Ep 373 Meet Benjamin Stevenson, author of ‘Either Side of Midnight’.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on print

In Episode 373 of So You Want To Be A Writer: Meet Benjamin Stevenson, author of Either Side of Midnight. Valerie and Allison take a look at the words of the year! Plus, there are 10x double passes to The Dry to win, courtesy of Roadshow Films.

Click play below to listen to the podcast. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher Radio. Or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.

Show Notes

Oxford Dictionaries: 2020 has too many Words of the Year to name just one

Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year

Writer in Residence

Benjamin Stevenson

Benjamin Stevenson is an award-winning stand-up comedian and author. His first novel, Greenlight, was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction, and published in the USA and UK. He has sold out shows from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared on ABCTV, Channel 10, and The Comedy Channel. Off-stage, Benjamin has worked for publishing houses and literary agencies in Australia and the USA. He currently works with some of Australia’s best-loved authors at Curtis Brown Australia.

His latest novel is Either Side of Midnight.

Follow Penguin Books Australia on Twitter

(If you click the link above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

Competition

WIN: 10x double passes to The Dry

This podcast is brought to you by the Australian Writers' Centre

Find out more about your hosts here:

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo

Or get social with them here:

Twitter:

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Instagram:

@allisontaitwriter

@valeriekhoo

Connect with Valerie, Allison and listeners in the podcast community on Facebook

So you want to be a writer Facebook group

Share the love!

Interview Transcript

Valerie Khoo 

Thanks so much for joining us today, Benjamin.

Benjamin Stevenson

Thanks for having me.

Valerie Khoo

This book, okay. Either Side of Midnight. It's… You just cannot put it down. It is so fabulous on so many levels, but we'll get into those levels soon. But for those readers who, those listeners who haven't read the book yet, can you tell us what it's about?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Sure. So it's a thriller novel. It opens behind the scenes of a nightly live entertainment television program. It's one of those ones where, you know, it's a bit of a piss take of the news or a bit satirical, a bit funny. It's broadcast live and the TV host is a comedian. He, the crew thinks he's looking a bit nervous on this particular broadcast, and they think it's because he's got a ring in his pocket and he's going to propose to his girlfriend live on air, because he likes doing things so that are theatrical or pulling stunts.

And near the end of the broadcast, he turns to the camera, addresses his girlfriend, says, I love you, but instead of pulling out a ring from his pocket, he pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head. So that's broadcast live across Australia, and it's pretty clear-cut suicide. There's a million witnesses who've seen it happen. But his identical twin brother doesn't believe that it is suicide, and he thinks it might be a murder. So he hires my main character, Jack, to come and take a closer look at it.

And from there, I try and piece together how such a public suicide could be, in fact, a murder.

Valerie Khoo

How in the world did you come up with this idea?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Well, it's a bit… There's a couple of influences that I took when writing this. The prologue is based on something that happened in the 70s in America. There was a news reader. And she broadcast for Fox News. And she basically did the same thing. She said, “In keeping with Fox News's policy and bringing you the best blood and guts, I now present you an attempted suicide” to the camera. And that was in the 70s. And it kind of stuck with me. There was a certain anniversary of, you know, 35 years after it happened or such and such a couple of years ago, and it just stuck in my head. And that scene was so powerful.

And I've been behind the scenes in a lot of entertainment programs. So I kind of know the landscape of a television studio and what it would be like sweating under the spotlights, all those kind of environmental factors.

So I just knew this scene had to open my book. The problem was, it's not a crime as it is. So then I have to kind of develop those aspects and turn it into a mystery that could be solved by my characters.

Valerie Khoo

So just for a bit of context, your first novel was Greenlight and it got shortlisted for the Ned Kelly. It's been published in the US and UK. You also are a comedian yourself. And you've performed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, and you've, as you said, you've been behind the scenes in entertainment. But you also work at Curtis Brown, at the literary agency Curtis Brown. So you've got a lot of strings to your bow. When did you think that you wanted to write fiction?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Yeah, I'm a slashie. So I do… That's a term that somebody called me the other day which I hadn't heard before, which means this slash this slash this.

