vrijdag 21 februari 2014
I'm interviewing author William J. Benning, author of space opera series "First Admiral", which already has four books in the series.
1) What is your favourite part of the process of writing a book?
What I enjoy about the process of writing a book is the character development and creating something from scratch. Generally, I have a broad outline of how my character is likely to behave or react to situations. However, I don’t really flesh out my characters until they are in the situations that I create for them. My characters tend to evolve as I write them. And, like most writers it sometimes gives me problems with consistency in later stories. The great thing about this style is that I can really indulge in character development. Future adventures of my lead character; Billy Caudwell, will see him under some fairly intense emotional stress – making him a much darker, edgy, more unpredictable, volatile and dangerous character than he has been previously – and, marking a ‘rite of passage’ from the last vestiges of his boyhood naivety into young adulthood.
2) Tell us more about your main character. What would his dream holiday destination be? Which celebrity would he love to meet in real life?
Billy Caudwell, my lead character, is (now) a 15 year old student having been packed off to a private schoolboy his mother. Billy’s mother and father are estranged and separated with a view to divorcing. Billy, very much a self-reliant individual, continues to expand the Universal Alliance whilst keeping his First Admiral identity a secret. I have described Billy Caudwell as about 5’ 7”, stocky build with red hair and an impressive crop of freckles and acne. At school he tended to favour the humanities subjects like history, politics, economics as opposed to sciences and languages.
Billy’s ideal holiday destination? That would need to be somewhere historical with a military slant – probably a battlefield tour.
Which celebrity would he like to meet? In one of the early drafts of “First Admiral” Billy was taken by his father to see (the now late and lamented) Neil Armstrong as he was driven through their home town. Billy was inspired by simply a brief glance at the first man to set foot on the moon.
3) What are some of the challenges your main character faces?
Billy Caudwell is very much in the vein of the hero-with-a-secret-identity. He has the tough job of being a 15 year old human. Billy is not the most handsome of guys and tends to struggle with self-confidence to the extent that in the early books of the series he was bullied at school. Self-doubt in his personal life is something that haunts Billy Caudwell, however, in his military endeavours he has the Mind Profile of a now-dead alien military genius to fall back upon. The Mind Profile can, at times, conflict with his own quite naïve sense of values creating problems for Billy.
He has a sharp mind and a strong streak of idealism that often presents him with difficult ‘moral’ decisions as a Supreme Military Commander. He is very prone to guilt after having sent people to their deaths in military actions. He has a habit of tending to err on the side of ‘compassion’ in his decision making, which, although the right thing at individual levels, is often detrimental at a ‘bigger picture’ level.
Billy is desperately trying to keep his First Admiral identity secret fearing that earth governments will attempt to coerce him into surrendering his advanced alien technology by threatening his family. Plus, he is becoming more and more aware that the Universal Alliance will expand to the point where he can no longer juggle the two parts of his life. He knows that a decision will have to be made to leave Earth, but he just keeps on putting the decision off.
4) Is there a villain in your book? What is the villain's reasons for struggling against the protagonist?
I have a tendency not to create 1950’s type villains with black hats, masks and a nifty line in ‘mwuh-ha-ha-ha-ha’ laughter. Real life is a bit more complicated than ‘Good vs Evil’ although (ultimately) choices are forced upon people which very often casts them in such roles. The ‘antagonists’ that I create are very often people in difficult situations who have to make hard choices that conflict with those of my main character.
In the forthcoming Billy Caudwell adventure, the ‘villains’ are a nomadic species who are in decline in a military and cultural sense. After centuries of roaming the galaxy; dominating and exploiting less warlike species, their way of life is rapidly decaying. The species is having difficulty feeding all of its people, creating fears of societal breakdown and civil war. There has been no incentive for the species to change their ways, develop their technology or allow their rigidly defined society to evolve.
