Project Wonderful

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Author Interview - Melanie Benjamin

After reading and reviewing Melanie Benjamin's first book Alice I Have Been. I could not wait to ask her some questions.

I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

1. What are some of your favorite books or authors? This is always such a hard question because I have so many favorites! I'm very much looking forward to the new book by Anne Tyler; she's an author I've loved forever. In the last year, I've read some amazing books that are new favorites; standouts include AWAY by Amy Bloom; OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout; THE MARCH by E.L Doctorow; ASH by Malinda Lo; THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley; PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks.

2. How did you get started in writing? I had a love of reading and the written word as long as I can remember. This love of different worlds, of different people, first led me toward studying acting and wanting a career in the performing arts. One day, however, when I was long past my days as an ingenue, a friend told me, "I always thought you'd be a writer." To this day, I have no idea what prompted her to say that! But when she did, I had one of those "aha!" moments. It took me a while to find my voice and figure out what kind of things I should be writing. But I finally realized that what drew me to theater drew me to fiction; I wanted to make up different worlds myself, become different people by living vicariously through characters of my own creation.

3. Do you have any writing rituals that keep you writing or get you started? I almost always read through what I wrote the previous day, kind of like a warm up. I'll correct a few things, revise a little, then ease into the new section.

4. Your first book, Alice I Have Been, includes some very detailed history. Which takes longer, writing or research?
That's hard to say because research never stops. You may think you've researched a period or a person exhaustively before beginning the story, but there are always many times in the writing where you have to stop to go research something else. Suddenly you have to know whether or not the fifteen of April in the year you're writing was a Saturday or a Sunday - and you have to stop to go research that. So I'd say that it's probably 50/50.

5. What kind of research was involved? I had a very solid knowledge of Victorian fashions, social conventions, the different class systems of Britain of the time when Alice Liddell was living. I did not know a thing about Oxford, however, so I had to research that; fortunately there is a lot of information on the Internet and in books of the time period, as it has naturally changed a lot over the years. I also, of course, acquainted myself with the basic facts of Alice Liddell's and Charles Dodgson's lives, as these formed the structural foundation of my book. I wish I could have gone to England to research in person but I couldn't; some day, maybe I'll get to go walk the grounds Alice walked!

6. What was the hardest scene to write in Alice I Have Been?
I'm afraid to give too much away, but it would have to be one of the scenes near the end of the book, when World War I intrudes upon Alice's life as all three of her sons enlist. As a mother, that was difficult to write without imposing the reactions of a 21st century woman upon those of a woman born and raised in the Victorian era.

7. If someone wrote a book with you as the inspiration, like
Alice in Wonderland, what kind of adventure would you like your fictional self to have? I would love to be a brave and fearless heroine; when I was a girl, I dreamed of being Eowyn in LORD OF THE RINGS.

Thank you Melanie!!! Please check out her website

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