iBENZ
NOVELS

Author of The Return Series, Team Whisper, The 13th Mage

Frequently Asked Questions

What inspired you to become a novelist, and how did your journey as a writer begin?

My journey as a writer began before I could actually write. At around three years old,I saw my older brother reading books and I wanted to know what he was doing. He told me about stories! Instead of asking him to read me the stories, I asked him how could I write one. He knew I didn’t know how to write, so he had this great idea of making some strips of paper, stapling them together and drawing lines down them so that they made about three boxes per strip. Then, he showed me his favorite reading material, comics. He then told me that a person didn’t need to know how to write, they could tell stories through pictures. 

That is how my writing career began. I was actually pretty good at drawing stick figures at the time, so I told a story that way.

I don’t actually remember what the story was about, but my brother kept it for a long time and was pretty proud of me. I carried on “writing” that way until I learned how to read and write. I would then add words to my “book” pictures. 

One day, my mom was complimenting my dad and being ever so proud of him. I asked her what was going on, she showed me a large book filled to the rim with words. “Your daddy wrote a book!” she said. It was about physics. 

I looked at the book and saw all the words and no pictures. I looked at my mom and decided that writing books filled with words was way more successful than putting pictures into them. She had never made a fuss like that over my books.

That’s the day I started writing stories with words and no pictures. I was six years old.

I wrote my first novel at age 14.

Your novels often draw from ancient wisdom. How does your cultural heritage influence your storytelling, and what role does it play in your creative process?

I don’t know if I can say that my stories draw from ancient wisdom. But they certainly draw from human and nature’s wisdom and history.

The difference, I think, is that what we call ancient is not so ancient but current. Wisdom keeping, in my culture, is not static. A wisdom keeper learns new things every day, and then weaves stories to teach those things to others.

Can you share insights into your world-building process, particularly when crafting the magical and mystical elements in your novels?

For me, magic and mysticism are part of everyday life. Most of my main characters draw upon skills and abilities that are inherent in the human collective, it’s just that we have forgotten about them.

In your novels, you explore the idea that the world is not what we have been taught. How do you use storytelling to challenge conventional perspectives and invite readers to reconsider their views?

I like to challenge what is considered to be “reality” because it is not “real”. Most people, for example, think that “science” explains reality, and don’t know, or remember being taught, that science is a collection of probable theories. And that most of these theories are created in closed systems and cannot be reproduced in the physical universe because reality is not a closed system.

The shape of the world, our skills and perceptions, what is possible and what is not possible, our history, all of it is speculative. I like to provide other possibilities that are just as valid as the ones we are taught in school. This opens a reader’s mind and, in turn, their awareness. A person with a larger awareness of their world is more powerful.

Do you have a favorite character or storyline from your novels, and if so, what makes it special to you?

I don’t have a favorite character. Often, my latest characters and protagonists become my favorite. But I have to say that the main characters from my very first novel, which I wrote at age 14, are the ones that have stayed with me throughout my life. They are Zorkel Com and Miguel. The book was called Into the God’s Eye. Only the first chapter of that book survived in an old box my brother took from my mother’s house after she passed away in 1994. A couple of years ago, he sent me a scan of the chapter, and I have to say I was impressed. The chapter was super good. I then decided to bring the characters back to life in the third book of The Return Series, Planet of Entry.

I may take them, and Maria from the same series, into a spin off series of their adventures in the Universe.

How do you integrate real-world issues and contemporary themes into your fiction, and what message do you hope readers take away from your novels?

Ah, well, most, if not all, of my recent novels are based on real life experiences. Either my own experiences or the experiences of folk I have met and known in real life. 

Often, people don’t know if they are novels at all, particularly if they are familiar with the themes I like to bring into our collective consciousness. They are novels, however, as any names and locations that the books are based on, are changed. I have not written any book since 2006 that is not based on real events and/or people.

As an Indie-Author, how do you navigate the publishing landscape, and what advice do you have for aspiring independent authors?

I have a good team. This is key when doing your own publishing. Most people think that independent publishing means you do everything yourself, but that is not true. You need an artist for the cover, people to proof your work for typos and continuity, Nowadays you also need a voice actor for audiobooks. And maybe also pay for someone to do the technical formatting for the self publishing service you are going to use.

This means that you need funds, or a lot of good friends. Go and do a crowdfunding campaign to pay for it.

What role does the Olympic Peninsula play in influencing the settings of your novels, and how does the natural environment impact your storytelling?

At least one of my books is based here at the Olympic Peninsula, and several do mention the area. It is difficult not to be influenced by such a majestic, magical and amazing forest, wild ocean and natural lakes.

The biggest influence, however, is the peace and quiet, as well as the amazing creative force that is present around me.

Can you share any upcoming projects or themes that you are excited to explore in your future novels?

When a person reads one of my novels, they want to continue the journey with the characters in that novel. That means I have had a lot of requests for The Return Series to continue, as well as for making Team Whisper into a series.

