Category Archives: Interviews
In The Final Wars Rage: Book 2 Bastien finds himself in danger once again and the deposed cyborg queen still lives. What were some new ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from book one?
I explore the following three ideas in this book:
1) The concept of redemption is addressed through Bastien Lyons. He ends book one and starts book two as a monster, one ravaged by guilt for the destruction of New Paris. The Final Wars Rage is partly his journey towards correcting his deviated moral compass and better understanding his strained relationship with the memory of Father Paul (and God by extension).
2) What does it mean to be human? Is existence only possible through flesh and blood, or are there other mediums that can allow consciousness to continue? The idea of transcending physical limitations to become something more is a core theme of this book – I don’t want to give away too much, though. Folks will just have to read the book 🙂
3) Cutting-edge technologies can have unintended consequences. In our world, the best example is social media. Who would have ever thought when logging into Friendster or MySpace back in the early to mid-2000s, that one day these applications’ successors (Facebook & Twitter) would wreak havoc on human psychology and political systems. In the world of Bastien Lyons, it’s the green fogs that helped ravage Earth, the AI entity, High Council which took over Port Sydney, and Alic… err… can’t give away too much.
This is an intriguing novel that is high in social commentary. Was this intentional or did this happen organically while writing?
Intentional. Writing, irrespective of genre and theme, presents an excellent opportunity to shine a spotlight on humanity, in my opinion. When a story effectively addresses more than its immediate characters and plot points, it can be very satisfying.
If Hollywood came knocking who would you cast as your main characters?
I’d strive for cultural authenticity, so here’s my list:
- Bastien Lyons – Stanley Weber
- Belle Dubois – Léa Seydoux
- Marie Dubois – Eva Green
- Frank Crone – Hugh Jackman
- Reo Honda – Ryo Yoshizawa
- Alice Smith – Margot Robbie
Are you working on book three in the Final Wars series?
Yes – trying to aim for early next year. Folks can sign up for my mailing list to keep in the loop here: SAwritesSF.com
BASTIEN LYONS CAN’T MOVE ON WITH HIS LIFE, AND THAT MIGHT KILL HIM.
Despite escaping to the moon’s Nippon One colony with a new identity after a failed effort to save New Paris from destruction, he finds himself amidst danger again. The brutal world of the twenty-third century has dark plans. Parisian ruins send shockwaves through the remaining two civilizations of the solar system, Nippon One and the Port Sydney colony on Mars, shaking the tenuous peace between them. Bastien understands political tensions all too well and knows something terrible is about to happen. Trade wars erupt to signal deeper conflicts to come. Pirates lash out in revenge at Port Sydney for wiping out Parisian euphoria drug factories. Yakuza wage gang wars to control the remaining euphoria on Nipponese streets. If that wasn’t enough…
MARIE DUBOIS LIVES, AND HER SURVIVAL THREATENS HUMANITY.
The deposed cyborg queen has escaped the destruction of her New Paris, and Martian General Frank Crone recognizes her menace could rip apart the fragile peace. His digital overlords, an AI construct that enforces treaties, cannot learn she’s alive and ready to return to mayhem. He’ll do whatever it takes to rid the world of the defrocked demagogue before she is discovered, even if it means tilting his moral compass. Frank’s deadly goal not only demands the skills of his petri-dish humanoid Lieutenant General Alice Smith and the Nipponese royal police chief Reo Honda, it also needs an outside killer. Bastien wants to stay alive by staying away from that work and far from Marie. But he needs to rescue civilization in a world where…
THE FINAL WARS RAGE.
The Turing Revolt is a thrilling space adventure novel following a star ship captain who gets blackmailed into helping Sentient Ships rebel against the Empire. What was your inspiration for the idea behind this novel?
There is a detailed history of the War Against Infinity Universe in existence. is our first entrée into the WAI Universe. It introduces Milo Sapphire at the beginning of a series of significant events for both Milo and the Universe. But it’s not the only set of significant events in Milo’s life. Once this series is completed; perhaps there will be opportunities to learn about those other significant events. He wasn’t always the First.
