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Name : Tom Benson

Age : 62

Where are you from : Glasgow, Scotland

A little about yourself, i.e. your education, family life, etc  

I’m the oldest of four boys and two girls. I was eight years old when my three brothers, my parents and I, moved out from a single-room in a rundown tenement in the east end of Glasgow. We set up home in what to us, was a luxurious two-bedroom apartment in Drumchapel, a sprawling housing estate on the city’s western boundary. I was a natural scholar and artist, so I excelled at lessons, but due to lack of financial backing I was destined to leave school at 15. That was how it was in 1967.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

Having enjoyed a 23-year career in the military and then a 20-year career in retail management, I’ve settled down in the last couple of years as a creative writer. I still maintain a retail role, but only a 3-day-a-week job as sales assistant, which suits me.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing my military memoirs in the mid-90’s, having finished my army days in ’92. It took me a couple of years, because I was holding down a full time job and commuting daily. When the manuscript was completed, even I knew that the story might be okay, but the writing was terrible. I left the idea aside and concentrated on my day job.

I wrote my military story partly to cleanse my mind, partly as something to leave behind, and if I’m honest, to a greater extent – to relive those 23 years. I enjoyed the life and I had survived to tell the tale.

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In 2007, about ten years after abandoning my military life story, I started writing poetry, which was something I did spontaneously one day during my lunch-break. I joined a poetry website and after a few months attempted writing short stories. In 2010, one of my stories was a winner in a competition to be included in an anthology about Whitby Abbey. For me, that was the turning point – my writing and my name were in print; together.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

My military career inspired my first book, but strangely that has now been reworked several times and is as yet unfinished.

‘Ten Days in Panama’ was my first self-published book. It took a year to write and it was published in 2012. My inspiration came from my contact with a scientist, whom I’d met via a poetry site. We took an interest in each other’s background and lifestyle and became good friends.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?

I would hesitate to call it a style, but it’s in my nature to keep everything neat and tidy. It’s probably for that reason that I tend to produce a story in a chronological order with clearly defined periods of time, and flashbacks are used sparingly, but as required.

Fiona: How do you come up with the titles?

Titles for me are a very important part of the whole writing package, so I tend to give myself a ‘working title’ and then I’ll list more possible titles whilst I’m in the process of writing the particular story. Too many writers in my opinion go for an easy option.

‘Ten Days in Panama’ is probably my simplest title to date. It started out as Ten Days, but then I decided to qualify it with the location. The actual story takes place over a longer time period, but the main activity takes place over … ten days in Panama.

‘Beyond The Law’ is a phrase I used in the book of the same name, and it was when I wrote that particular phrase that it struck me how well it suited the story. Although the story opens with a military scenario in Africa, the situation still sits well under the title.

‘Amsterdam Calling’ had about ten titles listed before I settled on the final choice. For this one, like my other writing, it had to work for both the main characters and carry the theme of the whole story.

‘A Taste of Honey’ evolved from several things. It was how the antagonists thought of their despicable crimes against young women. It was what the heroine dished out in retribution, and finally it was a general theme for the entire story.

My two anthologies of short stories: ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, and ‘Coming Around’ work in multiple ways. In both cases the collection title is the title of an individual story, and it is also a constant theme throughout.

Fiona: Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t try to send messages to readers, subliminally or otherwise, but I do try to tell a believable story. When at school I was bullied. In my early army days, one incident took place that was to change my character and outlook forevermore. It also changed the profile of the guy who decided to pick on me.

Fiona: How much of your books are realistic?

I like to believe that all of my books are realistic. I use fictional characters, but wherever possible I tend to use factual locations and establishments. In Amsterdam Calling for example there are 18 establishments visited in the story. It took a few months of contact to gain permission to use the registered names.

Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Apart from a couple of the short stories in my two anthologies, the activities of my characters are fictional. Which short stories are based on my experiences? If you were to read Coming Around it might indicate why I’m not prepared to say which ones.

Fiona: What books have influenced your life most? A mentor?

A mentor? No, but there would be three books: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. They may be old and considered adventures for boys, but to me they encompass so many aspects of endurance of the individual in harrowing circumstances. When things are not going smoothly it always serves to make me think – how hard is my life really?

Fiona: Which book are you reading now?

I have just started reading ‘Arise’ by Eric Lahti, a fellow indie author whose writing appeals to me. ‘Arise’ is the sequel to ‘Henchmen’, which I enjoyed.

Fiona: Are there any new authors that have captured your interest?

I could name so many and they are all indie authors, but it would start to look like an Oscar acceptance speech. I will instead say that in recent times I’ve been particularly impressed by: Jim D Murray, Patrick C Power, Lesley Hayes, Rebecca Bryn, Andrew Updegrove and Nicola McDonagh.

Fiona: What are your current projects?

In the background as always is ‘A Life of Choice’, my military memoirs in the guise of a coming-of-age story.

I am making steady progress with ‘Acts of Vengeance’, which is the sequel to my top selling title ‘Beyond The Law’.

Fiona: Name one entity that you feel has supported you, apart from family members.

It would have to be my distant friend and confidante Carmen (the Microbiologist), who has been there for me since before I started work on my first novel. I like to think of her as both my greatest fan, and my finest critic. However well we may get along, she is still forthright enough to tell me when I’ve got something totally wrong. Over the years she has also been good at coming up with suggestions to correct the issues she finds.