You know, it's weird because they're three entirely different things that are all actually incredibly similar. So my work at Curtis Brown, you know, I wanted to work there because I loved fiction. I loved thriller novels specifically. And I wanted to work on Australian fiction, which I got to do, and still do.

And then that kind of developed into, well, now I think I've learned a lot of the rules of fiction, particularly crime thrillers, and I feel like I can deliver a really, really solid crime novel because my day job is to tell people if their novels are good or not. So that was just kind of a natural step. Which is ballsy because, you know, it's kind of putting your talent at your day job on the line. Because if your novel is not good, then people won't trust your opinion when you give them feedback on their novels, I suppose.

And then comedy, as well. I mean, it's… Comedy is truth, but it is also fiction. You know, you are telling a story, you're thinking about what things you want to develop. Normally, you only have 45 to 60 minutes instead of 80,000 words, but it adheres to a lot of the same structures, I find.

Valerie Khoo 

Why did you want to write a crime novel?

Benjamin Stevenson 

I just grew up with them. They're my favourite types of books to read. I think that great crime novels are actually great character novels with a couple of dead bodies scattered through them, rather than something that relies heavily on the violence or the body count or the action count. Those aren't the types of books that I like to read. But I think that a really great crime novel can deliver the same gut punch, the same thematic depth as a really great literary novel and I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. So I thought it was a good vehicle to have fun with, I like pacey books, so to have fun with that. But also to think about and talk about some topics that I wanted to talk about.

Valerie Khoo 

So because you are a slashie and you do a bunch of different things, how do you get the words out? So maybe take us back to Greenlight or you can talk about this one. On your day to day schedule, where do you fit in all of the writing along with the day job, along with everything else?

Benjamin Stevenson 

It's difficult. I've approached both novels the same. So my schedule is to, at the end of the day at the day job, is to make a new cup of coffee, put my headphones in, and write for two hours. So 5pm to 7pm is my writing time. The problem is if I have a gig at 7:30 or even later in the evening, that kind of cramps it.

And then my other strategy is that I work best under pressure, which is – god, I hope my publisher's not listening to this – but I divide the amount of days left until my deadline by the amount of words that I need. And then I have the words per day. So at the start of a contract, it's cool, 250 words a day, and I'll finish the book on time. And then I leave it until it becomes absolutely impossible to achieve. And then I freak out, and then I start. So at the moment it's a cool, I think it's between, yeah, it's between kind of 500 and 800 a day at the moment. And I'm not freaking out yet. I am writing. But if I miss a day, it just adds to the tally. And there'll be a point about six weeks out where I go, Oh, no, I need a lot of words per day and then I'll kind of put the axe to the grindstone.

But lots of writing is thinking. And I write very slowly because I turn a lot over in my head. So even when they're not coming down on the page, it's because I'm untangling plot threads or figuring out character arcs. And then when I do sit down and write, I'm actually quite a quick typist, I suppose.

Valerie Khoo 

Okay, so you're working it out in your head. So with Either Side of Midnight, then what… What plot elements did you know at the start? Had you already planned out what was going to happen? Or did you let that unfold as you started writing?

Benjamin Stevenson 

I'm quite an intricate plotter.

Valerie Khoo

You are.

Benjamin Stevenson

Yeah, I think it would be quite difficult for me to execute some of the twists that I execute without thinking about them beforehand, just because I like laying things into, you know, I believe there should be a clue on every page. There's not two or three clues in my books; there's 400.

So building it that way means that every block that goes into the tower has to contribute to the end. And so if you change the end, then you really do have to rewrite the book from page one, which I did. I do change things when I do rewrite the book from page one to reflect that.

