Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Author Interview with Benjamin J. Denen

Today, please welcome Mr. Denen for a special author interview! Mr. Denen is the author of The Keeper of Edelyndia, the first book in The Keeper Chronicles, a really cool fantasy series. Raulin: Rise of the Forest King is a prequel to The Keeper of Edelyndia and releases TODAY! 

Benjamin J. Denen is a husband, father, son, brother, friend, Christ follower, author, musician, pizza aficionado, promoter of the Oxford comma, and fan of all things Chicago sports (Cubs not White Sox). He holds a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in Guitar Performance from Belmont University (a fancy way of saying he plays guitar good) and a Master of Arts in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. When he's not reading, he's writing. Sometimes that means he is composing music for film/media in his project studio (i.e. in his converted garage). It could also mean that he is writing his latest novel.

He writes much in the same way that he reads, which is to say that he bounces around between different genres like Tigger after drinking a 5-Hour Energy. In music that means one day is laying tracks for a metal piece for a client. The next day he is composing a symphonic ballad for another. In his career as a novelist, it means that he writes urban fantasy, murder/mystery, epic fantasy, humorous young adult, Hallmark Channel-esque novellas, and so on. He thinks it makes him creative. His wife thinks it is adult A.D.D.

Being a writer is what he does not who he is. As much as he enjoys crafting music and stories, he places a much higher value on being a present father and husband. He'd rather play toys with his son than write a best seller (of course if he could do both he wouldn't complain).

To start off, tell us a little about your writing.

I write because I love to write.  That may sound cheesy or cliché, but it couldn’t be more true.  I guess I was sort of blessed with a very overactive imagination.  When I was a kid, I would play out intricate (for a child) dramas with my toys.  There would be epic wars fought by G.I. Joes for the survival of the human race and so on.  No that I have to “adult”, writing is the only way I can allow the stories floating around in my head to get out!

Because I first and foremost write for my own enjoyment of the process of telling stories, I tend to bounce around a little in terms of the kinds of books I write.  This is reflective of my reading habits.  Currently, I have self-published two fantasy novels and a Hallmark Channel-esque Christmas novella.  However, I’m sitting on a few completed manuscripts that are radically different from my published works.  As I continue this journey of writing and publishing, I think my readers will surprised at some of my releases.

What made you decide to take the indie publishing route? What makes indie publishing difficult?

Not to put too fine a point on it, I went the indie route because the “big house” publishers and agents haven’t “discovered” me yet.  Just ten-ish years ago that might have meant that my manuscripts would never see the light of day. Thankfully, I’m writing in a period that I think history will look at as the boom of publishing.  Some bemoan the “easy access” that would-be authors have to self-publishing tools because it allows what they consider to be “poor writing” to reach the public and clog up the field for all of us.  I, on the other hand, see this as a wonderful era and not just because it allows me to publish my works.  As a reader, I love the opportunity I have through sites like Amazon to discover new authors and create works that may not have fit the market-research driven top publishers.  Likewise, as an indie author, I can feel free to write the stories as I feel they are meant to be written without worrying that an agent will fail to take interest.

The most difficult side of self-publishing is most definitely marketing.  Though a published author has to be involved in this aspect of the process as well, there are teams of publicists and marketing experts to help connect him/her to readers.  As an indie author, that responsibility falls solely to me.  I love writing.  I do not love selling.  Many aspects of marketing all outside of my interests and skill set so it can be a challenge.

What’s your favorite part about writing?

Easily my favorite part of writing is getting to know the characters.  I used to hear other authors talk about how their characters tell the story, but until I wrote my first novel I didn’t truly understand this.  My wife tends to think I’m crazy!  I will often come out of a long writing session and tell her how surprised I was by the sudden twist in a story. The characters do really tell the story and often that leads me to discover a world I hadn’t expected to find.

I see you’ve written some music to go along with your books. What role does music play in your writing process?

My undergraduate degree is in music, and for much of my life I have played music professionally.  When you get down to it, music is another form of storytelling.  Music is a powerful medium for conveying emotion and drama.  As a composer I find myself creating stories and character arcs as I write, almost as if I am crafting a novel.  This made my transition into writing novels seamless.

