Interview with Raymond Benson

color head shot 2013 - credit Katherine Tootelian (2)Tell us about your publishing journey

My publishing journey was quite unorthodox. I didn’t start out to be a writer. I was a theatre major with emphasis on directing, so the first decade or so after college I spent in New York City doing the off-off- and off-Broadway thing. In the early 1980s, on a fluke, I began to write a “labor of love” non-fiction book about one of my favorite subjects-James Bond and Ian Fleming. (I like to tell the joke that there was no money in theatre so I became a writer, ha ha.) During the three year process of writing it, I went to England for research, met members of Ian Fleming’s family and his business people, and we got along well. This book became “The James Bond Bedside Companion,” published in 1984, and that veered my career off the chosen path. Then, ten years later, the Ian Fleming people called me out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested in writing official James Bond novels. So, in short, my fiction career was handed to me on a silver platter. I was very lucky.

What part of being a writer do you love most?

I suppose that would be the freedom of not working for anyone but myself. I work at home, freelance, and that is indeed a luxury. At times I accept work-for-hire jobs and then I’m writing for an employer, of course, but it’s still not the same thing as working a nine to five job in an office.

Which part do you hate most?

The fact that, like all the arts, publishing is a difficult, crazy, unpredictable, risky business that no one in his/her right mind would want to do.

What life advice have you been given, that you wished someone had given you sooner?

Believe it or not, most of my “life advice” I learned in college while studying theatre. I had a directing professor who became a mentor. It’s been said that anyone with a theatre degree is prepared to tackle just about any other kind of job because it teaches you organization, analysis, how to work collaboratively, how to deal with deadlines and budgets, and how to perform constructive criticism. I received all this at the right time in my life.

If you had a time machine, what period would you go back to and why?

I was born in the 50s, grew up in the 60s, and became an adult in the 70s. I’d love to go back to the 70s. Everyone fantasies about reliving the period of their lives in which we were in our twenties. And the world was much less complicated then. No cell phones, no home computers, no Internet, no airport security hassles, and less political division. Yes, we did survive then without all the technical crap we have today, and it was kind of nice.

If you could be a supernatural creature – what would you be and why?

I hear elves have a pretty good existence.

What inspired you to write The Black StilettoThe Black Stiletto? 

My mother-in-law was an Alzheimer’s victim, and that experience made me think of an idea in which a grown son, who is taking care of his Alzheimer’s-inflicted mother, discovers some dark secret in her past. I didn’t know what that was at first. Then, my literary manager suggested to me that I needed to write a novel that would appeal to women, because more women buy books than men. I facetiously said, “How about a female superhero?” We laughed, and then he got serious and said, “That’s not a bad idea.” So I went home and thought about it, and I combined the two ideas. The grown son discovers that his mother was a famous masked vigilante who went into hiding. Voila.

If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?

James Bond has excellent taste in food and drink, so dining with him would certainly be a nice culinary experience, although I doubt the conversation would be very interesting. I’d like to go to one of Gatsby’s parties and eat from his buffet, which I’m sure was stocked well.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

My favorite living writer is Ruth Rendell, because she’s brilliant, writes very creepy psychological suspense tales, and has been at it for fifty years. I read everything she does. Ian Fleming, of course, is a favorite and was one of the first “adult” writers I discovered when I was a kid. These days I mostly read thrillers, and just off the top of my head, I think these folks are at the top of their game: Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Brian Freeman, Tess Gerritsen, Greg Iles, Thomas H. Cook…

What are you working on at the moment?

I just completed the manuscript of the fifth and final Black Stiletto book and turned it in to my publisher. I’m currently working on a work-for-hire memoir by a high level government person that I can’t really talk about at the moment. Suffice it to say that it’s a very interesting project!

Where can fans find you online?

My personal website is www.raymondbenson.com.  The Black Stiletto has a dedicated site with videos, a free short story, music, and more, at www.theblackstiletto.net.  I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and Google+.

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