Here we go for another round of 20 Questions! Danielle Blanchard Benson is a world traveler and currently a university student earning her degree in Creative Writing with a Minor in Specialized Languages (French). She has written The Beautiful People Series, which will be released in eight separate volumes. The Proposal: Book One & The Hook Up: Book Two are currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords (coming soon to all ebook retail outlets including Apple and Sony). Both novellas will also be available in paperback on CreateSpace by the first week of June, 2011.
So come on and join me in putting her to the questions!
1.) Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Well, I was born in California and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area in a small suburb 29 miles south of San Francisco called Mountain View. My family is originally from the south (Louisiana and Mississippi to be specific) but both my parents spent the vast majority of their life on the west coast. I have lived in Southern California (both the San Fernando Valley and West L.A.) for six years. I currently reside in Las Vegas and have been a resident for the past seven years.
2.) How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first story in second grade. I spent most of my junior high years writing poetry. I wrote my first novel when I was thirteen. It was about a young woman who realizes her family isn’t what she thinks and her whole life is a lie. The catch: it takes place in Germany during World War II. I ended up creating a saga and a sequel which dealt with the family descendants during the current years in Germany (current being the late 1990s when I wrote the sequel).
3.) Do you have a preferred genre that you read? Is it the same as what you write?
I don’t have a preferred genre per se. My first novels were read for junior high and high school (as I went to Catholic school, the reading list was quite advanced). The first major author I read for fun was V.C. Andrews Doppelganger series followed by her Casteel series and My Sweet Audrina. Anyone who is a V.C. Andrews fan knows she died while writing the Casteel series so only the first two books were written by her and the rest crafted by a “carefully selected author” her family hired. My second foray into reading for fun was Jackie Collins. I read The World Is Full Of Married Men when I was fourteen. I was a “bad girl”, so to speak and always preferred authors who wrote more for adults than children and there was some YA back then but it isn’t the genre it is now. My favorite authors nowadays are James Patterson, Stieg Larsson, Stephen King, Dean Koontz (his older work), Anne Rice and Jackie Collins (her earlier work).
4.) What is the title of your book and where can it be found?
Actually, it’s a series titled The Beautiful People and it is broken down into eight volumes. I have published the first three: The Proposal, The Hook Up and Heartbreaks & Lust Aches. It can be found on all the usual suspect sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords). The first two novellas also available in paperback version on Createspace (the third should be available the first week in July).
5.) Describe your novel in 15 words or less.
The entertainment industry during a particular time in the 00s with very interesting characters.
6.) Where did the inspiration for your story come from?
From reading Jackie Collins and living in L.A. It’s hard to not write if you live in an interesting city like L.A. or Paris or New York (London, Tokyo… I could go on). It is such a contradiction in terms. Women and men obsessed about their looks and body while doing and trying everything it takes to be “in shape”. People who are very shallow and smile in your face yet will stab you in the back. I found it one of the most interesting places I have ever lived.
7.) How long did it take you to complete this novel from concept to published?
A long time. I began writing the book in 1998 and finished it in 2001. I updated it shortly afterwards and did the rounds of trying to find an agent. I shelved it and life moves on as it always does. I took it off the shelf and begin to make the rounds again late last year. Then, I read on one of my favorite blogs in late April how one of the bloggers best friends had self-published on Amazon. Until then, I didn’t even know it could be done! I quickly began to get my book prepared and published the first book in the series in late April.
8.) When you sit down to write, how does that process go? Do you outline or just let it evolve?
I am definitely an outline person. That is why I can predict so well about when my next novella series will come out (next year in 2012). I have a complete outline for the whole book. It is just the opportunity to actually sit down and finish it as it is about a 3rd of the way completed. It won’t be as many volumes as The Beautiful People series. I think I will reduce Murder, Inc: The Pop Stars Series to four juicy volumes!
9.) Are there any aspects of writing you struggle with?
I am sometimes overly descriptive and I struggle when doing dialogue. Not the actual dialogue itself but the words after. I hate to use words like “said”, “replied”, “responded” over and over again. I try to be very creative and actually make the reader feel like they are a fly on the wall; privy to a private conversation they shouldn’t be listening to and that is a challenge but a very satisfying and challenging one.
10.) Are there any aspects that you simply glide through?
I can run on at the mouth: both in person and on paper. I have a hard time writing “short” books and I suppose this can also be viewed as a flaw. Sometimes I don’t know when to quit but then again, I am an SK fan and all his really long novels (with the exception of It) are my favorites!