When I write, I always have instrumental music playing in the room or through headphones.  Usually, I listen to film scores or other styles of orchestral music.  Film scores naturally lend well as a soundtrack to writing due to the fact that composers were, themselves, underscoring a story.  Honestly, I have a very difficult time writing without music.  The two are a package for me.

What would be your fantasy weapon of choice?

Oooh, great question.  In The Keeper of Edelyndia, I sort of invented a weapon that is a combination of a bowstaff and a spear.  There were a few reasons why I chose to do this, not the least of which was the desire to have my protagonist stand a little more unique among the pantheon of great fantasy characters already in print.  That said, I am a sucker for the sword.  There is something beautiful and awful about the double-edged blade.  It is a personal weapon that requires the wielder to step close to the man he intends to harm which lends an ugliness to it; yet it cannot be wielded by just anyone.  It takes skill and grace. 

 Now for something a bit more serious: how does your faith influence your writing?

The intertwining of my faith and my writing is so interconnected that I’m not entirely sure I could separate the two even if I wanted.  The stories that I write always wrestle with deep questions of the human condition.  Pain, suffering, joy, hope, fear… these are all things that make us human. My Christian faith naturally speaks to all of these and more.  When the stories unfold as I write them, I always strive to make my characters as human and realistic as possible.  Because I too have crisis of faith, have suffered loss, joy, fear, etc. it is only natural that my characters should as well.

That said, I also strive to write books that will appeal to people of different backgrounds.  Obviously, no book will appeal to everyone, but I want someone that does not share a similar faith to mine to feel just as engaged by my book as someone who does.

What authors have been a source of inspiration for you?

That’s a tough question.  The list could be endless.  As a fantasy author I obviously have to pay homage to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  Brandon Sanderson, J.K. Rowling, Steven King, Stephen Lawhead, John Green, Patrick Rothfuss, Frank Peretti, and Brent Weeks are a few others.  I’m an avid reader.  In fact, I think that all authors of any quality should consider themselves to be professional readers.  I’m not sure how you can add anything to world of literature without reading what is already out there. 

Recently, discovered Robin Hobb and have fallen in love with her writing.  I’m not sure how it took me so long to find her books!

 If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?

I am a bit of a self-proclaimed history nerd.  Though I primarily read fictional works, I do enjoy reading non-fiction that pertain to history, particularly anything to do with WWII.  Narrowing it down would be really hard.  I would love to meet FDR and/or Winston Churchill.  Those were two amazing men that were forced to make some of the most difficult decisions a world leader has ever faced. 

What’s your favorite fictional book and why?

Wow, I don’t know that I could possibly narrow it down to one.  Though I am in the middle of writing a fantasy series, I read many different genres.  That said, if I’m forced to pick one I’m going to go with Eragon by Christopher Paolini.  There certainly are other fantasy works that are considered finer literature, but I choose this one because of how it inspired me.  I first read it while I was in college, a time when I had mostly stopped reading for leisure.  There have been a couple of times that in reading it again, a passion for reading has been reawakened in me.  For whatever reason it really connected with me.  The characters are well constructed and relatable. 

Close seconds would be The Oath by Frank Peretti and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. 

Last question: You find yourself in an alley in the middle of the night when you hear menacing footsteps behind you. If you could summon any book character to be with you, who would you choose and why?

This one is easy.  Jack Reacher.  He is, quite possibly, the coolest, toughest character ever created.  He might not be the most skilled, the strongest, or the most powerful, but if I’m trapped in a dark alley, I like my odds with him having my back!

Thanks for taking time out for the interview and for all the great answers! 

Interested in Mr. Denen's writing and books? Check out these awesome links! 
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Mr. Denen's Author Website

You can also follow him on Facebook!

Or simply check out his Amazon Author Page.


  1. Congrats on a great interview! There were some really interesting answers and I found it really interesting how Mr. Denen always writes to soundtracks. Plus swords are super cool. I'll have to check out some of his books!

    And while Jack Reacher would be pretty awesome to have in a fight, I would want Captain America on my side for the obvious reasons of him being Captain America.

    1. Thanks! I would definitely encourage you to check out his books--they're really good and he has some great character development.

      My personal choice would be Obi-wan. Because he's awesome and also has a sense of humor.

      Thanks for the comment!


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