I’m truly grateful to have Ben Burgess as a Guest Author for this week’s blog interview. Ben is the author of the very best poetry book “Times have changed and life is strange”, his first novel and second published work is called “Monster” and his latest novel is named “Wounded”. Ben is currently working on his next project, which is called “Love and Happiness”.
Hi Ben, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
- Tell me a little about yourself and your background? What were you like at school? Were you good at English? What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’m a father, a poet, an author, a teacher, a personal trainer, and a Detective for NYPD. I wear a lot of hats because I like to uplift and help people. My mother has been a teacher in NYC for 30 years, so growing up I had no choice but to do well in school or she’d be all over me. My goals for writing are to 1. Have my books on the shelves of major bookstores and 2. To have my novels made into movies (THAT’S THE DREAM!!!!!)
- Which writers inspire you?
My favorite author is Eric Jerome Dickey, an African American Fiction author. What attracted me to his work was the fact that it was different from most of the other Urban/ African American Fiction authors that I had read. I have spoken to him personally, and he has encouraged and supported my writing career. He has influenced me to not be afraid to be different.
- What was your life like before becoming an author?
I’ve always been a writer, so my life hasn’t changed much. I used to write poetry and perform them at open mic’s and poetry lounges. Now, I’m focused on creating new novels to entertain people.
- Which comes first – the character’s story or the idea for the novel?
For me, it’s the idea of the novel. I visualize the story I want to tell and the messages I want to convey. After I figure that out, I work on the characters voice.
- When did you decide to become a writer?
When I was in 8th grade, I read Richard Wright’s “Native Son” I read that book and it was life changing for me. I knew I wanted to one day write something that could have the same effect on people. While in 8th grade, my English teacher Mrs. Marcus gave the class a poetry assignment. My poem was on basketball. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I remember my teacher was blown away by it. She encouraged me to keep writing. She was one of my most influential teachers, and I promised her if I ever wrote a book, I would write a poem about the Holocaust for her. (She was Jewish, and had family that were survivors.) My dream was to publish a book. I continued to write throughout high school and college.
My college professors told me I had talent as a poet and writer, so I decided to go to lounges that had open mics to perform my poetry. Hearing people cheer for me and appreciate my words, inspired me to keep writing. My first published book was a poetry book titled “Times Have changed and Life is Strange.” I wrote a poem for Mrs. Marcus titled “Holocaust”, keeping my promise. The poem “Ugly” from “Times Have Changed and Life is Strange”, is the poem that inspired me to write my first novel “Monster.” I reflected on my life, and felt it would be a good story that would teach and possible change people’s lives the way Richard Wright’s “Native Son” had done for me.
- Why do you write?
I write because it makes me feel special. Writing is my stress relief, it’s my escape. I write because I feel I can help people with my words and make a difference in the world.
- So, what have you written?
My first published work was my poetry book “Times have changed and life is strange”, my first novel (second published work) was “Monster” My latest novel is “Wounded. My next project is called “Love and Happiness”. It is a sort of spin off from “Monster” based off a character named Karen that was one of Ken’s clients in that book. A sample for “Love and Happiness” can be found in the back of “Wounded”. *All of my books are connected in some way. For example in “Wounded” Ron is friends with Dr. Andrews. They were in the same Fraternity and roommates. Also the characters Will and Lou make a cameo in “Wounded” they are in the next book “Love and Happiness” I like all of my books to share the same universe. In both of my novels, I have poetry as an added bonus to my fans. In regards to awards, I have won the 2013 Readers Favorite Book Award for Urban Fiction, the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award for African American Fiction, and I was a finalist for both the 2014 International Book Awards, and the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards. I feel I’m living proof to anyone who wants to independently publish that if you have a dream to write a book, never give up. To give my fans and potential fans, a glimpse of me as a person, I have a blog on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6925256.Ben_Burgess_Jr_/blog
- Where people can buy or see them?
