Benjamin T. Collier

Thank you for joining us Benjamin T. Collier, What inspired you to become a writer?

I suppose the catalyst for that was the Lord of the Rings films. Up until that point my interests were in the development of movies and video games. But when I saw the first LOTR film and remembered that it was based on a book, I read through the trilogy and realized that the kind of stories I wanted to tell could work in a book format.

You’ve written an auto-biography as well as a number of novels. Which do you find easier; fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction is easier to organize. I know that within a plot certain events need to happen before others. Non-fiction (what I’ve written so far) is a bit trickier when it comes to deciding what information needs to go where. When editing my bio, a number of sections got moved around because my editor and I realized some things fit better in different places, but when I was actually writing it I was just jotting down information as it came to mind over a span of a few years.

Although I find non-fiction easier when it comes to knowing what to say. Because I know the reader knows that it’s coming from me as my own thoughts, so I just need to be honest about my experiences. In fiction, a character’s words may be something I agree with or something I don’t, and the reader doesn’t always know which is which, so I have to be more careful with how it comes across.

What lead you to write about your experiences with Autism?

I suppose it was time. I had been secretive about my condition during my teen years and early twenties, because I functioned more or less like the average person but with a few odd quirks. I needed to know that I could make friends and have people accept me as I was without needing to explain myself. Once that was fulfilled, I started sensing a tug from God that this was something He wanted me to be more public about. I realized that I actually had a story that would be an encouragement to a lot of people, and I needed to share that testimony.

Has it had any effect on the way that you write?

Not that I’m specifically aware of, but it’s possible. There are traits associated with autism that can come in handy for this kind of work. I know many individuals on the autism spectrum have vibrant imaginations, an ability to focus on things they’re passionate about, and great attention to detail. I like to think I’ve got those traits.

What encouragement would you offer anyone also looking to write about their own personal challenges?

Be honest. Anyone who picks up a book about another person’s struggles is looking for a glimpse into someone else’s dark times as well as their triumphs. They will lose interest if the author only talks about the good times or paints everything rosy.

I think this is a particular temptation for Christian authors because we worry more, not just about how we make our faith look but we worry about making God look bad if some aspect of our life is unresolved. But based on books I’ve read, and feedback from people who have read my own story, people are actually encouraged by us speaking honestly about the struggles and the dark times. It lets them know that they can go through struggles too, without knowing the answers, and still come out alright on the other end.

[Tweet “People are encouraged by us speaking honestly about the struggles. – @benjaminfrog”]

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing?

The editing. Lol.

Not editing my own work, but going over another person’s edits of my work. It may be linked to an insecurity thing, or fear of exposure and judgement. Even if they love my work, the process of dealing honestly with what needs fixing and how to resolve it is especially strenuous for me. I’ve actually had to allow myself more time than the average author when going over an editor’s work. Not sure if it’s a common autistic scenario or if I’m the only one with that difficulty. I haven’t heard of many other autistic authors yet.

Have you found it easier to work through this challenge the more books you get edited?

It doesn’t seem to have gotten easier yet. It’s probably a tough-skin thing that most authors (and other artists) are supposed to acquire but that hasn’t happened to me yet. I’ve gotten better at managing it though. I’ve learned to better pace myself and tackle things a little bit at a time. It makes for a slow, steady progress, but it’s better than being repeatedly daunted by a ton of work and then procrastinating. I find, in the end, I get projects done quicker that way. I’ve been blessed so far to work with editors who don’t mind my unusual schedule.

How does your faith feed into your writing?

It changes depending on the project, and how direct I want to be about it. A lot of my work is allegorical, meaning it won’t use specific Christian terms but have fictional scenarios that parallel real world Christian struggles. Other novels, like Singularity, don’t really deal with faith issues, either directly or allegorically, but my personal beliefs will inform how I think the characters should interact with each other without being jerks.

In either case, I’m not keen on shoving my faith down people’s throats. I know how I feel as an audience member when someone does that to me. When writing anything about my personal life, I am of course very open about my faith there, as it is such a big part of me. But I am open about my struggles as well as my joys, and I think that’s why my readers don’t feel like I’m being preachy (even when I’m basically preaching).

Where do you go for inspiration?

That also changes depending on what I’m working on at the time. For fantasy, unfortunately, the inspirational material is fairly shortlisted apart from Middle Earth. But as a gamer as well, I’ve spent a lot of time in Skyrim taking in the people and environments of that world. A number of games will also let you play through the world as a character of your own design, which allows me to throw these characters into different situations and see how they handle it.
Singularity involved watching a lot of Star Trek. I had to learn common terminologies for different futuristic tech. but it also helped to get a feel for the environment I wanted to create.

What are you working on now?

I have a fantasy book scheduled for release in May, set in the same world as my first published novel The Kingdom. The writing and editing is already completed; it is just formatting work to be done now.

