The Writing Life of: Jonathan Bennett
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Jonathan Bennett. Jonathan will be sharing with us detail of his writing life, telling us all about his latest book ‘Reading Blue Devils‘, which was released on 20th February 2018, and answering a few fun questions too.
So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Jonathan
I was born and raised in the United States, specifically Cincinnati, Ohio. I went to Catholic school until I went to college, which provided some of the inspiration for my novel. I graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and taught for six years in Chicago.
My six years in Chicago filled in the rest of the characters and situations in the story. It was in Chicago that I met and married my wife, Nicole. Our daughter Charlotte was born there as well.
We moved to California, where I am currently teaching high school English to students from China. Oh, we have a beagle-mix named Milo. We love him but he’s a pain sometimes.
1) As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
I always thought I’d be a “businessman” like my dad. What that actually meant I didn’t know until maybe college. I’m still not really sure what businessman means, to be honest.
2) Who were your favourite childhood authors?
I grew up reading Matt Christopher in elementary school. In my tween-age years, I captivated by C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series.
3) At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I loved writing as a child (my debut self-published novel Hair Hair Everywhere, sadly never left my parents refrigerator). However, when I nearly failed Calculus in college, I realized I was fooling myself and committed fully (and hopefully not foolishly) to a life of language.
4) How did you go about following that dream?
I started by calling my father to tell him I was switching majors from “Business” to “Creative Writing.” To his credit, he accepted my decision after I added I’d be a teacher as well as a writer.
When I began my studies in English, it was like I unshackled myself from a forced identity. I allowed myself to writing without abandon, like I did as a kid, and filled much of my free time experimenting with the craft.
5) What is your writing day like? Do you aim for a certain amount of pages or words before you stop for the day?
Having a full-time job, as a teacher nonetheless, is consuming—as is maintaining a marriage and raising a toddler. They are very fulfilling as well, I must add. However, I’m an early bird, so I get to school an hour to an hour and a half early sometimes just to write.
Early in a novel, my passion for characters and situations makes writing easy. I use any down time to word-vomit my thoughts onto the pages. When the nitty-gritty details are required, however, I have to discipline myself to setting a time minimum for working towards the completion of the scene or chapter I’m on.
6) Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I did. As a teacher, my life and my privacy are sacred, and while I believe in connecting with my students by being vulnerable, there’s a danger in students (actually, more the parents) reading my words. In part, I fear they won’t separate my fiction from my reality. Also, my book has some language in it, which is essential to the authenticity of the setting and characters.
7) Do you have any strange habits before starting, or whilst in the midst of writing?
I like to drink Mountain Dew when I write. I never drink pop any other time, but that’s a vice that I’ve been working to exorcise. I hear tea is nice?
8) Do you write longhand, typewriter, or on a computer?
I used to write a lot in longhand, predominately because I was really undisciplined. Now I’m partially undisciplined and can type on a computer without browsing every five minutes (most of the time)
9) How many books have you written? Do you have any unpublished work?
I’ve written one, which has just been published. I am finishing my second novel, and I hope to begin shopping it around in the fall.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Yes. I go with my passions for the scenes I love (usually the beginning, end, and a few in the middle). From there I plot the path to connect the different parts.
11) Do you read all the reviews left for your book(s)?
I’m about to enter this new world of critiques and reviews. My plan? Pray, hug my wife, play with my daughter, and keep writing.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – Open Books
Release Date – 20th February 2018
ISBN 13 – 978-0692644614
Format – paperback
To Hell with high school!
The American education system is turned inside out when a frustrated teacher incites his students to stage an uprising.
In a poor suburban community in southern Ohio, Dieter Vogel is a failing English teacher at a high school populated predominately by minority students. He is bullied by the basketball coach, neglected by the principal, ignored by his crush, Esther, and pressured to workout with Jose, the art teacher. At the end of the first day back after summer break, Dieter is visited by Satan, who takes the initial form of a Twinkie.
Satan convinces Dieter to overthrow the school mascot, Gretel the Pretzel, so that the Devil can take its place. Dieter is promised Esther’s love and the position of principal in return. All Dieter has to do is follow the Devil’s advice and use classic literature to manipulate the students into a racially charged frenzy against the mostly white staff.
The book is available to buy from Open Books
12) How long did it take you to get from the idea’s stage to your date of publication?
8 years! Mostly because I spent time in college bouncing around projects and movies and hobbies.
13) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
Many of them have Biblical connections. Some were inspired by former students. Finally, I thank the Google for the remaining ones.
14) Can you give us an insight into your main character(s) life?, What makes them tick?
Dieter has dueling wants for power and acceptance. As the story goes on, he realizes he wants what’s best for his students, the ones who truly accept him. His principal wants power too. So much so that he runs for mayor.
15) Which was your hardest scene to write?
On one hand, the last few scenes since I herniated a disc in my back while writing them (well, during that time…not actually while I was writing them). Mentally, though, the ending was the hardest. Can’t spoil it, but a character reveals himself and there’s a certain weightiness to writing that character.
16) How did you come up with the title of your book?
There was a town by where I grew up called ‘Reading.’ Since the protagonist uses literature to stir the students to rebellion, the name worked perfectly. Also, the Devil was a main character. All places named in the book are purely coincidental.
17) Did you get a family member/friend to read your work before sending to the publishers?
Yes. My father and one of my brothers read it. My dad likes P.G. Wodehouse, so he found some of the humor enjoyable, though I think he wishes I was more cheeky than slapstick at times.
18) What process did you go through to get your book published?
I began by querying agents. I didn’t get much in terms of nibbles, but I also just wanted to get my book out. So I looked for publishers directly and was blessed to happen upon Open Books. After talking to David, I bought into the company and the personal service they provided. I haven’t regretted the decision.
19) What did you do once you had written the final word in your book?
I gave my wife a hug. She motivated me to actually finish it, and though I started it before we met, I felt she travelled with me through the process. She was also a special education teacher, so she was a big inspiration for one of the main characters.
20) What’s next for you, writing-wise?
Hopefully finishing my second novel, Jonah, by summer. I’m loving every step of this adventure. It’s been a joy to connect with writers and readers, like yourself, so I hope to continue interacting with this wonderful community.
1) What’s your favourite food?
Pizza. I’m a teenaged-boy at heart.
2) If you had a box of crayons and you could only choose one, which colour would you choose?
When I was about ten, Crayola had a contest to name a shade of blue. I wrote in my choice: “Super Sky Blue.” The winner was “Robin’s Egg Blue.” So I’d choose that crayon and burn it with the vengeance of a ten year-old boy.
3) What movie could you watch over and over again?
My guilty pleasure movie is anything Guy Ritchie directed. That being said, I think ‘Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.’
4) What would be the top song on your playlist?
“Love Song” by The Cure
5) If you won millions, what would be your first purchase?
Probably renovating the orphanage in Guatemala with which my school has partnered. Second purchase would be a rare edition of Huckleberry Finn in which the printing plate was scratched so that one of the pictures gave a character an erect phallus. Like I said: I’m a teenaged-boy at heart.
6) A talking duck walks into your room wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, whats the first thing he says to you?
“I’ve got a bill for you.”
You can find out more about Jonathan Bennett by visiting the website/social media sites below.
I would like to say a big thank you to Jonathan for sharing with us details of his writing life, and for a wonderful interview.