Today’s post is going to be a little bit different.
I have featured local businesses and amazing creative entrepreneurs but I have not yet featured local authors, artists, or musicians. This I hope to change. These individuals help to make Central Florida a unique and vibrant place to live. Their contributions to our community are vast and their stories are worth telling.
Today’s article is a Q&A with author (and my brother) Ben Schafer!
Ben is an independently published author local to Central Florida and his newest book The Race to Newton’s Moon comes out today on e-book format!
I thought that it would be interesting to have him answer some questions about being an independent author and the opportunities that he faces in the current environment.
I hope you enjoy and I hope to have more stories like this in the future!
What made you go into writing?
Well, the cliche answer (though no less true for the fact) is that I became a writer because I was a reader. However, there is one memory that stands out from an early age. After a short writing assignment in elementary school, my teacher commented that I had a talent for writing and that she believed I should pursue that talent. We often hear platitudes told to children such as “You can be anything,” but I believe this is actually less helpful than treating each child as an individual and telling them that they have a genuine talent for something. If you give a child a vision to strive for, and if you are honest about their ability to pursue it, then they will keep that in their heart for the rest of their lives. It was just that sense of vision that my second grade teacher gave to me that day, and I’ve carried it with me ever since.
In what way has this improved your life?
I have a natural desire to communicate and discuss ideas. Fiction has provided an outlet where the ever-shifting realities (or perceptions of realities) can fade away, allowing deeper truths to be examined. In short, I can’t see myself not writing, and the innovations that have emerged in independent publishing allow me to produce high-quality work without having to wrestle with the traditional gatekeepers.
Have you had any challenges in this journey?
Of course, no journey is without its setbacks. My original vision was of a more traditional route to publishing by finding an agent and a publishing company who would pick up my work. Yet the choice to take the path of independent publishing has meant the world to me. All this being said, I am only still taking my first steps into this rich and competitive landscape, and it is still a challenge to develop the discipline to write even when inspiration does not seem to be at hand.
Do you like writing in this ensemble format or do you prefer first person like your first novel?
Each point-of-view format has its strengths and weaknesses. My first novel, Son of Syria, takes the audience on a deeply personal journey with the protagonist, Kyle Hoyek. For that reason, I defied the standard action-thriller tradition of third-person POV to get the audience in Kyle’s head and experience the adventure entirely through his eyes. That did mean that certain standard tricks of the trade that could build tension were denied to me, but the emotional strength of the first-person perspective paid off in ways a more detached narrative structure could not have achieved. Every choice is some sort of compromise. For a story as vast in scale as The Newton’s Moon Saga, a third-person perspective was the only logical choice. Even so, the first novel in the series, The Search for Newton’s Moon, kept a tight focus on the ensemble crew, with only rare glimpses at the perspectives of other characters. The sequel, The Race to Newton’s Moon, really opened up the universe in a major way and forced me to grow as an author as I learned to juggle a wider array of characters and viewpoints. But I think the results speak for themselves, and I hope that my audience will agree.
What is something that you wish you knew before you started this journey?
That the idea of “inspiration” as some abstract concept floating around, to fall on someone and then float away on a breeze, is complete nonsense. There are times when inspiration seems to strike out of nowhere, but I find that the most satisfying moments as a writer occur when I am in the thick of a difficult passage, slogging through a portion of description or dialogue that holds no passion for me (at least in the moment) but that I must work through in order to move the story forward. Subtle moments and details occur in those seemingly dreary passages of time, little flashes that would quickly die out if I simply succumbed to the old excuse of “writer’s block.” But, as those flashes build, they can turn into a storm of new ideas that can open the story in bold new directions. To put it more simply, it is the act of writing that generates inspiration, and not mere inspiration that produces good writing.
What does success look like to you?
Success for me, looks like the freedom to pursue my passion for writing full-time. It looks like having fans who hold a genuine interest in the characters and the plots that I present to them, discussing where certain threads will lead with fellow fans around the world. Mostly, though, success looks like an unwillingness to let negative reviews or poor sales stop me from doing the thing I love. It is this passion and this spirit of perseverance that continues to push me to grow and evolve as both a writer and businessman.
What challenges did you face during this year specifically?
Like many people in the central Florida area, I temporarily lost my day job due to the public health lockdowns and subsequent economic downturn. While my writing time was suddenly wide open due to the loss of my job, the sudden loss of structure (coupled with the enduring uncertainty) made this free time feel more like a swamp that threatened to drag me into despair rather than an open ocean to be crossed to new lands. Fortunately, I did not have to endure these times alone, and I am grateful to my friends and family for their support.
Were you surprised by anything that happened?
Truly, I was surprised that the market for e-books did not soar higher than it did given that people were locked down in their homes for so long. However, given the economic uncertainty in these same households, it is understandable that disposable income for entertainment was more limited than it otherwise may have been.
Did you have any opportunities during this time?
The obvious answer is that the lack of regular employment opened up my schedule for more writing. But I was also able to spend more time with a smaller circle of friends, which allowed me to build deeper relationships and foster creative bonds that can serve us all well moving forward.
Do you have any tips for other authors?
First of all, anyone can write, so push any thoughts of unworthiness from your mind. You have a story to tell, and only you can do it justice. Write a draft, sloppy and contrived and disjointed as it may be at first. Stop making excuses and get it down. Give yourself grace to make mistakes in that first draft. However, when it comes time to edit, approach your work with a ruthless and critical eye. No one should be a greater defender or a fiercer critic of your work than you are. Also, as odd as it may seem, remember that the editing process is just as much a creative endeavor as generating the first draft from a blank page. You are not “surrendering your art” or “selling out your vision” by trimming excess characters, dialogue, or plot in the service of greater narrative cohesion. Beyond that, read as many books as you can, both classics and contemporaries, in order to broaden your vocabulary and narrative voice.
Thanks Ben for answering my questions today!
Ben’s book The Race to Newton’s Moon releases on e-book today!
You can click this link to pick up your own copy!
Check out Ben’s Facebook Page for his other works or just to say hi!
Lastly, check out his website at Thebenschafer.com for updates for new works and to read some more exclusive content you won’t find anywhere else!
Thanks for reading! If you would like to be featured on this blog please email me! I would love to hear how you are helping to make Central Florida unique!
Remember to keep supporting local artists and keep finding new stories to tell!
Have an amazing day!
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