INTERVIEW: Amber Benson, Author of Death’s Daughter (@amber_benson)

(Amber at Midtown Comics in Manhattan NYC in March 2011)

We are talking today with Amber Benson wearing her author hat but really, she’s so much more.  She writes.  She acts.  She’s a director.  She’s a producer.  She sings.  She dabbles in comic books.  She’s done animation.  Basically, she can only be labeled as an artist.    Today, we are going to talk to her about everything from writing the Calliope Reaper-Jones series to whether or not she’s #TeamAngel or #TeamSpike.  Read on to also find out the future of the Calliope Reaper-Jones series!

Pure Textuality [Jena]:  Good afternoon Amber!  I want to start off by addressing the big pink elephant.  I am a HUGE Buffy fan and, no lie,Tara was one of my favorite characters.  I even named my pet rats Tara and Darla after the  Whedonverse characters of the same names.  When I saw that you, on top of everything else you have done, were also an author, I Googled and found that you have had an incredibly busy career so far.  When did you decide that you wanted to be an author on top of everything else?  Or is writing something that you have always wanted to do?

(Amber as her character Tara Maclay on the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Amber Benson [Amber]: I have always written…even though it was mostly crappy poems and weird one act plays when I was a kid…but writing has always been a go-to place for me.  A way to get what was in my head out into the world.

Jena:  Is writing something that has come naturally to you or was it something that you had to work at and cultivate with classes and such?

Amber: I never really took any writing classes, but I’ve found that the more you write, the better you get at it.  It’s a matter of putting the time in and writing every day…treating it like a job.

Jena:  How long did it take you to pen your first book?

Amber:  I wrote the first ten chapters pretty quickly then sold the first book based on those chapters and a treatment.  I had nine months or so, once the book was sold, to finish it.

Jena:  What was the toughest hurdle you had to overcome with publishing your first book?

Amber: Getting over the fear I had about writing a book by myself. It was one thing to write a screenplay or a play or a poem, but to have to compose 90,000 to 100,000 words by my self was daunting.  In the end, I just had to bargain with myself: I decided if what I wrote was crap then I didn’t have to ever write anything else – I’m not saying the first book was a masterpiece by any stretch Of the imagination, but it definitely wasn’t a full on hot mess.

Jena:  The cliche question – If you had one piece of advice to pass on to fledgling writers everywhere, what would it be?

Amber: Write every day – even if you end up rewriting every bit of what you get out in a day. It’s the process, the practice really, that makes perfect.

Jena:  Let’s talk about Calliope Reaper-Jones.  I just read Death’s Daughter and this was my first exposure to her.  She’s a fantastic character.  It’s very easy to relate to her on a girl-to-girl level.  Was Callie’s character inspired by someone in your life or is there a part of you in there?

Amber: There has to be a part of every author in the characters they create.  Even if it’s the part of us we fight against, the evil or not so nice aspects of ourselves. Even those characters have a sliver of the author within them. As for Callie, she definitely has my juvenile sense of humor and my clutziness. I’m that girl: the one who apologizes to inanimate objects when she runs into them.  Yup.

Jena:  Callie’s backstory – being the daughter of Death himself – is an incredibly unique storyline to build off of.  I love that fact that this book takes a look at several different religious and mythological stories.  In regards to these stories that are spoken about in the book, did you have a lot of back-end research that you had to do before or while writing Death’s Daughter?

Amber:  Actually the fashion was the stuff I really had to research. I even took a field trip to Barney’s! I’ve been a student of Myth, on the other hand, since I was 12 or 13 and saw Bill Moyer’s interview Joseph Campbell for The Power of Myth. Seeing that made me to want to become a mythologist – though it didn’t take long to realize that I didn’t want to study mythology – what I wanted to do was tell stories. And that’s what mythology is: it’s the making up of stories to explain things that we don’t understand.

Jena:  For the review I did of Death’s Daughter, I actually used the audio book that you narrated.  From a listener’s point of view, I appreciated having you narrate the book because I feel that the author’s intentions in each scene are better grasped when he or she is the one reading.  You, in particular, are very animated when reading.  Did you have a lot of fun recording the audio books?

Amber: So much fun! I want to record a thousand more audiobooks – mine, yours, anyone’s! It blended my love of acting with my love of reading with my love of writing…it’s just fantastic.

Jena:  Aside from the obvious with Callie being the main character, who is your favorite character to write from the Calliope Reaper-Jones series?

Amber: Kali – she’s just so crazy and out there. I love that she has no filter.

Jena:  So far you’ve written 3 Calliope Reaper-Jones novels – Death’s Daughter, Cat’s Claw and Serpent’s Storm.  There is rumor on the internet that we could possibly be seeing a fourth.  Is this something you can confirm?  If so, do you have an estimated date of release yet?

Amber: The fourth book, How To Be Death, comes out at the end of February/beginning of March.  I’ll be doing some signings in New York,Houston and Los Angeles and I’ve already started on Book #5.

Jena:  Aside from the Calliope Reaper-Jones series, do you have any book projects in the works?  Maybe another installment for the Ghosts of Albion series with Christopher Golden?

Amber: I have a Callie short story in the next Toni P. Kelner/Charlaine Harris urban fantasy anthology and a couple of other short stories here and there.

Jena:  Now a few completely random questions.  FanFiction is becoming a widely used pass time for fans all over the place.  Some authors are rather offended by fans creating their own stories with the author’s characters.  An example of how active fanfics are: there are a little over 43,000 different Buffy fanfics just on one website.  What are your feelings on fan-fic?  Would you be flattered or offended if someone wrote a Calliope Reaper-Jones fanfic?  *Keeping in mind that there is no money made on fanfic. *

Amber: I think fanfic is great. it’s a wonderful way to hone your skills as a writer and learn how to write in a specific narrative voice.  I would love to see some Callie fanfic!

Jena:  As an author, what are your feelings on the eBook craze? Do you feel that it is a good thing for the book industry as a whole or a bad thing?

Amber: I don’t think it’s a bad thing – but I’m a tactile kind of girl. I like to crack book spines!

Jena:  What’s the next project on your plate?  Movies, TV. books, comics, animation?  What can we look forward to you doing next?

Amber: Drones, the film I co-directed with Adam Busch, is out on Netflix at the beginning of the year.

Jena:  And the most important question of all burning in fan minds everywhere……  Are you pro Spike & Buffy or Angel & Buffy?

Amber: I gotta say I’m a traditionalist – Angel and Buffy!

I want to extend a great big thank you to Amber for taking the time to answer a few questions with me here at Pure Textuality.  This opportunity to do this interview made my day as both a book blogger and as a die hard BtVS fan!  Thanks again!!!

 

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