The sealed box Teal finds in the street contains more than just a mystery...
What if to be with the man of your dreams…you had to give up your life? On the verge of losing her job, side-lined journalist Teal is forced to travel to the South Pacific to profile a powerful businessman. But with her almost-but-not-quite fiancé Bear discouraging her every step of the way, she may not be able to save her career or her relationship.
When corporate criminals invade paradise, Teal teams up with a former boxer turned marine-biologist to investigate. As she discovers the true intentions behind their new canning operations, she must either accept the plum promotion that will save her career or—with Perry—defend the island with more than her life.
Something in the Water, An Ocean Romance is available on Amazon.
About the writer :
Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his work. His interest in marine life has taken him across three continents over the past three decades. He is Oxford University's only ever quintuple boxing Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and competed until a few years ago. He is 6'3"and 192 lbs. Ben graduated with a Master of Arts and a Master of Philosophy. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood. www.ben-starling.com
First of all, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started writing?
I was always drawn to the power of stories to transport you to another world, expose you to new situations, thrills, people, challenges, loves…and the questions they pose. The legacy a good book leaves behind can last a lifetime.
Something in the Water was inspired by the loss of my partner at forty-five years of age to ovarian cancer, just thirteen weeks after her diagnosis. In the aftermath, an old friend challenged me to turn that grief into something positive.
Remembering a conversation with a charismatic Polynesian fisherman (I visited there once) about his people’s vision of death and the afterlife, I began to write. Through the written word, I hoped to explore and capture several extraordinary events that happened around the time of my girlfriend’s death. The novel and the series kind of took off from there…
Can you tell us about Something in the Water?
It starts off as a conventional love story but develops in an unexpected way. I foolishly set myself the monumental challenge of trying to address the ultimate question about love….
What I ultimately wrote was a combination of personal experience and research, including that conversation I had decades ago. You know how every now and then you discuss a subject with someone and you never forget what was said? Well, I always knew that particular conversation was important. I just didn’t know at the time where it would lead.
Does your inspiration come from anywhere else?
I owe a debt of gratitude to my late Great Dane (sadly is no longer with us). I’d just finished the first draft of the manuscript and I had a dream that she ate it. Shredded it in fact…with her tail wagging as I chased her around the room. A pretty obvious message, I thought, that the manuscript needed more work!
So you kept going?
When I woke, I took a deep breath, went for a long walk, and didn’t look at what I’d written for two weeks. I occupied my time swimming, running, weight-lifting and did some of my marine-themed art while I allowed my unconscious mind to unravel some plot problems and strengthen a number of scenes. Then it was back to work with renewed energy and creativity.
How do you create a character?
Most writers will tell you to look at the people you know, and then use elements of their characters. I wouldn’t disagree with this, but I also like my characters to be robustly independent of each other, so that their interactions are more entertaining. Once again, time is important – they need to be allowed to grow as the writing process continues.
In my first draft, I establish the core elements of a character and then, through subsequent drafts (yes, there were several!), I develop their quirks, passions, style of dialog etc.
Random question: Are you a good chef, Ben?
Afraid not. I do chuck things in a slow cooker and eat the bubbling mass at the end of the day. I admit to being bored of the same old favourites but the problem is, I’m too lazy to read cook books. It served me right when I was given a jar of black beans which I soaked, but didn’t know I was meant to cook. Some impressive stomach cramps!
What will your next meal be?
I’m eating while I type. The bag says “cashew nuts” on it, but we all know cashews aren’t nuts!
Where will you be ten years from now?
On a beach, holding hands with the woman of my dreams, staring out to sea, with a feeling, better, a conviction that we are turning the plight of the oceans around. There are things that can be done, but they will require a lot of work. It’ll be worth it though!
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. They are a varied collection of individuals, each of whom is pursuing their own agenda. I decided some time ago that it would be fascinating to explore their backstories at formative times in their lives—the times that made them the people they are in my novel.
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). It focuses on war hero Daniel Dragan, when he returns from Vietnam.
The second short story in the series, Something on the Fly, will be released in the Spring!
Something in the Water - available on Amazon http://bit.ly/SITWbtour2am
Something in the Air –
Something in the Water – Chapter 1 begins…
New York, September
He didn’t look like the hotel guests, the business people, or the tourists. He didn’t move like them either.
He brushed past me as I climbed off my Vespa, stilettos in hand, outside the entrance of the Waldorf Astoria. Had he smiled at the radiance of my scarlet ball gown? Or was he amused by my battered Converse sneakers?
As a valet approached to take my scooter and helmet, I spotted my boss, Malcolm, waving hello from the lobby. He was approaching the glass doors that separated us when I noticed a small wooden box on the ground. Two steps later, I had picked it up. Who could have dropped it?
No one was close by, so I turned. The only man who’d passed me was already a half block away, gliding beside the cars that waited for the lights to change at the end of the block. Was it his?
What I knew for sure was that now wasn’t the time to be tracking down the little box’s owner. I should hand it in to reception and concentrate on the evening ahead. For a few seconds, I relaxed as I studied the hotel’s confident, soaring opulence—a world unknown to me before my arrival from Nantucket four years ago. The smooth texture of the box, however, drew my thoughts back to it. Was there something valuable inside? What if it did belong to that man, and he never returned to collect it? I turned the box over—and caught my breath.
