Today I get the great pleasure of hosting an interview with the talented writer, Jeff Bennington. This is my first author interview and I am so pleased it is with Jeff. I came to know Jeff’s work through reading his brilliant short story ‘The Rumblin’ (reviewed on this blog in Feb). I was blown away by his writing style, reminiscent of King and Koontz; the books that I devoured as a teenager and am rediscovering. ‘Reunion’ is a cleverly written, sensitive, balanced horror that taps into many of our modern fears. After I read it, I was desperate to post glowing reviews all over the place but I have been uncharacteristically self controlled and approached Jeff to see if he would kindly tell us more. So here at last is the review of ‘Reunion’ and the interview with Jeff.
Paranormal Horror / Psychological Thriller. Twenty years after a terrible and tragic High School shooting, a group of survivors finally take the risk of facing up to their past. As survivor, Maria pulls together a group of her old classmates for an atypical reunion, each one finds that they have to face the demon within.
"David Ray stood in front of his mirror, dressed to kill."
Totally compelling, ‘Reunion’ is a brilliant reworking of the American Gothic with a clear nod to the horror heritage of American Literature. Set in a High School, Bennington ingeniously weaves our modern fears of a high school shooting with our more primitive and latent fears of the supernatural.
The narrative comprises of multiple POV through quite a large cast of characters, all subtly worked and completely believable. Although a little confusing at the beginning, the multiple POV experiences allow for a very ‘real’ experience between reader and novel; the general effect is one that is almost cinematic and, at many points during the book, I found myself watching events rather than reading them. This for me is a big plus in a novel. With such skillful narration and description, it was one of those books which took you along for the ride in very much the way that King and Koontz do.
What I loved most about this novel was the way in which it challenged you to feel sympathy and gain understanding for ‘the monster’. It really explored the horror of the way in which Bennington juxtaposes the real with the fantasy leads us primarily one conclusion – that being, that for many kids, the real world holds far more horror than any fantasy.
This is one of the best books that I have read this year and I eagerly anticipate more of Bennington’s work.
5 stars/5 stars (Special Merit)
GET YOUR COPY AT:
http://www.amazon.com/Reunion-ebook/dp/B004S7AR0E Also available in NOOK, Apple iBook, print and at most book retailers.
What drove you to write Reunion?
What drove me to write Reunion is a nagging wondering…a wondering about what happens to the survivors of school shootings? I wondered what caused a teen killer to do what they do. But the problem with my curiosities is that there is only so much information out there that could answer the depth of my questions. And since I’m a writer, I decided to take my conundrum to my pen and figure it out for myself.
What research did you do in preparation for the writing of Reunion? What were the most challenging aspects in writing this novel?
I did all of my research online. I studied the stories of some of the survivors of school shootings, the killers and the effects of trauma on young people. I really needed to know how those who suffer from PTSD live and deal with their pain. The rest was plotting and character sketching. The most challenging aspect of writing ‘Reunion’ was the not knowing; not knowing if this book would be understood or flat out rejected, or thought of as offensive. That was the challenge…to overcome that fear. I’m glad I did.
The character of Noah acts as an interesting authorial device; is he just the clever reworking of an established trope or a mouthpiece for your own spiritual beliefs?
Noah is a typical character in the sense that where there is an unknown, there has to be someone to reveal a secret or a hidden truth in order for the protagonist to find his/her way. Noah is part of the reveal, as is Nick and Sheriff Richards, but Noah also provides truth from a spiritual perspective. Like the other characters, Noah completely changed after the school shooting. Although he grows up in another country, the direction of his life is dramatically altered, but his is centered on a spiritual quest.
There are so many things about Noah that make him necessary. He brings an understanding, he helps Tanner see the truth in himself, he knows how to deal with the entity and so on. But I like him, and I suppose you do to, because he is a mystery, and his appearance is another one of the “Oh my God!” moments that make this book so powerful and engaging.
As far as your question regarding my personal beliefs, I think there is a little bit of me in every character. Where Noah is concerned, I believe that there is definitely a living and active spiritual world all around us. His experience is real to him just as mine is to me. However, I’ve never been to an exorcism, but I did work for a church for a couple years.
How long did it take for you to write Reunion from idea to publication?
The first seed that planted in my mind grew from a paper I wrote in college about bullying in the work place back in 2007. It got me thinking about many of the themes in Reunion, but I the idea of writing a book about it didn’t come until 2009. While I finished writing Killing the Giants, the idea started to take shape and I started on it immediately after KTG was published. It took two years from start to finish. I wrote another book during a short break from Reunion and then we did the final edits this winter.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve only been writing fiction since 2007, although I’ve written a lot of poetry, songs and other stuff that never screamed “Jeff you’re a writer, you should take this seriously!” because I was too busy looking for myself in the wrong places.
Who are your favourite authors? Most influential books?
I like Koontz. I like Scott Nicholson. And I like the classics, like Jane Eyre, which has influenced my desire to get into the soul of my characters.
Do you have a writing ritual? What is your writing space like?
Right now my writing ritual has been completely destroyed because Reunion is my first real platform building title. So I’ve been overly busy with the blog tour, marketing, publishing, yada yada yada. However, under normal circumstances, I write about 6-8 hours for two days and then take two days off, and then repeat, because that aligns with my work schedule.
Tell us a secret that you've not revealed to anyone before.
Are you serious? As in one that no one knows, not even my wife? I don’t think I’ll go there, but I will tell you that I’m actually a very fearful person. I’m nervous and edgy. My wife will barely touch my leg while we’re driving and I’ll jump…every time! Weird I know, but I actually think that helps me write scary things.