Today I'm interviewing the author of Castles: A Ficitonal Memoir of a Girl With Scissors, Benjamin X Wretlind. Castles was a book that I reviewed earlier in the year and found it a very disturbing - but at the same time well written novel. Told from the perspective of the central character, it is a horrific coming of age story that leaves a lasting impression on the reader and I highly recommend if for any fans of horror.
See my full review of the book HERE
Interviewing Benjamin was an interesting experience, as you'll see below, but I say that in a good way. He's a highly intelligent lad with a lot of good insights into writing and how to write. Without further ado, for your reading pleasue, I present to you, Mr Benjamin X Wretlind.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I guess the best answer to “who am I” has always been “eclectic.” However, if I had to elaborate I would say: I’ve lived all over this country and was raised under the hand of a minister who teaches dead Biblical languages. This probably has nothing to do with who I’ve become, but I’m sure there’s a story in there someplace. In my life, I have been—at different times, of course—a fry cook, a range boy, a greens maintenance technician, a reservations agent, a room service attendant, an editor, a banquet server, a meteorologist, an instructor, a quality control demon, a program manager for Internet applications and a curriculum developer. I’m currently working as a simulation engineer for a chemical weapons destruction plant. I also like llamas.
2. Outside of writing, what would you say your favourite hobbies are?
I read a lot, but my biggest joy lately has been painting things I see in my head with acrylic. That mostly involves surreal landscapes, but I hope to improve enough this year to start painting characters and creatures. I also love photography, but I can’t say the camera loves me.
3. What made you want to get into writing?
I’ve written most of my life. In fact, there’s a story buried somewhere in my files I wrote in 2nd grade that my mom saved for me. The story is naturally childish, but when I read it a few years ago I was convinced it was one of the many stepping stones I used to get to where I am. I always wanted to write and always did. I wrote for school and I wrote for me. I wrote because it’s a major part of who I am. For a real answer to what makes me think I’m a writer, there’s an entry on my blog I wrote in 2006 that covers the two most pronounced events that pushed me in the direction I’m headed. http://bxwretlind.com/blog/2011/05/23/the-obligatory-reflective-post-parts-i-ii/
4. Who would you say are your favourite authors and who inspires your writing the most?
My favourite current authors lately are Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Their novels, especially those revolving around FBI detective Aloysius Pendergast, always keep me entertained. I’m also fond of Michael Ende, Ray Bradbury and Clive Barker. Both Ende and Robert Holdstock were probably the most influential writers in my life.
5. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us a little about Castles?
Castles is a view into the mind of a woman who, throughout her life, is abused in more ways than one. It's an emotional rollercoaster, told through the main character's voice, about what she sees, what she knows, and what she's been told. There is violence and there is love, and there is violent love. I like to think of Castles as a question: is madness really mad and is reality really real?
6. Of the books I’ve reviewed so far, I’d say that this one is probably the darkest. Do you tend to gravitate towards the darker side of fiction?
I do, but not because I force myself in that direction. At one point in my career, I thought I had to pick a genre and stick with it. That’s when the original idea for Castles came about. However, the latest project I’m working on includes elements of the paranormal (ghosts and witches), romance, family-oriented drama and a few thrills. A novel I’m currently rewriting might be considered magical realism. The next novel I’ve been outlining is actually a political thriller. None of this is really dark, although my characters tend to have a depressing outlook on life, that’s for sure.
7. How would you describe the contents of the book?
If I had to use one word, I would say "disturbing." If I could use another word, I would add "uncomfortable."
8. Do you think that the book, being written in a POV sense, gives it an edge over most other horror books?
Most certainly. I think the style is what sets it apart from everything else out there. Castles was told in the voice of the main character, Maggie, and it's that voice that really allows the reader to question madness. I've told a few people that Castles wasn't written by me; it was dictated to me by a voice in my head. That voice, Maggie, wouldn't shut up for seven years--the length of time it took to write to novel.
9. What gave you the idea for the story? Is it based on anything?
The original short story was written in 2003 when I was part of a writing group. The subject was "weather" and, as a meteorologist at the time, I thought I had an edge. I picked dust storms and desert weather as the backdrop of the story because I grew up in Phoenix and love the weather during the monsoon season. However, when I got my comments back from the group, there was one which stuck in my head: "what you've written is the outline of a great novel." It took a few months for me to really start working on Castles, and then there was a long break (several years, actually), when Maggie wouldn't talk to me. It was almost as if she felt I wasn't ready to hear her story. When she did speak to me, I frantically wrote it all down and felt just as sick as most of my readers. I also felt I had to let the story loose, to let others hear what Maggie had to say.
10. If your book was made into a film, who would you get to star in it and why?
I don't know. Maggie has a slight Southern accent, but I don't know what she looks like. She's in her early 20's, too, so if I had to pick someone, it would probably be Jennifer Lawrence, who starred in Winter's Bone.
11. What are your main ambitions for this book?
Maggie has something to say, and I want the world to listen to her. In other words, I would really like people to give the book a chance. There are several reviewers who have said they are very glad to have left their comfortable genre and tried something they normally wouldn't read. I also would like the book to generate conversation, as it did when I wrote the original short story. That conversation centered around women as victims and why some women remain victims. It was strange to feel that something I'd written sparked a debate, and I'd like the full novel to do the same thing.
12. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
There is so much advice out there for aspiring authors, from "don't give up" to "learn the craft." What I would say is this: Every thing and every one has a story; write it down and see what happens.
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/bxwretlind
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Benjamin-X-Wretlind
A big thanks to Benjamin X Wretlind for taking time out from his busy schedule to speak to me. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this and will be checking out his book sometime soon.
Next week, we will have the talented De Kenyon, talking about her short story anthology Tales Told Under Covers.
Until next time...