Captain Milo Sapphire is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas you wanted to capture while developing his character?
Gallup published a book called, “First Break all the Rules”. Here’s a quote from the website “…great managers share one common trait: They don’t hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom.” I also wanted to explore the concept of a leader emerging in a crisis. How would someone with those traits deal with virtual immortality? Finally, I love the tshirt slogan, “Remember, I’m old for a reason!”
Milo is based on those concepts. He’s the leader of any group he joins; generally, by acclimation. He commands the room just by entering it but he doesn’t do it overtly; it is a function of his personality. But he doesn’t look for the leadership position and he’s just as happy being by himself, chasing skirts and exploring unknown planets. But he also will never back down from a contest of wills. And no one, ever, screws with his people. So, if you come to him and convince him (or blackmail him) into accomplishing a task; get the hell out of the way… ‘Cause it’s gonna happen. No matter what it takes. But his actions are governed by his own code of ethics; his set of absolutes. So his solutions are usually unorthodox.
I enjoyed the rich backstory you created for this in depth novel. What were some themes you pursued while creating this world?
I started with a quote from Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” To that I added my own quote, “Life is about competition for scarce economic resources”. Finally, I added in “the two driving needs hardwired into any living thing are survival and procreation. Then I asked the question, what is the most efficient way to compete for those resources to achieve the goals of survival and procreation? Where/how does altruism, loyalty, ruthlessness play into that efficiency? When is it ethical to manipulate others into improving their efficiency at competing? Is that manipulation or leadership? Every character has needs and wants that drives their motivations and their actions; but at their core, they’re just competing for those resources.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next novel in the series is called, The Calla’cara Gambit. It’s planned to be available by August 2020.
I’m a humble, itinerant Star Ship Captain who got blackmailed into helping the Sentient Ships rebel against the Empire. Just because my personal AI might test off the Turing Scale. Now I’ve got the Empire, the Lotus Eaters Society and the Khan of a planet of intelligent dinosaurs all gunning for me! Old secrets are coming back, people and situations I walked away from… when I became a humble, itinerant Star Ship Captain. And I might be on a mission… from God!
I enjoyed the depth of character and unique arcs developed in this novel. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your characters?
I honestly think my major theme in all my novels is to be honest with yourself and with the world. People need to take off the mask and let people see the real you. I think that’s the hardest in high school, but you get older and realize that you’ll find a grand group of people to love you for who you are, and that’s the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s why I love Danielle and Calvins friendship. No matter what they do, they love each other.
High school is a highly stressful time and I think you capture that well. Did you bring any of your own experiences into this story?
Honestly, I had a great time in high school. People knew me, and I wasn’t really bullied. I think that I use more of my life now than back then. I used my past relationship with my ex for Aman and those conversations between Aman and Calvin were real.
This is book one in your High School Queens Trilogy. What can readers expect in book two, The Revenged Queen?
To be honest, Book one is my least favorite in the trilogy. I feel like the imaginary gloves come off in book two. It gets darker, sexier, and a whole lot bitchier. I dive more into everyone’s characters, and we get to see other people’s motives for some of the actions. Villains in the first novel soon become friends, I feel like. Book two is my favorite in the trilogy.
They all thought they did a masterful job of keeping their secrets close to their chest. These stupid fools thought they were the high court of this kingdom, but they had no clue who was really pulling the strings. You might wonder to yourself, who would be that heartless to make them backstab their friends, expose other’s secrets, and lose their morals? You don’t need to know who I am, but you better remember my name, The Marked Queen.
Danielle, Andrew, Delilah, Aman, and Jasmine all are now faced with a mysterious villain whose one goal is to ruin each of their lives. They must protect their secrets at all cost, or they’ll be the next victim on Marked Day. They know what’s at stake, and they’ll stop at nothing to continue being: the rich spoiled girl, the normal teenager, the girl who isn’t banging the principal, the straight vlogger, and the girl who isn’t her dad’s punching bag. What happens when The Marked Queen changes up the game just in time for prom? Will each of our favorite puppets survive? Or are they willing to backstab each other just to keep up their personas? The only thing lost at this prom wasn’t going to be their virginity.
