Interview with Manda Benson

1) Can you give us a brief bio?
I’m an ex-research scientist living in the Midlands of England. I’ve worked in areas of chemical research as diverse as drugs design, genetic engineering, biofuels, organic synthesis, and polymers. I’ve dabbled with teaching science, mainly at secondary and undergraduate level.
2) When did the writing bug bite and in what genre(s)?Manda
I’ve always written, for as long as I can remember. I even remember writing when I hadn’t been taught to write. Of course, no-one else could read it back then. When I started school I used to have an old black diary given to me by my grandfather, which I carried everywhere and wrote stories in. I also remember doing an illustrated series of stories about a werewolf and his friends living in a castle, using felt pens and A4 paper folded in half, and making audio stories with a cassette player. And I used to brew revolting potions in the garage and test them on my toys. So I guess I’ve always been a writer and a chemist.
3) When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish?  Is there a message you wanted readers to grasp?
I think initially I just wanted to make something coherent and permanent out of the ideas I had. Later on, I wanted to show science from an honest and balanced perspective. Some science is controversial, and with disciplines like genetic engineering there are unfortunately a lot of extreme opinions being expressed very vociferously by people who don’t understand the facts, and extreme organisations often target propaganda at teenagers. I want to write fiction that shows controversial science used for both good and bad. I want readers to make their own opinion on how far is too far, but I want it to be a balanced opinion they can understand other points of view from.
4) Briefly, tell us about your books.
Dark Tempest is a science-fiction romance recently published in electronic formatby Lyrical Press. I have a YA novel and some kids’ books  I’m currently trying to sell and some other works in  progress. I also have a serial satire with illustrations, HyperGolf, that is published on my website.
5) What’s the hook for Dark Tempest?
It’s set about 4,000 years in the future when the human race has become separated into a genetic elite and a genetic underclass. It’s the story of a taboo relationship that develops between a high-caste woman and a low-caste man who are both in peril for reasons they don’t at first understand.
6) How do you develop characters?  Settings?
With characters, the point they start from seems to be quite variable and hard to pin down. Sometimes I invent them entirely consciously for a particular purpose that a plot requires. Sometimes they come into my mind, made from bits and ends of real people, of their own volition. I rely on psychology theories a lot and use a Myers-Briggs personality type test to define the sorts of people my characters are, and when I’m writing a novel I write a biography a few pages long for each character’s history, and I draw a ‘personality tree’ that shows how different character attributes (such as ‘determined’ and ‘inquisitive’) interact in the person’s psyche. With settings, I am most often inspired by real places, or sometimes places in dreams.
7) What’s the most unusual/most likable character?
The kind of characters I usually like best are, well, shall we say, rough diamonds. I like antiheroes with more flaws than qualities!
8 ) Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
I need to let ideas stew, for anything from a month to over a year. I try to plan out the plot as much as I can before I start writing. The way I see it, a novel has three stages: mystery, revelation, action. I need to set up the mystery and how it’s resolved before I set fingers to keys, and I need to know where the book is going to end, but it’s unusual for me to know exactly how the action that gets the book from the revelation to the end is going to pan out before I write the first parts. I think this comes from the characters as they grow and change under the influence of the plot, and these ideas all come to me as I write the first part.
9) Do you have a specific writing style?  Preferred POV?
I think third person limited should be the default PoV to use, and usually it’s the best choice. However, I’ve written a few things that just needed to be in either third person omniscient or first person narrative. It really depends on the story the writer is trying to tell and the writer’s motive in telling it as to what’s the ideal PoV.
10) Have you used your drawing skills in your writing before?
Yes, I’ve done a few illustrated things. I have a children’s book that I’ve not yet sold with black-and-white drawings, and I also publish episodes of HyperGolf on my website with colour cartoons.
11) What’s HyperGolf about?
Label5 It’s a series of satirical  science-fiction episodes about  some people playing a game of  high-tech golf on a course that  runs the length and breadth of  the galaxy. Each episode stands alone and more are uploaded as and when I get round to them. It’s free to read! I decided to do it because I didn’t want to run a blog, but I wanted something fun and entertaining that people could come to the site to read.
12) What are your current projects?
I’m working on the first volume of a new SF trilogy I call Beasts. I’m also writing a novella in the same setting as Dark Tempest, and a crime/romance novel, which is a slight departure from my usual SF purism, although only a hair’s breadth away from a technothriller.
13) Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
At my website,
14) What type of writing do you do?
Science fiction and science fiction and science fiction – mainly technothrillers and hard SF. I’m a genre bender so I often combine it with humour, romance, or horror.
15) What is the best thing about writing?
When I get really bogged down in Chapter X and the ideas start flowing, I forget the practicalities and annoying realities of my real life, and live for a bit as a character solving a mystery or going on an adventure in an engrossing world that’s less constrained and more exciting!
16) Is there a specific time of day that you write?
Unfortunately, usually after midnight. That’s just the way the muse seems to go.
17) What is the most interesting book you ever read?
To be honest, it was probably a science textbook. There are endless mines of plot ideas you can get from reality.
18) Favorite authors?
My absolute favourite writer is HG Wells. I also love Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Books that influenced me as a child were Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, and The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross. More modern SF writers I’ve enjoyed are Wil McCarthy and Peter F Hamilton. Hank Quense is pretty cool too – check out his new novel and his anthology!
19) Any parting words of advice for writers?
Write. Keep writing. Submit. Keep submitting. Avoid redundancy.


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3 Responses to “Interview with Manda Benson”

  1. Sheila says:

    Interesting interview. I’m off to look at hypergolf.

  2. >I want to write fiction that shows controversial science used for both good and bad.

    And DARK TEMPEST has a romance, too! Sign me up!

  3. Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

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