Hello everyone, please welcome J.J. DiBenedetto to Sensuous Promos today as he shares with us a little bit about themselves and his work.
J.J., thank you for joining us today. I know the readers are eager to get to know you , so let’s get started.
Do you have any news you’d like to share with us?
Well, I’ve just released the sixth book in my Dream Series, DREAM FAMILY, and also I’ve had a short story set in the series recorded for audiobook by Doctor Who star Nicola Bryant, so that’s pretty cool.
I’m also having the fourth novel, DREAM FAMILY, recorded for audiobook right now (the first three books are already out on audiobook, and they’re fantastic!)
What inspired you to write your first book?
I originally wrote the first draft of what would eventually be DREAM STUDENT in 1998 or so. I had two ideas that came together – the concept of seeing other people’s dreams; and trying to come up with a reason why the protagonist in a story would try to solve a crime herself instead of going to the police like any sane person would do. And the answer was staring me in the face: if you only saw the crimes in dreams that you visited, you couldn’t go to the police. What could you say? Especially because it would be so difficult to believe for yourself that it was real. But even once you did believe it, the only evidence would be in your dreams – how could you take that to the police? You’d have to try and find more concrete proof yourself.
So I write a first draft, and it wasn’t that great, but at least I finished it. And then it sat there for over a decade, until early last year when a friend of mine, Jennifer Povey, sold her first novel to Musa Publishing. That made me think: if she can do it, why can’t I? So I dusted off that old draft, rewrote it from the beginning, and I changed it from third-person to first-person. That made all the difference. I was able to really find Sara’s voice, and that made writing the book easy. And it made the book worlds better.
Do you have a specific writing style? In other words, are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m somewhere in between the two. I have a general idea of where my books are going, and a few specific scenes that I know will happen, and usually a good sense of how the ending will work. But I don’t write up a detailed outline; I let things go wherever they go, and I’ve been very surprised at times with what actually happened.
For example, the fourth book in my series, DREAM FAMILY, was originally supposed to be about my heroine, Sara, encountering someone else who shared her ability to step into other people’s dreams, and who was using it for selfish, evil ends. And I decided that, as a minor obstacle somewhere in the story, Sara would find herself arrested and spending a night in jail. I imagined it as a small thing, and maybe even something that would be humorous. But when I started writing that scene, it became very dark, almost immediately. As the short scene grew to over 10,000 words and became a horrific experience for Sara, I realized that here was the right story for this book. It was the story of Sara experiencing something terrifying that she can’t handle and that “breaks” her, and how (or if) she recovers from it.
How did you come up with the titles to your book(s)?
With great difficulty, at least for the first book! My original working title was “Dreamchaser” (or “Dreamchasers”, sometimes), but I was never very happy with it. At some point, I hit on DREAM STUDENT, and I don’t even remember the thought process that led to it. But once I had that, the rest of the titles were easy. Sara goes to medical school in the second book, so DREAM DOCTOR was an obvious title. In the third book, we meet Sara’s daughter, who can also visit other people’s dreams, and that title, DREAM CHILD, was equally obvious.
How much of your book(s) have a bit of you in the characters?
They all do – how can they not? The first two books are set at a (very) thinly veiled version of the college I actually attended, so my personal experiences are all through them. Brian, Sara’s boyfriend (and later husband) is basically the man that I aspire to be.
But I’ve also seen my beliefs come out more and more as the series progresses. One theme that’s become more prominent as the books go on is the danger of power and the responsibility to use it carefully and respectfully. Sara struggles with that, and, especially with the villain in the fifth book, WAKING DREAM, we see what happens when power is abused.
What book would we find you reading right now?
I just yesterday finished “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh. It’s taken from her web series of picture/photo stories, and it’s hands-down the funniest thing I’ve ever read. It’s also very brave, because she delves into her own struggles with depression and she’s brutally honest about that.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m a big fan of Rainbow Rowell. She’s a fantastic writer. She’s almost too honest, in a way – she doesn’t shrink from showing her characters at their most neurotic and self-defeating. But they’re also very relatable, and her prose is gorgeous. So I’d highly recommend her.
What are you currently working on? Can you give us a sneak peek?
I’m working on the seventh book in the Dream Series. Sara and her family have moved to a small town in upstate New York, and they’re settling in as best they can. Sara’s dealing with jealousy among her co-workers towards her, and discontent from her kids, who didn’t want to move. And she’s also going to have to cope with a natural disaster that will test the limits of both her dreaming talent and her medical skills before it’s passed.
Do you see writing as a career? Do you write full time? Or in addition to another job?
I’ve got a day job (which I’m actually very happy in). I write at night and in my spare time. I would LOVE to be able to make my living as an author, and, without bragging, I think my books are good enough that it ought to be possible. But I know what the odds are, too. All I can do is keep writing, keep promoting, and hope to break through to a larger audience and bigger success.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Mark Helprin. His prose is just breathtakingly beautiful, and “Winter’s Tale” is simply the best book I have ever read, without question. He combines romance, humor, philosophy, history, good and evil, and a lot more into one amazing book.
It’s been filmed as a movie with Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe, and I have to go see it, even though I’m pretty sure they’ve made a complete mess of it and I know I’m going to be crushingly disappointed.
Do you have a cover artist you’ve worked with that you’d like to give props to?
My cover artist is Ami Low. She’s a graphic designer and artist who lives in Northern Virginia. She was the head graphic designer at the company I work at, until she left when she had a child. But she kept working freelance, and I got in touch with her when I was ready to publish my first book. I worked closely with her – I gave her sketches of what I was envisioning (they were really dreadful!) and she turned them into art. So I was – and am – thrilled with her work.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a website yet, or else I’d refer you to it!
What was the hardest part of writing your book(s)?
The most difficult time I had was in writing the jail scenes and the immediate aftermath in DREAM FAMILY. I actually lost sleep over the hell I was putting Sara through. I know that sounds crazy, but after writing three books about her, she felt very real to me, and she went through a terrible ordeal in those chapters in DREAM FAMILY. I felt very guilty about it!
Where can our readers find you on the world wide web?
On my website: http://www.writingdreams.net
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/jjdibenedetto
On Amazon: http://viewAuthor.at/JJDiBenedetto