Gary L. Benton [wrbenton]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I've been reading since I can remember, so I cannot say I what I first read. I began to write following my divorce, as a way to cope with the stress, but I've always had an interest in writing. My first readers were U.S. Air Force personnel, because I wrote a few articles for the base paper.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
My favorite genre is western fiction, with historical western fiction at the top. You can see some of my work at http://www.wrbenton.net or a few articles at http://www.melaniedcalvert.com.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Nothing happens, usually before I sit down to write. I start a story with no outline and let my mind take me on the trail. I come to a dead end now and again, but not often. As I type, I am often creating the scene in my mind.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Other western fiction writers, especially Win Blevins, Matt Braun and the old masters of the genre.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
1. The attention step- where I try to capture my readers interest.
2. The store, but I leave the reader hanging at the end of each chapter, so they'll want to read more to see how it ends.
3. Adventure and excitement, with a logical plot. I think authenticity is important for a western writer.
4. Close the story, or make it clear to the reader by a turn of events that the process has finished.
5. End a book in a way that makes a reader think about the story.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I love the first person, but it limits my telling a tall tale. Third person is much easier to write, do to the freedom it gives a writer.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Matt Braun and Win Blevins.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
I think characters show show real human traits. By that I mean have weaknesses, strengths, greed, or whatever. I strive to make my men strong, like most were in the 1800's, but each has weaknesses as well. Not all of my main characters are strong and many survive due to overcoming their fears and doing what needs to be done.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
My wife says I am, but I am a fast reader and often read to quickly for her. I suspect I could be a better teller of tales, if I slowed down a bit and tried.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
I write for me and I've always said that. It's great to be published, but I am entertaining myself when I write, but if others like my tale it makes me happy.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
I think writing is a form of personal therapy both the reader and writer. I think we both go to a book to escape the stress of day-to-day life. In a book, regardless if I'm writing it or reading it, I can go anyplace, do anything, be anyone, and never leave my sofa.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Of course feed-back helps, but most writers are usually thick-skinned by the time their first book is published and it's due to rejection slips from publishers. I do listen to the feed-back, don't always like it, only I think a person would be a fool not to at least consider the feed-back.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
My out of genre book, "Simple Survival, A Family Outdoors Guide," is a silver medal winner for best "how to book", 2005, from the Military Writers Society of America. I shy away from competitions because I don't have the time.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
No, not really. I've found family and friends do not really give honest opinions and say what they think you want to hear. Or, they don't what to hurt your feelings. I use my publisher and editor, they're the true professionals.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I've found it and have been told it's very good, but I know it can be improved.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I spent over 26 years in the military, so discipline is not a problem. When I need to write, I write and have never had writers block. I do, at times, have to break away from writing to live a real life.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
A cup of coffee and my computer is all it takes.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
Yes, I use a computer, never print a manuscript, and do it all using a word processor. While it is harder to use a computer to proof work, it works fine for telling my stories.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
http://www.myspace.com/wrbenton2 which is my blog.
What has been your experience with publishers?
They are people and as such, some are good and some aren't. The key to finding a publisher is to keep at the task and not give up. I've been lucky most of the time, except once when a publisher went out of business while my manuscript was at the printers.
What are you working on now?
A book that may be titled, "Montana" and it's about a Civil War veteran, Bill Sanders, who tires of crowded living and decides to move from Missouri to Montana. Along the way he picks up a wife, two families, an old mountain man as a guide, and not all of them live to see the new land. His wife is killed by a bear, he marries a woman he is traveling with after her husband is killed, and they befriend the local Sioux chief, Brass Buttons.
Brass Buttons plays a key role in this manuscript. Along with Bill's step-son, Luke, the whites discover the old warrior is full of surprises and most are good.
Not sure how it will end, except Luke will marry into the tribe and death will come visiting.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
I have no answer for you, except if you want to be a writer, someone has to read your work. Perhaps you didn't write it for anyone but yourself and that's fine too. I'd suggest you pull the work out, dust it off and read it again. Maybe it's fine the way it is, but I doubt it, so proof it and then give consideration to having it published.
The important consideration here is if you have a strong desire to be published or not.
Gary L. Benton