Bruce Bennett is sitting at #1 as we speak. A highly-decorated author with a huge hit thriller on his hands. What makes him one of the few indie authors to have a hit book? What advice can he give to budding writers? Where will the craze for “Digital Air” end?
As we speak “Digital Air” is riding high on the Amazon listings. What is that book about?
Digital Air is a suspense thriller with a sci-fi twist. Don’t let that scare you. I modeled it after some work of authors like Clive Cussler. I don’t like to be boxed in. If I have a feeling about a subject, I want to write about it. My next planned book will be historical fiction, and I would also like to write something for young adults. More and more readers like diversity, I think. I consider myself to be like Michael Crichton—how much different was “Eaters of the Dead” from his other books, yet it was great?
How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write your book? And what motivated you to write it?
I have been writing for a little more than two years. It took me eighteen months to write my book. I wanted to clear my head of ideas that haunted me at night time. Now I sleep much better.
Is it a stand-alone novel or part of a series? If it’s part of a series, how did you decide to make it a series? How long will the series run?
Digital Air is the first of three books centering on the character R.S. Cadais. The trilogy was recommended by my editor, Ken Stewart.
Who are your main characters in the story and how would you describe them?
I love my main character, R.S. Cadais. He is a “modern” hero. I did not want to rehash the same old heroes as other authors are writing about. He is different, fun, intelligent, self-deprecating, and he gets into trouble. He is James Bond and Bruce Lee mixed together.
Is there any symbolism in your book that you’d care to share with potential readers?
I don’t like to compete with Dan Brown.
Do any of the characters resemble you? How about friends or relatives.
My characters in Digital Air are people that I would like to meet. I think that R.S. Cadais embodies characteristics that we all would want to believe we had. Other characters are modeled after ideals more than people. Loyalty and honor are major character themes in my book.
Have you tried submitting your book to publishers? If so, how many? Did they provide any feedback? What was that feedback? Will you be submitting it again? Would you still want to work with a traditional publisher now that you have self-published?
Who would not want to work with a traditional publisher? I think all Indie authors want to be discovered in the same way actors were discovered sitting at a soda fountain back in the 1930s and ’40s. Indie publishing represents a new age in writing. In the past, writers who did not get published stopped writing for the most part. Today, anyone can see their name in print. It’s good and bad at the same time. It might be likened to a crowd of new professional golfers who are playing their first Masters, but they can’t get a tee time for all the hackers lined up to play.
What has been the most difficult part of your writing experience? Dealing with publishers, agents, editors, getting reviews, query letters, what?
Getting reviews seems to be the toughest thing. Also, I question whether there are many honest reviews. It seems to me that there are many trolls out lampooning Indie authors’ work. My guess is that it is other authors trying to eliminate the competition. I try to review all Indie work that I read, especially if someone has gone to the trouble of publishing. However, much of what I read is not worth reviewing. In that case, I do not review the work. Perhaps that is what is happening to my book. (ß Funny?)
Do any of your characters have secrets you can share with our readers?
My characters are mostly people a reader can relate with. If they have secrets, they have not told me.
Describe your writing process. Do you outline, create rough synopses, do you do detailed biographies of the characters before starting to write?
With Digital Air, I saw this nebulous story in my head. I started writing without any outline or character synopses and let it develop on paper. That led to many re-writes and also creating character synopses after the fact. When it was edited, the rougher areas were identified and corrected. Overall, I would not recommend this method to writers. It was like trying to untangle a mess of knotted gold chains.
How much research do you do before starting to write? Where do you find most of your background materials? How do you fact check?
I do a considerable amount of research before I start. In Digital Air, I opened by writing about a place I have not been. I thoroughly researched, then drew a picture of the setting so I would remember what it looked like. The Internet opens a world of knowledge that authors never had in the past. What might Jules Verne have written if he had the Internet?
What didn’t you mention in the synopsis that you can reveal here?
Digital Air has an interesting science fiction twist. Some readers might find they have been blindsided, but I feel most will enjoy the surprise.
If you had to do the experience of writing your work over, would you still write it? Would you change it? How?
