Tuesday 14 May 2013


What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Nikki Bennett.  I was born in Arlington, Virginia, United States.  Currently, I live in Japan--a very beautiful country.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I started writing when I started reading - around five - so I always had it in me.  I wrote quite a bit in high school, but then decided I wanted to become a biologist.  So I got a degree in Biology and went on to work in the Environmental field.  I wrote stories when the mood struck, which meant I rarely finished writing the stories.  Then we moved to Japan, and for some reason that got me out of my writer's slump.  I've completed a few books in the last couple of years, and I also write articles for our military newspaper.  I write something new every day.

When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
Probably when I was six and started my first "novel."  I wrote it on kid-paper, you know-the paper with the thick lines with dashes running through the middle, but it had chapters and everything!

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I work for the US Marine Corps in Iwakuni Japan.  I'm the Air and Water Program Manager here, which means I make sure nobody's polluting the sea or the air.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Four Fiends is my current book.  Four very different kids join together to fight and defeat for very evil monsters.

Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
I decided to self-publish this book.

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Four Fiends took two years, but that was because I only worked on it when the mood hit me.  Now that I've gotten myself in a good writing-every-day routine, it took me only three months to finish my latest novel, Mukade Island, including editing and rewrites. 

Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
Four Fiends was hardest because it's really four different stories in one book.  So every time I finished with one story, I had to think about how the next story would go.  Sometimes a month or two would go by before I'd start writing again, just because I was trying to figure out how the new chapter would go.

What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
Mukade Island, my next book, is another fantasy geared towards the teen/young adult market.  It's about kids trying to escape a killer-insect infested island on another planet. 
I'm also starting the sequel to Four Fiends, and I'm working on an adult novel called Night at the Basking Iguana, a story about three women searching the globe for a restaurant that only opens up one day a year, and always in a different place.  Kind of a weird concept, but I get to write a lot about my travels in this novel.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Four Fiends is the first book in The Countdown to Dammerung series.  The next book will be called Three Delusions.  I've got the first couple of chapters written (you can read an excerpt at the end of the Four Fiends e-book or paperback) and plan to finish it this summer.

What genre would you place your books into?
Mostly fantasy and mostly geared towards kids.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I love reading fantasy.  And if you love reading something you're going to want to write about it too!

Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?
I'm very proud of Four Fiends.  But it seems the book I'm working on is always my favorite because it's new and I'm not as tired of looking at it :D  Right now, I'm busy promoting Four Fiends, but I'm also very excited about Mukade Island.  Kids will love it and I can't wait to get it out for them to read.

Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
I like Kate from Four Fiends.  She's spunky, sassy, and doesn't take any guff.  She's also a little full of herself and thinks she's better than anyone, but she finally realizes her mistakes, although she still stays sassy.

If you had to choose to be one of your characters in your book/books which would you be? and why?
Steffi, a character in Mukade Island.  She's tough as nails, and most certainly the bravest kid on the island.

Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
I get my ideas in different places.  Mukade Island came to me in a dream (at least the idea--the story I ended up with doesn't have much to do with the dream at all.)  With Four Fiends, my husband and I were exploring Hong Kong and we came upon a garden surrounding a storm water tunnel that looked like a cave.  I stared up the tunnel and wondered what might live up there.  The idea for Four Fiends came from that.
I got the title for Night at the Basking Iguana when we were in the Caribbean last fall, and I saw an iguana basking on a rock.  For some reason, I thought, "Hey wouldn't that be a cool name for a restaurant?  The Basking Iguana?  And the story took off from there.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I get up around 5:30 every morning and put in an hour's writing before I go to work.  I write at least 2,000 words a day (most days) and if I don't get that done before I leave for work, I make myself finish up when I get home.  I usually sit in our tatami room--that's a Japanese room with sliding paper doors and rice straw mat floors--while I'm writing.  It's very peaceful in here!

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
I usually get a couple of beta readers and I also, of course, send the book to my editor.  I've also recently discovered youwriteon.com, where you can post an excerpt and have people review.  I'm liking that site so far, but you can only post the first couple of chapters.  And my nieces and nephews help out too!

Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
I do indeed!

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Absolutely.  I always want to know what people think.  So far the Four Fiends reviews have all been very positive, which is great.  The beta readings for Mukade Island are also very encouraging.

What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
The toughest (and the best) was a review I got for a book I entered in a contest.  It was still a good review actually, but the reviewer pointed out some things I had done, like not enough character development, and using too many adverbs.  That advice really helped me grow as a writer.  So far, I haven't gotten a scathing review from anybody, although I'm sure I will sooner or later :D

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Nope.  It's their opinion.  I don't have to agree with it, but I should review their critiques and try to take something out of it.

