With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author Kenneth Bennett
Kenneth G. Bennett is the author of the young adult Gaia Wars series, as well as the upcoming thriller, Exodus 2021. Ken attended Art Center College of Design and is an award-winning creative director. A wilderness enthusiast, Ken enjoys backpacking, skiing, and kayaking. He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest.
What first inspired you to write a book for young adults?
I began writing The Gaia Wars for my son, Eli, in 2007, when he was 11 years old. The story evolved from a conversation Eli and I had while backpacking in North Cascades National Park.
Do you have a certain process for writing books? Is there a great deal of research involved?
Much of the advice in Stephen King’s “On Writing” resonated for me, including this paragraph on how he begins a novel:
“The situation comes first. The characters—always flat and unfeatured, to begin with—come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I begin to narrate.
I often have an idea of what the outcome may be, but I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however it’s something I never expected. For a suspense novelist, this is a great thing. I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator, but its first reader. And if I’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. And why worry about the ending anyway? Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes out somewhere.”
I love this passage and find it inspiring and liberating at the same time. Painstaking outlining and plotting probably works for many writers but it has never felt right to me.
In the case of The Gaia Wars, I began with a concept I was passionate about and let the story unfold page by page. No outlines. No character profiles. One rule I do try to adhere to is to write at least 1,000 words per day, six days a week.
As a Pacific Northwest native, you call yourself a “wilderness enthusiast”. How does your love of nature integrate itself into your writing?
I love the outdoors and am an avid skier and backpacker. I’m also a lifelong environmentalist who believes the human race is trashing the Earth. Issues such as climate change and species loss get me pretty fired up and definitely inform my work.
What do you find challenging about writing in the YA genre? How is writing for adults different for you as an author?
My favorite YA books can be enjoyed by anyone of any age: The Harry Potter books, The His Dark Materials (Golden Compass) series, The Hunger Games series, Feed (a dystopian novel by M.T. Anderson). They’re YA because the protagonists are younger but the stories are as amazing as anything found in any adult novel. I really don’t see much difference between great YA and great (name your genre). It’s all about the storytelling.
How was the actual publishing process for you? What affected the choices you made to publish independently?
With the new tools available through CreateSpace, I decided to publish The Gaia Wars and the sequel, Battle for Cascadia, independently. The process was arduous, time consuming, expensive, and a blast. I worked with a professional editor, two proofreaders, a Kindle formatter, an art director/cover designer and a website developer prior to the launch of the series.
Do you design your own covers? How important do you think cover images are particularly for the Kindle market?
I think covers are hugely important and I definitely did not design my own. I wish I had that kind of talent. In my day job, I’m an advertising Creative Director and am fortunate to have some highly talented art director/graphic designer friends. I asked my friend Larry Weiner http://www.larrybw.com/BOOKS.html to help design the covers for The Gaia Wars and Battle for Cascadia and feel that he did a fabulous job. My wife (Susan Marie Andersson) is also a designer and handled the cover typography and created my author and series websites.
You recently received a movie option for The Gaia Wars– congratulations! How did this come about, did you use an agent? Are there any particular actors you’d love to see bring your book to life?
The Gaia Wars received a very positive Kirkus Review in the Spring of 2012 https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kenneth-bennett/the-gaia-wars/
and that led to an inquiry and eventual movie option agreement with Identity Films, LA, http://identityfilm.com/ http://variety.com/2012/film/news/bennett-s-gaia-wars-finds-identity-films-1118058388/
The Kirkus Review and movie option agreement spurred interest from a number of agents and I signed with Emily Keyes of the L. Perkins Agency in September 2012. As far as actors who might appear in a Gaia Wars movie … I will just be ecstatic if the option agreement progresses into the production phase!
On your website you have a wide variety of reviewers that have covered your book. Any tips for authors looking for reviews for their books?
I participated in a “blog tour” with Novel Publicity in the Fall of 2011. The Gaia Wars and sequel were sent to more than 100 book bloggers/reviewers. Bloggers liked the books (thankfully) and the resulting posts—from all over the world—were fantastic. Extremely encouraging for a first-time author!
What avenues do you use to promote your books? How much marketing do you do, personally and what has worked the best for you?
I worked on the above-mentioned blog tour with Novel Publicity. I promoted the books via my author website, series site, Twitter, and Facebook Fan Page, but honestly, that kind of promotion is not my favorite thing. Or even my 300th favorite thing. I’d much rather be working on a new book than promoting an existing one. On the other hand, if you’re going to self publish you pretty much have to promote your work.
What can you tell us about your upcoming thriller, Exodus 2021? When can readers expect to see it in stores/online?
Exodus 2021 is an adult thriller about a twenty-something episcopal priest who begins suffering severe, unexplained hallucinations while vacationing in the San Juan Islands. The book is with my agent and a fabulous editor now and we hope to have a publication deal soon.
Do you have any other projects or speaking engagements, or signings we can look out for?
I am hard at work on the 3rd book in The Gaia Wars series and hope to have a completed draft in early 2014. I was recently interviewed about The Gaia Wars series by Author Magazine.
Find out more about Ken on his Twitter, Facebook, author page, and more!
AUTHOR SITE: http://www.kennethgbennettbooks.com
SERIES SITE: http://thegaiawars.com
FACEBOOK FAN PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/TheGaiaWars
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is an English/Marketing major at Whitworth University. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.