1. Where are you from?
I grew up in Queensbridge which is located close to Astoria in Queens. I moved to Freeport, Long Island at the end of 7th grade.
2. Tell us your latest news?
I recently won an awards with the New York Book Festival for “Love and Happiness” I’m very happy that this new novel has been received so well.
3. When and why did you begin writing?
A teacher that influenced me would be Mrs. Marcus. When I was in her 8th-grade class, I read Richard Wright’s “Native Son” I read that book, and it was life changing for me. I knew I wanted to one day write something that could have the same effect on people. While in 8th grade, my English teacher Mrs. Marcus gave the class a poetry assignment. My poem was on basketball. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I remember my teacher was blown away by it. She encouraged me to keep writing. She was one of my most influential teachers, and I promised her if I ever wrote a book, I would write a poem about the Holocaust for her. (She was Jewish and had family that were survivors.) My dream was to publish a poetry book. I continued to write throughout high school and college.
My college professors told me I had talent as a poet and writer, so I decided to go to lounges that had open mics to perform my poetry. Hearing people cheer for me and appreciate my words, inspired me to keep writing. My first published book was a poetry book titled “Times Have Changed and Life is Strange.” I wrote a poem for Mrs. Marcus titled “Holocaust”, keeping my promise. The poem “Ugly” from “Times Have Changed and Life is Strange”, is the poem that inspired me to write my first novel “Monster.” I reflected on my life and felt it would be a good story that would teach and possible change people’s lives the way Richard Wright’s “Native Son” had done for me.
4. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself a writer when I published my first book “Times Have Changed and Life is Strange” Once that book was published and I began getting reviews from people I didn’t know, I felt like I was finally on that level of calling myself a writer.
5. What inspired you to write your first book “Monster”?
My first novel “Monster” is based off of my life. I wrote a poem called “Ugly” which is in my first published book “Times Have Change and Life is Strange” I used to perform that poem all the time at open mic performances, and my fans demanded that I write a novel based on the poem. I decided that would be a good idea, and the rest is history!
6. Do you have a specific writing style?
I would say I do. I like writing first person narrative books that make you think, and most people can relate to.
7. How did you come up with the title?
For me, it was a play on words. Sometimes you can love someone, but you aren’t necessarily happy. Sometimes we sacrifice our own happiness because we love someone. I wanted to show that irony in this novel.
8. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want readers to find most of the messages on their own, but here are two: 1. we all have to appreciate what we do have instead of criticizing what we don’t 2. Sometimes we go through hardships and bad times because there is something good coming to us after we’ve grown from those experiences.
9. How much of your books are realistic?
I would say all of it. I love to people watch, and I’m constantly thinking. When I’m developing my characters, I like them to be layered. I don’t want to make perfect characters because no one is perfect. I develop characters that have strengths and flaws because I feel that makes it easier for readers to connect. I put pieces of myself in every character, but I also look at the personality traits of strangers, family, and friends to inspire me for my character development. I like to do research also by interviewing strangers to get different perspectives on topics.
11. What books have most influenced your life most?
Richard Wright’s “Native Son” has had the most influence on my life.
12. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I have to name two writers for this because both of these people have been supportive and have encouraged me to keep following my dreams with writing. Those authors are Stacy Campbell and Eric Jerome Dickey. Both of them have been very helpful with giving me advice and encouragement.
13. What book are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading 3 A.M. Musings of Love Lost Love Found by Chiara Atoyebi
14. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
There are lots of authors that are grabbing my attention. I’ll try to list some: Julia Blues, MZ. Robinson, Michael Loring, Stacy Campbell, Charles Bukowski, Christine Hazel, Shatika Turner, Christiana Harrell, and Christopher McGoldrick. I like to give indie authors a try because I know there are a lot of great ones out there.
15. What are your current projects?
My next project is titled “Daddy’s Girl” Which will be a story of the trials and tribulations of a single father raising a bi-racial daughter on his own. The daughter character in this book will be “Lynn” from my first novel monster. Here, you will see her origin, and learn more about her character. After that novel, I will begin working on another novel called “Black and White”
16. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My 8th grade English Teacher Mrs. Marcus. She was very influential in my writing career.
17. Do you see writing as a career?
I do see writing as a career, because I put a lot of time and effort into honing my skills, writing, and promoting. I take this profession seriously and I have goals and aspirations to take my writing to the top. One major goal is to have my books adapted into movies.
18. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I put my heart and soul into everything I write so no, I wouldn’t change anything. How my books are written is the way I wanted my story to be told. As an independent author, I’m lucky to have that freedom.
19. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
When I was in 8th grade, I read Richard Wright’s “Native Son” When I read that book, I felt that it was life changing for me. I knew that I wanted to one day write something that could have the same effect on people. While in 8th grade, my English teacher Mrs. Marcus gave the class a poetry assignment. My poem was on basketball. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I remember my teacher was blown away by it. She encouraged me to keep writing. She was one of my most influential teachers, and I promised her if I ever wrote a book, I would write a poem about the Holocaust for her. (She was Jewish, and had family that were survivors.) My dream was to publish a book. I continued to write throughout high school and college. My college professors told me I had talent as a poet and writer, so I decided to go to lounges that had open mics to perform my poetry. Hearing people cheer for me and appreciate my words, inspired me to keep writing. My first published book was a poetry book titled “Times Have Changed and Life is Strange.” I wrote a poem for Mrs. Marcus titled “Holocaust”, keeping my promise. The poem “Ugly” from “Times Have Changed and Life is Strange”, is the poem that inspired me to write my first novel “Monster.” I reflected on my life, and felt it would be a good story that would teach and possible change people’s lives the way Richard Wright’s “Native Son” had done for me.
21. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’m a perfectionist, so the whole writing process is challenging to me. I don’t want to be derivative, so I’m constantly looking for new ways to tackle topics that most people go through. I beat myself up writing and re-writing to come up with original storylines.
22. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
That author for me would be author Eric Jerome Dickey. What attracted me to his work was the fact that it was different from most of the other Urban/ African American Fiction authors that I had read. I have spoken to him personally, and he has encouraged and supported my writing career. He has influenced me to not be afraid to be different. In the bonus section on my new book “Love and Happiness”, I actually made a poem in honor of him.
23. Do you travel much promoting your book(s)?
Honestly, because of my profession, I don’t travel much. Thank God for social media because it allows me to talk to people all around the world to promote my books.
24. Who designed your book covers?
I come up with the concept and my good friend Leah Frieday helps with making it a reality. I always want my covers to let readers know what they were getting themselves into which is why on the “Monster” cover, I have the words “Sex, Love Deceit, Betrayal, and Pain” displayed. I want my covers to be “Dark” yet appealing. Sexy, yet not too over the top. On the “Monster” cover, I felt having the guy on the cover hinted that the protagonist was African American, and the shadow was a metaphor that his actions were devilish. On the “Wounded” cover, I wanted everyone to know that she was a stripper, yet she wasn’t physically injured on the cover. I wanted readers to realize that she was mentally and emotionally wounded. On the “Love and Happiness” cover. The couple is holding each other, yet their facial expressions aren’t showing that they are extremely happy. I wanted readers to want to discover why. My covers always have a meaning.
25. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part of writing my book was writing from the female perspective. Being a straight man and trying to write in the voice of a woman is extremely difficult and challenging, but with a lot of research through interviews and observations, I dedicated the time to trying to overcome that challenge.
26. Do you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?
I learn from every book that I write. I learn how to use different ways to relay my messages. I learn how to keep an open mind by having my characters do certain things that I would probably never do. Sometimes, I look at the mistakes that my characters make and realize that I’m guilty of making those same mistakes. For example, in “Love and Happiness” Chris wasn’t always affectionate or verbal with showing his affection. I can be like that. I’m more of the “I’ll show you with my actions more than my words” type. After writing “Love and Happiness”, I realized I needed to be more vocal with expressing my feelings towards my family.
27. Do you have any advice for other writers?
There will be lots of times when you want to give up. There will be times when people will talk bad about your book or sales might be low. Never give up. Believe in yourself and believe in your work. Listen to critiques and push your pride to the side. It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you believe you are, you can always improve. There will be those who will not be fans of your writing, but you should never give up. Keep improving and learning your craft. Edit and re-edit. (*always have your books professionally edited. You want people to take your book seriously and not feel that it is amateurish.) Learn from your mistakes, take classes and read other authors. Research the industry. Two of the most important things to do are: 1. Find a credible editor and 2. Promote, promote, promote. You have to put your heart and soul into your work. While it will be hard, and you will go through trials and tribulations, in the end it’s worth it when your book is entertaining people, and it’s successful.
28. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Readers can always email me at AuthorBenBurgessjr@gmail.com, or they can go to my fan pages and website to stay in touch or learn more about my works.