Ben Fine, author of Out of Granada
Excerpts of Interviews with Ben Fine:
ZHP: Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
BF: I grew up in Brooklyn, in Brighton Beach in the fifties. It was a place completely unique in both location and time, set apart from the rest of the U.S. Many of my stories including my memoir, Tales from the Beach is set there. The main influence on my writing though was my family who were compelling storytellers and also unique. My parents were divorced and I lived in Brighton with my grandparents. My father Reuben Fine was a famous chess player – actually a legitimate claimant to the world championship. He lived in Manhattan. My mother was an artist and puppeteer who worked as a social worker. My grandparents were larger than life. My grandfather had been a professional fighter and had done a little bit of everything. He was my main male inspiration.
ZHP: Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
BF: I don’t remember the first story I read, but I do remember a copy of King Arthur and the Round Table by Mary McLeod that I read in first or second grade that I loved. I would then make up my own stories off of these.
ZHP: What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
BF: Life in general. I’m still enthusiastic about my job – I’m a mathematics professor and life still seems stretched out in front of me with so much to accomplish.
ZHP: When did you first start writing?
BF: I’ve been a storyteller for years, but I fist started to write them down about five years ago.
ZHP: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
BF: Seeing the story come together and the characters come alive. I write each story as if it were a movie scene and when I read it through, I can visualize it and that becomes the greatest joy.
ZHP: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
BF: The first story I wrote down was one I had been telling for years. I was twenty and I had a big German shepherd that looked like a wolf. I was also a non-repentant good Samaritan. One evening in 1968, my dog and I saved an old drunk from being beaten up on the street. Unfortunately, the person doing the beating turned out to be a mafia hit man and for the next several weeks my life became a sketchy mess. This was the first story I wrote down and my first story published.
ZHP: What advice would you give a new writer?
BF: Write down your stories. Everything is of interest.
ZHP: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
BF: I’m a professor of mathematics and still do a lot of mathematics research. On the professional side, I have written fourteen books. One of them The Fundamental Theorem of Algebrawas the 2000 Alpha Sigma Nu book of the year in Science. I also have written over 140 research articles. When not working, I hang out with my grandchildren, play tennis, golf, and the piano. I used to be a competitive power-lifter until arthritis killed my hips, but I still coach lifting for Special Olympics.
ZHP: What do you read for pleasure?
BF: I like crime and mystery thrillers.
ZHP: Who are your favorite authors?
BF: Jonathan Kellerman and Elmore Leonard
ZHP: What are your five favorite books, and why?
BF: How Green was My Valley – I loved the language and the imagery of Wales
Treasure Island – it caught me as a child – I wanted to be Jim Hawkins and it has never let me go
Anything by J. Kellerman – I love the way the plots unfold and I like Alex Delaware
The Last Hurrah – great depiction of city politics
Angela’s Ashes – I love the language and the ability of McCourt to present really horrific situations with a sense of humor. I was friendly with one of Frank McCourt’s brothers
ZHP: What is your e-reading device of choice?
BF: I actually prefer reading a book and turning pages although I do have an older kindle.
Excerpt of Interview with Ben Fine about his process:
ZHP: Describe your desk or writing space.
BF: I actually work with my computer at my kitchen table.
ZHP: What is your writing process?
BF: I get an idea for a story and then in my mind, lay it out as best I can from beginning to end. I first write this up as an overall outline. I try to picture each individual scene as a story in a small movie. I then refine the outline until its fairly complex. At this point I start to compose each part of the outline until the story is finished. At that point I start rereading and editing.
ZHP: How do you connect with your muse?
BF: I watch old movies.
ZHP: Is procrastination an issue for you?
BF: Not really – I’ve always been able to move forward.
ZHP: What motivated you to become an indie author?
BF: I’ve always loved telling stories and now I want my stories to go out to others.
ZHP: What advice would you give about writer’s block?
BF: It’s a cliché but I do one little step at a time. Always move forward – try to pick the low hanging fruit.
ZHP: What’s the story behind your latest book?
BF: I’ve always loved pirate stories and swashbuckling adventure – Treasure Island was one of my favorite books. I’ve also always been fascinated with the golden age of Jews and Moors in Spain. With the present world refugee situation, the idea came for a wealthy converso leading refugees out of Spain as the Inquisition approached, and then being captured by Pirates in new Spain. The book then wrote itself.
ZHP: What are you working on next?
BF: I have two projects. One is a collection of stories called Living on the Edge, about people who for very little fault of their own, wind up losing everything. The second is a retelling of Arthurian legend from the viewpoint of one of his knights, and with the viewpoint that these were actual events in sixth century Britain, not fantastical legends.
ZHP: Do your fans impact your process?
BF: Yes – I love when people read the stories and make suggestions.