But in terms of plotting, normally I kind of I have the last say 10,000 words in my mind when it all comes together. And I do the first third a little bit winging it. There's certain character elements that come in. This one was originally not a Jack book, who's the returning character from Greenlight. It was originally a standalone. But I wanted to talk about topics of, you know, he's grappling with a choice about euthanasia and his brother's in a coma and he kind of grapples with that choice throughout the book. And I wanted to do that, because I thought it was a powerful theme that reflected a few of the other things I was talking about in the book.

But I got a third of the way through the book and I realized I can't have another character who's got a family member in a coma. Ah crap. It's a Jack book. And so he kind of worked his way in. So I'm not above changing my synopsis completely when I hit upon something natural.

Valerie Khoo 

But when you are plotting intricately, is most of that happening in your head, is what it sounds like, or do you have a wall of index cards, or something like that?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Most of it is genuinely in my head. I have a few post it notes on the wall in front of my computer. But mostly I use them for character traits or characterization elements. Plot elements I tend to have in my head. At the bottom of my manuscript when I'm writing it, I keep it quite clean. So it's always up to where I'm up to. I don't jump around in scenes. And at the bottom, I leave three or four pages blank and then there is one page with probably at any given time 15 to 20 random sentences that I know will be in the rest of the book. And they might be big clues or they might be big tie-in reveals. So provided that I'm writing towards the next sentence, you know, it might be a cool sentence that I came up with that I think, right, I'm going to get to this point and end a chapter on this line. Provided I'm writing to that, that kind of bridges all the gaps.

And of course, I have to deliver a synopsis to my publisher, who are great at letting me vary it, but that's the opportunity to kind of sit down and write it out as a two and a half thousand word piece on what the plot of the book is.

Valerie Khoo

Right. And so with your characters, your main characters, who are so real and so well formed, you must really have an astute, skilful observation of human behaviour. What do you do to flesh them out, to really get to know them, to make them real people? Obviously, Jack you already knew. But you know, there are other characters and obviously Jack was new to you once. What do you do to really make them real?

Benjamin Stevenson 

That's a really tricky question. I mean, I'm very focused on making them real. That's definitely one of my goals when writing. I don't, I try and avoid cliches as much as possible in terms of human traits. So everyone's a little bit off beat because I believe that everyone in the world is a little bit off beat.

And the skill of observation comes from my work as a stand-up comedian where, you know, you weigh someone up. You might weigh up a situation so you can talk about it on stage, but also when you're on stage, you're weighing up members of the audience. You're trying to figure out what makes them laugh. Or they're talking to you, they're trying to heckle you, and you're weighing them up then so that you can insult them more effectively into a microphone.

But, so I kind of blend that. But I mostly, I just, I want everyone to be human, I want everyone to be real. And I want to… I'm not afraid to take my characters into darker places personally, because I believe that that's where, what humans are like. So there's no point giving someone a surface character trait, and then dodging any of the more significant issues. I want them to have complex relationships with other people and with themselves. And so maybe by digging into that, hopefully it achieves the goal of making them real on the page.

Valerie Khoo 

So I can imagine that you're very intuitive because, as you say, when you're in front of an audience, you have to make some judgments or decisions right in the moment. Because you're in front of the person. But these are all fictional characters, and yet you can make these… There's an inner monologue going on, let's say, with Jack, and you're really inside him and you really, you can understand, you can see and understand the things he's thinking. And they're just his observations on the people that he's dealing with, or his observations on what's happening at the time. How do you put yourself into that headspace of a fictional character? And sort of come up with these wry or just sometimes out of the box observations, but then the reader goes, “Oh, that is, I really believe that” – if that makes sense?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Yeah, I mean, I guess, Jack's wryness is, you know, it's something that I really like about him. He's got, he's very dry, and he's quite dark at times. He's less dark in this book than the last one. But he's got a real wit about him. And I think that he's been through a lot in his life and in both novels. Just in terms of getting involved in a couple of murder mysteries I think would darken anyone's sense of humour. But he does have a quite black a sense of humour as well, which I think is important to shoot through the book.