Sex, Lies, and High School Queens explores the major theme of self-acceptance. Can they learn to accept all their flaws or pray victim to The Marked Queen? Each chapter continues to fill your sweet tooth until the climactic moment at the prom where you get to have that final bite of the bitch cake you’ve been dying to consume.
Myth Agent is a compelling time travel story that relates the experiences of two people experiencing time travel from both sides. What was your inspiration for the setup to this novel?
I approached this from the unusual experiences of two people from fairly ordinary walks of life—a professor of paleontology and an antiques shop owner. In Myth Agent, time travel is not technical and futuristic, needing advancement. Instead, it is an ever-present universal element, not something to be invented, but rather something to be discovered, such as a long-lost prehistoric secret, reflective of the professor’s calling.
I was inspired decades ago by the book Time and Again, by Jack Finney, in which ordinary people time travel by means of a kind of self-hypnosis. In Myth Agent, the reader doesn’t see a person make a conscious choice to time travel as in Finney’s book, but in both, the time travel is organic or biologic in nature.
Time travel comes with its own set of paradoxes. How did you decide to deal with these in your story?
While there are a number of theoretical aspects to time travel and the paradoxes time travelers might undergo, the full mechanics are not explained in Myth Agent. For instance, there is no time when characters coexist with themselves in the space-timeline. However, a character does travel back in time thirty-five years (from age forty to age five—within the number of years she has lived) and in that scene she and a person she knows from thirty-five years hence see each other. It is later given to speculation as to whether this very brief meeting had a future impact on several characters’ lives.
I enjoyed the unique and slow development of both Rutt and Odessa’s characters. What were some ideas that guided you while creating them?
I wanted the reader to know something of the characters’ lives from childhood to adulthood, and as I built their lives, I came to wonder how a man—a science professor—in the early 1900’s would interact with a five-year-old girl from the 1940’s. Would their fundamental differences be too problematic, or would some universal connection, no matter where and from what time period they came, allow a meaningful connection? It was exciting to imagine where such a connection could lead!
What is the next story that you are working on?
I’ve decided Myth Agent needs to be continued—that’s what’s keeping me at the keyboard!
It’s 1945, soon after VJ Day. Odessa Shatto, an antiques dealer, is pierced in the side by a prehistoric bone. The next morning she awakens, horrified to see a hideous green slime creeping over her, hardening into a cocoon that quickly entombs her in darkness and leaves her fearing for her life. Each time it happens, she remembers feeling a sense of being thrown hard, as though from the hand of a giant. And the last time, she remembers her trajectory crossing with that of her fiancé, a soldier who has been injured in the Pacific in World War Two. They may think of their paths crossing as a gift, but in reality it will produce agonizing results.
Ruttledge Rosenbaugh, a professor of science devoted to his students at Hensley University, has spent years learning from his mentor, whose mantra was that time travelers are constantly around and unnoticed. But nothing Ruttledge has ever heard or read on time travel prepares him for what he witnesses in his secret laboratory in 1910. After recuperating from the ordeal, he spends years trying to prove the existence of time travel, while a jealous rogue from his past lies in wait, hoping to debunk any time travel theory the professor develops–no matter the cost.
Myth Agent is a time travel tale, woven of the fantastic, and interspersed with traces of historical fiction.
Left On Main is an emotional romance novel following Libby and Seth as they grapple with their love and their past. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
As a person who has experienced divorce myself, I wanted to tell a story that shows how the experience can become a turning point and an opportunity for change. The challenges that happen in our lives can make us reassess ourselves and our lives— but only if we choose to learn from it. But I wanted to tell more than a love story between two people. Left on Main– and the Heart of Madison series- is equally the story of a town and the people drawn together inside of it.
Libby is an interesting and well developed character. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character?
Libby came into my head fully-formed. As positive as she often seems, she’s equally careful and guarded. I wanted to take the readers through her heartache and through her falling in love to show that trusting others and moving on isn’t as simple as it sometimes seems. Her choices throughout the story are reflective of her complexity.
