Featured Friday! Ben Cass

From a young age, I was in love with the premises of fantasy novels and comic books: amazing creatures, fantastic heroes, and magical powers that existed right beneath our noses.  I created detailed storylines to act out with my toys, often updating the stories until I was satisfied with the plots.

My love of writing began in my senior year of high school, when I had to write short stories for my English class.  I wrote the first one in ten minutes, because it was due the next class period and I had completely forgotten about it.  (Note to students: I do NOT recommend this!)  The story was about a cockroach who’d been squished by a stinky pair of running shoes, only to have the odors from the shoes make him grow to seven feet tall and gain intelligence.  The roach and the owner of the shoes engaged in a battle of wits to determine who would get to keep the house.

As a teacher, Ben likes to keep his authorial endeavours separate and retain some anonymity. This is what we imagine he looks like.

That story was greeted with laughter and applause by my classmates and teacher, and my subsequent assignments garnered even more positive responses. At that point, I began to seriously consider writing as a hobby.

After graduating high school in 1994, I began attending Florida Southern College, where my newfound love of writing was strengthened by the English Department.  I had never really been taught to write, and their grading policies forced me to really pay attention to what I was doing.  I don’t know what it’s like there now, but at the time, the department’s grading policy was simple: every grammatical error was a one-letter-grade drop.

In 1998, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, double-majoring in Secondary Education.  You read that correctly.  I don’t have an English degree, or a Creative Writing degree.  I only took the required three English courses.  I started college with the intention of being a high school German teacher, and was triple-majoring in German, Math, and Education.  When the college dropped the German major, so did I, and settled on teaching math as a career.

After graduating in 1998, I spent the next nineteen years teaching math to teenagers.  Over that time, I taught all grade levels from 4th up through college.  Along the way, I earned my Master of Science in Education, and began setting my sights on transitioning from instruction to instructional technology. 

At the end of my nineteenth year, my director offered me the opportunity to have my dream position, and I leaped at it.  I now train teachers, troubleshoot pesky devices, learn every program my director purchases for the school, and do whatever else necessary to support our I.T. Director in keeping our technology working.

I am a certified geek, and love Superman, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and other sci-fi/comic book characters and stories.  

A native Floridian, I live in beautiful Broward County, Florida, with my wife and son, where I am continuing my career as an educator and diligently working on the Legends of Kiamada series, with a few other fantasy realms trying to fight their way out of my brain and onto my computer screen.

What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?

I don’t think I have the “normal” lifestyle of an author. I work full-time as an instructional technologist at a middle/high school, so I don’t really get a lot of time to write. Much of my writing takes place during Spring Break, Christmas Break, and Summer Break.
For me, the best part is that I can escape into my writing when I really need to.

What made you start writing?

In high school, we had to write a Canterbury Tale, and since I had forgotten to do it, I had to write it the class period before it was due.  I ended up getting a ton of praise from the teacher and my classmates.  I was hooked.

Is there an Author that you consider your inspiration?

Not really. I’m not the kind of person who says, “Wow, I’m inspired by that person and their story/talents/etc.” That’s just not me. There are several authors whose books I loved, and whose writing style I enjoyed, but I wasn’t necessarily inspired by them.

What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?

Find critique partners that work well with you and love your story as much as you do.  I found one in January 2018, and her assistance helped me gain the confidence to pull the trigger and self-publish in July 2018. 

If you can get them, multiple critique partners are great.  Just be sure to consider their suggestions; don’t just dismiss them because you don’t want to hear it.  One of my critique partners disagreed with several scenes, and while I disagreed with her, I did sit back and consider her perspective.  I ended up changing about half of those scenes, maybe slightly more, based on her comments.  I still don’t think there was anything wrong with the original versions, but I will admit that the new versions work much better.

What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?

I mostly read fantasy, sci-fi, and thrillers. I rarely read the “ordinary”, contemporary fiction. I’ll read some on occasions, but I quickly return to speculative fiction.

Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?

Oh, that’s a tough one!  If we’re going from just my first book, Theonus.  Who wouldn’t want to hang out with a giant, telepathic dog? 

If we’re including the sequels, then I’d have to say Bar Truga.  It’s a sentient island, and while it cares for those who live on it, it still does what it wants to do, when it wants to do it.  Change the weather suddenly?  Check.  Rearrange the biomes on the island?  Done. I think it’d be cool to live someplace like that…which is why I created Bar Truga!

Which book do you consider a must-read?

Mmm.  So many.  As a kid, my favorite book was “Heidi”.  I read it over and over again.  I do recommend it.  After that one, there aren’t many stand-alone novels I suggest.  I mostly read series.  So, with that said….Narnia, Dark is Rising, and Harry Potter.  Those are series that everyone should read.  Any of Arthur C. Clarke’s books, too.  That man was a legitimate prophet, I think.

What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make? Why did you want to keep the material in?

I talked about this a little bit earlier.  One of my critique partners objected to several scenes in my first book.  These scenes were between the main male character, who’s 28, and one of the two female main characters, who’s 16.  She has a crush on him, even though her older sister is dating him, and these scenes basically told the story of their relationship going from “he’s so hot” to “he’s my brother and I love him that way”.  These scenes were directly lifted from my relationship with my wife’s sister.  Many of them were things that happened between us, but slightly altered for the story.  So, being told “this is NOT okay!” multiple times really bothered me, because that was like being told that I was not okay for being close to my sister-in-law when she was a teenager. 

Fortunately, I was able to step back and consider the scenes from the perspective of somebody who doesn’t know our relationship, doesn’t know either one of us.  From that POV, I could see her points, so I made several changes.  Some, I simply refused to, because the scene made it clear that everything was completely innocent and platonic, and I figured if that still made somebody uncomfortable…well, that’s something that art does, isn’t it?

If you could live in a book, which one would it be?

That’s not something I can answer. I’ve read way too many books, and fallen in love with them, to truly pick one.

If you could pick an Author to write your biography, who would it be?

Rick Riordan.  His sense of humor is similar to mine, and I think he’d do my life justice.

Is there any conflict between what you want to write and what you think your readers will like?

Not yet?  I don’t think much about “will readers like this?”.  I just write the story I want to tell.  That’s why I chose self-publishing.  This is my story, and I’m going to tell the story I want to tell, without worrying about anything else. 

What effect can a review have on you, if you read them at all? Both the good and the bad.

I’ve only had a few reviews, but they were all very positive.  I did have somebody email me out of the blue and tell me she tore through my book in a day and NEEDS the sequel now!  That was absolutely surreal.  A complete stranger, somebody with no ties to me whatsoever, loved my book?  I still don’t know how to react to it.

Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?

I came, I saw, I did things my way.

What’s exciting you about your next project?

I’m in the editing stage on the sequel to “The Lost Tayamu”.  I’d hoped to make the series a duology, but it’s going to end up as a trilogy.  Then again, with the way my characters behave, it might be a tetralogy!  Who knows???

I’m excited to see how the story ends.  I have no idea, because I’m a pantser.  I plot nothing.  I have a few key points in my head, but how I get from Point A to Point B is completely unknown until I sit down and start typing.  I know the general ending of the series, but that might change. 

And finally, you have one quote to be remembered by, what is it?

Knowledge is something to strive for, not something to scoff at.

Thanks to Ben for taking the time to complete this interview, definitely some interesting insights into his writing process!

If you’d like to find out more about Ben and The Legends of Kiamada then click through on the links below!


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