“How on earth…?”
Malcolm emerged in front of me. “Hello, darling, you look absolutely—are you okay?”
I thrust my sparkly evening shoes into his hands, and hitched up my shawl. I was about to give chase when a convertible Ferrari lurched to a stop beside me.
“Going my way, babe?” its driver shouted, over the thrum of the engine.
But my dress was redder, and I got the better start.
You can find the rest of Something in the Water, Chapter 1 at http://ben-starling.com/chapter-one/
Look out for the review! To be posted soon!
Me : How did the idea of writing a book pop up to you? What was your motive when you wanted to pen down your thoughts?
You know, there were some products that seemed like the heights of elegance at a time and a buffoon’s costume later – bell-bottoms for example. I have always wondered how many of the things that we consider impossible to live without are truly so. Later, at IIM, I realized how much the marketing of a product lead to our attitudes to a product. THAT, then, was the genesis of this book.
I have written a more detailed answer to this very question in a guest post recently. You can find it here.
Me : You book was a laugh riot and has been getting rave reviews. The ‘story’ that doesn’t have a conventional plot were you apprehensive about actually publishing it? Also, given that satire is genre that many of us Indians don’t probably ‘get’, weren’t you anxious?
You write what you like to write. As you know, I am from IIM and I quit my job in order to write. One of the main motivations was to do what I want to do and not what I had to do. So, I had no qualms about writing what I wanted to write. As for apprehensions about publishing, that would actually apply more to the publisher ‘Fablery’, who was putting in the money into it, wouldn’t it? To their credit, they did take it on. (Yes – it is a traditional publication deal. It was the publisher who incurred all the costs of publication and I get a royalty on sales.)
But, yes, as an author you do like to have people read what you write – otherwise you would be content mumbling to yourself. The point, though, is that you want them to read what YOU write and not merely write what you think they want to read. It is heartening that whoever has actually read the book has been impressed by it – some to the extent of buying copies to gift their friends for Christmas. Who knows, maybe I will be one of the steps on the way to Indians actually getting to like to read satire.
Me: What’s with people from IIM and writing? You are from IIM too.
I can speak for myself. Engineering and Management happened because I am as averse to starving as the next person and, in my time, unemployment was a very serious possibility if you were not professionally qualified. So, IIM was in a way an accidental stop on my way to writing and not the cause of my wanting to write. I had decided to quit by 40 to write way back in 1988, so it is these others who are Johnny-come-latelies! So what if I started late; I decided on it earlier!
On a serious note, though, I’d say that the success of one from a fraternity, possibly creates both an interest in the others of that fraternity as well as inclines the publishers to look on it more favorably. It could well be that, among the various people who can handle English well, IIM grads wanting to write may not be an abnormal proportion but those who get published may well be.
Speaking for myself, I can only say that the interest in writing predated my even joining IIM and this success of IIM grads at writing was not even a blip on the horizon then.
Me : Tell us about your writing process
I am what one would call a plotter. Unless I have an entire story mapped out and a clear idea of what I intend saying in each section, I cannot even type in the first word. Unusually, though, I cannot outline – I keep it all in my head.
After the plotting is done, though…it seems too much like work. I procrastinate and use all my creativity in finding excuses to not write that day. Eventually, when I finish the book in fits and starts, I am astonished that I really have completed the book.
Me: Any books in the pipeline? (*sigh* the corporate world has ruined my vocab apparently)
I am a very eclectic reader and, thus, an eclectic writer. Prior to this book, I had a short story published in ‘Uff Ye Emotions – on Romance, yet, and if that is not creativity from a confirmed bachelor, I do not know what is! Then there is the self-published novelette collection “Sirens spell danger” which I edited and also wrote one of the three novelettes in the collection.
That was a sort of explanation of the fact that my next books are likely to be a collection of relationship short stories, a crime novel and a fantasy. All of them are in various stages of conception and execution.
Satire and humor are very difficult to write and even more difficult to conceptualize. It is just the fact that I have not yet struck upon another idea that is keeping me from writing another. When one does strike, that too shall get written.
check out the review of his book - A dog eat dog food world here
What genre do you write and why?
Thriller / True Crime. Crime is everywhere and every day. It’s been part of our nature since the start of time. Though we don’t want it to visit our homes, we’re curious about it. We poke it, we want to know the what, the how, but mostly the why. And it’s just a little more real if the author adds a few bloody, violent or gory scenes, especially if the crime actually happened.
Having said that, I write what I know. I was a hollow man for almost three years, living on the fringe of what we thought was a sane world. It was either write about this, or write a very boring book on computers.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
Because my writing ritual leaves something unfinished for the next day as a place to start, I’ve found procrastination has been my biggest opponent.
There is so much to distract one these days; social media, mindless television, almost as mindless news reports, etc. Being unfocused more than most, the inescapable frustration of procrastination and distraction holds me hostage more than I’d like. But I’ve discovered several ways to minimize disturbances.
This seems to work, occasionally.
Favorite travel spot?
