Author Spotlight: Ben Oneal

Today’s spotlight shines on another author that I’ve been fortunate enough to share several signing events with, and have gotten to know him a little more each time.  I’ve had one of his books, Die Laughing, in my TBR pile for over two years, and I’m glad to report that I was finally able to jump into it. It’s been a great read and it’s truly one of those books that are hard to put down! Be on the lookout for a review in the very near future. With that, let’s get to the good part of this post already!

How important is research to you when writing a story?

It depends on the kind of story I am writing, but for the most part, research is one of the pillars of building a quality story.

How particular are you with spelling, grammar, etc? Do things have to be perfect from the beginning, or are you more worried about getting the idea on paper, then leave the proofreading to the editing?

For the most part, I strive to get it right the first time, but I find getting caught up in perfection is detrimental to my process. I must stress though; editing is one of the most important parts of building a great story. Even a minor mistake, can disrupt the flow, but many mistakes can cause the reader to set your story aside. Unless you wrote the story to be yours and yours alone, invest in the best editing that you can afford. (Editor’s note: YES!)

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in my early 20s, I found myself writing down my thoughts, and putting them away. In my early 30s, humor became my focus. I found that I was able to make people laugh, and shared my thoughts in comedy clubs, and writing scripts for local skit comedy show. It wasn’t until I was in my 50s, before an idea for a story forced me to share my thoughts, and become an author. Sometimes I wonder why it took me so long, but the only thing that makes sense is that I was not ready. Now I only hope that I have enough years left to share the stories that are restlessly roaming through my mind.

What inspires you to write?

Everything.

How often do you write, and how long is a typical writing session? 

I try to write every day. Due to outside forces, I am lucky to get more than a couple of hours at a time.

Do you outline an entire plot, or have a few highlights in mind then let the action dictate the rest of the story?

I find working with a general outline helpful, but my stories tend to take on a life of their own. I know the general path that I must follow, and find myself trying to keep up with the developing scenarios as I go along.

What do you like to read (genre, titles) and who are your favorite authors?

I like to read crime thrillers, and my favorite writers in that genre are James Patterson and John Sanford. I also like to read science fiction. Some of my favorites in this genre are: ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert, ‘The Foundation Series’ by Isaac Asimov.

If you took the chance to rewrite one of your books, which one would it be and why?

I have actually rewritten two of my books. First was The Serpent’s Gift. It was my first book, and in my haste to share my story, I probably published it too soon. I have rewritten it to add depth and color, and generally made it better. The second book, Die Laughing was initially written in third person omniscient. I rewrote the whole story to be first person, when the protagonist is present, and third person omniscient when he is not.

Any advice you’d like to give your younger self? Any advice you’d like to give to aspiring authors?

As far as the advice I would give my younger self, it would be to believe in myself; as a person, and my abilities. To aspiring authors, I would say, read, read as much as you can. Then write down the stories that your mind tells you must be written. Read what you’ve written, and ask yourself, does it truly express the story you want to tell. If you find it to be a true representation of your muse, then seek out someone who will read and honestly critique your story. Although their criticism may seem hurtful, take it for what it is meant to be, a way to make your story better.

Do you read any of your own work? If so, are you a harsh critic, or do you get wrapped up in the story?

Of course, I read my own work, and each time I find a mistake, I cringe. Mainly, I read my work to ensure that I avoid continuity errors, and to keep accurate back stories for my characters,

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into any of your stories?

All the time. It makes the story real to me, and I hope that carries through to my readers. It is not just the protagonist that might share my likes or dislikes, but to make an antagonist seem like someone you might know, you have to endow them with the characteristics that are hopefully relatable to my audience.

What are you currently working on/What’s your next project?

This may sound like I’m crazy, but the third book in the Benjamin Kroh series is currently being edited, the fourth book in the series is about 80,000 words in. In the last month I have written three short stories, and am working on two more. (Editor’s note: one of those short stories can be found in Circle City Publishing’s Fun Size Anthology!)

How many ideas do you have at the moment for other stories?

At least 10 solid ideas, and probably 100 more that are just waiting for my subconscious to find its muse. That inspiration can happen at any moment, and that idea is suddenly on the top of my list.

Who are your books mostly dedicated to?

Always to my family, but in my Benjamin Kroh series, I have also dedicated them to a good friend who died way before his time. His name was Tim Kroh. We were so like-minded, that it was crazy. That is why I also named the protagonist with my first name, and his last.

Is it true that anyone can be a writer?

To be sure, everyone has the ability to write, but few have the passion, dedication, or talent to be a writer. Weaving a story that beckons the reader to turn that next page, is much like an artist who creates a work of art. What an artist creates with the brush and a palette of colors, a writer achieves with the written word.

How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?/ What kind of mementos do you have in honor of your published works?

After every book is released, I buy a metal business card holder, with the name of the book, and my name engraved on the outside. It may seem silly, but it makes me happy.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Why or why not?

I used a pen name to write my first book. It was a science fiction ‘what if’. The premise of the book was, what if heaven and hell were real planets, and their inhabitants were real living breathing beings with the ability to live thousands of years. What if heaven and hell were in a galactic war. And the big what if is, what if heaven was the seat of the bad guys, and the Bible was sent here as a propaganda to get us to join their side when the war reached Earth. The ‘what if’ itself, was not why I chose to write under a pseudonym. The reason I did, was because my mother was a very religious woman, and I would never do anything to purposely hurt her in any way.

Who’s your favorite author that nobody knows about?

I guess it would be Rudy Rucker.  He is an American mathematician, computer scientist, science fiction author, and one of the founders of the cyberpunk literary movement. The first book of his I read was, The Fourth Dimension: Toward a Geometry of Higher Reality. It sounds a bit heady, but the author takes you through an enjoyable guided tour of higher reality exploring the fourth dimension. I also quite enjoyed his cyberpunk ‘Ware’ series novels. But please don’t tell anyone, because if you did, everyone would know.

_____________

Don’t worry, Ben, your secret is safe with us! I’d like to thank Ben for taking the time to answer my questions! You can find his works at the links in the interview above, and also in Circle City Publishing’s Fun Size Anthology along with several other authors once it’s released into the wild!

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