JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Larry Benjamin, author of What Binds Us
What Binds Us is, at its heart, an inter-racial love story although race does not play a significant role. Because the characters’ difference in race and social class and sexuality creates no conflict, the story becomes a universal story—of love, of loss, of family.
When, at 17, Thomas-Edward escapes southern New Jersey and the tyranny of his parents love, he thinks he is ready for anything. Anything quickly arrives in the form of one Donovan Dion “Dondi” Whyte who is like no one he has ever met before and who introduces him into “a looking-glass world in which everything was familiar yet larger, more exquisite, more precious than anything he had ever known.”
Dondi is sophisticated, passionate, urbane—the man Thomas-Edward has dreamed of loving since childhood and yet it is not Dondi but rather his brother, Matthew, in whom he finds the love he has dreamed of.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write What Binds Us?
Larry Benjamin: I was inspired to write it after seeing Jonathan Demme’s “Philadelphia” which I thought didn’t do a very good job of portraying the human side of AIDS. I was quite vocal about my dislike of the movie, publishing several editorials in a local Philadelphia weekly.
Someone finally wrote back and asked if I thought I could do better. That’s when I sat down and started to write what would become What Binds Us.
JP: What sets What Binds Us apart from other books in the same genre?
LB: Well first it combines several genres which I think is a bit unusual. Second, it’s a love story but it’s not just about the romantic love between two people; it’s about how love can take on many shapes and forms and inspire us to do better, to love more and love innocently.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to What Binds Us getting out to the public?
LB: Persistence. Believing in myself and in the story I had to tell enough to not give up when you’re told “there’s no market for this.” Second, I would l say having a great editor, Rhonda Helms at Carina Press, who really helped me focus the story and develop the characters.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish What Binds Us?
LB: I’m not a linear writer nor even a very formal writer. I don’t create outlines or story boards. I start with an idea for a story and then I create characters and settings and introduce the characters to each other.
There’s a defined “endpoint”, so I drive towards that. Also I handwrite the first draft—working with pencil and paper makes me feel more connected to the story, the characters—then edit on my computer as I transcribe the work. What Binds Us took a year to write and about a month to edit.
JP: What’s next for Larry Benjamin?
LB: I just finished a collection of short stories, tentatively titled Damaged Angels. In it, I attempt to give literary voice to the usually invisible: hustlers and drug addicts, the mentally ill, people of color.
Now I’m thinking about and planning my next novel; I have two ideas and am just trying to decide which to pursue first. I really want to do a prose poem with wonderful illustrations along the lines of Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, The Hunting of the Snark, though. So we’ll see.
To date, my experience of What Binds Us has only been as an author; I’m anxious to connect with readers willing to share their experience of this book.