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.
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.
Something in the Water - available on Amazon http://bit.ly/SITWbtour2am
Something in the Air – join Ben’s private mailing list and get it for FREE at www.ben-starling.com
Next story – coming soon!Connect with Ben at www.ben-starling.com