Wednesday, 17 August 2016

An Interview with Ben Starling

Welcome back to my blog Ben! I thought it fitting we have our interview on the beach given your love for the ocean. Lol!

Tell me Ben, how is your basil plant Fawlty, is he still around?

Fawlty, after many selfless and generous offerings (in salads, pastas…) is now enjoying life in the great herb garden in the sky. My efforts to keep him going into a second year proved ambitious—someone pointed out basils are annuals! That fact probably doubled my knowledge of gardening.

How did your journey in writing begin? 

I started writing to entertain my children with a picture book and got distracted by creating the illustrations. By the time it was finished, they’d grown up!
More recently, I’ve been driven by the challenges, the sense of achievement when things finally fall into place. The emotional high always trumps the writer’s block low. And the feedback from satisfied readers (last time I looked Something in the Water was averaging 4.8 stars (out of 5) on Good Reads and 4.7 on Amazon. Yay!) Endorsements like these make my candle bill (somewhere here there’s a metaphor about burning them at both ends!) so worthwhile.

Tell me about your experience writing Something in the Water

I undertook the challenge as a form of catharsis. I was bereaved six months before I began writing it and I wanted to make sense of all that was going on in my head at the time. Melisa died aged forty-five from ovarian cancer, just thirteen weeks after her diagnosis. Some extraordinary things happened in her final weeks—things that made me question everything I thought I knew about life, death and love—I wanted to capture them as a way to remember Melisa. My hope is that Something in the Water will help others who have lost a loved one find a degree of peace because some of the spiritual events described in the novel are based on what happened during Melisa’s last days.
Also, I have always been passionate about the oceans and about what we can learn from other cultures (I did a course on social anthropology and ethnology at Oxford University) so I blended these themes into a sort of treble-helix plot. Challenging? Very! But so rewarding when it all came together.  

Do you have a muse? 

Yes—my wonderful Great Dane, Edington. She really was like a person in a dog’s body. Since she passed away years ago, she visits me in my dreams regularly—always at the right time. I feel she’s offering me hope and encouragement when things are difficult. 

 What are you working on right now?

I am currently writing short stories in the “Something…” collection. Each story explores defining moments in the lives of the major characters in Something in the Water, the central (full-length) novel in the collection. These short stories help the reader understand the person they’ve become in the novel. Each short story is an adventure, a mystery, a love story in its own right.
The first short story, Something in the Air, explores the defining moments in Dan Dragan’s life—he is a powerful and important character in Something in the Water.
The second short story is being edited (title reveal coming soon)! It examines a pivotal time in Perry’s life, he’s a central character in the full length novel.  

Tell me a little about your family life, what’s it like for you being a Dad?


Being a dad means everything to me. My children both live in London now and I get to see them a lot more than I used to—we have so much fun together—they threw a nine hour Father’s Day party for me this year! My son cooked while my daughter danced up a storm to the Bee Gees and some modern bands I’d never heard of. I’m so proud of them. My daughter is an extraordinarily talented artist and my son is embarking on a career in the restaurant world. Judging by his appreciation of great food, I know he’ll make a huge success of it!

What do you do to relax or for fun?


Not as much as I’d like to! I try to walk most days in the park, along the side of my local canal. Being close to nature is important to me and I find plot knots usually unravel while I’m observing herons (I snapped this grand fellow with my phone), swans, parakeets, foxes (yes, in London!) etc.
I am a regular gym attendee (target = 7 times a week, reality = 4 times). I used to amateur box and I keep fit with a variety of masochistic practices that includes pounding the punch-bag, light weights, various machines of torture. My next goal is yoga.
I also play scrabble (I actually got the word “vaccine” in, to win last time) and weekly chess. I’m at the enjoy-puzzling-things-out rather than learn-moves-from-a-book level, which of course limits how far I’ll get with the game.

What’s a favourite movie and song of yours?

I can’t think of a single favourite movie though a few oldies have left their mark. Some Like it Hot, Citizen Kane, Psycho, The Birds, Alien, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Tenant…
As for a favourite song—I have so, so many and my answer would change depending on the mood you found me in. Just now, I’d offer: Saint Saens The Swan, John Barry’s harmonica title theme to Midnight Cowboy, Hotel California (best guitar solo ever). 