So in terms of getting in his head, I don't know, I just try and think about things a different way. One of the rules when you are writing jokes is to write the first joke that comes to mind, but then write it a different way, because the first joke to come to mind is the first thing the audience will expect. And so I do that when I, even if I describe someone's face, you know, I never want to call someone tall, dark and handsome. I'll just think, Okay, well, how else? How else can I describe him? How else can I describe this? Think about this?

And so I guess I just give Jack that unique spin. He's often looking at people like how he'd cast them in a television show, because he used to be a producer. So yeah, that's kind of how I put on his hat.

But I just try and look at the world a little bit quirkier. But also, I just, I genuinely, I want every sentence to be interesting. You know, the whole book as a whole, I think, I hope people go, “oh what a, you know, I enjoyed that mystery. I enjoyed that thriller novel.” But I also want people to just pick it up, read a page and think, “there are a couple of good sentences on that page.”

So I try and make them, I rewrite each of my sentences quite a few times to make sure that they shine by looking at them all from different perspectives to hopefully find those unique observations.

Valerie Khoo 

Can you just give us a bit of a potted timeline just so people can understand the reality of drafting a manuscript? When you started your first draft and when you finished?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Yeah, sure. So I pitched the idea with the first chapter, with the prologue of the television studio, murder slash suicide, I pitched that in July of 2018. And then, because that was off the back of my novel was coming out, my first novel in September. So I pitched that in July and wrote the first chapter and got all excited about it. And then across, I probably wrote the next little bit up until the release of my first book. And then I got blown away by media and I put it away for three or four months. And then I didn't pick it up again until over Christmas. So and then I spent six months writing the first draft.

So it took me a year, but six months of it, I wasn't working on it, because I was, I wasn't prepared for what releasing a book was like. And so to mentally put a book out there, but then sit down and pull new ideas from your head is very difficult.

So yeah, it takes me about a year to write a manuscript. And the same with the one that I'm working on now. It will have taken me about a year, but it'll probably take me four to five months to actually write.

And then this one had quite an intricate editorial process. I was using a lot of stuff that is literally on the news, day to day, that is changing. And so I had to stay focused on that. So we probably spent about six months editing it. And, yeah, then it goes to proofs about nine months out. And then it's just proofreading and stuff from there. So it's about, it was about a two-year cycle for this book with about six months of writing and six months of editing.

Valerie Khoo 

So with those six months of, you know, when you came back to it, and decided to do it, you know, from Christmas time for about six months, is that when you did it from five o'clock to seven o'clock every day after your day job?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Yeah, I did. I was actually also on tour. So I did it in hotel rooms. One of the tours, I was in Melbourne for three weeks, and I took a couple of days off work. And I moved out of the accommodation that the comedians were in, and I booked myself a hotel on my own for five days and I wrote, you know, it's not heaps, but I wrote about 10,000 words there. And that was what I needed to just kind of while still doing the shows at night. But so I was locked in a hotel room and I knew that, again, my strategy was like, wait until you're a dead man. And then start. I knew if I didn't write enough to unlock the plot, in that five-day session, then I was a goner.

So and I'll probably do that again. I mean, I'm just at home in Sydney, and I know it's COVID, but there's literally a hotel down the road from me and I might just book in four days there and just… Once you commit to something like that, you're very, I'm very stingy. So once I spend money on a hotel room, I'm going to do the work.

So that's my version of a writer's retreat. I wish I could go to a log cabin in the mountains, but I feel like I wouldn't get anything done.

Valerie Khoo 

You say you like books that are pacey and this is obviously very pacey. What do you need to do from a technique point of view to make sure you keep that pace up?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Your characters have to ask enough questions of the reader, I think, in order to keep pace. Because obviously there's one large, central dramatic question in every novel. And in a mystery, it's quite simple; it's a whodunnit. But in this novel, from a technical standpoint, I wanted to ask the whodunnit, but I also wanted to ask the how done it and I also wanted to ask the why done it. So you've got three central dramatic questions that run concurrently, even just inside the linear murder mystery.

