July 07, 2014

11 Questions for Ben Hinson | Author Interview

Ben Hinson is a relatively new author about to burst onto the literary scene with his ambitious novel, Eteka: Rise Of The Imamba. Here he is in an exclusive interview with Incessant Scribble. Enjoy!

1. Tell us about yourself. Your background. Your education. Who is Ben Hinson?
BH: I am a hybrid of many cultures. I was born in Nigeria, and have lived in Nigeria, Ghana, England and numerous locations in the United States. My academic background involves training at the Carson Long Military Institute, and earning my bachelor's degree from Montclair State in business administration. I am a student of life, and many of my experiences have played integral roles in my projects.

2. Your first novel Three Months  was released in 2008. Could you tell us about it? What were the challenges you experienced then as a first time author?
BH: Three Months was a novel I wrote and published back in 2008. The novel revolved around the subject of HIV/AIDS, and was based on the experiences of a man and woman who come into contact with the virus through various characters and situations I created. The novel was written from a male and female perspective, and within the novel I touched on many themes around HIV/AIDS including stigma, drug abuse, sex, medication and so on. Back then I collaborated with many academic institutions, advocacy groups and scholars for research, including the Guttmacher Institute and AVERT. My experience writing and selling that project was painful and priceless, and a feat I am especially proud of. It was an eye opening experience for me in many ways. For instance I learned a lot about the power of negative stigma first hand, which was unique considering the fact that I personally do not live with HIV. Yet the mere fact that I chose to write a novel on what many would consider a taboo subject earned me a lot of backlash from places I did not expect. Outside of the social aspect, the project in its entirety was a business failure from an investment standpoint. I was not as experienced as I am now, and there were a lot of things I did not understand about being an Indie author in the publishing industry. I invested a lot of time and money in the Three Months project, and at the end of the day all I got in return was a $20 royalty check! Doing anything independently or as a start-up, no matter the business model or industry, will always be tougher than going the corporate route. I had to learn many hard lessons with that project, and I'm grateful as the challenges I encountered made me a better businessman and author. Three Months is no longer in print, but I have plans to rewrite and re-release that novel from a fresh perspective based on who I am now. I don't think I gave that project the best of myself, so there is definitely unfinished business there.

3. Your soon to be released novel Eteka: Rise Of The Imamba sounds ambitious. On your blog you wrote: "The core story begins in colonized Nigeria...and takes its diverse set of characters on a journey spanning three continents and two generations." Your locations include the USA, Africa, England and Asia. The time period of the novel spans the 50's and the 90's. I can't wait to see how you weave this story. What is the inspiration behind this book? What do you hope to accomplish?
BH: Thanks for the compliment and your enthusiasm. I cannot tie the inspiration for this current project to one particular thing. The inspiration was driven by a number of factors: my love of history; my attraction to gritty, original literary plotlines; my background with martial arts; my heritage and my experience with different cultures around the world. The first goal I had with this project was to successfully tell an original, exciting, action packed story with tons of historical relevance from a 'non-western' perspective. I wanted to expose my audience to the world from a lens not commonly used, and also introduce them to the many complex characters I created that I believe can survive and thrive in mainstream media.

4. In your online synopsis of Eteka: Rise Of The Imamba, Eteka comes off as a badass. Is this a thriller novel? What can we expect?
BH: Ha, Eteka is a badass! But he is not the only one! I created a whole universe filled with some very interesting characters, and you can view a few of them at this link. In my story you're going to meet arms dealers, assassins, pimps, witches, warriors, mercenaries, philosophers, teachers, prostitutes, cult leaders, dictators and so much more! I took my time to create an exciting thriller that falls in the historical fiction genre, and you can expect one hell of a ride! You're going to learn about different cultures and key events in Asian, African, American and European history while experiencing an adventure unlike any other!

5. I've seen your blog, your website and all the promotional material you have online and I'm impressed. It's a lot that you've done and it's all very well done. Did you do all of this yourself or did you contract it out?
BH: Thanks for the kind words. I believe in teamwork, process and structure. No worthwhile endeavor can thrive without a collaborative, respectful environment. I hired great talent who made enormous contributions across different parts of my project. These are resources I found across the United States, Canada, and Germany. I have learned so much from working with these awesome individuals, and I appreciate them all. My vision could not have reached the stage it is in now without them.

6. You have a company called Musings Press. Tell us what you do.
BH: Musings Press LLC is a publishing company I own. I set it up as a way to breathe life into my visions on my own terms. My first collection of poetry was published through Musings Press. For now we're focused on literary projects.

7. You recently released a poetry collection, Chapters Of Me: Deep Thoughts Vol. 1. I love the videos you made for them. They are well directed and edited. Do you feel you've been able to reach your audience better with these visual aids to your poetry?
BH: Absolutely! I've received a lot of positive feedback regarding my work in the visual realm. Shooting and editing videos is something I really enjoy. Visual media is known to register high engagement rates with properly researched target markets, so it is vital from a marketing perspective to hit such channels.

8. What advice do you have for aspiring authors? Advice on writing the manuscript, getting it published, and promoting their work.
BH: Everything starts from an idea. So dare to dream. Be original and don't follow the crowd. Having an idea is not enough, you have to plan and execute. You also have to be consistent with your efforts over extended periods, and take rejection and criticism well. Editing is everything across any medium, so devote the time and resources needed to make sure you have a professional product. Decide well in advance which route you want to pursue, whether traditional or independent. Both have pros and cons, not any different from other industries. If you go traditional learn about literary agents and publishers that fit your genre. Learn how to write a good query letter. Try and attend as many publishing conventions as possible. If you go the Indie route you may have to wear more business hats than a traditional author. Understand how bookstores manage inventory. Understand how book clubs and other target markets react to Indie versus traditionally published projects. Develop a solid marketing plan across relevant channels. Depending on the goals you set for your project, be prepared to pitch your work to as many bookstores and review outlets as possible. Understand that to see any kind of success, whether Indie or traditional requires some out of the box thinking and a tremendous amount of hard work, so set realistic expectations for yourself. Most importantly, exercise patience and put out a good, professional product. Marketing beings and ends with your product.

9. What are your thoughts on life, love & music?
BH: Interesting question. My thoughts on these three themes are subject to change as I mature, and there are many ways we can dissect each area, but for now...Life? Life is full of ups and downs, and no one knows what tomorrow will bring. I do my best each day to have the right perspective, so come rain or shine, I am at peace. Love? Love is selfless, love is kind, love is pure with no agenda. Music? I love music. I love the art of creating music, and have some experience with music production and technology. I write to music, walk to music, cook to music, edit to music...music is a currency of praise between us and God.

10. Name some books you've read more than once
BH: Outside of research journals I don't think I've read any book more than once. If you want to know what books/novels I have high respect for...Stieg Larrson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a great novel that got adapted into a great movie. I enjoyed reading Paulo Coelho's "The Fifth Mountain" many years ago. "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a classic. The "Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis is another very interesting novel. From a Non-Fiction perspective I enjoyed reading Richard Wright's "The Color Curtain", Odd Arne Westad's "The Global Cold War" and Patrick Chabal's "The Revolutionary Leadership and the People's War."

11. What do you do to relax?
BH: I haven't yet learned how to relax, I'm always working!

Click the image to learn more about Eteka: Rise Of The Imamba. Visit Ben's website, his blog, and "like" his official Facebook page for continuous updates.