The Writer's Life with Dark Fantasy Author Benjamin Kane Ethridge



Benjamin Kane Ethridge is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of the novel BLACK & ORANGE. His official web presence is www.bkethridge.com and you can FaceBook him here, www.facebook.com/benjamin.kane.ethridge and Tweet him here, www.twitter.com/#!/bkethridge

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Benjamin. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?


A: Absolutely. I dwell in Southern California, in a city called Rancho Cucamonga (yes, I know), with my patient wife and not-so-patient two-year old daughter. Presently, writing is a part-time job for me, but has been a full-time craze since childhood. My day job is in environmental regulation, something that’s extremely rewarding to me. I love the Earth and hope to always have some part in protecting it.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?


A: Black & Orange is about a gateway that opens every Halloween to a hostile land of sacrificial magic and chaos. Since the beginning of civilization the Church of Midnight has attempted to permanently open the gateway with the ideal sacrifice. This year that sacrifice has come. And only two can protect it.

Martin and Teresa are the nomads, battle-hardened people who lack identity and are forever road-bound on a mission to guard the sacrifice. But matters have become more complicated this year. Teresa has quickly lost ground battling cancer, while Martin has spiraled into a panic over being left alone. His mind may no longer be on the fight when it matters most... because ever on their heels is the insidious Chaplain Cloth.

This was an incredibly fun book to write. I suppose I had many different reasons for writing it. It started off as a short story that had grown too complex. Thinking about its length and potential to go on longer, I decided to write a novel.

I didn’t want to write a conventional Halloween tale. You know, one that is set in a remote, smallish-town, something spooky is amiss and must be resolved by a pair of conflicted local sheriffs. Stephen King already struck that chord long ago and delivered just about as well as any writer could ever imagine.

No, I didn’t seek to tread that ground again. I wanted to redefine Halloween without abandoning all of the tropes that make the holiday terrifying. For instance, there are killer Jack O’ Lanterns in Black & Orange, but many readers have envisioned them more as demonically charged gourds than typical pumpkin manifestations.



What kind of research was involved in writing Black & Orange?

A: Due to the fantastic nature of the novel, I can’t say I needed to research any subject in particular. I did ruminate on all the Halloween novels and movies I’d consumed in the past and consciously tried to isolate repeating themes to avoid.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

A: Oh, so many folks out there would hate me if I said it was smooth sailing! I don’t know anybody who hasn’t had the turbulent ride up to the first sale. I started submitting short stories when I was nineteen-- then stopped the following year. I got lazy, got in my twenties, just got really sidetracked for all the wrong reasons. I continued to write though. I started and stopped four novels.

Time was quickly passing by. At twenty-eight years of age, I remember sitting on the couch, deep in a discussion with my wife, tears touching my eyes. “I’m not happy,” I told her, “not because of you—because of me. Writing. It might not make sense and it might not make us money, but it’s what I really want. And right now, I’m not doing anything about it.”

Fortunately for me, my wife understood. I started submitting to magazines again and had a series of short stories published, and then I sold a novel, which went on to win the Bram Stoker Award. I’m so glad I had that conversation with my wife!

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

A: A little more than a year and a half.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: Several agents have solicited me at this point. One passed and the other went MIA. I understand that this isn’t unique. Securing an agent is difficult. I desire representation because, aside from the obvious contract negotiation stage, it helps an author in the submission process. I am a chronically bad submitter. Love writing. Hate selling. I would prefer to have someone do the selling for me, if possible. Plus, there are big houses who only take agented submissions.

Do you plan subsequent books?

A: I have written three novels since my first, which includes a stand-alone sequel to Black & Orange. I’m finishing up the editing on my second novel Dungeon Brain right now and will begin querying publishers soon.

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

A: Anywhere silent suits me.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A: A building-sized advertisement in Times Square would be nice.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

A: Self-promotion is one-hundred percent necessary if you want your book to reach people. I’ve encountered some brilliant writers who somehow believe their books will find an audience just based on quality alone. That’s a colossal mistake. Word of mouth can work, but it’s a fluke most times. And do you really want to be one of those authors discovered one hundred years after your death? Call me outlandish, but I’d like massive feedback before then. So, go do signings wherever you can, toss off the timidity and do readings at genre conventions, do blog tours, and if you have money to advertise, by all means. You have to plant as many seeds as possible because not all of them are going to break soil and thrive. These days, many writers cannot depend on their publisher for enough exposure to succeed. That’s how it is.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

A: It’s a struggle. You’re fighting a strong current, your wrists and ankles tied to cement blocks. With waves crashing over your every attempt, it’s easier to drown than to untie each complicated knot. If you get the ropes untied, you’re free to swim, right? Well yeah, in a tempest.

It’s natural to get discouraged when you write a story you believe fits a magazine perfectly, and they reject it in less time it took to seal the envelope it came in. The unfortunate news is that being published doesn’t rid you of disappointments—it might actually amplify it in some circumstances: bad reviews, poor sales, etc.

When shadows stretch over the process, I have thought of throwing in the towel, but I don’t indulge the idea very long. Writing is not always a career, but it is always a lifestyle. A writer has an abnormal mind. For the most part, we don’t want to experience life; we want to recreate life. This is inescapable. If you can give the life up, then you have to confess you belong to another species.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

A: Have that same moment of truth I had. Do you want this life? Is this who you are? A writer? We can all write stories, but do you have an irrepressible obsession to share them with the world? If you know for certain, the rest is easy. Start fighting those waves and untying the ropes holding you down. It may take a very long time before you’re swimming gentle waters, but others have succeeded. You undoubtedly can too.

Thank you for your interview, Benjamin. I wish you much success!

A: And thank you! It’s been a pleasure.
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