And then of course, you have your character questions. You know, obviously, each character must leave a book differently to the way they entered it. That's just the basic rule. But their question, you know, they have to be asked a question by the narrative or be asking a question by the narrative that must be answered. And so that lingering question drives suspense on what their, on what they will do throughout the novel.

So that's kind of how I keep the pace up. But really, I just try and cut everything that's not useful. Every scene, every page, I think should add. And if it's not adding to character, then it should be adding to plot, and if it's not adding to plot then it should be adding to character.

And I have a little spreadsheet on my computer where I mark the chapters. You know, it just says chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, but I change the colour based on whether they're plot chapters or character chapters.

Valerie Khoo

That's great.

Benjamin Stevenson

Yeah, and if there's too, you know, it's just blue and green. But if there's too many blues in a row, if there's too many plot chapters, then it's getting a bit thin. I feel like the character gets a bit thin, which actually drops the suspense because you care less about them. You need to build, need to really build it in so that everything is gripping, convincing and interesting.

And likewise, if there's too many green cells, if there's too many character cells in my Excel spreadsheet, then I know that I'm not paying enough attention to the murder mystery, and I've got to get back to the point of the novel, so.

Valerie Khoo 

So what proportion, what balance are you looking for? 50/50? Or what? Yeah, what's the what's the ratio for you?

Benjamin Stevenson 

It does depend on the book. By virtue of having done a lot of Jack's character work in the previous book, I think that this one is a bit more plot heavy. So I actually try and go 60/40 plot/character. But 50/50 is also good.

I mean, I have to acknowledge that I'm being published into a commercial sphere as a suspense and thriller novel, so I can never trade the thriller aspect. But yeah, I try and do about 60/40 and keep the plot whirring along but also make sure that I have really meaningful arcs.

And it's not really about… Sometimes it doesn't come down to such finite things as a percentage split. If you can do something very effective in very few words, then, you know, that might count enough for a character chapter for me. And then, you know, fulfill my mental obligations of what I'm putting in.

But yeah, 60/40 I'd say.

Valerie Khoo 

Okay, so since you are in the world of publishing, and exposed to many different types of books, was it always that you were going to write a thriller? Or did you consider actually consider other genres?

Benjamin Stevenson 

I think I was fairly fated to write a thriller. I'm known as the guy that always tries to pick twists. So yeah, I don't think I've ever considered writing anything else. I do love a whole broad range of fiction, particularly literary fiction, but I'd rather just be in awe of those people and try and inject some literary vibes into my books, again, instead of… Yeah, I'd rather just be in awe of those writers than be on the on the same level as them.

Valerie Khoo 

So since you, as you do work at a literary agency in the world of publishing, when you first pitched this, was the pressure just ridiculous? Like how did you feel? Did you actually think, oh my god, what if they don't take it or whatever?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Yeah, lots of pressure. The honest answer is they didn't take it. I had written a different novel, one before Greenlight even, that didn't get published. And I learned so much from that manuscript and I was lucky people gave me really good advice. And then I went away and wrote what would become Greenlight that was then successfully published. So the pressure was huge, but also I didn't get any major shortcuts. So yeah, I've been through the rejection table, and it wasn't too embarrassing, I guess. So, um, yeah.

Valerie Khoo 

It worked out in the end.

Benjamin Stevenson

Yeah, it did.

Valerie Khoo

So, what was the most challenging thing about writing Either Side of Midnight?

Benjamin Stevenson 

It was challenging to write a book that deals with such dark themes and keep them sensitively handled without ever compromising the entertainment. So, you know, you need all those satisfactory conclusions that you get from a crime and thriller novel, which is a satisfying ending, a reveal. You know, you want those scenes where your heart thuds in your chest. But it goes to some very dark places and it deals with some very dark themes. And so I wanted to make sure that I was doing due respect to those themes and those elements of the book while also delivering a taut thriller.