With Billy Caudwell’s expanding Universal Alliance squaring up to the Bardomil Empire, they are caught in the middle with their resources starting to dwindle and more and more of the ‘weaker’ species that they previously dominated now fighting back.
With Earth firmly planted in the de-militarized zone between the two power blocs, the Bardomil offer the once-powerful nomadic species as much clandestine military and financial aid needed to conquer and colonize the planet. This brings Billy Caudwell into a conflict of interest where he must decide whether to honour the Universal Alliance’s treaty obligations or defend his home planet, his family and everything that he loves.
5) What projects are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working on two novels and two short stories. The next Billy Caudwell adventure is in production. In the next adventure, Billy is still trying to juggle his double life as the First Admiral and Supreme Military Commander of the rapidly expanding Universal Alliance and as a 15 year old student on planet earth. This time, Billy is under suspicion from a (UK) Special Branch officer who was originally sent to make background checks on Billy’s father. Billy’s father; having secretly been implanted with the Mind Profile of an alien armaments inventor/industrialist, has gone from being a humble factory worker to a multi-millionaire inventor of consumer-electronics in a very short space of time. He is now building an ‘Observatory’ in the Nevada Desert (as a cover for an advanced planetary defence weapon) which has drawn the attention of the US military.
Billy’s sudden new-found expertise in mathematics, physics and sciences (at which he never excelled previously) also makes the Special Branch officer very suspicious. Meanwhile, an alien species are developing and secretly manufacturing a bacteriological weapon on earth to weaken humanity’s resistance prior to a military invasion of the planet. Billy has to combat this threat to the planet whilst maintaining his own secret identity.
I’m also in the process of writing up the first title in a new series about a time-travelling artefact hunter with a YA female lead.
In the short stories, I have written a sequel to the highly-successful ‘Private Gimble’ about an ex-poacher turned sniper hunter in the trenches of the Western Front. This time, Gimble has the mission to retrieve a messenger caught in No Man’s Land and pursued by a German patrol.
The second short story also has a World War One theme. This time, the ghost of a young soldier; killed in action, and the last remaining spirit in the cemetery (the others having had their graves visited by a relative or loved one and having passed on to the Afterlife) is visited by his - now very elderly – sweetheart. In an emotional encounter, both of them find some form of closure (and redemption).
Thanks for the interview!
The author, William J.Benning was born in Dumfries (south west Scotland) in 1963. With his 50th birthday fast approaching, Benning has decided to grow old disgracefully. An intensely private individual, Benning recently returned to his home town seeking inspiration for his passion of creative writing. At age 18, Benning left home to take an Honours Degree in Psychology at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. He has some very fond memories, and many nights of vague recollection - which are, on the whole, probably best forgotten (!) - from his student days. After graduating, Benning had a career "false start" moving into the world of Pest Control Management. However, after several unhappy years, he switched tack and took further qualifications in Personnel Management, carving out a successful and enjoyable career in Human Resources as well as Learning & Development. Throughout his career, Benning has worked to support the activities of the British Red Cross.
From his early days as a First Aid Volunteer, he enjoyed working for the organisation which gave him further skills and built his self-confidence. Progressing within British Red Cross, Benning became a First Aid Instructor (Trainer), Assessor and Lecturer plus becoming invoved in training other Trainers and Assessors. Having returned to Dumfries to further his writing career, Benning now lives alone, but has been adopted by four members of the Canine Community. With four dogs in his life - and a newly arrived litter of Tibetan Terrier pups - plus a newly published novel, life is never going to be dull for Benning. William likes his sci-fi, but is also keen on military history and speculative fiction. Among his fiction favourites are Harry Turtledove, the late George MacDonald Fraser, Bernard Cornwell and Clive Cussler. William collects Edinburgh Crystal and has a terrible weakness for malt whisky. He has published his novel First Admiral with Malachite Quills in 2012.
Buy your own copy of the First Admiral series here: http://www.clockworkquills.com/the-first-admiral-series.html