I have traveled extensively over the years and I’ve had an opportunity to see many of the most wonderful places on earth. But, two immediate travel spots come to mind. I’ve always felt comfortable in the English countryside with its rolling hills, friendly small towns, and of course its history.
The other place is the southern coast of France. With the growing Alps behind, the Côte d'Azur offers a shoreline to suit all wants. Everyone finds what he needs on the Riviera, whether it’s strolling on a stony beach or soaking up gentle sunrays, dining with locals or simply people-watching from the comfort of an outdoor café, shopping with supermodels or partying with rock stars.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you?
Since my idea of camping is the Best Western in a near suburb of any major city, I would need three very special books. The first is How to Build a Shortwave Radio Out of Coconut Shells and Sea Water. The second and third are Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the complete works of prolific Isaac Asimov so I would have food and shelter until help arrived.
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you? The scariest? The strangest?
The true story of how I got my nickname, Doc.
When I was in high school, I took a job as a clean-up guy in a very busy mortuary owned by twin brothers. A few days into the first week, I was sweeping the basement where bodies were kept for embalming prep. A scratching noise broke into the music in my head. I glanced up through the dim light and dust to see a body slowly rising from a metal gurney. Strange sounds were coming from beneath the sheet. The thing was between me and the door.
As I sprinted by, I used the end of the broom as a jousting pole, knocking the body backward off the table. A thunk and a moan reached after me but I kept running; up the stairs, past the chapel, through the main office, and out the front door. I was two blocks away by the time one of the brothers caught me in his car. He had to cut off my path to get me to stop.
“Hey,” he yelled out the window. “That was just my brother Bob having a little fun with you.”
“I quit,” I said.
“Sorry. All right then, come on by and pick up the money we owe you.”
“You can keep it.”
He sat looking at me a long time before speaking again.
“Can I have my broom back,” he finally said.
What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
The most courageous thing I’ve ever done was writing and publishing The Hollow Man.
Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.
I’ve been taking guitar lessons for ten years and I’m still the “world’s okayest player”, as the saying goes. I would love to be able to play really well and I would also love to blame my lack of skill on the fact I’m left-handed playing in a right-handed world. But the truth is, playing the guitar well requires a huge commitment and high level of practice. Strangely, that’s very similar to writing.
If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
I want readers to remember I was a decent writer who entertained them for a while.
ME: What inspired you to write the Roma Series?
Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah, reading about the Fiscal Crises of 2007 and 2008, and turning the concept of financial terrorism over and over in my imagination inspired Turning To Stone. I’ve always paid attention to the language used in the public forum. I never subscribed to the analyses that American media outlets offered the public about the financial debacle. Watch the news and, on any topic, you will see that the news anchors use the same phrases verbatim. What are the odds that different people in different parts of the country will parrot the same words?
While I was writing Turning To Stone, I was reading Graham Greene’s The Quiet American a second time; it’s a short novel that has a scene that prompted me to consult Greene’s memoir, Ways of Escape. Greene was in Saigon in 1952 for British intelligence. A bomb had gone off. In the novel, Greene makes it clear who planted the plastic explosive. In his memoir, he comments how convenient it was that a Life photographer happened to be at a strategic spot in order to photograph a gruesome image. The spin on the blame game that happened in 1952 isn’t what interested me; it was how the media had been used, in this case photojournalism, to facilitate propaganda and political disruption. The type of media may have changed, but the impetus to shape opinion has not.
ME: Your protagonist, Bianca Nerini (aka Alabaster Black), is mysterious and complicated. What intrigues you about her?
Bianca is a driven, intelligent, and guarded individual. Readers will learn in Corporate Citizen, the fifth installment of the Roma Series, why she is the way she is. I’m intrigued by the concept of intelligence, how it is often more than just ‘book smarts.’ Bianca sees disparate connections and patterns, which, in the wrong temperament, might suggest paranoia, but she is rigorous in her analyses. Seeing intelligence at work, unfold, is beautiful and difficult to write.
ME: What is your writing schedule?
I am disciplined. I write daily, and I constantly ask myself, Will this make the reader turn the page? In the first go, I try to get the story down. With the Roma Series, the characters are in my head and they have distinctive voices and quirks such that I can put them in situations and watch and record what happens. I do, however, make the characters evolve from one book to the next. My characters are flawed, but they are not dysfunctional; they care about each other because they live and work and are dependent on each other because it is a matter of life or death. I write in chunks and give them to my proofreader and make the corrections before I write further. I’ll print out those chunks and edit them on the weekends. I believe editing hard copy is crucial, like the final copy: the page is all that you have and it either works or it doesn’t. I’m quite ruthless in my editing. I have no problem killing my darlings. Then I revise, let it sit, rinse and repeat, with each novel going through several iterations before I hand it off to Winter Goose Publishing where the manuscript is read by two editors.
ME: Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?
I read passages, particularly dialogue, out loud to my two cats, Squeak and Squawk. They listen, make noises, and I pay them with treats. If you’re asking whether I do something eccentric, then there is one thing: I’m right-handed but I edit left-handed with hard copy; the switching to the non-dominant hand slows me down and makes me more attentive. Weird, I know, but it works.