But I really wanted to do that because I wanted to write something that people wouldn't have kind of seen a murder mystery like this before. And the ways in which that it plays out I've certainly not read in a book before.

So I guess yeah, that was probably the balance of light and dark. Which is why I give Jack such a unique eye and such a unique kind of sense of humour and take on the world because he's, you know, he's dealing with dead bodies and, you know, you can't take that too lightly. So that was…

Valerie Khoo 

Sorry, when you say that you had to deal with some of those dark themes sensitively, how did you do that? I mean, did you do anything beyond thinking about the appropriate way to deal with them?

Benjamin Stevenson 

I did a significant amount of research into, you know, lots of the elements of mental health that are presented in the book, and lots of the, you know, the mental health of the man that dies, but also Jack's mental health, he has an eating disorder as well. And so I think that the best you can do is to be as genuine as possible, and to not take the shortcuts around the hard stuff that you're trying to talk about, because it is important, and it also becomes important to the plot in several areas. But if you dance around it then I think, I think you can compromise the integrity of the plotting and the integrity of the characters, which makes the book feels superficial.

So I think it's important, it was important to take them on, head on. But also, do the research and be genuine with it and make sure that I was being respectful of people's experiences that I have researched, but also respectful and genuine of my own thoughts of the matter. And in the end if you're putting yourself on the page in a genuine way then I think that's the best way to deal with any anything, really, dark or…

Valerie Khoo 

And it's certainly very rare to be reading of a main male character with bulimia. So that was… And just to also read some of the scenes of how he, you know, snuck away his food kind of thing was fascinating. Did you talk to any bulimics or people who had experienced that themselves?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Yeah, I mean, I did. I did a lot more research in Greenlight for Jack's illness. And then in this one he's kind of improving a bit and his character arc goes in a different direction. So I did more research into that other side of it.

But certainly, I mean, the first person experiences of people who have grappled with it were so valuable and so important. Be that mainly, say, essays or first person interviews, I suppose than me actually ringing people up. But yeah, I got a really valuable grounding.

But then one of the important aspects that comes out of it is that it's all based on Jack's masculinity and his own interpretation of his place in the world and what it is to be a man, as well, which I think that I found I could connect with and I could speak certain things there as well. So yeah, a blend of intricate research in terms of his illness, specifically, but then in terms of his thought processes.

Then you, you know, you just really plug deep and think, well, what do I think about masculinity and my place in the world? And even if it manifests in Jack in a physical condition, because it's a book and you're trying to speak to a specific metaphor, you know, there's so much, there's so much you can draw from yourself alongside significant research.

Valerie Khoo 

What was the most rewarding thing about writing the book?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Typing “the end” on it.

Valerie Khoo 

I knew you'd say that! Apart from that? You can't have that one.

Benjamin Stevenson 

I think I get… I think writing a book allows you to think about some things deeply. And I think it gives you the time and the space in which to have to look at a theme or a character and really dig in. And it gives you as many pages as you need in which to construct your thoughts and version of events and make it into that novel. And so I think just being able to put some of those thoughts on the page, and to examine them and think about it and look at them, I think is the most rewarding.

And then on the other hand, the most, one of the most rewarding things is when you drop in a twist, and you just think to yourself, while you're writing, “oh, I've pulled that off.” You know, you just kind of… I look back through my manuscript to make sure all the clues are in the right place. And it's not the final word of the manuscript, but there's always a specific sentence when it turns and writing that sentence, I think, is fabulous.

Valerie Khoo 

Satisfying. Yeah. So I just want to go back, because it is a thriller, I just want to come back to discussing pace. Because you previously said, because it's so important in a book like this, and you previously said that you cut out anything that doesn't serve the character, doesn't serve the plot, and so on. Do you cut it out after you've written your first draft? Or are you the kind of author who needs to keep the pace up and therefore you are editing, like, chucking that out as you go?

