10 Questions with Benjamin Martin

10 Questions is back, this time with Benjamin Martin.  I’d like to start off with an apology to Benjamin for taking so long to get this up.  He had a giveaway going, but it’s already expired.  I got a bit sidetracked with my backlog of reviews.  But, here is the interview, so please enjoy!

Hi! I’m Benjamin Martin, author, photographer, and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion power plant promoter. I came to Japan with the JET Programme and taught English on small islands in Okinawa for five years. My time in Okinawa was the catalyst behind my artistic endeavors and still plays a big part in all my work. My debut Samurai Awakening won one of this year’s SCBWI Crystal Kite awards and the sequel Revenge of the Akuma Clan will be published this November by Tuttle Publishing.

I blog about Japanese food and culture at http://morethingsjapanese.com

You can find out about my writing at http://samuraiawakening.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/authorbenjaminmartin

Twitter: http://twitter.com/morethingsjapan

1. What’s your favourite colour?

I’ve always been a fan of hunter green. I think it’s because I’m from a desert, I always enjoyed escaping into the forests.

2. What’s your favourite food? Do you like Marmite?

Easily pizza is my favorite food, even after years in Japan (though mozuku is now a favorite topping). I had marmite back in junior high while visiting Austrailia, but it’s been a while. I remember the super strong taste but can’t really say if I like it or not. My palate has changed a lot since then.

3. Which country would you most like to visit?

I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and of course the US. I always wanted to visit Japan which lead to my current position. There are still so many places to see in Japan so if I go anywhere, it will be around Japan.  I love sharing new places with my readers. Of course if you demand a country, I’d have to say England. I’ve never been to Europe and would like to see the other side of the pond.

4. What genres do you like to read?

I generally read for entertainment rather than to review or study a specific subject. Also, with my schedule my reading time is limited so I mostly read via audiobook while jogging or cooking. I enjoy series the most where I can follow characters through several stories. I like everything from trashy guy novels (read Tom Clancy, etc) to YA/MG Fiction (Riordan, Rowling, etc.)

5. If you were going to write a book outside your genre(s), which genre would you choose?

If I were to write a book outside YA fantasy it would be non-fiction. I have at least two NF books I’d like to write if I can find the time. My blog is non-fiction though so… It would be fun to get into science fiction.

6. Describe your writing environment, including room, desk, sounds, etc.

When the weather is good and I’m plotting, I’ll head to the beach or other outside places around Kume Island where I live. When it’s serious writing time I write at home. I have a tatami style room with a small desk and laptop. Most of the time I write without other distractions, though I occasionally have a playlist going as well. I work full time so my writing gets done in fits of free time.

7. If you could have dinner with any character (person if non-fiction) from your books, who would it be?

Definitely Kou… though he’s a tiger so it might be a stretch to find a deer… and he doesn’t share. Kou is a kami, a Japanese god trapped in the body of an American teenager… Of course he’d have a ton to say, and with his ancestral memories would be a great resource for a Japanese history buff like me.

8. Do you draw maps when planning your books?

No maps. My books are set in modern Japan so I base the locations on real places I’ve visited (though sometimes I take those places and put them elsewhere for the storyline’s benefit or for privacy concerns). I do put a lot of my own experience and expert knowledge of Japan into my fiction, so I perhaps cross the lines between fiction and non-fiction a bit more than mainstream writers.

9. Do you ever read self-published books?

I’ve actually self-published a short story tie in to the Samurai Awakening series, The Tanner’s Daughter, and have read some books in the past (such as Mercury Falls before it was published by Amazon). Since I read mostly via audiobook now, I’m stuck with books that are available in that format. Unfortunately, that does limit me quite a bit (Samurai Awakening isn’t even an audiobook yet).

10. I’m interested in fantasy, science fiction, history, and classics. Which author’s books would you recommend to me?

For history I would definitely suggest the autobiography of  Fukuzawa Yukichi.  It was required reading for my Modern Japanese history course in college but I found it a fun and interesting read. It highlights the life of a major figure during the Meiji era. For sci-fi I’d have to say Ender’s Game. Though there has been controversy about the author, and the movie is soon to be out, it’s still one of my all-time favorite books. If you’re looking for quick reads in the fantasy genre, I recently finished the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. Of course, I have to suggest Samurai Awakening for anyone interested in Japan.

Thank you very much, Benjamin.  I’ve already read Ender’s Game and reviewed it on this site, though I’ll have to check out the Ranger’s Apprentice series.  And of course, your books, considering I also live in Japan.

I am curious about when you visited Australia.  Did you have Marmite or Vegemite? They’re pretty similar, but die-hard enthusiasts of either one would say they’re nothing alike, I think.

Attention to Detail

My time in Japan began with me noticing everything around me.  But after a few months, these details were completely skipped over by my eyes and my brain.  I was in a haze the entire time, unable to really see what I was looking at.  Then I started to seriously take pictures more than 4 years ago, and I regained that attention to detail.  I find that I still look around at everything.  Tonight, as I was walking from the station, I walked along a riverside path under the cherry trees.  Although it was dark, I could still make out the changing colours of the leaves, still mostly green, but many turning red.  It had me thinking about what I could see.  I saw the leaves, the branches, the trunks, and then the entire structure of the trees.  I was seeing the lamps lighting up the path, the buildings on the other side of the street to my right, and the overhead power lines.

I began to wonder about what characters in books see.  We don’t always read about what they see, but what is described to us through the narrative. In first person point of view, it’s most likely we’ll read how the character sees everything, but not so much in other points of view.  I write in third person, which provides the reader a picture of what’s happening if they’re standing near the characters (although somehow we’re plugged into the thoughts and feelings of one of the characters).

And then, I thought about how authors describe the settings.  How detailed do they get?  Tolkien was extremely detailed.  I’ve had a friend tell me that his wife couldn’t read Lord of the Rings because she couldn’t handle the information overload that the descriptions gave her.  It was too much.  I think too much detail can bog things down too much, even though I thoroughly enjoyed Lord of the Rings.  It did result in my reading of it getting sluggish through The Two Towers.  But too little description makes it difficult for me to figure out exactly where they are and what they can see.  I don’t understand the environment.  I can’t form a good picture in my mind at all.  And sometimes I get a decent description, but some things are missing, making it quite confusing (MoonRush was like this, making me wonder if some saloon on the moon had airlocks or not). We need a good balance, and I hope to achieve that in my writing.

What do you think?  Do you like a lot of description, or something more balanced?  Let me know in the comments.

A Post a Day Starts Now!

It’s November now, and that means NaNoWriMo, which I’m not doing.  I’m doing a blog post a day instead.  This is the beginning.

I’ve been asked before, “How do you do it?  How do you get ideas for a post a day?”  Sometimes it can be difficult, but I usually have some ideas everyday.  I can’t write about them all in one day.  I only have so much time.  My ideas include some of my own ideas with respect to writing, some reviews, interviews (which I really need to ask some more authors to do), and more.  Although this may be the first post on the first day, I may have another later today.

So, please enjoy a post a day!