ME: If you were stuck on a deserted island, which three books would you want with you?
I would take the following: Dante’s Divine Comedy; the complete plays and poetry of Shakespeare, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in one volume.
ME: Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy physical fitness, particularly swimming, and playing guitar.
ME: If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
I wrote to tell a story and I strove to improve myself with each new book. I value my readers, knowing that their time is precious and irreplaceable. I may not offer readers an escape, but I hope that, when they close my book, they think of questions that they had never thought to ask themselves or the world around them.
Today we have with us writer Pauline Kiely talking about her book - No poverty between the sheets! Read on what she has to tell!
Me: Why did you write this memoir?
Writer : My father and grandmother had a lot of energy, comical adventures, and one liners. I wrote this book to entertain and capture the essence these vibrant characters for future generations and people who have a sense of humour to enjoy.
Me: How did you do research for your book?
Writer : I read a lot, and as a curious kid at family gatherings I would ask elder relatives to tell me about their lives. Some of these stories I jotted down, but most I was able to draw from memory. I include, "The Cremation of Sam McGee", as an example of how my grandfather was able to exercise his memory by committing this very large poem to memory.
Me: Were you worried that family members would be offended by anything you wrote about them?
Writer : Actually, I was so overwhelmed about trying to fit it all in while writing the book that it didn't even cross my mind. At my book launch I sold just over two hundred copies. From this I had three family members, and one friend, come forward to say they didn't like something. When I explained the tone to my friend, she was fine after that, but these same three family members remain upset for what they say is, "The family secret," being exposed. In my heart and conscience I knew that I'd simply told my story, and the truth. I communicated to them that in my life I didn't have the luxury of secrets. Other than this the reviews and comments have been very positive and encouraging. Most family members say, "You nailed it!" To date only two people noticed or have commented on how the writing gets progressively better, especially towards the end. To them I was able to explain that this was intentional as my voice transcends from a child through to adulthood.
Me : What was the hardest part about writing your memoir?
Writer : Finding my unique voice. I wrote chapters of this book in fiction, and in third person, but when I discovered memoir it poured out the way I wanted it to. The story is told as if we were sitting around a campfire. The other part that was hard was disciplining myself to sit and write, plus all the hours of revision.
Me: What was the easiest part about writing your memoir?
Writer : Utilizing the convenience of a computer. Today we are so fortunate to have this resource and technology.
Me : What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you? The scariest? The strangest?
Writer : I have had a lot of funny things happen to me. Most recently, on my birthday, my seven year old grandson came over. He hugged me, and said, "Granny I counted to seven, and then I counted to fifty-three. It's amazing you're still alive!"
The scariest thing was in January of 2014 when I was in my car, sitting at a light, and got rear-ended by someone texting. The driver was in a big truck and hit my car full force while I was stopped. This happened with no warning, and I wasn't myself for the better part of six months.
The strangest was when I moved into my new home, and gave a copy of my book to a neighbour in gratitude for him plowing out the driveway. Four days later he said, "The guy who was decapitated by a snowplow in the chapter titled, "The Bee's Knees", that's not his real name."
I admitted, "No, because I had no way of contacting his family so chose to go with a fake name." And then he said, "I know this because that guy was my brother!"
Me : If you could go back in time, where would you go?
Writer : I would go back to May 7th, 1995, and I would hold my father's hand while he passed away.
Me : What is the last great book you've read?
"The Great Escape - A Canadian Story" by Ted Barris. I believe this book should be a mandatory read for all students at the high school level. It really gives a sense of the harsh conditions that prisoners of war endured, and the brilliant ingenuity, camaraderie, and courage of our Canadian Armed Forces during WWII.
I thank Pauline a lot for taking time out to answer questions! Wishing her best of luck with her book.
The writer has promised 5 copies of her book and 5x $10 amazon gift card up for grabs as giveaway! What are you waiting for?!
1. Congratulations on your book! A collection of short stories which primarily feature thread and the art of sewing – this is a rather abstract theme. Who or what inspired you to pick such a theme?
When people ask me why I chose sewing as a connecting ‘thread’ for my SEWING CAN BE DANGEROUS and how unusual that is for a theme, I laugh inwardly. Why? Because before I wrote my very first fictional story, coincidentally entitled, “Sewing Can Be Dangerous,” I had been a quilt designer/teacher for over twenty years. I was surrounded by quilts (my husband always claimed we were living in a ‘padded cell’), and my studio had boxes upon boxes of fabrics and wool (I also knitted scarves for Xmas gifts), homemade folk art angels coating the walls, and two sewing machines.
So, after writing that first story, although I realized I wanted to continue writing others to go with it, I also knew that collections often needed some sort of theme; hence the sewing/craft element.
2. You’ve dealt with various demons of society in your book, be it the Nazi themed story of the story dealing with slavery yet featuring sewing as a vital part. What prompted you to pick social issues?
Reading or watching movies/documentaries about heavy social issues has always interested me. Although I’ve been told I have a great sense of humor, love to toss out a good laugh (Just ask my family, friends, and students), and howl at a good comedy, when it comes to research and writing, I enjoy discovering events from the past, and the more potent they are, the better. These often sobering events not only resonate with me, they remind me of the phrase, ‘History tends to repeat itself.’ Therefore, once I knew I wanted to combine different stories involving the fiber arts, I did not want to turn the collection into cozy little lightweight sewing stories. Not this gal!
