Today I have the honor of bringing to you Benedict Jacka. Benedict is the author of the Alex Verus Series–an urban fantasy series set in Camden, London. It follows the story of Alex Verus, a diviner with a dark past who runs a magic shop in the back streets of Camden Town. Keep reading for a chance to win a copy of Benedict’s newest release in the Alex Verus Series, Cursed.
Benedict has lived in different cities and countries, but he says London’s the place he always comes back to. Along the way he’s worked for a year in the Civil Service, taught English to kids of various nationalities in England and Romania before doing it full-time for six months in China, spent an interesting period working in North London as a bouncer, and most recently went back to college for a GDL/LPC in order to become a solicitor. He’s also studied a few martial arts (boxing, Krav Maga, and ninjutsu), gone in for competitive ballroom dancing (yes, seriously), spent an enormous amount of time reading (especially Agatha Christie, Tolkien, Jack Vance, Jim Butcher, and Robert Jordan), and skated across most of London at one time or another. He also loves gaming, both on computers (Final Fantasy, Suikoden, Fire Emblem, Halo, EVE) and tabletop RPGs (Star Wars, WoD, and especially D&D and GM too).
Please help me welcome Benedict toThat’s What I’m Talking About.
The Writing Process – Day to Day
My method of writing’s changed over the years. When I was getting started (back in my school/university days) I was much slower than I am now, and it would take me upwards of a year to finish a book. But writing is just like any other skill – the more you do it the easier it gets, and as I kept writing I got faster. There was one period where I made it a kind of challenge to see how quick I could get, and the absolute fastest I ever managed to get it down to was one book which from start to finish took about two and a half months. On the downside, I did absolutely nothing else in those two and a half months, and the reason I was able to do it that fast was that whenever I couldn’t think of what else to do I just copied the story from an outside template. The end product wasn’t terrible, but it’s not my best either.
Nowadays I’ve steadied down, and the figure that I’ve settled on that seems to work for me is about 9 months per book, of which 3 months is thinking time and 6 months is writing time. The ‘thinking time’ part is either the easiest or the hardest, depending on how you look at it, because I don’t actively do anything. If I have editing or a job or other writing work to do then I’ll spend my time doing that, but most of the time I do stuff that seems to be totally unproductive. Occasionally I’ll write notes, but it doesn’t help much. Basically, this is the part where I rely on my subconscious to come up with a good enough idea and iron out any major kinks. Unfortunately I have no real idea how it works, so I mostly just try not to worry about it too much and wait. I know when I’m ready because the prospect of starting the book goes from ‘impossible’ to just ‘very difficult’.
Once I get into the writing phase I have three speeds at which things can go:
• On Schedule: My normal target is to keep to an average of one page a day – about 500 words. It’s pretty slow compared to some writers, but I’ve learned over the years that a target you can meet consistently is better than one you can only meet in bursts. This is the speed I keep to when the writing is just at the ‘challenging’ level, ie it’s not easy but there aren’t any major blockages either. I usually do the writing in one instalment of an hour or two, and I spend the rest of the day planning out the next day’s bit.
• Stalled: Sometimes I just get stuck. If I’m lucky I know I’m stuck; if I’m unlucky I meander on for a while, writing a few thousand words that don’t go anywhere useful and are eventually going to have to be deleted. Once I realise that I’m stuck, I have to figure out what the problem is (the worst part), then decide how to fix it (better, but not by much). This is a slow, painful, and frustrating process, and usually puts me in a bad mood. Watching the days tick by and knowing that I’m slipping further and further behind schedule, while all the time I have no idea what I should be doing, is aggravating as hell. The only consolation is that I’ve been through it enough times that I know I’ll eventually get out of it.
• Full Speed Ahead: Sometimes things just click. For me it usually happens when I get to a section I’ve been looking forward to, or when I’ve figured out all the important things about where the story’s going. The characters seem to come alive, and all of a sudden I don’t want to do anything except write. About the only things that get me away from the keyboard at this point are meals (unreliable) sleep (also unreliable) or social appointments (I usually at least make time for this one). I always make the most of these phases when I get them because I need them to balance out the stalled bits. I can do anywhere up to 5-10 pages in these days, and while they don’t come often they make a huge difference to my word count.
Once I finish I celebrate, go out with some friends, then give the manuscript a quick edit and send it off to my agent or editor. Assuming the book’s destined for publication there’ll be at least three more rounds of edits before it hits the press, but for me, at this point, the hardest part is done. Time to start thinking about the next book!
Thank you, Benedict for stopping by and telling us about your writing process.
You can find Benedict on line at
GIVEAWAY: ACE/Penguin Publishing has graciously donated one (1) copy of Cursed to giveaway here at That’s What I’m Talking About. Thank you to Penguin Publishing for sponsoring the giveaway of Benedict Jacka’s latest book. To enter, please leave a comment and include your email address if it is not part of your public profile. Winner is restricted to US mailing addresses unless winner would like an ecopy of the book. Contest is open until June 22, 2012 at 9:00 PM EDT. One (1) winner will be selected from the comment entries using random.org.
CURSED by Benedict Jacka
(ACE Publishing, June 2012)
Things are going well for Alex Verus. He’s on moderately good terms with the Council, Luna’s settling in as his apprentice, and nobody has tried to kill him in weeks.
But when a mysterious woman bursts into his shop one night with a construct assassin on her tail, he’s thrown into the middle of a plot to revive a long-forbidden ritual for draining the power from living creatures. Alex’s old enemies Cinder and Deleo are after the secret, as well as a Council mage named Belthas and a mercenary named Garrick; at least one of them is trying to get Alex killed, and unfortunately for Alex he doesn’t know which. And finally, Luna’s found a boyfriend.
In between dodging assassination attempts and trying to keep Luna in one piece, Alex needs to figure out who’s really playing who – and whose side he should be on. He can see the future, but knowing who to trust is something else.