Fiona: Do you see your writing as a career?

Yes, it has been since the moment I saw my short story ‘Decision at The Abbey’ published in an anthology and on a shelf. I tend to look back at that story now as my starting point.

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I could say I wouldn’t change anything in any of my books, but as a writer my work is only as good as the last edit. With that in mind, I write several drafts before any of my work is published, so I must believe that it is ready to go when I hit the publish button.

Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

When I read ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, I realized I would love to be able to write a story like that one.

Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?

‘Acts of Vengeance’ lives up to the title from the opening, and if I can produce the story that is still largely in my mind, it will also end by living up to the title. It includes drug smugglers in Colombia, gangsters in Scotland, drug smugglers in Afghanistan, a biker gang, betrayal, comradeship and bravery. Did I mention bloodshed, violence and action? Yes, they’re in there too.

Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Eloquence.


Fiona: Who is your favorite author, and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Wilbur Smith is my favourite author although I do enjoy several others. Wilbur Smith uses realistic dialogue, stunning imagery, incredible detail, and colourful, well-rounded characters. One of the greatest aspects of his stories is that apart from telling a wonderful tale, he is not averse to killing off one or two of the good guys.


Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your books?

I tend to deal with this aspect of writing the other way around. For some of my imagery I work from memory, but in more recent years I’ve been in the habit of taking photographs, making notes, or lifting free literature whenever I’m travelling. The Internet may be okay, but for me, there is nothing quite like having walked through the archways of the Coliseum in Rome, through the Brandenburg Tor in Berlin, suffered the heat and the cold of the desert in the Middle East, walking the New York streets at night, or climbed the summit of a Scottish mountain.


Fiona: Who designed the covers?

The covers for my novels are designed by Aimee Bell (Author Design Studio). I created the covers for my short story anthologies and poetry anthologies myself.


Fiona: What is the hardest part of writing your books?

The hardest part of writing a book for me, is the knowing when to stop. No matter how long or short a story might be, I believe it must have a beginning, middle, and an end. A good ending is as critical as a good story.


Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?

I’ve learned that I enjoy imagining and relating a story. I have confirmed in no uncertain terms that I am a great believer in the bad guys not coming out on top. I’ll let them win a battle on the odd occasion, but they won’t win the war.


Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Although not in the early stages of my life, I consider myself to be in the early stages of my writing career, so my advice could only be based on my limited experience. To a novice writer I would suggest – not publishing until the work is as good as it can be.

Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

If you enjoy my books, please tell others, and if you don’t; please tell me.

Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Until I finished reading; I was Tom Sawyer.

Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Humour is capable of making me do both. In my writing I’ve learned to judge how realistic a scene has developed by my mental and physical reaction to it. I move on at a pace when writing, so it’s when I am editing for the final time that I might feel the emotion creeping up on me. This applies to all genre: thriller, adventure, erotica, romance.

Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet, and why?

There are several figures from history for whom I have respect, but I don’t believe there is anybody I could select for a one-to-one.

Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why?

‘Here lies Tom Benson: soldier, retailer, author, and artist. He was adored by women, admired by men and envied by all who saw his beautiful house in the Highlands and realised the extent of his astounding fortune.’

I would like that message to be true, but at least it would bring a smile when a visitor realised it was partly for fun.

Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?

I’m a self-taught artist, so I draw and paint when not reading or writing.

Fiona: What TV shows / films do you enjoy watching?

Natural History on TV has been a favourite all my life, even when it was black and white. In films I like action, adventure and espionage. I expect escapism, but not to the point of the impossible. Sorry Mr. Cruise – you really don’t push my buttons; that would really be a Mission Impossible.

Fiona: Favorite foods / colors / music?

I’m not now, and never have been a ‘food junkie’. I like sweet rather than savoury. If anyone pulls me up for not trying new things or eating more, I have a maxim – ‘I eat to live; I don’t live to eat.

I like reds and golds for some reason. Perhaps I should have been a Chinese temple designer.

I like most music, including: pop, classical, instrumental, folk, country and western, and heavy metal, but I don’t like jazz, garage or any of the head-banging stuff that is around.

Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?

A musician or a linguist would be my second choice. I’ve always wanted to play the piano, and although I can learn foreign vocabulary, I’m not good at conversational use. Okay, for a long time I’ve also harboured the dream of being a racing driver.

Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?

Ah, now we’re back to reality. I have a blog and two websites:

Blog: http://www.tombensoncreative.com

Creative Writer and Artist: http://www.tom-benson.co.uk

Author Website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com

Amazon Page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Benson/e/B00C9HTUTY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

A Taste of Honey

Links for ‘A Taste of Honey’ : Amazon UK   I   Amazon US

Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714

Links for ‘Amsterdam Calling’ : Amazon UK   |   Amazon US

Beyond The Law - the cover 2904

Links for ‘Beyond The Law’ : Amazon UK   |   Amazon US

Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904

Links for ‘Ten Days in Panama’ : Amazon UK   |   Amazon US

Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

Links for ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ : Amazon UK   |   Amazon US

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Links for ‘Coming Around’ : Amazon UK   |   Amazon US