In my ongoing “Author Spotlight” series I present to you author J.A. Bennett.
Author Spotlight: J.A. Bennett
Today I’m fortunate to present J. A. Bennett author of Music and the Tree Who Loved Her.
Hi Jaymee, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born and grew up in Australia, the child of eccentric parents who loved to travel and hated school. We never had much money. I have three brothers and two sisters, but my parents were very creative when it came to stretching what little we had. We travelled around in a painted bus called the Cosmic Cruiser, and carved totem poles, really big beautiful ones. Sitting under these, with my dad watching the sunset, I developed a love of the still, quiet majesty of nature. Those days will always live within me, the clarity of the blue as it turns to gold, the soft, pink blush on the horizon, searching always for the first star to make my wish.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been reading. It all started when my parents decided to buy the entire stock of a second-hand bookshop. Helping to carry thousands of books into the house, we had to stack them on the noggins of the walls. You see, my dad built the house as best he could, and didn’t want to waste money on inside cladding. It is so hot in Australia, there was no need for it outside of convention. Therefore, the beams in our walls were visible. These proved the perfect place to store all our new books until my parents found a shop to rent. I will never forget walking from room to room, and reading the spines of so many books. Ten at the time, I would pretend to read the big ones, but it wasn’t until I really read Magician by Raymond E. Fiest that I fell in love with writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
Apart from Orson Scott Card and Raymond E. Fiest, I owe my writing career to poetry, not mine, but rather certain poems I stole, and recited to my parents as my own. I will never forget how proud they were that I was such a good poet, they would tell everyone. When I saw how affected by my words they were, I started to write my own. My greatest success in poetry came when I presented an original poem to my grade school teacher and she said “So, which book did you steal this from?” It was all she said, and the first time she revealed that she had known all along my poems weren’t my own. Except, this one was my poem. To this day, I still remember it:
“Silky black spiders dwell on top of the bathroom beam,
Glossy black coats all ready for Halloween,
My nightmares and flowing, constantly going, this night of Halloween.”
I’m not saying it was a good poem, but it was mine and wonderful, erudite Mrs. Crawly thought it wasn’t!
Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?
Music and the Tree Who Loved Her is my debut novel. It’s a standalone speculative epic fantasy novel of 100k words. Green was a seedling as proud as any conqueror … so begins the magnificent tale of the indomitable spirit of one tree, who after losing everything, finds himself in the middle of a deep, intricate and wondrous adventure.
Prince Green is a Prince of the Forest no longer. Living alone on the prairie, ignored and shunned by his own kind, he finds comfort in the gossip of the savanna grasses, and company in the stars at night.
He doesn’t realize that the ache under his bark comes from loneliness until he saves his mortal enemy’s child – a newborn dragon maiden – whose sweet kisses have the power to rebuild a shattered world, or destroy it.
Music and the Tree Who Loved Her is a fairy tale for adults which shares the story of the living world of Symphony, where mountains, trees and rivers are all heroes, combating love and hate, to restore music to their silent world.
I have two other novels in the pipeline, retellings of my two favorite fairy tales, The Little Mermaid and The Twelve Swan Princes.
What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?
Literacy and speculative epic fantasy.
What authors influenced you?
Raymond E. Fiest and Orson Scott Card as I mention before, but also Anne Mcaffrey and her Ship Who Sang series, and Tolkien just to name a few. I spent ten years reading – from ages ten to twenty, all the books from my parent’s secondhand book shop. My sisters and I would often snuggle up in the loft of our enormous barn, and read together. Passing the book on to the next, before its pages could even get cold. Sometimes even sharing the same book and fighting over who lost the other’s place.
What are you currently reading?
I am reading books by indie authors such as myself. Notably, The Cosmic Dentist by Andras Skinboy, Collective Retribution by S. Edwards, and They Move Below by Karl Drinkwater, all great writers that deserve a break.
Do you write every day? A few days per week?
Yes, I write every day, at least two thousand words. Writing is a muscle, and you must work it.
Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?
Actually, I don’t because, as you say, it influences the tone of my words. When I write I really am not on planet earth anymore, writing as much as reading, transports me to into these worlds.
How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?
My lyrical style has remained, but, overtime, I have hewed my grammatical and punctuation skills. This is something that you can’t wing and you must learn and practice; things like how to use speech marks, proper use of capitals etc. I still tend to leaved -ed off words, so that’s something I must proof read for. We all have our quirks. I was homeschooled by eccentric parents, so I never had formal study to teach me these things, so I still get it wrong, but less often.
How do you create the covers for your books?
As I have limited money, I am a stay at home mum, I create them myself, but I do think professional covers are the way to go as they sell books and hope to have one of my own soon.
Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc.)?
I am a movie and T.V buff. If I wasn’t reading as a kid, I was watching videos. We lived in the middle of nowhere with no reception, so every week my dad would take us to the video store and we would rent fifty or so movies for 1$ each. We never had the money for new releases so I have pretty much seen every B-grade movie ever made. I saw and loved, Westworld the movie, long before it was a T.V Series. I think my love of film is reflected in the cinematic style of my writing.
What is your favorite book and why?
The Ship Who Sang by Anne Mcaffery. I never read anything so beautiful as that little ship braving her feelings and learning to love and live. It is why my characters are not human either.
How do you market your books?
Facebook, twitter, and I am now starting to advertise via amazon. Self-promotion is a learning curve and I am still very wet behind the ears.
Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?
Green was jealous of their Windguise, he had none of his own. He was stuck under his bark by the dove’s corruption. If he went anywhere, he walked. To date, not very far, but that was okay, he liked the savanna – the stars shone bright here and the grass wasn’t too prejudiced. And of course, there was Cephisus, who brought him extra water in the dry season, and shared Greenworld gossip against the rules.
I feel this excerpt captures the tone and style of the story very well.
If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?
I shopped Music and the Tree Who Loved Her to every agent on the planet (who repped my genre), after a year of rejection, I decided to self-publish. It really is a unique story, outside of any trend, so I understand why they turned me down. Agents want originality if there is a preexisting box to stick you in. I will endeavor to fit in a box with my next novel, but no promises! I don’t suggest anyone else create a novel where the heroes are talking trees, ambulant mountains, or sassy little rivers, if they want to make any money!
Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?
Music and the Tree Who Loved her is exclusive to Amazon and Kindle. I priced it at .99 cents in the hopes of reaching the largest audience as possible. Here is the link to amazon.com: Music and the Tree Who Loved Her. I will be releasing a print copy in the weeks to come.
Where can we find you online?
Here for Facebook.
Here for Twitter.
Here for GoodReads.
Any parting words for writers?
I gave up on Music and the Tree Who Loved Her, even unpublished it, until one day I googled the name of the book and discovered that someone had not only read Music, but had been so inspired by it, she had drawn the characters and posted them on DeviantArt. What was most amazing was she had depicted them as I saw them. Her sadness, that the book had been taken down, and her recreation of the characters that lived in my mind, renewed my faith. So, I republished and here I am. I believe in, Music and the Tree Who Loved Her, seeing how much someone else did as well changed everything for me. So, don’t give up, you never know when your writing will change someone’s lives, or that someone will change yours.
Thank you so much for interviewing me!