A couple of months ago I read and reviewed a brilliant short story by Ben Starling called Something in the Air which you can check out here if you’ve not already done so. Today, Ben has been kind enough to answer some questions and let us know about his latest novel, Something in the Water.
Welcome, Ben. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? I notice you’re an animal lover. Which animals have had the biggest impact on your life?
I was brought up mainly with dogs and one dog in particular—a beautiful blue-gray Great Dane that had a life-changing impact upon me. It’s extraordinary how powerful the bond between a favorite animal companion and a person can be. I still dream of her sometimes and am sure she is watching over me…offering support, guidance. I’m sure all my best bits of plot and dialog are sent to me from her! That’s why I set my short story Something in the Air in an animal sanctuary. I would love to have another Great Dane one day, thought I’d name her Dooby Scoo.
When did you start writing?
I’ve been editing other people’s work for quite a while: business plans, magazine articles, non-fiction, and an occasional screenplay. But I have only dabbled in fiction previously with a novella I created, and also illustrated, for my children.
Do you think writing ability is something you’re born with, or is it a craft that has to be learned?
Everyone is born with at least one story inside them—and that story is the life we live!
Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration”. We can all write from the moment we learn to hold a pencil, but to engage the reader, there’s a great need to study and work at the craft—a craft that is highly complex and fluid. So a person born with a powerful imagination balanced by a logical, analytical mind is very lucky. But that’s just the one per cent. The writer needs patience too, and a lot of time at the keyboard…a lot of perspiration.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I don’t think I’d be very good at writing to a deadline because time is the best cure for writer’s block—time, and a change of scenery, which allows the unconscious mind to go to work on the problem.
There was an essay-writing exam technique I remember from school: Read all the questions slowly, then start answering the first. By the time you get to the second question, the answer will be in your head.
So for dealing with blocks in writing, I go for walks, sometimes in the park, or along a canal near my home. Or I head for a busy part of town and make sure my mind is occupied. When I get back, the block has gone.
Moving on to your novel, Something in the Water. Do you have any favorite scenes in the novel?
In fact I have several—and they are very different, each performing an important function as three intertwined plots unfold. But what I am most proud of, and which came as a pleasant surprise, was that not one of my women beta-readers suggested the main love scene, written from a woman’s point of view, would be a contender for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award! (There really is one in the UK.)
Is there a villain in the novel? If so, how would you describe him or her?
There are several, and though the villains are ostensibly working together, each has a different agenda. This presented me with a fascinating opportunity to explore the dynamic of their twisted relationships. As for characterization, each villain has varying degrees of “darkness” within them. All I’ll say is that when writing about evil characters, sometimes less is more…
The novel is set in the South Pacific. Can you give me one interesting fact – relevant to the book – about this setting?
In fact, my novel is set in a fictitious South Pacific island chain that is near, but not in, Solomon Islands. As for an interesting fact—although Solomon Islands are unique and very beautiful—no paradise is perfect, and it’s imperfection and conflict that make stories fascinating. One fact that inspired a small subplot within my novel is that in Solomon Islands, they still hunt dolphins for the aquarium trade and kill them for food.
Now for a quirky question. If you were a fish, what fish would you be?
I think I’d choose to be a whale shark. A huge, majestic, plankton-feeder with no predators (except humans) that’s free to glide through the world’s oceans. What a spectacular view that would be!
And finally – What can we look forward to next from you?
Something in the Water will be supported by a series of short stories that reveal the backstories of the major characters in this world.
The first in the series, Something in the Air, is available now free at my website as well as free on Kobo (also available at Amazon) and the second short story in the series, Something on the Fly, will be released in the Spring!
Something in the Water is available on Amazon
Connect with Ben at www.ben-starling.com and