About Alice Benson:
I have always loved to read. Some of my happiest childhood memories are days spent reading – lying in the shade of a walnut tree with a bag of cherries and a book. Since I loved to read that much, writing seemed to be the next obvious step. I loved words and wanted to arrange them in ways that would touch people. When I read a wonderful book, I’d dream of writing something that others would find as affecting.
So, for the majority of my life, I wrote, but mostly, I wrote pieces of things: rough drafts of stories, half an essay, one act of a play, and small pieces of a book. I had a vision for a novel, a story I was eager to tell, but I had no focus to weave the pieces into a coherent narrative. When my children grew to adults and moved away from home, I decided to get serious. I found a class and a teacher, took the pieces of my novel, and strung them together into the complete story I wanted to tell. Four drafts later, I had a novel that my teacher and I believed was ready to market.
Besides writing my novel, I’ve written and published many short stories in both print and on-line magazines. Writing short stories gives me the satisifaction of starting and finishing a piece during the months and years it takes me to complete a novel.
Alice Benson lives in Wisconsin with her partner and their small dog, Max. She discovered writing as a passion in the third act of her life and devotes as much time as possible to it. When not writing, she works in the human service field. Published works can be found in Epiphany, Lady Ink, Delta Woman ezine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Scrutiny Journal, Dirty Chai Magazine, Shooter Literary Magazine, and Gateway Review. Her Life is Showing is Alice’s first novel and was published in January, 2014, by Black Rose Writing.
What inspires you to write?
I get inspiration from many places. The inspiration for my novel came mostly from the thirteen years I spent working in a domestic violence shelter. Inspiration for short stories and the current novel I’m working on can come from such diverse places as the news or someone’s random, offhand comment.
Tell us about your writing process.
One of the best things about being a writer is that writing offers the opportunity to explore ideas and issues in depth. Writing helps me think about myself and the world more fully and with more clarity.
I don’t outline or plan ahead. I just start writing and see where it takes me. Often, I start with one idea in mind and end up in a completely different place, because the writing takes on a life of its own. I once wrote a story about a stripper who gets bitten by a monkey. I started it as a light, humorous piece, but it changed into a darker, more intense story about sexual abuse and lost dreams.
I use a computer to write, and I schedule writing time almost every day. I find it works best to actually put it on my calendar as an appointment I have to keep. I also belong to writing groups, and I take classes. I find I write more if I have feedback and deadlines.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
My characters become real and take on a life of their own. Listening to other writers, I’ve learned this isn’t unusual. My characters often decide their path they want to take, and they will tell me when I’m trying to push them to do something that they don’t believe is the best way for their character to go. Interacting with the characters in my head is one of the best things about writing. I always have someone interesting to talk with.
What advice would you give other writers?
This will probably sound too simple, but my advice is to – keep writing. It’s easy to get discouraged or distracted. Life is full of other things to do. Just keep writing. Get it down on paper, then go back and revise. Don’t edit yourself during the first draft – just get it all out. Then revise, and revise, and revise. And don’t give up. I wanted to write a book since I was six years old. I finished my first book when I was 58. Keep writing. Don’t give up.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I decided that I wanted to have my book published by a traditional publisher. Because writing a novel was my dream for many years, I wanted to see that dream come true in the way I had always pictured it – receiving that book contract. I desired the validation of an actual editor reading my novel and telling me they liked it and believed in it. With that goal in mind, I set out to find a publisher.
First, I wrote a synopsis and query letter. Then, I looked for an agent. I believed an agent would take my novel and use her expertise to find the perfect publisher match. I found a website that listed agents, along with their areas of interest and contact information. I developed a spreadsheet I used to track each submission. I methodically combed through the listings and, if any of the interests matched my novel, I sent off a query letter, entered the date and contact information in the spreadsheet, and waited for an answer.
The process wasn’t as simple as it sounds. Each agent required different information to be submitted. For example, one wanted just a query letter. A second required a letter and the first five pages. A third requested only the synopsis. Some communicated by email. Others by snail mail. And on it went. Matching interests to requirements took a great deal of time. After fifty agent rejections, I decided to look at small publishing houses that did not require agented submissions. Again, I turned to the web to research possibilities. Again, I developed a spreadsheet. And once more, I matched interests to requirements and sent off proposals.
After forty-three submissions, two publishers requested the entire manuscript. Trembling with excitement, I sent them off. Just ten days later, one publisher responded with an emailed book contract. I signed with them and bought a bottle of champagne. My dream was coming true.
Bringing the novel to fruition was amazing. Working with an editor, I cut extraneous material and scoured the text to find and correct every grammar mistake and typo. A talented artist designed a lovely, evocative cover. After a few months, the day finally came when my words became a beautiful book that I held in my hands. It was miraculous.
Everyone’s dreams and experiences are different. This was my dream, and I recommend traditional publishing. However, self-publishing has many advantages, and it works very well for people.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think we’re seeing an expansion of books being published by small, independent publishers. That’s opening up the field to more and more authors who wouldn’t necessarily be chosen by the bigger firms. Self-publishing allows people to share their work and opens new and exciting opportunities. Readers need to become more discerning, because they have so many choices.
What do you use?: Professional Editor
What genres do you write?: Literary, Mainstream, Contemporary Fiction
What formats are your books in?: eBook, Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit, to allow you, the reader, to hear the author in their own voice.