Tell me a bit about your experience with Mills & Boon Man of the Year 2016 

This competition was to find a man to pose as the model for the cover of a Valentine’s Day romance produced by Mills and Boon (Harlequin UK). I made it as far as being selected as one of the final three. I had some exciting interviews and it was a lot of fun.  

You are very passionate about marine life and conservation, how and when did you become interested in the cause?

I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean and sometimes sit down and draw pictures about it. As a small child I was lucky enough to spend many holidays (vacations) beside it, whether the Mediterranean, Caribbean or the Atlantic. I used to fish or snorkel every single day—and occasionally scuba diving. Water calls me and I’ve grown increasingly worried as I’ve learned more about the plight of the oceans, and our connection to them. If the oceans die, so do we. This is one of the key themes in Something in the Water.    

What is next for Ben Starling?

I’m sketching out several more short stories to complete over the coming months for the “Something…” collection. Also, I’m putting together a lecture road show (it starts next week) about writing in general and public speaking in particular.

Thank you, Olivia, so much for interviewing me.

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 boxing Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and competed until a few years ago. He is 6’3”and 192 lbs. Ben graduated with a Master of Arts and a Master of Philosophy.

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Monday, 1 August 2016

Book Talk and Stuff-Part 5

It has been a while since one of these posts as I have not had the time to devour books as much as I would like (don't you just hate that?).

So the first title up is The Martian by Andy Weir which I really enjoyed! It has been a long time since a book kept me up during the wee hours of the morning.

The Martian

The Martian deserves more than 5 stars- a Hab full is more like it! The opening line of this book is the funniest and most interesting I’ve come across, ever! 

I’m pretty much f**cked”. 

Yep that’s the first line. How could I not keep reading? An astronaut stranded on Mars, and his crew and the rest of the world think he is dead!

Mark Watney is a trooper and impressively resourceful. My goodness, the man grew potatoes on Mars! It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel that made me emotional. I cheered for Mark from beginning to end; I was sad when he broke down and cried; I laughed out loud at his wit (the man has an incredible sense of humour). And I nearly yelled out loud when he was finally rescued (wait, I’m pretty sure I actually yelled out loud). The technical terms and some of the calculations in the story gave me cross-eyes occasionally but hey-so trivial compared to what Mark was enduring! I highly recommend this novel!


It’s hard for me to write the review I really want for this book. I’ll just say the story was suspenseful, had the right amount of action and tightly written. Lethal features a hot line in it, that will burn in my brain for a long time. There was a scene in this book, that after it unfolded, my mouth was hanging open and the words WTF promptly rolled out- very few books have had that effect on me. Lethal is a VIP member of my "Titan Reads" shelf. Loved it! Okay, I’m done now...

Master of the Game

I read this one many years ago but it still lives strong in my mind. The story spans a couple generations and is masterfully told. From the woman who has to be the most manipulative of characters I have ever come across in a book- enough to make her own son homicidal- to the dirty, not so little secrets and ruthless agendas. This book is on my “Titan Reads” list.


I was reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman but I put it aside for later and not because I didn't like it, I loved it from the first chapter but I was reading it along with another title and A Man Called Ove seems to be the type of book that needs your full attention. I have added Outlander and The Girl On The Train to my list of books to be read and also The Wayward Pines series.

So, moving on from book talk onto "stuff", one of the movies I saw recently was The Nice Guys with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. The pairing of Crowe and Gosling worked quite well in my opinion and the film was funny, crazy and not cookie-cutter material at all. I laughed so damn hard I nearly ended up on the floor! Or did I actually hit the floor? Anyway, Matt Bomer played a really good bad ass and The Nice Guys is one of those movies I will definitely be re-watching.

I am glad for the summer rain-my pot garden loves it but so do the weeds which are growing like annoying aliens on steroids. And slugs and snails are greedy, slimy little bastards! Some of my plants look like colanders! Oh well, I guess I just have to go with the flow, nature's flow that is.

Off I run to do some plotting for my new novel and I hope you visit again soon.