Author Bio: Christina Benjamin is the Award-Winning Author of the Young Adult fantasy series The Geneva Project. Benjamin’s writing hooks fans of mega-hit YA fiction like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and offers them a new series to obsess over. She paints a vivid world full, where magic and imagination run wild in her epic tale of adventure, courage and friendship. Benjamin resides in Florida. She’s dedicated to giving back to the writing community. She speaks at schools to inspire creativity in young writers and has created Page-Burners.com, a site to promote fellow YA authors.
How did you decide to become an author? Any books, movie, or people that inspired you to pursue your dream?
I’ve always been an avid reader. I used to read on my lunch break every day at work and one year I finished the last books in Twilight, Harry Potter and Hunger Games. I had a mega book hangover and I got the idea that if I wrote my own books I wouldn’t be sad about them ending because those characters and worlds would be mine and I could revisit them and continue them any time I liked. So that’s really what gave me the spark. I started using my lunch breaks to write instead of read and that’s how my first book, The Geneva Project – Truth, was born.
Are you self-published or traditionally published? Why did you choose to go that route?
I’m a hybrid. My series The Geneva Project, is published through my own publishing company, so I consider it indie. I love the total involvement and creative control of publishing your own work. It’s helped me learn so much about the publishing industry and myself as a writer. I’ve definitely seen my writing evolve because of it. It also allows me to have a close connection to my amazing readers. And I’ve decided to expand my publishing company and will be published books for others writers this year. I really want to focus on helping young writers break into the publishing world. I also have a few anthologies out and they have been published by other publishing companies. I love the ease of it and the different distribution options. I think a mix of both types of publishing works best for me.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
Unfortunately I’m a total pantser! I wish I cold plot. I tried it with my 3rd book in The Geneva Project but ended up ripping everything up and starting over. Being that I’m writing a series I kind of have an idea of where I’d like the stories to go, but the fun for me is letting my characters lead me. They’re often full of surprising twists. The cool thing about being a pantser is that I get to discover the story as I write it, so it’s sort of like reading in that aspect, and that’s why I fell in love with books to begin with – the limitless possibilities.
What draws you to writing in the dystopian genre?
I’d say I’m more drawn toward Fantasy than anything else. When I wrote The Geneva Project I wasn’t intending for it to be dystopian, but the readers dubbed it that, and I think that’s awesome. I purposely left the time period vague and left out details that would date it like weapons, electricity, contemporary history. I love to leave as much interpretation to the readers as possible, while still building a visible world. To me, that’s what’s fascinating about books – two different readers can view the same book so differently. I love fantasy because I love to escape into a world where magic exists. I think dystopian mixes well with fantasy because when things are at that point of total rebuild, perhaps other worldly things such as magic could find a way in. And I can totally see how The Geneva Project is very dystopian, because the world the characters live in has been decimated my a mystical event and the inhabitants of this island have lost everything, having to rebuild from scratch while they hope for some sort of salvation that will bring them back to a better way of life.
What does the Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans group on Facebook mean to you?
I love BOD! I met ER Arroyo and a bunch of the other awesome BOD authors at Utopia Con last year. They are such a close knit group and still so inviting and welcoming. I love the community that BOD offers authors and readers. It’s so great to connect over the things we love and have that wonderful support system. Plus, man they have some fun events and incredible authors and fans!
Where did you find inspiration for your series, “The Geneva Project?”
Mostly my wild imagination and vivid dreams! I dream about conversations my characters have and then have to get up and write them down. But I do take things from my every day life too. I let my environment influence me a lot. I grew up riding horses and hiking in the woods of Pennsylvania so I know that seeps into my writing. Living if Florida helps me with the geography of the island and the beaches. I even visited a rainforest recently to make sure I was describing them accurately in the books. I get a lot of inspiration from music too. Sometimes I’ll be listening to a song and have to pull over because it totally sparked an idea for a book!
Do any of your characters represent you as a whole or someone you know? Or are they qualities you admire in others?
No. I get asked that a lot because Geneva, the main character and I are both short, pale and have blue eyes and blonde hair (though mine is dyed). But I actually try not to flavor my characters with traits of people I know. I want them to exist on their own and have their own voice, their own story and be able to take control of the plot and surprise me and the readers along the way. I start them out as teens and it’s been really fun to watch them grow into young adults in the 4th and final book that I’m currently writing. I’m proud of them. I do, however, use my animals shamelessly in my writing! I have two cats and a dog and they always attack me while I’m writing so I got this idea early on that they were trying to tell me they wanted to be in the story. So I created mythical characters to represent them and use anagrams to hide their names. For example, Niv, the marmouse in the story is based on my dog Vin. He’s a fan favorite and I had a blast using his comical features and personality as I wrote Niv.
Are there any genres of literature or movies that you won’t read or watch? What’s your favorite genre to read/watch?
Not really. I’m pretty open minded. Even if I’m not particularly into a genre, movie, etc it’s fun to see what other people dream up. I love YA! Anything paranormal, fantasy, magic, etc. I can’t get enough of the unlimited possibilities that are present in that genre. YA characters are at the precipice of their life. It’s so cool to see what they make of it. Pretty much anything on the CW is my jam! And I’m a die hard Survivor fan.
Do you have an advice for aspiring writers?
Do it! Don’t make excuses like you’re not good enough or you’ll do it when you have more time. Everyone has to start somewhere. If you have that passion in you or a story that’s dying to be told. Sit down and write it. You never know where it will take you. I started writing because I was tired of missing books that would always come to an end. I never dreamed I would publish them. But I took a chance and I’m so glad I did. My books have literally taken me all over the world. I quit my job and write full time and travel to school to help inspire other young writers. I can’t imagine where I would be if I let the little voices that said “you’re not good enough,” keep me down. Life is short, tomorrow isn’t promised. Fill your life with what makes your soul happy today. For me, that’s writing.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
OMG so many! I’m hoping to publish 9 titles this year! My 4th and final book in The Geneva Project series is due this summer, along with two more prequels for the series. Then I have two anthologies coming out, Debut Collective – Acts of Bravery and Utopia Revolutions. I’m co-authoring and illustrating a children’s book, Auntie LEA’s Nighttime Nonsense due out at the end of the year that will help raise money for foster families. Then I have three non-fictions coming out as well. Plus, my audiobook for Truth is coming out this year! So excited for that! I got to work with the incredibly talented Beth Crowley for the soundtrack and the actors, Whitney Morse and Jason Goedken are doing an incredible job of bringing my characters to life.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve met so many incredible authors during my time in this YA world. So many of them have helped and inspired me. I’m always looking for ways to give back, so this year I launched Page Burners! It’s a place where readers can find new YA books to read by some amazing authors they may not have met yet. I feature 2 YA books each week and giveaway a monthly mystery box full of books and awesome bookish swag. If you’re a YA reader make sure you sign up for the mailing list. If you’re an author and want to be featured please check us out and fill out our author form. If you’re a blogger and want to review books we’re featuring, we love sharing guest reviews. Check out Page Burners! http://page-burners.com/
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog! I’d love to let your readers know that they can all download a free copy of my first book, The Geneva Project – Truth. It’s available on Amazon, B&N, iTunes and Kobo for free!
Thank you for visiting me on THE KATY today, Christina!