I enjoyed the relationship between Libby and Seth. What were some ideas you wanted to explore with their relationship?
Libby and Seth are like any of us in that their past relationships have shaped how they relate to others in the present. As a former therapist, I know well that many of our coping skills are drawn from our experiences, and how we react to the present is often as much- if not more so- predicated on the past as on what’s actually happening in the moment. Still, how we love and exist within relationships comes down to our choices. Seth and Libby are faced with very relatable choices about life and love.
This is the first book in the Heart of Madison Series. Where will the next book pick up and when will it be available?
The next book drops right into the story of Seth’s sister Lindy and will be out in the Spring of 2020. Expect a faster paced story with plenty of twists ahead, and you’ll also get a chance to follow up with Seth and Libby and the rest of the cast of characters in Madison.
Libby Reynolds is having to reboot her entire life after a sudden divorce and relocation. Seth Carver has let work become his whole life, becoming himself the kind of anachronism he surrounds himself with in the antique store he owns. They’ll fall together, but can their love withstand a visit from the past she’s left behind? Left on Main is the first in the Map of Madison series.
Twisted Pines follows Abe as he takes a job at a summer camp where children are going missing under mysterious circumstances. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
Having worked at a camp during my summers in college, I understand the pressure that comes with looking after children. Parents entrust you to ensure their children’s safety; and so the thought of having a child completely vanish is a nightmarish one to say the least. Although I never personally had a camper go missing, I hoped to tap into this anxiety to give the story a pervasive sense of tension.
I felt that the story did a great job of keeping things consistently ominous and otherworldly. What themes did you want to capture while writing this book?
I’m drawn to the theme of an unknown force that lurks out of sight, and yet pulls very tangible strings – wreaking all sorts of havoc. I also like the theme of helplessness, of paralysis in particular – the vulnerability that comes with being a guinea pig, subjected to the whims of others.
Abe is an interesting and well developed character. What were some ideas that you pursued during his character development?
In my life I’ve known many camp counselors, as well as many film students. And although Abe’s character is not based on any one person, I’ve pulled traits from real-life characters that I’ve come to know over the years. I’ve also been acquainted with people whose parents have had run-ins with the law, and had a chance to see how the delinquent actions of one’s parents can affect the attitudes and behaviors of their children. On a personal level, I can related to Abe’s desire to tell an engrossing story.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book also falls within the realm of sci-fi. I’m a fan of genre mash-ups, and so my follow-up will be a contemporary sci-fi thriller. No idea just yet as to when that one will be come available. So I better get back to typing…
Where have all the children gone? At rustic summer camp Mendocino Pastures, that’s the question on everyone’s mind. First one, then two, then three campers vanish – only to reappear a short while later with no recollection of the missing time. The disappearances raise questions about the children’s safety, not to mention the camp’s time-honored reputation.
When Abe, a freshman camp counselor from UCLA film school, stumbles upon a ghoulish-looking humanoid roaming the coast, he suspects this creature may play a role in the children’s unsettling disappearances. Armed with camera, journal, and a thirst for the truth, Abe sets out to pry the lid off the uncanny mystery shrouded among the camp’s TWISTED PINES.
The Conflict of Desires follows an executive trying to convince aboriginals to give up their land for his companies interests. What was the inspiration for the setup to this story?
In my years as a business journalist, I have stumbled upon many cases where big corporations with key interests in mining face resistance from the native residents. All those episodes of tussle and murky face-offs between a company and the original tribes form the bulwark of inspiration for my story. When companies foist their agendas on unsuspecting people and trample on their resources and brazenly try to usurp their livelihoods, the backlash is inevitable. My story should serve as a humble call to those transnational corporations to abjure coercion and embrace compassion for the people at whose expense they are expanding their frontiers of growth. Having said that mine is a work of fiction and any resonance with the ‘real’ should be treated as happenstance.
Ramesh is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his development?
