Writer shares newest tricks of his trade
Author Raymond Benson
Off Campus Writers’ Workshop, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka
9:30 to noon March 21
Admission is $15
(847) 951-0429 or visit ocww.bizland.com
Updated: March 13, 2013 10:54AM
In 1997, Buffalo Grove’s Raymond Benson got his dream gig: He was chosen to write the novels that continued Ian Fleming’s adventures of super spy James Bond.
Since then, he has written 27 books.
Zero Minus 10 was not only Benson’s first Bond novel, it was his first novel ever. Though he had immersed himself in the world of Bond fandom as the author of The James Bond Bedside Companion and a frequent speaker at conventions where he fit right in as a lifelong fan.
“That was an exciting and intimidating opportunity,” Benson said of the six Bond novels he wrote through 2002. “It changed my life. It opened another door.”
Benson’s no stranger to walking through new doorways in his long, multi-faceted career. His jobs range from writing and directing plays off-off Broadway from the late-’70s to the mid-’80s, to writing and designing early computer games through the early-’90s and teaching about film genres at several area colleges, while writing songs and performing as a pianist on the side.
He’s been working primarily as a thriller writer since Bond gave him his big break, though, with an average of two original and/or media tie-in books per year, including novelizations of video games. And he’ll be sharing tips on how to have a similarly successful career as an author March 21 at the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop in Winnetka, the longest-running workshop of its type in the country.
“The thrust of the talk will be how to survive in the arts,” Benson said. “Whatever it is you choose to do, whether it’s music or theater or writing or whatever.”
In general, Benson noted, he always advises aspiring artists not to set their goals too high and to take things one day at a time. But for writers, he gets more specific about two separate issues: How to write a novel and how to sell it.
“These days, it’s gotten to the point where writing the book is the easy part,” he said. “It’s selling it that’s difficult now. And that wasn’t always the case. The business has changed so dramatically in the last 10 years, when we’ve seen the virtual demise of brick-and-mortar book store because of competition on the Internet. Niche stores specializing in one type of book are still hanging on, but Borders is gone and I fear for Barnes & Noble.”
That’s the bad news, Benson said, about the effect of the Internet on authors, But he also noted some good news: The ability to write and self-publish ebooks online, a new marketplace that could potentially make it possible for writers to bypass agents and publishers altogether.
“I know some writers who have done very well with it, though some don’t do a s well,” he said. “It all has to do with your on-line presence and your social media skills. That’s become a big part of being an author now. You have to be a whiz at it.”
Benson has been trying to make ebooks work for him as well the last few years, with his new “Black Stiletto” series about a woman who fought crime as a vigilante for five years in 1950s New York, then disappeared, though her mystery turned to legend. Many years later, when she’s stricken with Alzheimer’s, her son discovers her secret past, along with dangers from long ago that threaten her in the present.
Benson created a new website for what will be a series of five Stiletto novels (the third, The Black Stiletto: Stars and Stripes, will be published in April) in an effort to promote the books on-line, featuring a video trailer and a downloadable theme song and short story. As a result, he said his new thrillers have sold significantly better as ebooks than in print and there has even been a surprise bonus — the series has been optioned as a potential TV series.
“I’m hoping that happens, but you can’t really count on it,” he said. “So I just keep on writing.”