At the moment, however, I have had some information on “immortals” that live among us. People who have figured out how to keep their bodies alive beyond the life expectancy we think is normal for a human being. It is definitely a theme that needs to come into our collective awareness, how we are programmed to die so young. But my readers are shouting for me to write another Whisper novel and that group of characters are for sure exciting and cool to hang out with. What I will probably do is to integrate the immortal knowledge into a Team Whisper novel.

What genre would you classify your writing as?

That’s a hard one to answer. Magical Realism does cover a couple of my novels, while Science Fiction covers the rest. Most are a mixture of the two, which makes listing my novels a bit hard. It makes it harder when we take into consideration that 90% of the so-called “magic” or “science fiction” aspects are not fictional at all, but things that are happening on Earth right now.

Do you have a specific writing routine or ritual?

A novel knocks on my head. If I don’t listen and write it down, it drives me nuts.

I do like to write soon after I wake up in the morning, so I leave my writing laptop next to the bed and grab it first thing. This is not healthy or advisable, however. Thanks to Larry, though, I get to eat breakfast and then get out of bed at a reasonable time so that I can get some fresh air and outdoor time. Without him, it would not work.

How do you develop and flesh out your characters?

Most of my main characters are based on real people and/or their real experiences. When I start writing and soon after we hang together, in the first few pages, they become their own people and pretty much tell me the story as it unfolds.

My writing process is more like listening to stories in my head and typing them out as fast as I can before the characters get bored waiting for me to sit down and write.

What is the most challenging part of the writing process for you?

The last draft.

The last draft is purely technical. There is no creativity involved. It has typos to fix, continuity to ensure, gaps filled, and words that are used too much, removed. It is boring, tedious, and hard. I have often stopped dead in my tracks at this point and it is easy to forget about a 300 page novel just because it’s now “boring” to continue working on it. That’s when your team can come in and help you out.

What role do real-life experiences play in influencing your fictional narratives?

All my characters and novels are based on real-life experiences, either mine or someone else’s. Of course, the storyline and the gems the books are filled with are there to expand the possibilities of how we see the world. In this sense, the book tells me what to write. The process is very exciting because it is like waking up in the morning and opening your favorite book to read another chapter or two that day.

How do you balance writing with other commitments in your life?

This is a real challenge. If it was up to me, all I would do is write books. But I am also a world wisdom keeper and teacher, and have a family and chores.

During the day, I have to make sure to complete whatever is the latest project, often podcasts and articles for publication, courses and classes that need to be delivered, and then make sure to take care of the chores in my list, give my kids attention, and write the chapters that are flooding into my mind. It would be good to have more hours in the day! Of course, always creating is not healthy, so I have to breathe in sometimes. I have hobbies and also play computer games to rest my mind. The balance could use some work; it could be improved.

Are there recurring themes or messages in your novels?

The goodness of the human spirit. I would say that this is the main message in my novels. I have also noticed that most of my novels, if not all of them, contain a love story.

Most of the people of Earth have had a rough experience of life. Often this means that they have been injured and made “less” than they truly are. My novels address this in a way that the person can map to it and step into their natural state of ability and capacity, their full potential, in life.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

By far, what I enjoy the most is the first draft. It is exciting, fresh, filled with information and wisdom and new characters to get to know. It really is like being the first person to read a new book on Earth. Really cool.

How do you know when a story is finished?

When my proofreaders tell me it’s OK to end it. Without fail, they have told me that where I ended a novel is not acceptable, so I have to write one or more chapters to wrap it up. Unless it’s a Series from the start, then I choose the ending when the characters have reached a good place and have broken through their challenges.

Are there specific scientific, mystical or mythological concepts that consistently inspire your work?

The true nature of human beings. Where we come from, the real nature of what Earth is, what our technology is, what mystical skills are, and what our world really is behind the curtain of the social narratives we were brought up with.

Are there specific cultural or literary influences that inspire your writing?

I was brought up on Asimov, Isabel Allende, and Ursula Le Guin. Then I discovered Tolkien and Terry Pratchet.

Craig Alanson has been the author I admire for his productivity. He can spit out a magnificent novel between breakfast and lunch. By mapping to his productive capacity, I have been able to write more novels in the past year than I have in a long time. If he can do it, so can I 🙂.

Can you share an example of a real-life experience that inspired a magical element in one of your stories?

In the Team Whisper novel, the characters are based on real life people who had the psychic/magical skills explored in the novel. The “School” they all met at, is also real. But, we are going to call it magical/mystical fiction because it makes it more accessible to the people who are brought up to believe these skills and organizations don’t exist.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Often, when I tell a person that I am a professional writer, they tell me that they have always wanted to write a book. Often, they have read books that tell them that every person has a book inside of them, to write about what they know and they will succeed.

These things are true, but the book will not always be a good read to others. Which comes to the second part of this particular bit of advice: don’t write what you think people want to read.
The two things above seem contradictory, but they are not. The way to get past them, is to write a book like the ones you absolutely love to read.

Another excuse I hear is that there are billions of writers out there so why would a person’s brand new book be any different, or sell.

And that’s when you need to understand that having a strong “why” will get you through. You need to decide, for yourself, why you want to write books. There are no right or wrong answers for it, but it has to be clear. Once you know your “why”, you are set.