As a character, Ramesh arouses intrigue and empathy in equal measure. He’s no different from legions of his real life counterparts who are lumbered with tasks not so pleasant and choices tempting yet fraught with risks. So often it happens that characters in the mould of Ramesh run into a knotty life matrix- they have to solve the Rubik’s cube. For me, fleshing out Ramesh as the lead character who carries the plot narrative draws from people who are perturbed by upsetting dilemmas. Most do cave in to the pressures of the job and dictates of the boss, playing it safe. That’s where Ramesh soars above the clutter- he wins with his conscience.
What is the next story that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next work on fiction dissects the woes of workplace. I believe it will be an enjoyable read. Hoping to release it next calendar.
An executive of a top notch company sets foot in a remote hinterland in a poor, eastern state of Odisha in India. Ramesh Sahay, the protagonist of the story is tasked with a mission- to woo the aboriginal tribals for pushing his employer’s interests. But the natives who have guarded the wealth of their hills for over a millennium are no pushovers. And, Ramesh is pitted against forces antagonistic to his mission. Ramesh realises the odds stacked against him. Nonetheless, his visceral urges and the mandate of a big corporation in which he has invested over a decade of his prime impels him to an unequal confrontation. How does he go on to win this tussle? Or a change of emotions tugs at his heartstrings? The story dissects the dilemma of his choices and the conflicts that shroud him. Read on to relate and connect.
Neither Light Nor Dark follows Lily who has to reunite the suffering lands of Arcadia and abolish the rule of Reficul. What was the inspiration for the setup to this riveting story?
I honestly had a dream that I could not escape from. I sat down one night and poured it out into my laptop. Over time I got inspiration from everywhere- other books, movies, music.
Lily is an interesting and well developed character. What were some obstacles in the story that you felt were important to her character development?
I think finding out all of the lies about her former life and learning how to deal with her new future definitely helped make her into the girl that she becomes. This is more obvious in book two, The Darker Light.
I loved the fairytale-esque lore embedded in this world. What were some themes you wanted to capture while creating your world?
I love fairytales! C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first book that I remember falling in love with. His world definitely inspired me to go in that direction. The whole idea of us having a predetermined destiny was a big part of the story. I wanted the reader to ponder, “Do I have a choice?”
This is book one in the Beyond the Gates series. What can readers expect in book two of the series, The Darker Light?
Book two is full of surprises. So many things about the characters are revealed that you will find yourself wondering who to trust. Lily is taken back into Arcadia where she is faced with a past that she never knew existed. The journey is harsh but new friends are made and old ones are reunited. Book two is my favorite. I feel like lily really grows up in this one.
YA Fantasy fiction full of surprises. This is a story about a girl, the man she loves, the boy who stole her heart, and Reficul, the evil ruler that stands to ruin it all. Lily Channon gets caught up in a war only she has the power to stop. The only problem is she doesn’t know why or even how. Her quest for answers leads her on a journey through love, crazy, hard to swallow, painful betrayal, and has deadly consequences. Will she find her place? Will she be willing to give what is required of her? Does love really exist, or is EVERYONE a liar? Find out what happens in this exciting book.
Floating on Secrets follows the intertwining lives of Flair an Austin through a neo-psych rock romance story. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer for this novel?
I wanted to write a Romantic Suspense with Gothic elements – that was also a Psychological Suspense like the rest of my novels, to keep that momentum going (so I call it a Seductive Psychological Suspense.) I planned for it to work for New Adult readers, who are often conservative people in the Midwest. I grew up in Indiana, and I researched what young people are like there, now. I hoped the book would have more mass appeal than my other novels, as this one doesn’t take on such heavy historical and social themes as they do. It focuses on issues that young people deal with such as establishing themselves solidly in the work force.
I wanted to write a book that portrays the white-hot need to be with a certain person and dramatizes the wild-fire of love. A book that men would like as much as women, because it’s not just Romance, but crime, Lynchian weird mystery, and a band.
Your book uses a sensory deprivation tank in a unique way. How did you come about this idea for your book?
