One of that multi-talented persons I adore is definitely Amber Benson. Although she might be known mostly for her acting career (she played Willows girlfriend Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer for about three years), she’s also a director, script and comic book writer and a producer. Together with Christopher Golden she developed Ghosts of Albion. Now her first solo-written novel Death’s Daughter hit the shelves! Perfect time to ask her to do an interview with me! The best thing: She agreed!
Amber Benson Interview
Please try to give us an idea of what awaits us in Death’s Daughter in just one sentence.
A girl and her hell hound duke it out with the Devil’s protege for the Presidency of Death.
It’s my first solo book, but after getting my degree at Chris Golden University I felt up to the challenge. It probably took me a year or so to complete the first book, but there was a bit of down time due to some acting work.
How would you describe the type of books you write to someone who hasn’t read your novels yet?
Supernatural fantasy chick-lit mixed with a bit of Joseph Campbell mythology.
How does the novel differ from the previous books you wrote with Christopher Golden?
The Calliope Reaper-Jones books are set in present day NYC and there is a lot of high-fashion clothing, accessory and footwear coveting going on. It’s very much from a single girl’s point of view, with lots of naughty thoughts popping up all over the place. In counterpoint, the Ghosts of Albion books take place in Victorian England and are from the POV of a myriad of characters. Those books are much more horror oriented, while Death’s Daughter is very much in the supernatural romance vein.
Originally, I had only envisioned one book for Calliope, but after my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, read the first book, she felt that Calliope had a more prolific future ahead of her. I loved the idea of a trilogy that borrowed a bit from Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY. The first book takes place in Hell, the second in Purgatory and the third in Heaven.
Are there already titles for the second and the third novel?
Still working on that. Titles have always been tough for me.
This might be a little bit early, but: Are there already some plans for a German translation?
We actually have signed a deal with Egmont Lyx to release the first two books in Germany! Yea!
Do you have a favorite scene in your book, or is there one you’re really proud of?
I created two characters that I am really proud of: Runt, Calliope’s hellhound pup and then the Gopi, a bunch of vicious female goat herd asassins.
Who is the supporting character in this novel we should keep an eye on (and why)?
Definitely Runt. She kind of steals the book as far as I’m concerned.
As of right now, no, but I am just beginning the series, so you never know.
Although, a RuPaul like character does play an integral part in the plot of Death’s Daughter.
Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your process of writing a novel? How’s an ordinary working day like? And how do you manage to do all these different things (writing, acting, directing, producing)? Do you even have a private life, after all?
Private life? Ha! Who needs a private life. Just kidding. I try and balance stuff as best I can, but when you’re worried about paying bills and the like, you end up just making things work. If I hadn’t been writing novel during the writer’s strike this year, I would be on food stamps. No joke. As far as my process goes, well, I can’t write prose at home. I have a couple of different coffee houses I go to in LA and I try and do at least 1000 words a day. If I go somewhere outside my apartment then it’s like I’m going to work or something, ya know?
Also, I can drink myself silly on non fat lattes!
You can deal with all kinds of taboo stuff under the guise that it’s fantasy. Supernatural fiction is rife with metaphor. Just read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strangeland. You can talk about God and religion all under the mask of science fiction and no one gets offended.
What authors do you read for fun?
Charlaine Harris, Ruth Reichel, Ayn Rand, Kelly Link
“The Essence of Amber” tells us that one of your favorite authors is Marion Zimmer Bradley. Which novel from her do you like most (and why)?
I was most influenced by The Mists of Avalon , but I really love some of her short story collections, too.
What do you like best while creating a novel and/or universe – and what do you loathe?
I loathe keeping track of everything and everyone. It can be a real pain in the butt. I love disappearing into another world, just losing myself in my characters lives. It’s the best drug ever.
Yes, I think a novel can change a person’s whole perspective on the world. I also believe that an author is repsonsible for what he/she writes, but I don’t think that it means that they need to censor themselves because of this. I woulnd’t change a word of The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks even though it frightened the crap out of me.
Did your publisher ask or even demand that you make rapid changes on your book?
So far I’ve been lucky on that front. I’ve worked with two great prose editors, Steve Saffel at Del Rey and Ginjer Buchanan at ACE. They both were unbelievably nurturing of my creative process.
Can you remember what your first story (or novel) was about? And how did you realise you have a talent for writing?
I have always written short stories and poems…really bad poems, but poems nonetheless.
If you could meet a fictional character (from your own work or another) who should it be and why?
I just want to live in the book The Secret History.
You’ve written comics, novels, movie-plays – when can we expect your very own tv show?
Who knows what the future holds!
I am working on a kid’s book with my friend, Sina Grace and Chris Golden and I are in talks to work on another project together that I’m not allowed to talk about at the moment. I’m finishing up the post-production on DRONES with Adam and learning to tightrope walk–just kidding on the last one.
With Joss Whedons “Dollhouse” on air: Any chance to see you there?
You never know. I’m excited for Joss to have his hat back in the arena. We need talented, creative people doing there thing–especially now when our country is in such a time of transition. The more fun, positive programming out there the better as far as I am concerned.
Any plans to visit Germany again? It was nice to have you here a few years back, you know!
I would love to come back to Germany. I really loved spending time there, especially in Berlin. The last time I was there was during the Love Parade and it was amazing. Let’s hope the book does well there and someone invites me over for another visit!
Will there be new Willow & Tara-comics?
Not in the forseeable future.
Wouldn’t it be an option to write a story arc for the Buffy season 8 comic book series (or season 9). Or are you through with Buffy once and for all?
That’s completely up to the powers that be. I am happy to do whatever.
Okay, there’s another Buffy the Vampire Slayer-question, hope you don’t mind. During the series a lot of quotes are made about “cats” and “mice”, although these were very subtle. When Tara is in the hospital after Glorys attack she also speaks about this. Did you ever discuss with the writers of the show if there was a special meaning to it?
Not that I know of. I’m gonna have to rewatch a few episodes now!
Thank you, Amber, for your time! All the best both for your private and working live and – of course – for Death’s Daughter!
You can find Ambers blog here!