This month’s Author Spotlight features Ben Starling whose novel Something in the Water is released today!
Interview with Ben Starling
1. Please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m half English, half American and have lived in the UK since I was a child, though I visit the States whenever I can. I have a soft spot for the Florida Keys and New York City (my family come from there).
I’ve always been passionate about water—be it river, lake or ocean. I’m drawn to it: by its depths, mysteries and the creatures that call it home. At other times I’m busy with my marine-themed art, keeping fit (swimming and hiking) or plotting the next scene for a novel or short story.
2. When did you first start writing?
The loss of my partner at forty-five years of age to ovarian cancer in 2012, just thirteen weeks after her diagnosis, was the real impetus behind my picking up a pen and contemplating the infinite emptiness of a Word doc. In the aftermath of her death, an old friend had challenged me to turn my grief into something positive.
Faced with an experience of that magnitude, one wants answers—or even an inkling—as to what happens to us after death. And I had none. Remembering a conversation with a charismatic Polynesian fisherman (I visited there once) about his people’s vision of death and the afterlife, however, I began to write. I hoped to explore and capture several extraordinary events that happened around the time of my girlfriend’s death. The novel and the series kind of took off from there…
3. Which authors have most influenced your writing?
Well, it a rather long list! I suppose it all started when my mother read me Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. I was completely captivated by the story, the setting and the enormous marlin.
At school I was introduced to the classics: Dickens, Shakespeare and especially, Austen–I particularly admire Austen’s brilliant characterizations. And Maeve Binchy, of course, is a master of the elegant story structure.
4. How long did it take you to complete your first novel?
The first draft of Something in the Water took about a year to complete. Then I spent many months refining it. It has three complex, interwoven plots and couldn’t be rushed. Agonising months, but also delicious.
5. Tell us a little about Something in the Water?
It’s fundamentally a love story—with a bit of adventure in the tropics thrown in too. Here’s the blurb:
The sealed box Teal finds in the street contains more than just a mystery…
What if to be with the man of your dreams…you had to give up your life? On the verge of losing her job, side-lined journalist Teal is forced to travel to the South Pacific to profile a powerful businessman. But with her almost-but-not-quite fiancé Bear discouraging her every step of the way, she may not be able to save her career or her relationship.
When corporate criminals invade paradise, Teal teams up with a former boxer turned marine-biologist to investigate. As she discovers the true intentions behind their new canning operations, she must either accept the plum promotion that will save her career or—with Perry—defend the island with more than her life.
Something in the Water, An Ocean Romance is available on Amazon from today, January 21, 2016.
6. What is your favourite scene or part?
That’s a difficult one—all three of the plots reach more than one peak before combining in an unexpected denouement.
I must say I’m pleased though with the first appearance of the utterly appalling Edward…a man blissfully unaware of his social shortcomings. And ocean lovers should enjoy when the heroine encounters her first whale. Tthere’s comedy too, with a delightful blue-footed booby, named Violet. Oh, did I mention the sprinkling of magic? And love?
7. What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish their first novel?
As the saying goes, nothing good is ever written. Only rewritten. And while writing and rewriting, I believe the sure-fire super-highway to inspiration is best accessed through a first rate muse. I recommend Great Danes.
My late (great) Great Dane, Edington, continues to send me inspiration on a regular basis. She was the most eternally curious individual I’ve ever met. (And incidentally, a superb dancer.) While watching her play and explore the woods near my house, I learned to look at the world in new and spectacular ways. So today whenever an exciting idea pops into my consciousness, I still credit Edington. I know she’s somewhere nearby, watching over me, sending me all those lovely plot twists.
I suppose a Chihuahua or Labradoodle might work too. But I, for one, will always swear by Great Danes.
8. What can we look forward to next from you?
Something in the Water will be supported by a series of short stories that reveal the backstories of the major characters in this world.
The first in the series, Something in the Air, is available now free at my website and on Kobo (and also Amazon) and the second short story in the series, Something on the Fly, will be released in the Spring!
Ben Starling Online:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorbenstarling / www.facebook.com/ben.starling.author
Something in the Water Excerpt
New York, September
He didn’t look like the hotel guests, the business people, or the tourists. He didn’t move like them either.
He brushed past me as I climbed off my Vespa, stilettos in hand, outside the entrance of the Waldorf Astoria. Had he smiled at the radiance of my scarlet ball gown? Or was he amused by my battered Converse sneakers?
As a valet approached to take my scooter and helmet, I spotted my boss, Malcolm, waving hello from the lobby. He was approaching the glass doors that separated us when I noticed a small wooden box on the ground. Two steps later, I had picked it up. Who could have dropped it?
No one was close by, so I turned. The only man who’d passed me was already a half block away, gliding beside the cars that waited for the lights to change at the end of the block. Was it his?
What I knew for sure was that now wasn’t the time to be tracking down the little box’s owner. I should hand it in to reception and concentrate on the evening ahead. For a few seconds, I relaxed as I studied the hotel’s confident, soaring opulence—a world unknown to me before my arrival from Nantucket four years ago. The smooth texture of the box, however, drew my thoughts back to it. Was there something valuable inside? What if it did belong to that man, and he never returned to collect it? I turned the box over—and caught my breath.
“How on earth…?”
Malcolm emerged in front of me. “Hello, darling, you look absolutely—are you okay?”
I thrust my sparkly evening shoes into his hands, and hitched up my shawl. I was about to give chase when a convertible Ferrari lurched to a stop beside me.
“Going my way, babe?” its driver shouted, over the thrum of the engine.
But my dress was redder, and I got the better start.
You can find the rest of Something in the Water, Chapter 1 at http://ben-starling.com/chapter-one/
About Ben Starling
Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his upcoming novel. His interest in marine life has taken him across three continents over the past three decades. He is Oxford’s only ever Quintuple Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and boxed competitively until about five years ago. He is 6’3”and 185 lbs. Ben graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and an M Phil. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood.