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.
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