11.) What sets your book apart from others in the same genre?
My unique voice and point of view. Some people might feel like my book is a bit politically correct because I have characters that span the color scope. I don’t mean to be P.C. because it isn’t the type of person I am. Mainly, I wanted to write a book that this generation would understand. I have two children, both of mixed ethnic descent (I am ethnically mixed myself) and I feel that too many books still write as if the world is merely black and white. I try to include all types because that is life in all of its glory. I have met good and bad people in every color and walk of life. I try for this to come across in my books. So, I suppose my book is extremely multi-cultural but I certainly hope that isn’t a bad thing!
12.) What is the location of your story setting and why did you choose that place/time?
The location of my story is Southern California (Los Angeles County to specific) and the place/time is the early 00s. I chose this time because that is when I wrote it and also, I couldn’t update it to fit today’s Hollywood and entertainment industry because it is a very different place then it was just ten years ago.
13.) Your main characters, tell me about them. What is their back story? How did they find themselves where they are now?
Oh wow. Well, that was supposedly a fault of mine: too many main characters as there are eleven of them. I make it a bit easier on the reader because they are all so closely intermingled that you don’t feel like you have to be reminded who they are. They are all extremely complex people (whether they appear to be at first or not). There is a mixture of men and women as I enjoy writing both points of view. They are all under forty and over the age of twenty-one. I feel like their age shows through when you hear them speak and interact with one another and they are very much real and three dimensional. In terms of their back stories, the reader is well informed and learns many of their secrets before the end of the series.
14.) I’d like to know more about your book. Tell me all about it.
Well, my book is about the entertainment industry when it was still controlled by actors, actresses, directors, producers and studios. There are no celebrity characters who just there for the sake of being a celebrity. This is before the whole reality television craze so no one is known just because they were on a Survivor-type show or Jersey Shore.
It is about people who are the entertainment business because that is what they want to do or that is all they know how to do: that is act and star in movies or television shows. I don’t want to say it was a more innocent time because Hollywood has never been innocent but I do believe it was a more interesting time.
No offense but I don’t really care about what Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton wore last night to the opening of an envelope. They are vacuous women who have done nothing other than have famous last names and a bit of money and all the sudden they are celebrities? I just don’t understand that and I never will.
15.) What do you want readers to take from your writings?
I want them (especially all the “bad” teenagers) to understand that the entertainment industry wasn’t always like it is now. There was a time when people actually wanted to make movies, when people had great ideas for films and television programs. I also want them to realize that some of the best movies and T.V. shows, even now, are ironically based upon books. Harry Potter, The Twilight series, True Blood, Sex & The City, et cetera. I would hate to think what the television and movie execs would do if books suddenly stopped being written. Most of the best ideas have come from them as it seems like original screenplays are almost a thing of the past.
16.) Are more books to follow or is this a stand alone?
Oh, it’s a series. I’m on book three and there are five more books to go.
17.) Where can readers find you?
I have my own blog: The Beautiful People, A Writer’s Journey: http://thebeautifulpeopleawritersjourney.blogspot.com/ Links to my books and book trailers can be found there. The blog really is about my everyday life, my trials and tribulations. I have so much fun writing my blog and I think it is a great way for people to keep informed about what is going on in my life. I am also on Twitter (vegasgyrl007) too.
18.) What are 3 random things about yourself that readers might like to know.
I love to travel, I am extremely claustrophobic and I am afraid of heights.
19.) What do you do in your down time? For fun.
I love to travel. Seriously, I try to get away at least every six months. The last year, I have been to Europe three times and although I am not sure I will be able to make it this far in December, I am thinking about maybe staying a week in Quebec as I have never been there and would love to go to the French-speaking region of Canada. I have been to Canada (Vancouver) and it is such a beautiful country with very friendly people.
20.) How about letting me have a sneak peak at chapter one?
Two major events took place on a beautiful summer day in Los Angeles.
Most people felt the day was too perfect as the temperature hovered at eighty-seven degrees and the smog seemed to have left the city for the day.
Both events were star-studded and unforgettable.
The first was a funeral.
The second was the premiere of one of the most anticipated films of the year.
Most people in the know said it was the premiere of the most anticipated film of the decade.
Many of the same people who attended the funeral also attended the premiere, held later that evening when everyone would be in better spirits.
Of course, every person who attended the funeral and the premiere wore different designer outfits to each occasion.
Now if you want to read more, you’ll just have to check out her website and find all her links! Go on, you know you want to know more about all these Beautiful People!