The Word Nerds are welcoming Laura Benedict to the blog today. Her new book, “Charlotte’s Story” goes on sale in print tomorrow and is available now as an eBook. She’ll be guesting at Murder and Mayhem and we’ve got a great Q&A with her!
WN: What kind of reader is really going to like your new book, “Charlotte’s Story?”
BENEDICT: What a great question! I write for readers who are ready for anything–who love a good story, no matter the genre. Charlotte’s Story is primarily a gothic novel: a haunted house, a protagonist who suffers a great loss, a suspenseful mystery with hints of the supernatural (okay–more than a hint!). But it’s not a gothic romance. “Provocative” is a useful word for my work; when the story goes to dark places, I take the reader there. The reader who will love Charlotte’s Story has a sense of adventure, and a taste for dark mysteries.
WN: Charlotte’s Story is your fifth novel… what’s getting easier and what’s getting harder with each book?
BENEDICT: You know how people say that a dog wakes up every day and everything seems brand new to them? Sitting down to write those first words of a novel or story always feels completely brand new to me. There’s the same apprehension, the same fear of committing to a whole new cast of characters, a whole new experience for both myself and the reader. It’s a strange kind of amnesia. Even when I can look at the books I’ve written on the shelf, including the stories and essays I have in anthologies, I don’t really have much of a memory of writing them. When I send them off, edited, they’re complete, and must make their own way in the world. So I have to go off and invent something completely new. I wouldn’t say it’s getting harder, but it’s not getting easier, either. I live for that challenge.
I adore working on the Bliss House books as a series because the world feels so familiar when I finally take that first step back into the house. The personality of the house is always surprising me, and while each book is set in a different time period, the atmosphere and the architecture are the same. I love that! It’s like going back to hang out with an old (creepy) friend. All of my stories exist in very physical, visual worlds. I can’t tell you how many readers who–after I released Cold Alone: A Bliss House Story, this past summer–told me they really liked being able to get back into the house. That made me very happy.
WN: How did growing up in the Midwest influence you as a writer?
BENEDICT: Though I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, I often claim both Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky, as hometowns. We moved to Louisville when I was eight-years-old and I already had a full mythology in my head about what living in the South might be like (yes, Louisville is only 2 hours downriver!). Throughout my late childhood and teenage years, I lived in suburbia. But it was a suburbia with a difference, and I got to know a lot of Kentucky history, and read Kentucky writers. My dad’s people were from Eastern Kentucky, so I didn’t feel like so much of a stranger. The seventies were very restless in Louisville; I was bussed downtown for the very first year of school desegregation, and that had a huge impact on me. My whole life I’ve been a fantasist–I’m way too daydreamy, scattered, and impractical for the Midwest ever to claim me. I’ve lived all over the region–Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, West Virginia, and, now, Illinois. I hope that living in so many different areas has made me a better-informed writer.
WN: What have your written that’s scared you the most?
BENEDICT: Each book I write terrifies me at some point during the writing. I’ll find myself sitting with my back to the window at night while I’m writing about someone being watched. Or murdered. When I started writing Isabella Moon, my first novel, both my daughter and son were quite young, and I was very worried about something happening to them. My concerns for them are my deepest fears. Even though a lot of events in my books and stories are extravagantly supernatural, the fear is just as real for me as it is for the reader.
WN: What’s your favorite word and why?
BENEDICT: Oh, I couldn’t have a single favorite word because then all the other words might get jealous and abandon me when I need them most. But at present I do very much like the word kerfuffle. It can describe anything from a disagreement over a seating arrangement to the latest ridiculous Internet outrage.
WN: What books have captured your attention lately?
BENEDICT: Dana Chamblee Carpenter’s Bohemian Gospel, a rich, dark, medieval fantasy; Shane Gericke’s new international thriller, The Fury; and Joan Didion’s essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which has been on my desk for months, but I’ve had too much research reading to get to it.