Benjamin Stevenson 

I chuck out as I go, but it actually slows my writing pace quite significantly. I don't write one sentence forward until I believe that everything that comes before it at a polished stage.

Valerie Khoo

Really?

Benjamin Stevenson

Yeah, so I will, I'll be 300 pages in and if I am not 100% happy with one certain plot line, I'll just edit those full 300 pages. The advantage of this is that my first draft is more like a second or third draft by the time that I show anyone. But the disadvantage is it means there's days when I write seven words and think it was a big day of writing.

Valerie Khoo 

Wow. Have you tried the other way?

Benjamin Stevenson 

I'm trying it a bit with my new book that I'm writing now, because I'm still finding out what my characters want to tell me. But I really can't ignore scenes that I think aren't good enough. So I can't, I can't just look at, “Okay, chapter four needs work, but I've got to keep this going and then I'll revisit it later.” If chapter four needs work, it's going to bug me until I fix it. And I won't be able to think forward until it's all pretty tip top.

Valerie Khoo 

Okay. So the next book, the book you're writing now, is that Jack?

Benjamin Stevenson 

It's a standalone. At the moment. He worked his way into the last one. He may well… But I'm pretty confident he's not going to be in this one. Jack has a very specific set of stories. And I think I've been a bit mean to him. He's been beat up a few times and had some tough, some tough novels. So I'm giving him a break at the moment.

Valerie Khoo 

And so are you able to tell us anything about this one yet?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Not really. I really can't. It's going to… Oh, I mean, I can't even tell you the title because…

Valerie Khoo

Okay.

Benjamin Stevenson

Yeah, I'm I yeah… I can't put it, I can't…

Valerie Khoo 

That's okay. I won't put you on the spot.

Benjamin Stevenson 

It's about a family reunion that goes south. That's as much as I can say

Valerie Khoo 

But it is going to be a thriller?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Yes. Yeah. Absolutely.

Valerie Khoo 

Cool. All right. So finally, what are your top three writing tips for people who want to be in a position where you are one day and be a published author?

Benjamin Stevenson 

Sit down every day. If you're not sitting down every day, you know, the junk has to come out somewhere and it's all junk at the start. And so you have to do enough to get rid of all the junk. That's tip number one.

Tip number two is always be asking a question. Your manuscript must always ask a question. I know I write thriller novels, but one of the most genuine aspects of any book to me that I look for is suspense. And it could be, it can come in any form. You know, it can just be the suspense of what this character will say to this character, or when this character will meet this character, in any type of fiction. But if you don't have suspense on every page of your manuscript, then its readability diminishes. And so I always make sure that I have enough questions in the manuscript so that when somebody puts down a book and they're reading it, they're still thinking, “when's this gonna happen? How's this gonna happen? Who's that? Where did the money come from? You know, who is the killer? Will they kiss?” All these questions need to be at the back of every page, even though every page isn't talking about them.

And then my third tip is don't kill the dog. Because people don't like it when you kill animals in books and films. So avoid the household pet. Humans, they're up for grabs, but household pets, definitely not.

Valerie Khoo 

So true. So true. And on that note, thank you so much for your time today. Congratulations on Either Side of Midnight, and I know it's gonna be a huge success. Thanks a lot, Benjamin.

Benjamin Stevenson 

Thank you so much.

Browse posts by category
Browse posts by category

Courses starting soon

About us

The Australian Writers’ Centre offers courses in creative writing, freelance writing, business writing, blogging and much more. Our practical and industry-proven courses will help you gain confidence and meet your goals faster!

Contact us

Phone: (02) 9929 0088 Email: courses@writerscentre.com.au Head office: Suite 3,
55 Lavender Street, Milsons Point NSW 2061

© 2021 Australian Writers' Centre | FAQs | Terms, conditions & privacy policy

GET OUR FREE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER – WITH WRITING TIPS, COMPETITIONS AND MORE! YES PLEASE!

Back to top ↑
×

Nice one! You've added this to your cart