Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Untreed Reads Author: Benson Phillip Lott

This week's guest spot on The Accidental Author is an Interview with Benson Phillip Lott, author of "Pumpkin", a horror short story available through Untreed Reads.  In this interview, he speaks about his writing process, the steps to publishing "Pumpkin", the importance of a relationship with a publisher, and some hints at future works.

Please welcome to the digital podium:  Benson Lott.

The Accidental Author:  What do you find to be your primary motivation for writing?

Benson Lott:  Before I answer that, let me just say that I’m very excited and grateful to have this opportunity. So thank you. As far as my motivation goes I have two main objectives: to get the ideas out of my head so I don’t go crazy and second to entertain people. I love telling stories.

AA:  Is writing something you do in your “down time” or is it a career aspiration?  If it is something you do in your “down time”, what is your “day job”?

BL:  Right now, I’m pretty lucky. I can write every day for as long as I please. I do have a part time job (working for a moving company), but mostly, my days are spent in Microsoft Word, typing away. This is by no means “just a hobby.” Writing is my life. I am extremely dedicated.

AA:  Did you go to school for creative writing, or is it something for which you have a natural talent?

BL:  I was born into a family of writers. I did not go to school for it. Or, let me put it another way. When I was in school, while everyone else was listening to the teacher talk, I was in the back of the class writing screenplays and short stories. I even created a comic book series called “Life Sucks”, most of which I wrote in detention for being late or not participating in class. Traditional schooling just wasn’t my path.

AA:  Your short story, “Pumpkin”, available from Untreed Reads, is what I would call a paranoid horror story.  What was your inspiration for this tale?

BL:  Mostly my own experience with self-deception/insecurity. The interaction between the main character, Raymond, and the pumpkin is quite similar to how I inwardly converse with myself at times. Everyone has that negative voice that tells them things about ourselves and others that may or may not be true. I just amplified it and gave the voice a face…sort of.

AA:  In terms of your writing process, are you more character-centric or plot-centric?  In other words, do you think of interesting characters and then write situations around them, or do you think of interesting plots, and write characters INTO them?

BL:  Some of my stories are definitely more focused on the plot. I always try to insert interesting characters, but when it comes to writing horror my main concern revolves around the structure and pace. However, that may change as I progress, who knows?

AA:  Describe your journey to the publication of “Pumpkin”.

BL:  “Pumpkin” is flash fiction. My whole purpose for writing it was to see if I could pull off writing a story in two thousands words or less. The first draft took me about forty-five minutes. I submitted the same day to five different places. Untreed Reads was the first to respond (about four days later). The other responses said they liked the idea, but had complaints about its edgy material. Jay Hartman [of Untreed Reads] was, and still is, great. He had some issues with the first draft as well, but in his case, I agreed with what needed to be changed. He’s been superb in assisting me with promoting the story and I hope to work with him again on a different project soon.

AA:  About revising and rewriting: 
  • Have you joined any writing communities online like Zoetrope or Critique Circle?  If so, how valuable have you found them to be? 
  • Do you let other people (family, friends, co-workers) read your writing for input?  If so, how valuable do you find that input?
      BL:  I have a small circle of friends and family members with whom I share my stories. Their input is vital. What’s most important is that they’re honest with me. I do not belong to any writing communities but that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend them.

      AA:  How important is it to you to have an ongoing relationship with a publisher like Untreed Reads?  Will you be publishing more stories with them?

      BL:  I’ve already written a sequel to "Pumpkin". If Untreed Reads wants it, they are certainly welcome to have it. I’ve been emailing with Jay at least once a week for over a month and a half. I think it’s important to maintain a relationship with a publisher. Christopher Payne, who selected one of my short stories to be part of his anthology, is now a friend of mine on Goodreads. It’s great to know these types of people (authors, editors, publishers alike). And that includes you as well, my friend.

      AA:  Most people who write also have an insatiable appetite for reading.  Is this the case with you?  Do you like to read the same kind of stories that you enjoy writing?

      BL:  I read just as much, if not more, than I write. And yes, I love horror writers, although my personal favorite is Bret Easton Ellis, who is an enormous inspiration for me. I’m currently reading Lunar Park for what must be the fifth or sixth time.

      AA:  Do you prefer writing short stories, or do you aspire to longer works?

      BL:  I have so many ideas that to write them all as novels would require that I become someone like Stephen King (seriously, that man defies all logic when it comes to producing these 900 page novels in what seems like a matter of months). However, I have written two full-length manuscripts and I see myself gradually progressing toward a third. I’ve started with short stories in order to build my publishing credentials faster.

      AA:  Some people derive a great deal of inspiration from music, while others find inspiration by observing friends, family or complete strangers.  Others have inspiration that arises from their dreams and nightmares.  What is your muse?

      BL:  All of that and more. Ideas hit me all the time, stemming from the most random of places (or people or situations). It’s kind of overwhelming actually.

      AA:  If you don’t mind my asking, what types of projects are you currently working on?

      BL:  Aside from the sequel to "Pumpkin", my first novel is being reviewed by several literary agencies. And as far as what I’m actually writing at this exact moment: I’ve been rewriting a short story from my back of the class/high school days. Yes, it’s a horror. It’s called “Breath of the Midnight Jogger.” I hope to have it finished by the end of the month. Then it’s right on to the next one.

      AA:  If you had one morsel of advice for the aspiring writer out there thinking about transitioning from “writing for fun” to “writing for fun AND profit”, what would that be?

      BL:  Write. Query. Submit. Write. Query. Submit. Write. Query. Submit. Start at any level you want (non-pay, semi pro, pro). If you’re good enough, (or marketable enough) the right person will find you. Or more likely, you’ll find them.

      Born thirty years ago in Fairbanks, Alaska, Benson Phillip Lott now lives and works in San Rafael, California. His fiction has appeared in Untreed Reads horror/flash fiction line (October 2010), JournalStone's 2010 Anthology "Warped Words For Twisted Minds", Static Movement (April issue of 2009) and his poetry has been published in The Twin Cities Times (2003).


      1. Hi Benson,
        Nice interview. And what a little cutie pie! Benson's latest, DragonBaby will be out this month from Dancing With Bear Publishing.

      2. Totally radical! Totally kicked! You're such an AMAZING person!

      3. Totally radical! Totally kicked! You're such an AMAZING person!