I like Gothic Romance, in which the heroine isn’t so sure about the man she’s intrigued by. Is he a criminal, a murderer, a manipulating liar? So, it began with her having no idea what kind of man she encountered in the tank. She makes a very risky decision to give him the benefit of the doubt, putting herself in danger, but also in the way of love.
The tank is an engine of the Hero’s Journey, as it’s how one can cultivate visions in the other world of the subconscious to bring back to the tribe to enrich it.
The relationship between Flair and Austin was uniquely and deeply developed. Did their relationship develop organically while writing or was it planned?
Much of it developed through the process of my listening to Neo-Psych Rock the whole time while writing the manuscript. I listened to that in order to get in touch with my raw passion and longing for romance. At first, music wasn’t such a big part of their world. But they became identified to me by the type of songs they resonated with. Austin was like The Black Angels’ most throbbing drum-heavy, driving brave songs like “Young Men Dead,” and Flair was like The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful, mystical “Anemone.” The two sounds intertwine perfectly.
As I felt how much the music helped them reach the hallucinatory state they sought in the float tank, how much it embodied their intensity of desire and aching inwardness, I wanted it to play a larger role. I decided to use the book to introduce people to that type of music, and to entertain people who already love it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next books are non-fiction, such as about the craft of writing. I’m taking a break from novels to focus on my work – teaching fiction writing and editing manuscripts.
When the tank sets her mind free, will it open her heart to love or set her down a dark, fiery path?
Flair’s a neo-psych rock outcast in her small Indiana town. Spending her time in a sensory deprivation tank in an effort to enhance her mind seems like the right thing to do. But when the bartendress discovers the chamber is anything but isolated, she’s left with a question: who is the man who caressed her hair and escaped into the night?
With the mystery going through her mind like a playlist, Flair sees something she can’t explain in the corner of her vision. Do the strangely narrow men she hears tales about have a darker purpose in mind for him? To answer one sensuous question, Flair may just have to solve an existential one. Before it’s all over, music, telepathy, and love could be the least of her worries…
Floating on Secrets is a seductive psychological suspense novel that’s meant to turn your bath steamy. If you like indie rock, chilling Gothic Romance, and just a hint of David Lynch, then you’ll love award-winning author Tantra Bensko’s New Adult novel that delves far below the surface. Buy Floating on Secrets to solve the mysteries of the heart and mind today!
Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers is a unique cookbook that contains centuries-old recipes of your grandmothers from the times of Crypto-Jews. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Keeping the memories of my ancestors alive is very important to me. So many times once the elders die, the younger generation has no idea what their history was. I find that by recording the recipes of my grandmothers and by telling stories that were passed down to me, I am successfully leaving bread crumbs for the future generations of my family.
Was there a lot of research you had to do for this book? Did you have to hunt for the recipes or were they readily available to you?
I found the recipes in one place but they were faded, lightly written and difficult to understand I had to do separate research into the Spanish and Portuguese ancient tradition to be able to compile the information historically.
My favorite recipe from the collection is Bola Catalana. What is your favorite dish from the book?
My favorite dish is the periquillos because through this dish I learned all the customs of my family. I am beyond thrilled whenever I smell them cooking because it transports me right back to my grandmother’ kitchen.
Do you plan to write more books on food or Jewish history?
Yes I do. I am almost finished with a book on Cuban Kosher cooking. While it is not historical, it is a 30 year hands on work as I have changed all the typical Cuban Recipes to Kosher.
Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers is a collection of recipes and stories from the times of the Crypto-Jews who were hiding and pretending to be Catholic during the Spanish Inquisition while practicing their Judaism underground through the present. The grandmothers of the family devised clever ways to disguise the fact that they were still keeping kosher while appearing to be eating pork. Until modern times, the family pretended to be devout Catholics, yet passed many of the Jewish customs on, sometimes in the form of these recipes, their true legacy. For several hundred years they hid their fasts and celebration of Jewish holidays, revealing them only via their recipes and some kosher kitchen customs. This collection was found recently, hidden away at Genie Milgrom’s mother’s house.