Hello Book Smugglers!
Recently in a previous post, I reviewed The Accidental Tsundere by L.M. Bennett. I am so excited to announce that I had the opportunity to interview her this past week! Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say about becoming a published author and advice she has for fellow writers.
What inspired you to write a book?
I was having a discussion with a friend about romantic issues she was having. I guess somewhere along the line, I said something that hit her, and she told me I should write a book about dating and love. I laughed it off. “I’m not writing a dating book,” I said. More than once. Then, I opened up my phone’s notepad and started writing a dating book. Next thing I knew, I had five thousand words, ten thousand, fifteen thousand words on a topic that I initially didn’t want to write about. When I stumbled upon an old joke tweet I had made about three years ago about what a dating book might be called, I decided to just go with it and see where it would lead me.
Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?
I had been reading Roxane Gay’s Hunger off and on and had come across a passage that knocked the wind out of me because I felt seen and exposed. She was talking about how her size had, in a way, kept her very small in relationships because she felt like she wasn’t good enough. She didn’t assert herself because she had been made to feel like she wasn’t enough in some ways yet too much in other ways and I was so uncomfortable by how much I related to that. I picked partners that I allowed to make me feel interchangeable and “less than” and that was a very telling reflection of how I still felt about myself despite the two hundred pound weight loss. I felt it was very brave of her to say that out loud. I felt a kinship with her, and I wanted Tsundere’s readers to have that same kinship with me and to recognize some difficult-to-admit things about themselves as well. There’s no shame in wanting love and acceptance, and sometimes we do and say things in search of that that later makes us cringe, but this is okay. Some of the book’s more vulnerable moments were some of the feelings stirred up by reading Hunger, honestly.
It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?
I feel that you certainly have to have an understanding of what you are writing, and you do that by immersing yourself in the scene, the emotion, the character, the memory you are trying to describe. I don’t feel you can describe something or show the reader why they should care about what you’re talking about if you don’t believe in what you’re writing. I don’t feel you can detach from your subject and simultaneously convince your readers to care.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who writes only when they feel inspired?
In general, I write sporadically and only when inspired. A dream, a scent, a song, a person that I encounter and must unpack and pick at that very second until I have nothing left to say on the matter. For The Accidental Tsundere, however, I stole time whenever I could find it. My mother was in inpatient rehabilitation after a bad car accident, and so my schedule was a bit crazy. I wasn’t sleeping well, so late nights, early mornings at 4 a.m., even on Saturdays and Sundays became my de facto writing time. Commuting to and from work, during lunch breaks, I would be writing.
Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
I think one thing that comes across in The Accidental Tsundere is that I can be quite blunt and to the point. I’m the same way in my fiction writing, in that the narration can be a bit dry. I’m not a fan of flowery language. I love writing that gives us enough detail to paint our own picture of what the person looks like or the exact shade of red of the tablecloth, but then gets out of the way and lets the reader get on with the scene. I trust my secondary characters to exposit at the worst possible time for my main character. I let them do and say things out loud that they probably shouldn’t. I let my characters be messy, vulnerable and sometimes unlikable. I really respect authors who allow characters to be themselves, and I try to emulate that as much as possible
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
The hardest part of writing, for me, is figuring out what things to put on paper and which things to leave out. I am, by nature, a very observant person who picks up on the undercurrent of things. During meetings, I’m the person whose eyes ping-pong between people talking, and I’m sitting there picking apart what’s being said and what’s not. I do the same thing with my characters, whose stories I know inside and out, and this affects how they communicate with each other, and so I feel it’s my job as a writer to pick which things I want to reveal at that moment without projecting—and I apologize for this term—word vomit all over the page. I think where I fall down is that sometimes I err on the side of being a bit too vague. I forget that people are not in my head and that it might not be evident to my readers why a character is behaving a certain way, even though it makes perfect sense to me. This is something I am working on, without losing what makes my writing distinctly mine. The easiest aspect of writing is brainstorming and daydreaming. It’s also conveniently my favorite!
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long does it usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
I don’t really call it that, I just think of those moments as moments in time in which my energy is simply focused elsewhere. Life happens, and you can’t always lock yourself away for hours until the words come. This could be a few days or even a few weeks. What I find helps me get back into the mood is listening to music. Part of coming up with a new project for me is picking out a playlist of songs that remind me of characters, moods, scenes or situations. Listening to the playlist eventually turns the faucet on again so the words flow.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Read as much as you can from authors you admire. If there’s one thing writers love to do, it’s write about writing, so read those articles, too. Watch a lot of movies, get your hands on screenplays and study screenwriting as much as possible, to learn how to integrate action into dialogue to subtly reveal character and the underlying dynamics of a scene. Study the ways in which characters interact with each other, verbally and non-verbally. Go out into the world and people-watch. Be a total creeper and write down your observations. No matter what genre you write in, you can enrich your writing with an intimate knowledge of how people treat each other.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
Before The Accidental Tsundere took over my brain, I was working on a book of short stories and flash fiction centered around black LGBT characters in our messy, complex glory. Now that my brain has been graciously returned to me, I have started working on that book again.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Make great use of the voice recorder on your phone. You never know where inspiration will strike, and you don’t always have a pen and paper to jot things down. These little bits and pieces can always be arranged into something that makes sense much later, adds details that humanize your characters or breathes life into locations. Always be open to where your imagination takes you.
About L.M. Bennett
L.M. Bennett, 38, is a native of East Orange, N.J. and a surgical coder by day.
Growing up in East Orange, L.M. was the child of a working mother and was often left with her great-grandmother who favored Perry Mason and All My Children. Ensuring she wouldn’t interrupt too much while her great-grandmother watched her favorite shows, her mother kept her entertained with workbooks that often required L.M. to fill in the blank or finish stories. It was during this time that eight-year-old L.M. discovered her knack for telling stories and her love for words. She had no idea that her beginnings would lead her to pursue writing professionally.
With her quick wit, eclectic style, and need to make an impact, L.M. is set to soar on many levels and to become an intricate part of the fabric that makes up the culture of publishing and a true leader in her own right.
You can follow Bennett via her blog for more updates and information about her book.