Amber Benson: Writing Your Fears

LMB_1936edit2by Theresa Miller
Though you may remember her as Tara Maclay from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, these days Amber Benson is doing the writing and people are really taking notice. We’re very privileged to have Amber teaching a few writing classes at the Pad including A Novel Approach: Mastering The Long Format Story on June 9th, and her Science Fiction And Urban Fantasy Writing class June 1st or June 4th!

Amber took time out to talk to us about her well-received Sci-Fi novels Death’s Daughter, Cat’s Claw, and Serpent’s Storm; her writing process, acting, and what she finds so fascinating about science fiction.
1. What inspired you to write Sci-fi? Did being a cast member on Buffy The Vampire Slayer have anything to do with it?
For me, writing Sci-Fi came out of reading genre fiction as a kid. I loved Stranger In A Strange Land by Heinlein, everything by Ray Bradbury, and I was obsessed with Christopher Pike and William Sleator – who were writing what we now call YA (laced with Sci-Fi and horror), but back then that stuff was just children’s literature. Though working on Buffy didn’t inspire my love of Sci-Fi, it did allow me access to the publishing world, so I could exploit that love.
2. Your write a highly popular blog. Do you think that keeping a personal blog helps you to write prose?
Actually, I’ve been really bad about my blog recently, but I blame the last book I was working on – it really sucked my time away.
With that said, I truly believe that keeping track of your thoughts and feelings via a blog or journal is integral to the writing process. It combats writers block and helps to keep the channel from your brain to your hands free and clear.
3. Your novels seem to deal with death and the afterlife in some way. What do you find so fascinating about the spirit realm?
I’m just a bit thanataphobic – if I psychoanalyze myself, it’s pretty clear I write about the things that frighten me. I assume this is my way of trying to make sense of and control those fears.
amber-benson 4. Science Fiction can be pretty involved and detailed. How do you begin to write your stories without feeling overwhelmed and how do you flesh out your worlds and characters?
World building is key in writing genre fiction, and I spend a lot of time finessing that stuff as I go through the rewrite process – but when I get started, when I contemplate that first page…for me, it’s always about finding the emotional connection to my characters. Figure out who your characters are and what they want then you are starting your work with truth and the rest will come with time and hard work.
5. What do you think people find so appealing about your stories?
I try to find the humor and humanity in the characters I create – by making them real in my head and on my page, hopefully, they become real to the reader.
6. Do you think acting has helped your writing in any way?
Acting has helped tremendously with writing. Acting teaches you to listen – without that skill, how can you expect to have any insight into other people and, eventually, the characters you are going to create?
download7. What are you currently working on and when can we get our hands on it?
My next book is called, The Witches of Echo Park, and will be available in January 2015.
8. Your work deals with the supernatural. What is it about this genre that interests you and why do you keep coming back to it?
We can’t escape our fears, but we can learn to live with them. That’s what writing genre fiction is for me: A way to deal with those fears by channeling them into something creative. Plus, I’m just a fan of anything that goes bump in the night, drinks blood, or eats brains.
9. You are teaching a Sci Fi class AND a novel writing Class online. Can you give us a little preview of what are students going to learn in your classes?
Hopefully, what I can impart to my students is the ability to throw that inner critic away for a little while, so they can just let the words flow. There is a place for the critic, but it’s not in a first draft.
Thank you so much for that informative interview, Amber! Catch her class A Novel Approach: Mastering The Long Format Story on June 9th, and her Science Fiction And Urban Fantasy Writing class June 1st or June 4th!