With Digital Air, I think that I wrote most of what I had to say. If I were a highly financed professional writer, I would do more research before writing and perhaps try to visit all of the places I write about. For the most part, I am happy with what I have written.
How did you choose the story you wrote?
I wanted to write a fun thriller with different characters and new ideas. When people tell you to “sleep on it,” that always helped me. When I was stuck, sometimes I saw the next chapters clearly in my sleep.
How did you choose the title?
Dan Brown lent me “Digital” and I added “Air” to lend a hint to the plot of the book.
How did you decide on the cover and did you design it or did you use a professional designer?
I’d like to have an accomplished designer do my cover. In this case, I had used someone for my previous book and did not especially like the results. I decided to take a very interesting and enigmatic picture and turn it into the cover.
Can you summarize your book for us, please?
An FBI agent tries to solve a series of crimes that have no apparent logical explanation. When people at the highest levels of our government call him in, he realizes that he might have stepped in a quagmire of international conspiracy. Soon he realizes that he no longer knows who to trust. With no other course of action, he decides to go out on his own to solve the mystery. He teams up with a couple of unlikely partners and takes the reader on a fun and challenging ride.
Who were the authors that influenced you? What about them and their style appeals to you?
Michael Crichton. I love the believable way he presents a fantastic story. He uses detail, but doesn’t overwhelm the reader with boring facts. “The Great Train Robbery” is one of my favorite reads. I love books by Clive Cussler, Stephen King, James Lee Burke, amongst others. I love King’s use of time to create suspense. I found that to be very difficult, but tried to incorporate it in my story.
What did you learn that surprised you while writing your book? What was the most difficult part?
Writing the book was like pitching a nine inning baseball game. The middle innings were the toughest. It was difficult to keep up the energy that far from the beginning with no end in sight.
How much literary license do you take with your stories? Do you create fictional locations? Do you use real locations, with some fictionalizing or do you stick very close to the actual setting? Why?
I use both fictional and actual settings in my book. The sense of realism is better when actual locations are used—especially those locales that may be local to readers. So, when writing about New York City, I use locations with which readers might be familiar. When I am using exotic locations, I take more liberties.
What types of hobbies do you have? Are you active in sports or your community? Do these activities find their way into your books?
I have always enjoyed participating in sports. I use athletics in my books and also describe martial arts maneuvers as close as possible to the real thing. This latter is more acquired by attending three years of TKA training with my son.
What do you feel is the best personal quality you bring to your writing career?
I like to think that my sense of humor adds an edge to my stories that make them fun.
Who are your top five favorite authors? And which book of theirs is your favorite?
Stephen King, Wolves of the Calla; Michael Crichton, Eaters of the Dead; Bernard Cornwell, The Last Kingdom;Cliff Roberts, Conch Republic; James Lee Burke, Heaven’s Prisoners.
Tell us something about yourself that you don’t usually share with anyone but close friends?
I play the violin.
Where do you see your writing career going? Why do you think that?
I see myself continuing to write many more novels. I love to sit down and work with the ideas that I have outlined and create new books. Eventually, I would like to also write music. The reason is that the process is enjoyable for me. I would like to write more books that express my inner feelings on many topics. Reading and writing gives me great joy.
Do you have a special theme, or design that you intend to continue throughout your career as your signature item?
I hope I don’t get mired down with one particular theme or character. Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes because he wanted to write something else. His readers nearly revolted and he brought Holmes back and continued the volumes for the rest of his life. I don’t want this to happen to me—I want to write on different topics and explore new interests.
What happens next? Is there another book? What are your future writing plans?
Yes, I have a book planned for the Christmas season and a second that I have finished but is being re-written by a fellow author. When my books are done, I want them to be genuine, priceless. When someone gives me the honor of reading something I have written, I want them to be able to say that it was the best use of their time ever.
What is your end goal for your writing career?
I want to write till my thoughts no longer come. I have no delusions of grandeur. If one person perceived value from reading one of my books, that’s good enough for me.
Do you use a pen name?
My pen says “Crystal Ball Contracting” on it.
Thank you for your time, Bruce.
You are welcome! Enjoy!