Marking a milestone here on Blogging the Muse, our Fiftieth Author Interview (ta daaaahh!), we have a very special treat, at least for me. See, I’ve been a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for quite some time (still some of the best TV writing anytime, anywhere), so when I heard that Amber Benson–the actor who played the good witch Tara on Buffy, also a ground-breaking role as Willow’s love interest–had just published a new mass-market urban fantasy novel, Death’s Daughter, I didn’t waste any time contacting her PR firm. Of course, I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed. Not only is she a talented actress and now solo author, she’s also a film director and producer with a ton of creative irons in the fire: movies, television, comics, and books. Many thanks to Amber for taking the time out of all that to speak with yours truly, and for an enjoyable interview.
TH: Which came first, acting for writing? And how did you know?
AB: Acting came first, but writing was a close second. I used to write really silly little poems and plays when I was a kid that I never really showed anyone. The acting was something that I did out in public and it started with me doing the Nutcracker Suite as a kid and falling in love with being on stage. I didn’t love the dancing so much, but I adored all the adulation and applause.
TH: As your career has progressed and you’ve hit those milestones-first acting job, landing the job on Buffy, critical and fandom success, expanding into directing, etc.-have you found yourself trading up to different sets of problems? Or have the challenges remained mostly the same throughout your career?
AB: I have found that even though I am always worried about how I’m gonna pay my bills, as far as the creative problems I encounter these days, well, as a friend recently said: I have high class problems. It’s really more about finding the time to do all the things that I want to do. They may not all pay cold, hard cash, but they are all creatively rewarding.
TH: What is The Chronicle of Amber? Is it a novel? A short story? An urban fantasy musical? A limerick?
AB: A (not so) dirty limerick!
There once was a girl with curiosity
she had it in spades, not in paucity.
She got into trouble
for questioning things double
her mind working at quintuple velocity.
TH: Of course, most writers want to have bestsellers or make some sort of artistic or literary impact, but you’ve already had a great deal of exposure and notoriety, not to mention having worked with some creative geniuses. Is there some unrealized accomplishment that you’re striving for in the near future?
AB: I want to accomplish a vacation. I haven’t had a break in so long that I don’t know what it’s like to not be working.
TH: If you could take off tomorrow and go on an extended vacation, where would it be, and why?
AB: I wanna go to Tahiti and start a Reggae band.
TH: What are some of the things that inspire you?
AB: Books I read inspire me. My friend and family inspire me. But mostly it’s the little voice inside my head, with its need to be constantly absorbed by life, that inspires me to keep going.
TH: What books have been most inspiring to you?
AB: Anything by Dostoevsky, The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
TH: What about the writing process most appeals to you? Does it relate to acting?
AB: Writing is the polar opposite of acting. You need other people in order to act. All you need is yourself and a pen and paper (or computer) to write. Writing is a very solitary endeavor and I find that it sucks huge parts of my day away because I am so involved with what I’m doing. I think being an actor has helped me immensely with my writing, as far as dialogue and character development are concerned. Those things just flow, so I can spend more time working on my plot structure.
TH: Do you have any writing stuffed in a shoebox somewhere that helped you develop your craft as a storyteller?
AB: I wrote horrible poetry. Lots of death and blood and dark thoughts. I will share one with you, if you promise not to laugh (at least not too much).
Life is like a flower floating in the breeze,
back and forth, back and forth ’til winter takes its rage.
One by one its petals drop.
just like you and me will be someday.
Pretty bad, huh? And very morbid. 🙂
TH: Being an actor is of course a whole different ballgame from being an author, two very different types of career path. Have you had to do a lot of self-promotion for your new book? Are there any promising marketing avenues that you might yet explore?
AB: I have been blogging, twittering and facebooking like a crazy person. I really want to get the word out about the book…and I kind of think it’s working. There is a drawback, though, I’ve become a little obsessed with Twitter. It’s like crack. Twittercrack.
TH: Have your reached the point at which you realized that you have “made it” as a creative person? If so, can you describe the milestone or circumstances where you had that realization? Do you recall how that felt? If not, what is the milestone you’re seeking?
AB: I don’t think anyone who is truly creative ever feels like they’ve “made it”. They are always striving to make their work better and are never satisfied, no matter how much money they make or how many awards they win. I’m never happy with my stuff. I see all the flaws and work hard to overcome them the next time around.
TH: How do you see the ratio between writing and acting in your future career?
AB: I want to keep doing both.
TH: As a writer, you move from being a single player to becoming the producer, director, set designer, sound technician, and editor, not to mention the entire freakin’ cast of your story. Which is more taxing? Which is more rewarding?
AB: The most rewarding and most taxing job is: directing. It’s like giving birth…and the labor part going on for like two years.
TH: What is the most memorable moment (good, bad, or other) you have had in your life as an author? What about as an actor?
AB: As an actor, probably the most memorable thing that has happened to me was that a very attractive girl proposed to me at Comicon in San Diego one year. She had a ring and everything. It was very funny and very flattering.
As a writer, the most memorable thing was getting the call that Ginjer Buchanan (my editor at Penguin) wanted to buy my book, Death’s Daughter.
TH: Where did Death’s Daughter come from? Did Calliope emerge from morbid poetical leanings, spring fully formed out of your subconscious, demanding that her story be written, or was she a more gradual construction?
AB: She leapt fully formed from my brain just like Athena sprung from Zeus’s head. She wanted her story told and that was it. I had to write about her.
TH: What do you want to have accomplished ten years from now?
AB: I want to have an office. I think that’s a worthy goal.
TH: What can readers expect to see from you in the near future? What are you working on?
AB: I just co-directed a film called DRONES with Adam Busch and that should be going to festivals, etc. I also just sold a middle grade book to Simon and Schuster called, “The New Newbridge Academy”.