I have a number of other works-in-progress, but what I’m currently working on is another fantasy story set in a more classical fantasy world involving elves and wizards and dragons. Quite a lot of time was spent just putting together the history of that world, before I decided on an actual story to use it for. My current plan is to use it as a template for future works and possibly springboard other stories off of it.

That’s my current plan. Not sure if God has something else in mind. But as any project nears completion I will keep everyone informed. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 will hold.

If want to learn more about Benjamin T. Collier’s books or purchase them, you can find them below:

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Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel, Have you always enjoyed writing?

I remember how thrilled I was when a flipbook I’d created was displayed in the library of my elementary school. I also remember writing poetry by candlelight as a teen. And like so many others, I’ve poured out my heart in journals for my eyes only. I think writing has always been part of who I am.

[Tweet “I think writing has always been part of who I am. – @StephBethNickel”]

What did you enjoy about coauthoring Paralympian Deb Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances?

It was incredible getting to know this amazing woman and her family. I deeply cherish the friendship that developed between us. Plus it blows me away when Deb says, “Sometimes I forget you weren’t there with me.” All glory to God that I was able to help her express her memories in such a way that it was as if she was reliving them. And when I hear that someone has been blessed by the book, I am humbled and honoured to have been part of this project.

Were there any challenges?

I was working as a personal trainer when Deb and I began on her book. It took quite a while to get into the rhythm of things, but Deb was incredibly patient and amazing to work with.

At first it was odd writing in first person, relaying events I hadn’t experienced. But when Deb read a scene and got teary because it “took her back,” I knew we’d gotten into the groove.

Is this the kind of book you thought you would write?

It really isn’t. I’d never imagined myself helping someone else tell their story. A mutual friend and fellow author, Ruth Waring, introduced us. Deb and I proceeded with the project step by step and I am so very glad the Lord allowed me this privilege.

What are your writing plans for the future?

This year Deb and I hope to make significant headway on Still Living Beyond My Circumstances, a follow-up to her first book. We are in the process of working on the proposal.

Beyond that, these are my long-term writing goals:

Devotionals and book reviews for the podcast HopeStreamRadio. Posts for my blog and website. Guest posts for others. Quarterly newsletters and bonus materials for those who sign up. eBooks. A novel (or a series of novels). Dozens of picture books.

What is the ultimate purpose of your writing?

This year the Lord has challenged me to make it the Year of Outward Focus. I want to listen more than I speak—which will be a sure evidence that God is at work in me. I want to be more aware of my readers and listeners, consciously thinking about them as I write and speak.

In the ESV, Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” I want to keep this verse in the forefront this year—and beyond.

And at the end of the day, everything a Christian does is to be done for God’s glory as it says in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (ESV).

What advice would you give to a novice writer who’s just starting to write their first novel?

Read novels. Make note of what you love—and what you don’t. Learn from published authors, but always remember you have your own unique voice and that’s a very good thing.

[Tweet “Always remember you have your own unique voice and that’s a very good thing. – @StephBethNickel”]

Read skills development books and blogs. As soon as possible, apply what you’re learning to your own work.

But—and this is crucial—don’t wait until you feel ready to get down to the business of writing. There is always more to learn, and if we wait until we think we’ve got a handle on things, we’ll never write. Set aside time for research, sure, but also set aside time to write—ideally, every day.

If you can, attend one-day writing workshops and writers’ conferences. There’s nothing like being surrounded by writerly folk to inspire your creativity.

I am a member of COMPEL Training, a branch of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I absolutely love it. It is worth far more than the monthly fee. It is primarily for those writing nonfiction, but there is lots of wonderful information for Christian writers and speakers no matter what they’re writing.

Join FB groups for writers. Follow your favourite authors on Twitter. Check out writing-related topics on Instagram or Pinterest. Etc. Etc. Etc. This can inspire your own writing—or it can distract you. It’s important to know yourself well and limit your time on the Internet, especially on social media.

What has inspired your writing the most?

What a great question!

I’d have to say my writing is the result of my self-named condition, the Butterfly Syndrome. I flit from one thing to the next to the next. Because I am an extrovert (on steroids—no, not really), I love to hang out with people, other writers in particular. I do so in person and online. Being around other writers inspires me to write for sure.

Plus, I’m eclectically interested and eclectically involved. So that gives me lots of fodder for my writing.

I know conventional wisdom says to focus on one or two forms of writing, but I can’t see that happening. The title of Barbara Sher’s book Refuse to Choose sums up my writing endeavours.

While I allow the inspiration to come at me from all sides, it’s important that I don’t have too many partially completed projects on the go at once.

If want to know more about Steph Beth Nickel’s books or purchase them, you can find them below:

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Photo Credit: Stephen G. Woo