3. Your protagonists are primarily female. Isn’t that like stereotyping by associating females with the art of sewing?
You know, you’re right! OMG...I guess at the time I wrote these stories, I related more to females in history than males. However, in my novel UNEXPECTED GIFTS, which was written after the stories and involved a young woman reading her ancestors’ diaries in order to help her resolve some of her own life problems, there were several chapters expressed through a male’s point of view. I certainly enjoyed writing those as much as the chapters with the female narratives.
4. Tell us about your writing process.
As for conceiving a book/story idea, it’s a bit like, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” I can come up with an idea at the oddest times––driving (ssh! Don’t tell the traffic cops), watching a movie, reading an historical article, talking to someone, hearing a news blurb––and soon, it begins to fester. Or, I can read about a time period where one little fact sticks out like a sore thumb and catapults me into an entire story.
Then, being basically a planner, I feel the most comfortable coming up with a beginning and end as soon as possible. Once I do that, I actually can feel my body relax. Although that doesn’t always happen, until it does, my mind is on high alert looking for those two scenarios.
As for outlining, I’ll start with a vague outline. Then, as I obtain more details (scene ideas, actual page numbers from the research books I have highlighted, character motivations/development, and plots), I will furiously scribble about these things on bits of paper and stuff those notes in separate envelopes. Read-Scribble-Stuff, I call the process. And then, much like turning many blocks into a quilt, I start mapping out the chapters one by one, and taping down the bits of paper into a notebook to remind myself which way I am going. I take that process chapter by chapter, but never get too far ahead of myself. Do I always stick to my outline? Absolutely not! But the structure helps me think more clearly.
Then I usually write my scenes, one at a time, always in long hand first (like I am doing now), often sitting on the bed with my favorite cat squashed up against me, his head draped over my legs (like he is doing now!) I’ll then go to the computer and type that scene up, making small edits along the way. I print it out and edit. And edit, and well…edit.
5. Any pearls of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Being a fairly new writer myself––I mean, I didn’t even start writing until I was middle-aged––all I can say is I am still learning the writing process versus the promotional process and how balance is the key. Because I write a lot of historical fiction, I’ve also come to terms with my genre not being as popular as murder mysteries, vampires, or erotic romance, but I’ve decided to follow my heart and let the chips fall where they may…Who knows? Maybe I’ll write a modern day thriller in the future, but for now...
Now for some quick fire questions
1) Crochet or Entrelac?
My mom crocheted afgans, finished the embroidery projects I would always abandon, and knitted incredibly beautiful cable-knit Irish sweaters for all of us. Talk about influences! I myself like to crochet and knit, but Carpal Tunnel has limited those activities.
2) Given a chance to learn—Fencing or Tango dancing?
Can’t I do both?
3) Coffee or Rum?
Coffee. It gets me going first thing in the morning. If it were rum, I’d never get off of the couch!
4) One habit of yours that you always wanted to get rid of but haven’t yet.
Raiding the refrigerator whenever I’m frustrated with a scene or an Internet problem!
5) Tell me something the world doesn’t know about you yet.
Hmmmmm. Let’s see...well, having been trained as a classical singer, I decided to try my hand at singing pop/rock music to ‘loosen me up’. The year was 1979, Disco was King, and when I sang in small clubs, it was a true eye-opener. I found out that I didn’t want to hang out with the band members, who reveled in staying up all night jamming as they guzzled whisky. Nor did I enjoy coming home reeking of cigarette smoke. I ultimately learned I was a more private person who loved getting up early in the morning to jog along the beach; someone who was comforted by the little things I did in my home or with friends and family. HOWEVER, the best thing that came out of that experience was I met my husband at one of those clubs and I am still grateful for that…35 years later!!
Thanks Mallery for taking time out to answer my questions!
Check out the review of her book here
How did this story come to you?
I am still puzzled by where this story and its hero came from. It certainly did not come from my life experience. All I know is that I had a character similar to the protagonist of The Star-Seer’s Prophecy in my dreams and fantasies since I was a child. I have no idea where he came from, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept showing up, over and over.
Partly inspired by my curiosity about him, I studied dreamwork, and became a psychotherapist. I found that Carl Jung’s work with dreams and archetypes most helpful. I did dreamwork and wrote dialogs with this inner character, and tried to analyze what part of my psyche he is, or what archetype he represents. No matter what I did, he kept on lurking around.
Finally, one day, I wrote a short story in my journal, hoping that he would be satisfied and go away. Big mistake! That little story opened the floodgates. This character, whose name turned out to be Kyr, had quite a journey to go on. The only way he could do it was to take over my life and turn me into a writer.
When those floodgates opened, a rush of intense, exciting creative energy poured forth. I surrendered to the current and it swept me along. I had no plan. I just went with the flow and wrote what Kyr showed me. His story started out so dark that I was sure I would never show it to anyone, ever! But writing his story was my secret passion— and it was the only way I could find out what happened next.
