Ben Monroe has spent most of his life in Northern California, where he lives in the East Bay Area with his wife and two children. He is the author of In the Belly of the Beast and Other Tales of Cthulhu Wars, the Seething, the graphic novel Planet Apocalypse, and short stories in several anthologies.
You can find more information about him and his work at www.benmonroe.com
There is always something magical about immersing ourselves into a story. We escape reality for a chapter or two, maybe even longer if time allows. Stories have been entertaining, educating and fascinating humans for eons. From campfire tales to fairy stories to modern literature, we have passed on these narratives from generation to generation. Beginning with word of mouth and traveling troubadours to parchment scripts to printed books and now to electronic devices.
Stories are a part of our culture, our locality and our history. Some may disappear, others stand the test of time. We have the ability to share them with future generations and keep them in the world.
I have a troubadour in my novella, The Rython Kingdom. He travels from feudal to feudal land (lands owned by the monarchy and gifted to Lords) and is invited to the King’s court. He knows this is a great honour and tells a tale over a couple of days, unaware there is a release spell within its words of an evil sorceress.
Celebrate storytelling week reciting your favorite stories to your children or grandchildren, pass on these generational tales so they may be forever told.
I write and produce picture books. I call them that because they are not necessarily for children. My slogan is ‘for kids aged between 6 & 99yrs old!” I’m interested in stimulating a dialogue between adults and children about their experience. I hope that’s what my books make the readers want to do. Talk and discuss and reflect on their own experience. I love art and literature so picture books are the perfect medium for me. Some of my books are not even ‘stories’ rather than concepts.
2. Do you draw from your English background and upbringing?
I guess I do, but almost inadvertently, so not directly. However, Spaceball uses the city of Manchester England as a theme for location and Old Trafford is mentioned. Perhaps in the way I express myself in the books. I do have another book planned which is based in London England.
3.Where did the idea for Spaceball come from?
I wanted to write an exciting book using the dynamic themes of soccer and space. I think all ideas just come from challenging your own understanding. i was reading about Einstein and gravity and i thought this might be a cool way of understanding an aspect of gravitational force, amongst other things. The book is actually about how we understand our own histories and the ‘forces’ that influence that aswell.
4. What message does the book give children?
See question 3 above. I’m interested in bringing the reader to a point where they want to consider their place in history and how their social history differs from other cultural perspectives. The whole book pivots on the expression ‘the history of everything’. The child telling the story stops to consider what that means.
5. How long did the process of writing Spaceball take?
About a month. Not long at all once I knew what I wanted to do. I let the planets guide me! The illustrations took longer but it was so much fun to do, and I wanted to create images that especially children would feel were organic, to encourage them to make their own books with collage and crayon and whatever they can get their hands on.
6.How does writing a book, short stories and writing poetry differ?
For me with picture books there’s always an idea you’re developing and revising constantly, editing while writing but also afterwards, going back to it again and again is important, checking for fluency, ‘sense’ and whether what you’ve done honours your intention. Projects can change a lot as well. The research phase is always very interesting and so much of the spontaneity of my writing happens when I’m reading around. I think it’s not so much genre but authors that have different processes. Books have personally taken me longer to produce though. A short story can be 500words. I don’t write much poetry but when I do it’s almost like a wave of energy, so it’s quite quick for me. Whether it’s any ‘good’ is another matter!
7.Where do you get ideas from?
From Walmart. 🙂 They have them on special right now. Just kidding. I think you can train your mind to be receptive. Ideas are everywhere I think, it’s not difficult for me. I have a to-do list on my wall of the next ten picture books I want to do, but there are loads of ideas on scraps and memos in various places. I think you have to have a type of curiosity that isn’t easily satisfied if that makes sense, and a willingness to take a ‘fact’ and explore what might have been or what another perspective might bring. I think the imagination is a way of connecting and exploring one’s understanding and associations from different perspectives and perhaps extending that understanding. I have ideas that are years old and I like to leave them in my head for a while, pickling and marinating! I think you can tell I like cooking 🙂
8.Do you have a project(s) in progress?
Yes I think I answered this in question 7 above. More specifically I’m just completing a picture book now called ‘What’s your favourite colour’ illustrated by Stella Avolio. Another project has been planned and will start soon called ‘Farewell’ with a different illustrator and I have a book I really want to do, the London-based one I referred to above, but I want to both write and illustrate that myself.
9.What is your view on reading and writing for children?
Reading for children is very important. I was read to as a child and I loved the experience. I haven’t done an audio book yet but I’d love to get round to it. It’s great to have a book animated by real voices.
As I said (if I understand your question) I don’t write for children necessarily, but more for the social interaction between generations, to generate discussion between adults and children.
10.Where can readers find you and your books?
All my books are online. Google Matthew Bennett Young and you will see!
As many of you know I am in the midst of editing and revising two projects. Yes, I’m mad! The first is the prequel to my fantasy series, Malgraf’s Dawning. It is currently being beta-read and revisions are coming back to me chapter by chapter. The other is a western romance manuscript, Willow Tree Tears, that until recently, had languished in my ‘to do’ folder for quite some time.
As authors and writers, we have to refine, revise and rewrite our manuscripts to ensure they are ready to submit. As we all know though, some will slip through the cracks – we have all read books and noticed slip-ups in every book we read. So let’s look at the editing process:
Editing encompasses several elements in order to achieve a well-polished manuscript for submission. Editing includes among other things, continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming.
Where should you start?
Instead of plunging directly back into a first draft, let it sit for a while. Start another project, take a rest, whatever you need to tear yourself away from the world and the characters you created. Ideally, leave it for three to six months, depending on any deadlines you have, of course. This will allow you to ‘see; it with fresh eyes.
When you go back to re-read there will be new insights. Rather than overwhelming yourself with trying to ‘correct’ all the editing elements mentioned above, concentrate on one item at a time.
Limit each read through to a specific task.
When you have completed these tasks let either trusted friends, or members of your local writing group read it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. Remember, no matter how many times you or your beta readers go through a manuscript, there will always be a word missed, mis-spelt, or a continuity slip up. Once this is done it is time to consider handing over the manuscript to a professional. A professional editor is a good investment, if you can afford one. A badly edited book reflects on you the author and no-one else.
Here are a couple of tricks that can help you edit more effectively:
Read the book from back to front page by page. This stops your brain putting in words that are not there.
Read it out aloud to yourself or an understanding friend. A missed word is very obvious with this technique.
Go through the manuscript correcting one area at a time, instead of everything, which can become overwhelming. Such as spelling, or continuity.
When editing there may be sentences, or even whole paragraphs, that you know need to be revised, or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line, or scene. Deleting these can be hard. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions, but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. A writer’s jetsam so to speak. These ejected words from our narratives may dwell in our hard drives or document folders for months, sometimes years. They may even be useful if at some point in the future you decide to use them in a sequel!
Without correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.