more realistic.
THIS HOUSE… on the surface appears to be a haunted house story. At the very least it seems to question how a house gets haunted. But the reader learns something very different by the end. Would you talk about your thought process as you sat down to write and tell us how the writing flowed (or didn’t)?
I sat down to write a haunted house story that would be the Ethridge Haunted House story. I wanted it to be mine. With everything I write, there are those who may appreciate my intentions and those who may not. Some people can go on reading and watching the same types of books and movies and be completely happy with experiencing similar stories but with differently arranged dominoes that ultimately spill out to the same destination.
I’m not judging. For me, I’m the same way with some genres, but not for haunted house stories. I just cannot be worked up about them anymore, even if they’re well done. After Matheson’s HELLHOUSE and King’s THE SHINING, every other take felt like eating saltines with varying degrees of saltiness. Now, I know I’m discounting quite a bit of lore and literature here, and while there are some literary greats who have been absolutely innovative in the genre (enter Shirley Jackson), I cannot say I’ve really been affected by the “bad place” story since having childhood nightmares about Jack Nicholson limping through the snow with an axe.
The horror factor isn’t what compelled me, by the way, to remember such images. I was more interested in considering wow, what happened to that kid’s father? Can you imagine if one of your parents changed into such a violent manifestation of their former self? The guy was an abusive alcoholic and the end result of that flaw exploited to the horror-ith power really intrigued me. I was more interested in what haunted a human being, and I didn’t want to involve the supernatural in that study. I’m not believer. Not in the supernatural, or the natural though. This is fiction and so I don’t need to answer to other convictions or even my own. I don’t want to write about people who conjure up false mental demons and spirits. I want to write about mental demons and spirits who conjure up false people. THAT is fascinating to me. Is it scary? Yes, I think if you put yourself in the shoes of any of the characters in THIS HOUSE… it would be terrifying to have such little control over the parasitic chaos in your life.
I wrote this novella a couple years back, but I recall it flowing steadily from start to end. Back then I was averaging around three thousand words a day. So I probably had a draft in under a couple weeks.
Who are the authors that have influenced your writing the most?
James Joyce, Stephen King, Madeleine L’Engle, Robert Jordan, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson, Emily Dickinson, and Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
If you were able to trade bodies with one person for one day who would it be and why?
Somebody dying with huge regrets. I want to know where the thoughts go toward the end. I want to know how that process of acceptance feels. Coming out of something like that would give a person stronger psychological armor than anything else I can imagine. It’d be a blessing to live a life with such knowledge.
What are the next three books you’re planning to read?
Oh boy. I should be incarcerated for the lack of reading I’ve been doing lately. I need to finish my Tom Savage novel (because he’s awesome and all his books are great books). I also need to read more of my fiancé Sara Brooke’s work, because she writes tight, wonderful mainstream horror, which I could stand to learn enormous amounts from. And I need to read the last Wheel of Time book. The series ended and I’ve still not finished it—and I’ve enjoyed Sanderson’s piloting of the conclusion thus far.
What five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?
Jesus Christ – not because I’m Christian, but because I want to see if he really looks like old school Kenny Loggins as all the cheap paintings portray, or if he looks like a Cro-Magnon Charlie Manson as the latest forensic anthropological studies suggests. I just want to know.
Jack the Ripper – so I can turn the bastard in.
Michael Louis Calvillo – because he was a great friend of mine which I lost too early, and he always enjoyed a good party.
Shakespeare – just to see if twenty different people show up.
Henry Rollins – because he’ll help with turning over Jack the Ripper to the authorities and when he returns to the table he’ll keep the conversation lively.
How do you want the world to remember you?
As someone who lived, and then wrote stories about it.
I will remember your stories, Ben. And I’d like to thank you for taking time from writing to visit with us today. Look for more on Benjamin at these links:
February 2 is the release date for THIS HOUSE… As I said in the interview, on the surface it appears to be haunted house story. And that cover sure grabs your eye, doesn’t it? Awesome artwork!
But, as you delve into the pages you’ll find much more than you were expecting… You’ll be glad you read it. Available at Amazon, B&N and the usual booksellers.