After decades of personal growth work; after becoming a transpersonal counselor and working with clients for twenty years; and becoming an Expressive Arts therapist, I’d learned to trust the creative process and my soul’s hidden wisdom, and so I was able to allow Kyr’s story to pour forth without censoring or editing.
After the first draft of the entire trilogy was on paper, I realized it is a powerful story worth sharing. So I studied how to write fiction, hired an editor, and revised, revised, revised.
Did you always want to be an author?
I began reading fantasy and Sci-Fi as soon as I could read, thanks to my parents. (They left F&SF magazines with fascinating cover art lying around the house.) I always wondered how the authors could create alternate worlds and write such fascinating stories, but I never imagined becoming one of them. I thought authors were these odd creatures who lived in flats in New York City.
At one point in the late 1980s, I felt I needed to observe a ‘fast’ from unnecessary words for a month as a spiritual practice. I stopped reading, watching TV, etc. And I got my first laptop. One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I turned on my laptop and started writing whatever imagery showed up in my mind. I found myself writing stories. Still, it was just for fun. I didn’t think about becoming an author until after I had written the first draft of The Star-Seer’s Prophecy.
They say life imitates art, but were there any events or people in your life that became inspiration for your work?
My psychotherapy clients revealed to me the amazing ability we humans have to overcome terrible trauma and abuse, to move toward healing our wounds and recovering our innate beauty, integrity and wholeness. To do this, we need to face what harm was done to us, and eventually, to begin to see beyond our pain to the brokenness of our abusers. Many people were able to move past their anger and vengefulness, and to forgive the person who harmed them, without forgiving their harmful actions. This is a major theme of The Star-Seer’s Prophecy, but it is not based on any particular person’s story.
What were some of your inspirations when you were creating your world?
I’m sure I have been subliminally influenced by reading fairy tales, and many of my favorite authors, such as Ursula LeGuin, Carol Berg, Charles De Lint, Patricia McKillip, and Sherri S. Tepper, to name a few. However, I did not consciously copy anyone. My process was to sort of “listen-see” and write whatever I “heard-saw.” Kyr’s world turned out to be semi-medieval, with black sorcery, healing magic, and magical rituals, but no dragons, unicorns, or goblins.
Magic is always an integral part of fantasy novels, how did you create your magic?
Again, I followed the flow of the story. Ideas for the magic just seemed to arise as needed. In hindsight, I can see that for the healing magic, I drew upon my experience with energy work such as Reiki. For the rituals, I was influenced by my experience of the sacred rituals of Celtic and Native American traditions, but only in a general way. I did not copy any particular culture’s rituals.
What's the one thing you want people to take away from reading the Star Seer's Prophecy?
That the real magic is forgiveness – forgiving those who have harmed you, instead of obsessing endlessly about your wounds, and/or seeking revenge. This only perpetuates the pain. Equally important is forgiving yourself for making mistakes, for not being perfect, for being human. Often, one of the hardest things is to forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know at the time. For example, in the story, Kyr begins as an obedient slave to the evil sorcerer-king called the Soul-Drinker. Later, Kyr learns what atrocities he committed as a slave, and feels deep remorse. He painfully learns to forgive himself for not knowing at the time that what he had done was wrong.
Without giving away too much, what's next for Kyr?
In the first book, Dark Innocence, Kyr chose the hard path of healing, forgiveness and love. With the help of friends and healers, he overcame his terrible upbringing as a Slave of the Soul-Drinker, and became a man capable of kindness, courage and integrity at the Sanctuary of the Goddess Zhovanya.
In Book Two, Fierce Blessings, Kyr faces the familiar nightmare of cruelty and evil that he knew as a boy, in the second hell foretold by the Prophecy. As hostage for the safety of the Sanctuary, his friends, and his beloved Jolanya, he struggles to protect his soul from succumbing to the depravity he has known for most of his life, and fights to keep hold of the blessings he received from Zhovanya.
In the final volume of the trilogy, Perilous Bliss (forthcoming), Kyr is plunged into the third hell of the Star-Seer’s Prophecy. A most intimate and harrowing betrayal throws him into a storm of rage and despair. Alienated from his friends, himself, and, worst of all, the Goddess, he flees to a mysterious tower, where he finds the solitude that is all he can bear.
But the time has come, at last: the stars are moving into the pattern foreseen long ago by the Star-Seer. Will Kyr be able to keep faith with the Goddess Who saved his soul in time to renew the Sacred Balance and restore Her sovereignty? Or will he return to the foul slavery he has known most of his life? The fate of the land and the Goddess Herself depends on his choice.
Hi Jason, Thanks for talking to me. It's always a pleasure to talk (Er….? Over mails may be!) to a writer who creates a whole new world.
BI: Your recent book - “An Ordinary Magic” is based on the very common theme of good vs. evil in the world of sorcery, why this school of thought? ?
Jason : Okay, you got me there. Yes, it’s an archetypal story. In fact, the entire story is an allegory of a Voodoo myth that’s laid out in the book. The sorcery part, though, you have to understand is a construct of the genre—magic realism. To the denizens of my story, a “sorcerer” is like a dentist, just an average part of every town on the fictional Caribbean island that I created. I chose the genre because I have always been a fan of literary magic realism (Marquez, Allende, Erdrich, Morrison). I am fascinated by the fantastic becoming the mundane and ordinary. I chose the archetype because I wanted a simply framework against which I could develop a deep character study (which is really what the book is about; sure it’s a story, but it’s really about the characters).
BI :The protagonists – father and son, what prompted you to have a male parent to fight that battle. Wouldn't having a mother in place make more sense?
Jason : It very well could have, but the story was largely influenced by my own relationship with my two fathers (biological and step) so it made more sense to construct the narrative along those lines. I wanted to explore the relationship that sons have with their fathers and how, when that relationship becomes stifling, a son can develop his own identity even while he feels beholden to his father and his family.
BI : How easy or how difficult it is to create a new whole new fictional world, a world filled with magic?
Jason : I wrote this book almost 20 years ago, while I was an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine studying fiction. At the time, I needed to produce a senior project for completion of my degree. What better, for a budding writer, than to write a novel. With that said, the project needed to be ground in real research. I was always interested in Voodoo and decided that it would be great if I could combine the research requirements with my interests. Hence, the fictional world of La Croix (the Caribbean town’s name in the book) was born steeped in real-world research of Voodoo mysticism and practices with a lot of embellishment and imagination on my part. The reason I mention all of this is because it exemplifies that I think is required to write believable fiction (especially magic realism, sci-fi, or fantasy)—the world that we writers create must have a set of rules that the characters follow. My research into Voodoo gave me some of those rules for An Ordinary Magic. Others I made up. Think about Rowling’s Harry Potter or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Magic doesn’t just happen. It’s governed by a set of rules that the author establishes through the course of writing the story. That’s the hardest part.
BI: You are quite an established writer with about 10 books to your name, years of experience in teaching, marketing and working in start-ups, how does it feel like when another book comes out?
It feels fantastic. Liberating. Cathartic. Ultimately, what I’ve been after all my life is creating things. During my startup days, I was primarily focused on launching new software into the market. Then, as I turned back to writing (basically, I took a couple of decades off from pursuing writing), I discovered that publishing is much the same thing. Each book or story that I launch into the market is all about creating something. So it’s the act of creation that I’m ultimately after.
BI : I also noticed that you give stage talks about customer relationships, topics about marketing and all such real world stuff. Writing or talking. Which is your comfort zone?
Well, it goes without saying that I love to write. Not just fiction. Part of my responsibilities in my day job is to write. Whitepapers. Blog posts. Research reports. And even though I love to write, I love to speak publicly as well. I am on the road for about 40% of the year giving presentations all around the world, which, consequently, gives me a lot of time to write! But presenting and writing are the same for me—it’s all about storytelling.
Now for some rapid fire
BI: Tequila or Rum?
BI: Most treasured possession?
BI: Biggest lie that you've ever said?
That I don’t lie
BI: Idea of perfect happiness?
Giving up the business world to return to the university as a teacher and writer (I walked away from that world 20 years ago)
BI : Dancing or Sword Fighting?
Given a chance to learn, choose one of the two? Sword-fighting. I have two left feet and no sense of rhythm.
Finally, my last question,
BI : Pearls of wisdom for want-to-be writers.
Jason : Have patience. I too often see writers rushing material out. They’ve come up with a great idea. They’ve written it all down (an accomplishment in and of itself) and they want nothing more than to have other people read it as soon as possible. Don’t. Put it in a drawer for 3 months. 6 months. A year. Let it sit and marinate. The experiences we have in life are what shape our writing. Don’t be afraid to come back to something you’ve written and re-write it. Developing a novel or a story isn’t a race, it’s a marathon and, as writers, we need patience to persevere.
About The Book
An Ordinary Magic
By Jason Thibeault
Genre: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
A new sorcerer has moved into La Croix, upsetting the tranquility of the other otherwise idyllic Caribbean fishing village. But Panon, the town’s priest, can’t afford to waste time wondering about the newcomer. He needs to concentrate on fixing his relationship with his son, Jaime, who has been called by Dela Luamba, a powerful spirit, to join the church. The problem? Jaime doesn’t believe in magic or the spirits anymore. To protect his son from a potentially terrible punishment, Panon must hide the truth from Dela while he tries to make everything right. But when Panon trades for a bit of magic guaranteed to help Jaime believe again, everything goes horribly wrong, turning Panon’s world upside down. Drawn into an epic struggle of good versus evil with the mysterious sorcerer, Panon, Jaime, and the whole town must battle the walking dead, malicious spirits, and potent Voodoo. It’s up to Panon to discover the only power capable of saving his son…and redeeming himself. An Ordinary Magic is a fast-paced, entertaining, and thought-provoking work of literary magic realism.
Jason received his B.A. in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing, from the University of California, Irvine where he wrote An Ordinary Magic for his senior thesis as part of the Campuswide Honors Program. After a year in Europe during which he spent some time working with HarperCollins, London, Jason returned to get his M.A. in English, with distinction, at California State University, Northridge. Jason is currently the author of the middle-reader chapter series Marmalade and a co-author on the marketing thought-leadership book, Recommend This!. He lives in Gilbert, AZ with his family.
Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his upcoming novel.
He is Oxford’s only ever Quintuple Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and has coached and boxed competitively.
Ben graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and an MPhil. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood.
Reach Ben at his Website, Follow him in Twitter, Find him on Facebook !
Ben, thank you for taking time to answer my questions! Looking forward to knowing more about your
'Diving' straight in,
BI : Writers normally promote their book once it is published. Pre-release promotions are very
minimal, but from my little research on the internet, I found that you have been promoting
your book quite extensively using character blog tours and regular updates in social media
platform. For a rookie writer, aren't you a bit nervous given that people now would probably
expect a lot from you, thanks to the promotions?
BEN : With pre-order sales becoming more and more common and authors more comfortable
with internet possibilities for helping gain visibility, we are seeing much stronger and
earlier campaigns. Favourite authors like Colleen Hoover and Amanda Hocking work very
hard to connect with their readers before, during and after their book launches. When I
look at how these masters do it, I feel very far behind! I am also very excited about my
story and look forward to sharing it.
My novel (title reveal coming soon) will be released on January 21, 2016. Lots to do to
prepare for that! Right now I’m also working on a series of prequel short stories to be
released from September 2015, set in the same world as my upcoming novel.
BI : Your protagonist (from what I've read on your blog) is a strong willed female being forced to
handle serious environmental issues. What or who is the inspiration for this character? Why a
'female' lead in particular?
My heroine Teal’s character came to me nearly fully formed one day and I was so
fascinated by her that I had to sit down and write her tale. Sketching out her backstory was
one marathon writing session! She is most probably a compilation of several people –
female and male – that I have met before. Or she may have been a gift that I was lucky
enough to channel out of the ether.
As I wrote the story, there were some developments in her character as revisions
progressed and an extra skill or two added. But fundamentally, she exists very much as I
originally imagined her on that first evening.
BI : The other character, Perry, you have sketched him to be a Marine biologist and an Ex-boxer. Is
that character modeled after you?
While it’s true that I used to box and have coached for many years, I am not a marine
biologist! I would have liked to have been one though. And I’ve got my fingers crossed that
I’ll come back as one in the next life – it’s such a fascinating world underwater. The craziest
sci-fi movie aliens don’t have a patch on the creative and bizarre life forms in our oceans.
Perry is not me - I’m not as brave as he is for a start. His boxing ability is simply a product
of applying the old adage “write what you know”. I had to think a bit more about Perry to
develop who he is and boxing seemed to fit with Perry’s character. Most people think of
aggression and speed when they think of boxing. But it can also be a very technical sport.
The precision and tactical choices behind each move executed would appeal to many
scientists. Particularly one with Perry’s family background.
BI: Environmental crimes aren't as popular as your regular homicides are, did you take up that
particular subject as it was in your comfort zone? Or is there a specific reason to have taken up
The health of our oceans is a particular passion of mine. We are doing a very poor job of
maintaining them in this century and I am worried about what we will pass on to the next
generation. The human body is sixty-five per cent water and about seventy-one per cent of
the earth is covered by water. It’s our most critical resource. We can’t do without it.
I have done a fair amount of research on this topic for personal interest over the years, so
again the environmental theme in this novel is another product of “write what you
know”… and are passionate about!
BI : What can we expect from your book? A simple summary would help.
You can expect obstacles, ecstasy and some tragedy that ultimately deliver catharsis. It is a
story of the most enduring kind of love, one that lights up two lives and reaches past the
grave. The novel (title reveal coming soon) will be released on January 21, 2016. Lots to do
to prepare for that!
Additionally, I’ll be releasing a series of prequel short stories from September 21, 2015, set
in the same world as my upcoming novel.
What if to be with the man of your dreams… you had to give up your life? On the verge of
losing her job, a side-lined journalist is forced to travel to the South Pacific to untangle a
mystery where she meets a reclusive ex-boxer with a message. When a syndicate of
corporate criminals invades paradise, she must either defend the island with her life or
accept the plum promotion that will save her career.
BI : What is your writing process typically like? This would help fellow newbie writers.
I typically start my day catching up on the news at a local café before settling in to the
day’s work. It’s good to loosen up to someone else’s words before flexing my own. If
there’s time, I swim at the local pool.
I tend to work for long stretches without interruption. But a tricky plot knot calls for a
change of scene and here the writer’s walk comes into its own! Walking in parks is good.
Walking near water is better. The rhythmic churn of flowing water somehow lulls me into
a place where plot snarls magically smooth themselves out. Then I’m ready to sit down
and try again.
BI : Now for some quirky rapid fire questions
1) Bloody Mary or Bourbon?
Bloody Bourbon. Absolutely.
2) One habit of yours that you have always wanted to get rid of.
Wanting to get rid of habits!
3) What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
All virtues should be overrated to encourage more virtue.
4) Can you fake any accent?
Cor blimey, mate. (That was meant to sound like French, but it didn't, did it?)
5) One thing that not many people know about you.
I won a major primary schools under eleven javelin throwing competition with the very
first throw of a javelin in my entire life!! No one else entered.