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wounded-Ben-Burgess-Jr-ebook/dp/B00JSBE3KA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=
- Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wounded-ben-burgess-jr/1119273400?ean=2940149460601
- Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/wounded/id866628476?mt=11
- Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=Vr5oAwAAQBAJ
- Give me an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Samantha is my favorite character from “Wounded” because I wanted a tough, outspoken protagonist that had a lot of depth. I wanted her to be “layered” meaning that there are a lot of elements to her character. Samantha has a tough demeanor, but she is also suffering from PTSD due to child molestation, she’s a stripper, a lesbian, and she has so many stresses and struggles in her life. I wanted her to also be able to show that she could be naïve, loveable, and humble. I feel that all of these things makes her a survivor and makes her feel more human to the readers. I based Samantha off of some of my friends and one of my family members. I wanted a name that was feminine but could also be turned masculine (Samantha= Sam).
- What sparked the idea for your book?
I was working on another novel, my next novel “Love and Happiness” when my co-workers told me I should write a book with a Lesbian protagonist. At first I thought it wouldn’t be possible since I wasn’t a woman and knew nothing about being Gay or the LGBT community. After going to a Lesbian bar with them and talking to the women there, I decided to work on the book. I did a lot of research. I talked to fifteen women on top of the five couples I interviewed, to hear their thoughts, feelings, and philosophies about being a Lesbian, and life in general. I listened to their joys and pains. “Wounded” was the hardest book I have written so far. With “Monster”, it was easier because 90% of that story was about me, but this story was a whole different world for me. It was both challenging and exciting at the same time.
- How do you market your book?
I want my novels to reach as many people as they can, so I use every form of advertising possible. Word of mouth is definitely important, but it can only go so far. I use all of the popular social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, my personal website) to advertise.
The most successful form of marketing has been Facebook. I promote my book to different book groups on Facebook daily and my novels have been picked up as monthly reads for different book clubs around the country. I haven’t had much success with Instagram. I use press releases, advertise in local newspapers, and enter book contest to promote and spark interests for potential readers. I also keep at least (5) five paperback books on me at all time. I talk to new people every day, so there are always new potential readers to meet.
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? What do you do to get book reviews?
In order to sell your book effectively, I believe it starts with you. You have to talk to all types of people. In order to sell a lot of books, people have to know your book exists. I search for credible reviewer on Amazon and Goodreads. I also do research over the internet for other well know reviewers. If possible, find online promoters who post in Facebook groups. I’ve found that to be very effective because it introduces tons of people to your book.
- What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
There will be lots of times when you want to give up. There will be times when people talk bad about your book or sales might be low. Never give up. Believe in yourself and believe in your work. Listen to critiques and push your pride to the side. It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you believe you are, you can always improve. There will be those who will not be fans of your writing, but you should never give up. Keep improving and learning your craft. Edit and re-edit. (*always have your books professionally edited. You want people to take your book seriously and not feel that it is amateurish.) Learn from your mistakes, take classes and read other authors. Research the industry. Two of the most important things to do are: 1. Find a credible editor and 2. Promote, promote, promote. You have to put your heart and soul into your work. While it will be hard and you will go through trials and tribulations, in the end it’s worth it when your book is entertaining people and it’s successful.
- Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
There are different strokes for different folks. There will be some that just don’t feel my style of writing or the story I’m telling.
In this business, you have to have thick skin, you can’t take everything personal. I listen to constructive criticism that I feel is helpful.
As a writer, I try to work on my flaws and improve with every book, but it’s impossible to please everyone. I work hard to write stories I believe a majority of people will enjoy.
- How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Readers can go to my Facebook fan page or my website to learn about my works.
- Website: http://www.woundedmonster.com/
- Blog: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6925256.Ben_Burgess_Jr_/blog
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BenBurgessJr
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ben_Burgess_Jr
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=50211048&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic
- Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/bennyb15/
- Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Ben-Burgess-Jr./e/B00BCKZPHK/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1408072175&sr=1-2-ent
- Book purchasing links:
- Google Play:https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=Vr5oAwAAQBAJ
- Barnes and Nobles:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wounded-ben-burgess-jr/1119273400?ean=2940149460601
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/6925256.Ben_Burgess_Jr_
It was a great privilege for me to get to interview Ben Burgess, who has inspired me in many different ways. Thank you Ben!!! Good Luck with everything! 🙂