I found Benji Bright doing what I usually do: poking around on the Internet when I should be doing other things. His new book, Candid, was featured on one of my favorite websites, Queer Young Cowboys, and since I’m a fan of indie publishing and most things queer, and completely smitten with the book’s trailer, I bought both a paper and e-copy.
Fast forward a couple days or so, and I knew this interview had to happen. I loved Benji’s voice in Candid and the way he writes sex, the way it turns me on in a different way. His word choice, scenarios, and descriptions, they’re sexy and slow, like the most tantalizing strip tease, and you keep reading because you want more. You keep reading because you want to see it all.
Do you remember the title of the first story you read that turned you on? Do you remember where you were and what you did next? (Oh, that might have sounded a little sleazy, right? But I swear it’s not meant to be!)
Benji: I think the first story that turned me on was a Christopher Pike book called Black Blood (Last Vampire, Book 2). There are some references to two characters being lovers and a post-coital scene, if I remember correctly.
I was totally entranced by that. Lovers. It seemed like the author included the reference for me personally. Afterward, I wrote a story of my own about a vampire woman and her lover fighting “Lodos Robots” sent from some anti-vampire source. It wasn’t very sexy, admittedly, and I got caught up in a subway fight scene that never worked out. I guess I learned early that writers are easily distracted creatures.
As to where I was? Probably hiding under a coffee table in my family first apartment. I was a weird kid.
I like to be open and honest and all that, so I think it’s important for people to know that you’re one of my new favorite writers. Do you remember the first person or people who said to you, “Benji, you seriously know how to write sex”?
First of all, thank you!
I started writing a novel in high school called A Future in Glass. I recently started rereading it, and I think it’s terrible, but it was my first attempt at writing a long story, something with gay characters and sex. I remember bringing it to my friends at school and vibrating in place while I waited for them to thumb through it. One of my friends declared, as soon as she’d finished it, that I should give her 5% (or was it 10%?) of all future novel earnings. Technically, I haven’t written a novel yet, so I think legally I don’t have to pay her.
But that was my first brush with erotic content, and I got the taste for it. One of the things I like about erotica is that the people who read it are vocal about it. They’re the kind of people who let you know when they’ve read something that’s got them hot. I love that. I like to be the one facilitating any sort of erotic discovery. It’s an amazing feeling.
Let me ask you this: Do you write alone, or do you have a community/group you work with for critique or what have you? Do you write every day?
Generally, I write alone, but I consider myself a product of the undergrad workshop atmosphere. I’m big on self-revision (what writer that consistently puts out work manages not to be?), and one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten from a writing instructor is to read your work aloud. It reveals things to you that you might not expect. I have one or two readers who I can rely on for feedback, but it can be surprisingly difficult to get my friends to critique my smut. Who knew?
I know there are places to go online, but I’ve been too lazy or too busy to explore that. As for writing daily, that’s my aspiration. But sometimes, in the words of Aimee Mann, “you paint a lovely picture, but reality intrudes.” On the days that I don’t write, I spend time actively planning what my next project will be. I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of my submissions, and I try to add to it diligently. Does that even remotely answer the question? I should be clear: I don’t write every day. I should, but even when I don’t, I’m planning to write. Somehow I get things done this way. Haha.
Who are some of your writing heroes?
Richard Siken for writing the book of poetry Crush, which totally changed how I felt poetry could discuss sexuality. Johnny Murdoc, who put Candid out under Queer Young Cowboys, but is also an amazing writer of dirty fiction. Joe Abercrombie, who has nothing to do with gay smut, but writes characters so full of flaws, contradictions, and surprising moments that you can’t help but admire his work. John Rechy whose Sexual Outlaws was probably the book that most inspired me to write erotica seriously. And, finally, Brian K. Vaughn (the writer) and Fiona Staples (the artist) who put together Saga, a comic series that is one of the most honest and fun things I’ve read in ages.
It’s a grab bag, I know.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Benji’s interview. Trust me. You don’t want to miss them.
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