Author Interview – P.J. Benney
I just finished reading an excellent time-travel fantasy novel by UK based Indie Author, P.J. Benney, and through the magical platform they call Twitter, I was able to score myself a one-on-one Author Interview.
1. How long have you been writing?
The first big project I ever saw through to completion was during November 2009 for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I think that’s the point at which I realised writing was more than something you did at school when you were told to. The book was awful – it was a historical novel about the lost city of Atlantis that ended with everyone drowning – but it was a start!
2. What genres do you write in?
I’ve always favoured fantasy and sci-fi, but in a contemporary/present-day setting. Nowadays I don’t really feel the need to craft new worlds when the one we have is already complicated enough. I’ve also begun developing an idea that’s more literary and further from genre fiction, but that’s a long way away yet.
3. What are your finished works and where can we find them?
My first novel, Déjà Moo, is available on Amazon Kindle worldwide! It’s a comic-fantasy set in modern-day London, about a celebrity named Daniel who discovers a conspiracy against him, and a witch named Cynthia who suspects her boyfriend has played a part in the scandal. Cynthia and Daniel team up to investigate the disappearance of Lily, a Holstein heifer who serves as the mascot for Daniel’s business, but soon realise the conspiracy is bigger than both of them.
4. Your favorite completed work? Fan favorites?
I don’t think I’m prolific enough to have fans yet, but everyone who’s read it said really nice things about a short story that was published in an anthology by the University of Roehampton (my old university) a few years ago. That was based around the theme of parallel universes, and it’s something I’ve been meaning to get back to. I’m planning to rework it into a novella in the coming months and tie it into Déjà Moo.
5. Where did you get the idea for Deja Moo? What was the inspiration? What are the themes that you want readers to take away from this book, if any?
If I’m honest, I feel like the idea developed on its own. It certainly ended up being about things I never intended to write about. One core theme of the book, I suppose, is the dichotomy between our public lives and our private lives. I’d never even thought about such a thing until I’d redrafted the book four times and realised it was just, well, there. Half of the characters are magi, recluses that hide out of sight for fear of being discovered, while the other half are celebrities who can’t move for being recognised. My protagonists Cynthia and Daniel just want to be left alone, and half the fun of the book was seeing how they’d cope with unwanted attention. The book also deals with heavy subjects like addiction, illness, death and grief; all things we hate to talk about. I feel like mixing up difficult subjects with fun ones, like interviews and pop stars and TV presenters and dinner parties, makes the whole story a lot more approachable. I guess I want readers to feel an equal amount of amusement and sadness.
6. Who is/are your favorite character(s) in this book? Why?
Without hesitation, it has to be Cherry Cinnabon, London’s sickly-sweetest news reporter and Daniel’s ex-girlfriend. At the start of the novel Daniel initially mistakes her professionalism, practicality and matter-of-fact-ness for spite and cruelty, but Cherry’s above that. She means well, and she’s not afraid of speaking her mind, even if she knows you won’t like what she has to say. She makes no apologies, which is why Daniel struggles to be civil with her, but she always exhibits shrewd judgement. She just won’t waste time justifying herself.
7. Do you do your own cover art or do you have them professionally done?
The artwork for the book was done by my friend Lizzie, who operates under the name CMYK Books. She was fantastic at taking my very vague and indecisive brief, and making all the difficult decisions for me and producing something that was exactly what I wanted, without me having to really explain what it was that I wanted. If that makes sense. Anybody wanting to get in touch can do so here: https://www.facebook.com/cmykbookdesign/
8. What other books do you have in store for us? Anything you’re currently working on, or ideas you have?
Well, I’m working on a sci-fi novella that I will tie into Déjà Moo, and that could well be out in a few months’ time. I’m also working on a sequel entitled Bovine Intervention, which picks up a few months after the events of Déjà Moo. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you that Cynthia, Daniel and their associates all find themselves reunited against their will after having gone their separate ways.
9. As an Indie Author, how do you promote your work? What has been most successful? Any other advice for Indie Writers?
For one, I’m glued to Twitter. It’s really a social network in that you have to be sociable in order to succeed. I’ve sold books to strangers simply by talking to them. I ran a little promotion on Facebook to get my friends and family involved – everyone who shared the post was entered into a draw to name a character in the next book. I’m also always on the look out for reviewers to pass judgement on the book – the opinions of other readers are absolutely crucial. I’m on Wattpad as P. J. Benney as well, where you can read new chapters every Sunday and Wednesday. To any other writers out there, I’m going to tell you what a colleague of mine told me the other day – investigate every avenue. Nothing is beneath you, nothing is out of reach. Just beware if they ask you for money!
10. What genres of books do you enjoy reading the most? Any favorite books you can recommend after we read yours?
I’d say only about 40% of my reading is SFF. Some of my greatest influences in terms of style are Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams. But I wouldn’t necessarily say style alone makes a great book. You need unique subject matter as well. Try The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, and its many sequels. They’re kind of wacky mysteries about Thursday Next, an agent who enters the Bookworld – a bookish dimension – to investigate literary crimes with famous characters. Jane Eyre gets kidnapped, Miss Havisham does drag races, and Thursday lives on the boat from Moby Dick. It’s absolutely packed with puns, and sounds ridiculous, but some of the books actually brought tears to my eyes too. Truly brilliant.
11. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Outside of fantasy, I love Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, Jeffrey Eugenides. They all paint such intricate portraits of their characters, really get into the psychology of it. If you want great literary fiction, read The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. It’s about three women, haunted by visions of a fourth who ruined their respective relationships. It’s vivid, witty, dreamlike and absolutely chilling. A real page-turner. Emily Bronte and F. Scott Fitzgerald are also favourites of mine.
12. Finally, where can we follow you? Website, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Amazon Author page, Google+, etc.?
I’m always on Twitter – find me @pjbenney and say hi! My website www.dejamoo.co.uk is where I’ll post any big news. You can also start reading the book for free – I post new chapters every Wednesday and Sunday!
(I’m adding the GoodReads Author Profile as well!)