How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
Titles are really hard for me.  Four Fiends came about because, well, the book is about the Four Fiends of ancient Chinese mythology.  Easy enough.  My husband, luckily, is a graphic artist specializing in Japanese anime.  So he designed the cover and artwork in the book.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Usually book first, and I put off naming it until I absolutely have to because I stink at titles.  The exception is Night at the Basking Iguana, the title came first and the story built up around it.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Most place names are real.  In Four Fiends, the action takes place in real places (although the Golden Dragon's island and the island in the South Pacific are made up.)  I named one character after my brother, one after my dog (Saburo, the Japanese character.  Saburo is really a boy's name in Japan, it means "second son."  When we moved to Japan and my mother-in-law--who is Japanese--adopted my dog Bo from me, she renamed him "Saburo" since he was her second dog.)  I named Kate after the main character in the TV show "Lost" because I happened to be watching it at the time, and for Jinjing, the Chinese girl, I looked up on-line for a good Chinese name.
I have a book making the agent rounds called Once Upon a House,  In that book, I named all the characters after the cousins on my Mom's side.  And the characters in Basking Iguana are named after all my cousins on my Dad's side.  Now that I'm out of family members and cousins, I'm going to have to think up some new names.

Are character names and place names decided after their creation? or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
Definitely after.  And I usually change everybody's name once or twice while I'm writing, until I like what I have.

Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I make it up as I go.  And sometimes I go back and totally change the character, if I think it will add to the story.  Sometimes I eliminate characters too, if they aren't helping the story move along.

Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
I just start writing.  I write the 2,000 words each day and don't analyze it too much while I'm writing.  I write until the book is done, in whatever form it is, just so I can get to the ending.  Then, in a few weeks, I go back, re-read the story, and work on getting it to gel.  I'll add new sections, take away other sections, cut characters, add characters, whatever, but when I first write, the most important thing is to get from the beginning of the story to the end.  Polishing it up comes later.  And usually, the idea I start out with has morphed into an entirely different story by the end.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I've gone entire years where I haven't written a thing.  Now, I've started (and finished!) three books in six months, and I'm 40,000 words into the fourth.  Why?  I write every day, no matter what, whether I'm inspired to or am just going through the motions.  If you have to write 2,000 words a day, you're going to write something decent in those 2,000 words, even if it's only a couple of sentences.  I wake up every morning raring to go, because I've thought or dreamt all night of what I'm going to write next.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
I travel!  And I read every day.  I knit, go to the beach, hike, eat sushi :D  I love to ride horses also, but I don't have  much opportunity for that here in Japan.

Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
A lot of events have happened to me.  Especially in Once Upon a House, which is really about the house I grew up in and all the goofy things we did as kids.  But even in Four Fiends and Mukade Island, I base a lot of what the kids are doing on what I've done, or places I've been.  I don't base characters on people I know though, although I do use names of people I know.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
Four Fiends has some lessons learned.  I wouldn't call them morals, but the kids learn something about themselves and how to become better, stronger people.

Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
Most definitely C.S. Lewis.

Which format of book do you prefer, ebook,hardback, or paperback?
I'm all for e-books.  Especially since I travel.  I don't want to lug huge books around when I can put a zillion of them on my kindle.

What is your favourite book and Why?  Have you read it more than once?
After all these years, I still love and re-read The Chronicles of Narnia.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst  book to movie transfer?
Some do.  Even though they were vastly different in places than the books, I loved the Harry Potter movies.  I liked the first two Narnia movies too, but they butchered the third one.

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I do book reviews on my website, so I read a lot of indie books.  The book I just finished is called I Wish I May by David Stohler, Jr. and it is a GREAT middle grade fantasy.  At least I thought it was.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
There are always going to be die-hards who want a printed read, but for me, I think it's a waste of paper (no matter how good that paper smells!)  I'm all for e-books.

Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
I think so, and I think e-books and the accessibility of e-books helps.

Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
I was a total introvert reader and writer as a kid!

Did you have a favourite author as a child?
C.S. Lewis, of course!  And Walter Farley.

Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
I loved Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

Is there anything in your book/books you would change now if you could and what would it be?
We're always developing our writing style.  So it's easy to want to go back and change things, but maybe that's not a good idea.  I had a book, THE LOST KINGDOM that I self published a few years ago.  Then I started rewriting it.  By the ed of my "rewrite", I had ripped that book into a million different pieces and I still haven't figured how to put them all back together.  So it's off the market right now, although I'm thinking of just restoring it to the original and putting it back out there.  Sometimes you shouldn't fiddle with what you've finished.

What do you think about book trailers?
I so want to learn how to make a book trailer!  Just haven't had the time yet!

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
I'll regurgitate what Stephen King said in his amazing book On Writing: In order to be a good writer, you have to write a lot.  And read a lot.  You have to do both.  Every day.

Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
No.  I like my name!

If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
C.S. Lewis, Rudyard Kipling and J.K. Rowling.  All initialed writers and all English.  Hmmm….

Where can readers follow you?

www.nikki-bennett.com  You can access my travel blog and book review blog from that site!

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nikki-Bennett-Writer/285562074341

Twitter: @NikkiBennett12

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/13649352-nikki-bennett

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