Friday, January 02, 2009

Author Snapshot: Laura Benedict

Most recent book: Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts
Born: Cincinnati, Ohio
Reside: Southern Illinois
Birthday: July 2
Web site:

What’s your favorite city?
I’ve never been there, but I think it would probably be Florence, Italy.

You only have six hours to spend there. What do you do?
Visit the Uffizzi, the Galleria (where Michelangelo’s David is), and the Ponte Vecchio.

What food do you love?
Dark chocolate.

What food have you vowed never to touch again?
Olives. My grandfather was mad for them and I tried to eat them many times when I was little so I could be like him. But I gave up after he died because, really, it probably never mattered to him whether I liked them or not.

What’s on your nightstand?
A half-chewed WWII plastic army guy (the puppy did the chewing, not me), a booklight that needs new batteries, two fresh tissues, an alarm clock, a dental appointment card from three months ago and the following books: The Bible, Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables; For Your Eyes Alone: The Letters of Robertson Davies; David Corbett, Blood of Paradise; Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger, The Letters; Collected Poems of WB Yeats; Joyce Carol Oates, Mysteries of Winterthurn; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Palmistry; Seamus Heaney, District and Circle (poems); Michelle Gagnon, Boneyard.

What inspires you?
My children, the woods, music, artwork and good writing. Dreams. My intense desire to be able to afford fashionable clothes.

What are you working on now?
A horror novel based on the tale of The Gingerbread Man

Tell us about your process.
Definitely a “pantser” and not a “plotter.” I start with a strong image, then depend on my characters and the setting to lead me from there. I would be lost without a computer, though I’m not tied to a particular one. Sometimes, if I feel like I need to be more intimate with a scene, I’ll write it out in pencil in a notebook. I have a stack of eight or nine spiral notebooks of various sizes in a drawer at hand -- notes on stories and novels are scattered throughout them, though I usually settle into one when I get going on a novel. But there are also grocery lists, volunteer notes from the last couple Thrillerfests, dreams I’ve had, phone numbers and notes on my income taxes.

Lift your head and look around. What do you see?
Myself in my hairstylist’s mirror, my head beneath a big domed hair drier: no makeup, much of my hair in little foily thingys, a stuffed monkey, a bag of chocolate and hair stylist paraphernalia.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I had the first hint that I wanted to be a writer in 1985. I was sitting in my studio apartment near Washington University in St. Louis and I suddenly began writing a monologue for a woman who might have been a deranged character from a Tennessee Williams play. The apartment building, a bizarre art deco confection called The Castlereagh, had certainly been there when Williams lived in U City, so maybe he was looking over my shoulder. I confess that I have a weakness for Southern Gothic, so, maybe...

If you couldn’t write books, what would you be doing?
Perhaps living under permanent psychiatric observation or playing solitaire for hours at a time on my computer or working as a caterer or studying the habits of raptors.

To date, what moment in your career has made you happiest?
Finding out that the paperback reprint of Isabella Moon will be featured in Target beginning in mid-February. Target is my happy place.

For you, what is the easiest thing about being writer?

What’s the most difficult?
Reading unpleasant reviews of my work. I’m all for hearing someone’s thoughts on my writing, even if they’re not crazy about it. I know my work won’t please/amuse/entertain everyone. But some reviewers seem to take a distinct pleasure in being particularly cruel. Now, I understand that I’ve put the work out there so folks get to say whatever they want. But it hurts sometimes and, yes, it can make me cry.

What question do you get asked about your writing most often?
How can you write the stories you write? You look like such a nice person!

What’s the question you’d like to be asked?
Why aren’t there any talking animals in your work? (I’m working on it!)

What question would like never to be asked again?
Do you think you’ll get to be on Oprah?

Please tell us about Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts.
It’s the story of three women who told a very cruel lie about a handsome priest back when they were teenagers and ruined his life and career. The priest takes his revenge by enlisting the aid of a demon (Satan himself, if you like) to wreck their lives. It’s not a book for children or the easily offended. It contains much sex and violence and disturbing imagery. Then again, it’s a horror novel and horror novels are supposed to, well, horrify.

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
I’ve never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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