[Interview] M. D. Benoit

Canadian author, M.D. Benoit is on a virtual book tour to promote her upcoming alternate reality novel, Synergy.

The tour started on March 28 and will run until April 11.

During this period, ten blogs will host M.D. Benoit for a day to discuss Synergy, its themes and characters. Some blogs will also feature interviews with the author and reviews of the book. On her own blog, Life’s Weirder than Fiction, M.D. Benoit will announce where she will be that day, as well as talk a bit about her host.

Synergy’s Virtual Book Tour will culminate with a Virtual Book Launch, on April 14 and 15.

In an email interview which took place between February 21 and March 30, 2007, M.D. Benoit spoke about the tour and about her writing.

How many books have you written so far?

I’m currently working on my seventh, but I have two books currently published and one which will come out in March 2007. All three are published by Zumaya Publications.

The first one, Metered Space, was published in 2004. It is the first book in the Jack Meter Case Files series. Jack Meter, a Private Investigator from Ottawa, Canada, is hired by aliens to recover a stolen device a megalomaniac wants to use to conquer the universe. In Meter Made, Jack teams up with a beautiful intergalactic agent to investigate parallel universes.

In Synergy, a man who can travel people’s memories and a woman who has visions team up to find the cure for a horrifying genetic disease. In doing so, they may have found the ultimate genetic weapon.

How long did it take you to write Synergy?

Synergy took me two and a half years to write. Six months of research went into it. When I started, I knew very little about genetic engineering, so I had to take a crash course. The story is about gene modification and warfare, but it’s also about the relationship between two hurt people. Torver Lockwood is scarred emotionally, Demetria Greyson is disfigured. He uses people’s innermost secrets against them; she is unwaveringly honest. The question is: does the end justify the means? Is saving one child worth unleashing a dangerous weapon?

What did you find most difficult when you were working on the novel?

The genetics, of course. As I was writing the book, new developments in the field occurred almost every month. I had to keep up-to-date constantly. For instance, before the beginning of mapping the human genome, the speculation was that we had a minimum of 100,000 genes. When they finished the map, the count was 30,000.

What did you enjoy most?

My biggest thrill is always writing the first draft. Everything else after that is hard work.

How are you promoting the book?

I’ll have a physical book launch, of course, but with the last ones I held, I found I could reach just a very small portion of the population. So I’ve decided to hold a virtual book launch and book tour. Bloggers will host my book tour, as if I were stopping in a different city every day.

The book launch will happen in a virtual pub on my website. Visitors will be able to watch a video about the book, read the first chapter, participate in a contest to win a signed copy of one of my other books, read reviews, read all about my blog hosts during the book tour, buy Synergy, and chat with me.

What is a virtual book tour? And, how did you select the blogs who will be hosting you and your novel?

Using the virtual world is a new phenomenon that grew with the advent of virtual communities and blogs. Even the large publishers have little money to spend on book tours for midlist or emerging authors, so the writers themselves have had to be creative. Doing a virtual book tour and launch seemed a good solution: your audience is larger and as varied as possible.

For the book tour, I’ve approached ten blog owners, from writers to fans to reviewers, who can do whatever they want on the day I visit: an interview, a review of the book, a Q&A using the comments portion of the blog; the sky is the limit. I tried to ask a variety of blog owners so that the visitors won’t all be the same ones from one blog to the next. The only criterion: they have to like to read.

How would you describe the genre in which you do most of your writing?

Alternate reality fits better for my books than science fiction or mystery, or the new term, weird fiction. I explore possibilities, but the basis of the stories is always grounded in the concrete.

Who is your target audience?

With my series The Jack Meter Case Files, which is a mix of alternate reality and mystery, the target audience would be those who enjoy whimsical writing. Jack Meter is a Private Investigator who gets his cases from aliens. With Synergy, the novel coming out in March 2007, my audience would be those who are able to suspend their disbelief and come along for the ride. The novel is about gene modification and genetic warfare.

What motivated you to start writing in this genre?

I really didn’t have any choice in the matter. Those are the stories coming out of my brain. I love reading literary fiction, for instance, but when I try to write in that genre, the writing comes out as stilted and trite. What usually pops into my head are strange stories, and those are the ones I need to tell.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

Hmm. I’d say the first one I remember with awe is my father. He wasn’t a writer, but an incredible storyteller. Every night for years, when we were growing up, he would tell us a story. Of course, my two brothers and I were the protagonists. There was always a dark forest, alien beings, caves and bats, witches, keypads to press that led to strange, dangerous worlds. We had to overcome many obstacles, and the story lasted for weeks. I learned the skill of cliffhangers from him.

What sets the Synergy apart from the other things you have written?

It is much more serious in tone. The Jack Meter Case Files are lighthearted, even though I explore some difficult issues. My protagonist is somewhat based on Sam Spade, so there’s a tinge of “roman noir” to them. Synergy explores some deeper issues about our right to our genetic information, and of the role of ethical behavior in research. It doesn’t proselytize or moralize, simply asks the questions. It’s up to the reader to come up with his/her own answers.

In what way is it similar?

I’ve always been fascinated with time, and that theme recurs throughout all my books. Another theme is water, or its flow. Looking back, it also appears in all my books.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

That my readers enjoy my stories. If I can make them smile, shiver, or hold their breath, if I can keep them fascinated until the end, I’ll have done my job.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

Even when I was young, I was very different from the others. I have a quirky sense of humour few people understand; I have a sense of the ridiculous, and my brain works almost twenty-four hours a day (I suffer from chronic insomnia). I’ve always been somewhat of a recluse, preferring books to friends. A ten, I had already read many Nobel prize writers. I started school at four and a half, so I was always “off”. I’d say that gave me the perfect makeup to be a writer. I can spend weeks without seeing no one else than mys husband and my cat, and I’m quite happy with that.

What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

Not becoming stale as a writer. It’s easy to fall into a comfortable rhythm, a style that is easy because it’s well known. However, that way you end up with cookie-cutter prose.

How do you deal with these challenges?

I try to find a new challenge in every book I write and tackle it in a new way.

Do you write everyday?

I write five days a week, sometimes six. I’ll usually start around 8:30 or 9 am, write until 11 am, have lunch and a bit of a read, then write until 2 pm.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always written, from awful poetry to short stories, but I dabbled more than anything. It was a dream of mine to be a “real” writer. Unfortunately, life interfered -- I had to earn money, I had really stressful jobs, and I couldn’t switch gears when it was time to do some serious writing. Then a good friend died at 42. I decided life was too short, too uncertain, to do something you hated, to stomp on your dreams. It took me a year to prepare my exit from the workforce, and our income was reduced dramatically, but I began writing full-time. That was 12 years ago, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

What will your next book be about?

The next one will be another Jack Meter, Meter Destiny, where Jack gets involved with Gods of the Greek Mythology. Then there’s the next in the genetic engineering trio, Catalyst, about human cloning farms.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Getting published. English is not my mother tongue. I learned to speak it when I was twenty-one. I’ve always had a fascination with languages, but I find that getting published is an affirmation that I am able to master this extremely difficult language.

How did you do it?

I read a lot, often with the dictionary beside me. In addition, a very good friend of mine, Peggy Loyer, has been my copy editor for as long as I’ve written. I learned much from her over the years. I would not be were I am without her. I also owe my success to my husband, Daniel, who believes in me more than I believe in myself. He has been a stalwart promoter of my work and has propped my flagging optimism over and over. He is also my biggest fan.

This article was first published on OhmyNews International.

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