Thrilled to share my interview with Bram Stoker winning author and judge for the World’s Best Story contest Benjamin Kane Ethridge.
1- What are the ingredients for a blockbuster story to you?
There has to be a concept that interests a mass audience , characters who appeal to that audience, and enough tension in the story to keep that audience invested from start to finish.
2- What story has influenced your life?
The Wizard of Oz made me want to write stories, so I would say that it deserves credit for influencing my life as a writer. As far as being influenced as a person, there have been too many to lay all the credit on.
3- What writer would you consider a mentor?
I don’t really have any mentors. I’ve had some great teachers and great beta readers, but I cannot say that one person would fit into such a role for me.
4- What story do you enjoy reading over and over again?
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. I’ve read it to children countless times in the past and it’s always amusing and funny to them, and to me.
5- Do you have any advice to aspiring writers?
Enjoy the aspiring part, enjoy the struggle, and don’t feel like a failure because you cannot get a publishing contract. You’re going through a magical time. And while it may not seem like it now, once it’s gone you can never go back. Once you’re published, once you have obligations to produce work, your freedom to dream about what could be vanishes. So cherish the climb up this particular mountain. The summit is beautiful, but it gets lonely up there.
6- Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Primarily from having stories read to me, but I also happen to be a compulsive liar. I’d make up all kinds of tales to tell my friends and I would try to convince them these stories were real. After a time I decided that I could do the same thing without the dishonesty and start writing these stories down. So it helped me provide an outlet for my compulsion to make things up.
7- How would you increase literacy?
The body of classical literature often taught can be too much heavy lifting for uninterested students. While there are great benefits yielded from studying classics, we need to consider what benefit they provide for those who don’t necessarily enjoy deconstructing literature. These people haven’t even arrived to liking fiction at all and yet we expect them to endure the most complex variety imaginable? We need these people to fall in love with books first. If you’re horrible reader but forced to read Shakespeare or Chaucer, you’re going to double-down on a special hate for reading. However, if you’re allowed to read subject matter that interests you and are given enough time to be well-read in said subject matter, you might develop an affinity for sitting down with a good book. Forcing classics on people will make them believe ALL books are difficult. So they give up and never look back. The ultimate goal is to make them want to read because they have discovered how fulfilling it can be. That discovery needs to take place first however. If reading just represents a boring, confusing headache, we lose that audience.
8- If heaven exists, what is the first thing you would like to hear from God when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“ Hurry on in, it’s open bar!”
9- What ice cream flavor would you invent?
Red chili vanilla with ribbons of melted hot tamale candies.
Benjamin Kane Ethridge is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of the novel Black & Orange, Nomads, Bottled Abyss, and other novels. For his master’s thesis he wrote, “Causes of Unease: The Rhetoric of Horror Fiction and Film.” Available in an ivory tower near you. He lives in Southern California.
Find out more about Benjamin and his books bkethridge.com