JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Larry Benjamin, author of “Damaged Angels”
“Damaged Angels” is my first collection of short fiction. The stories give voice to the invisible, the damaged: the drug addicts and hustlers, the mentally ill and the sick and the questioning and the men who fall in love with them.
Often dark, always lyrical and evocative, these stories are the stories of those who color, and love, outside the lines.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write “Damaged Angels”?
Larry Benjamin: In the acknowledgements, I wrote”…to all the men and boys who inspired these stories—you gave your all. I hope I gave as much.” And that really was my inspiration—the men and boys I’ve met along the way. In some cases they were friends, in others, just casual acquaintances, in one instance it was my brother and some were much, much more to me.
JP: What sets “Damaged Angels” apart from other books in the same genre?
LB: While it can be argued these are love stories, they tell a different story of love. My first book, “What Binds Us” (#JPcom interview: http://h1t.it/Ht86L1), was a story about a great, undeniable love—but with “Damaged Angels”, I wanted to tell a different story. I wanted to look at love in shadow—in the shadow of oncoming death and addiction and mental illness. I wanted to examine how love when sown on seemingly infertile ground can grow in hopeless places.
The stories are far grittier than one would expect and the writing is lyrical and full of symbolism. In one, “The Seduction of the Angel Gabriel,” a hustler’s drug addiction is portrayed as a hungry child “screaming to be fed.” As he sinks deeper into addiction, the child grows into a woman, wise in the ways of seduction. “The Cross,” is told in a series of letters to an anonymous friend. The story itself loosely follows the Catholic Stations of the Cross. A third, “Intermezzo,” brings ancient Gods to earth in the form of mortal men.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to “Damaged Angels” getting out to the public?
LB: Determination, belief in yourself―not only in your book―but also in your talent. And a kind of desperate willingness to go the distance—to see how far you can go—I think is key.
It’s important to set a goal and keep it in sight at all times. I don’t set little goals like wring a certain number of words a day or writing a certain number of hours per day. I write when I can and when I have something to express. I set big goals—where do I want my career to be in ten years? What do I want critics to say about my body of work in ten years? In twenty years?
I would add that it’s important to know who your intended audience is, then figure out how to reach them and which publisher is most likely able to help you do that. It’s also important to listen to your editor—you don’t have to agree but you must be able to listen. And most important don’t measure yourself, or your book, against another.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish “Damaged Angels”?
LB: My “process” if you can call it that is very chaotic. I don’t write every day and I don’t write in sequential order. I also tend to write by hand. I carry composition notebooks with me but I’ve been know to scribble scenes on napkins and in the notepad on my phone. As I transcribe, I edit and fit the pieces together like a jig saw puzzle. Thank God for “cut and paste.”
Typically it takes me about a year to write a book, in part because I have a “day job” and in part because I let the words come to me rather than sitting at my computer and forcing myself to tell a story. It’s undisciplined and chaotic, but it works for me.
JP: What’s next for Larry Benjamin?
LB: I’m working on final edits for my third book, “Unbroken”, which is essentially a love story. It opens with the main character coming home from first grade at age 6 and telling his parents he is going to marry his best friend, another boy, when he grows up. The book chronicles his journey over 40 years. It will be released by Beaten Track this summer, and I’m wildly excited because I think this is my best book so far.