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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Author Interview: Samuel Ben White

Today I am pleased to present to you all the twelfth in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the time-traveling Samuel Ben White and our conversation went something like this:

Paul: I like to start by asking if you have any writing rituals?
Samuel: Not hard and fast. I generally like to have some instrumental music going when I write (songs with lyrics tend to confuse the words in my head). But I write at any time of the day or night, when the mood takes me.

Paul: What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Samuel: I’m not attached to any particular genre as far as reading. I tend to find an author I like (often at the recommendation of a friend) and then read everything I can find by him or her. My favorites are Louis L’Amour, Agatha Christie and CS Lewis, but I also enjoy Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis, JRR Tolkien, PG Wodehouse and many more.

Paul: If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Samuel: A fire drill at the state mental hospital. Besides working a full-time job, I write novels and a newspaper column as well as a bi-weekly comic strip for another newspaper and I just finished a series of eight comic books for an online comic book company. My mind is always going in several directions, which is good for the cartoons, but I really have to stop and focus to write.

Paul: What is a typical day for you?
Samuel: I wish I knew!

Paul: Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
Samuel: In the Garison Fitch series (time travel, alternate history), I really love the two female leads: Sarah and Heather. I like Sarah’s independence in a day when women — especially women of questionable background — were not afforded too many opportunities. Heather, on the other hand, was born with a silver spoon but would really like to be “just one of the gals”, yet can’t help but be the woman her family trained her to be—pilot, lawyer, leader.

In the Bat Garrett series (detective stories) if I can’t pick the lead I again gravitate to the female lead, in this case Jody. Most of all, though, I like the dynamic between she and Bat. They are both pretty flawed people, but when they work together they are a formidable team. In the Edward & Marianne series (post-apocalyptic fantasy), I would have to pick Marcus. He’s mysterious, he’s enigmatic, he engenders fierce emotions in everyone he meets. From a writing standpoint, though, there was the dilemma of how to make a guy who is essentially perfect interesting. In this case, I tried to keep him built up (as far as the other characters’ opinions of him) but his overall role small enough that the reader is wanting to know more about him rather than feeling like he has taken over the story.

Paul: In all the years you've been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
Samuel: I tried two different “vanity publishers”. One of them was a pleasant experience and the other one was less so. In both cases, though, the publishers really did nothing to sell my books (despite certain promises in their advertising). I would ask any author: if you’re going to go this route, can you/will you sell the books yourself?  If you’re willing to do all the work then maybe vanity press/self-publishing is the way for you to get your book out there.

Paul: How do you find the time to write?
Samuel: Due to my work, I am writing every day. So I work on my fiction writing in little snippets here and there throughout the day. But then, once a book “wells up inside me” I eventually reach the point where I’m writing for hours a day (and squeezing work and life in around the edges). I’ll go like that for weeks until the story is told and then it’s like the tornado has stopped and nothing will get it going again.  I slip back into my regular life and write a bit here and there until the next storm hits.

Paul: What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Samuel: The ending of my book.

Paul: If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Samuel: After uncountable tries at being published by a traditional publisher, I took the self-publishing route out of a desire to a] finally get my work out there where someone could read it; b] be in control of my work (I had had one experience with a small publisher who was just getting started but what they wanted to do with my story would have made it unrecognizable); and c] after so many rejection slips I was thinking, “What have I got to lose?”

Paul: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Samuel: I generally have a starting point and I know what the ending will be, but I run with it in between to get there. In several cases I’ve started with one key idea — or even a completely thought-out scene — and built from there. Usually, those scenes aren’t the opening scene.  I have to write for a while to get there, then by that time I have a good idea where the ultimate story will go. I still have a couple scenes floating around in my head that I have never been able to build a story around, but I will someday!

Paul: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Samuel: Lots and lots of editing. If you were look at my first draft and compare it to the final draft, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s less than 10% difference, but those little differences are crucial (to me, anyway). Much of it is just basic spelling and grammar, but a sentence here and there get changed and they, in turn, change the whole story. For instance, in my novel “The Nice Guy” I originally had someone say something in jest. As I edited, though, I decided to have her say the exact same words, but rewrote the passage around it to deliver the line in anger. It made the scene much more powerful and helped to establish the character more fully.

Paul: Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Samuel: Not directly, but all of my stories are set in places I have been, and about topics I know something about. My stories are very people driven and I try to make the characters real. That often starts by beginning with a type that’s close to someone I know. As I get deeper into the story the character becomes less and less like the real person, but sometimes when I get stuck I’ll ask myself how I think the real person would act in that situation. Eventually, the character that the reader will see is a composite of one or two real people and a lot of my imagination.

Paul: What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it
Samuel: TimeKeeperS, due out in fall 2012. Private detective Bat Garrett wakes up one morning with the wrong wife. Instead of the woman he’s been married to for thirty-plus years, he’s married to his high school sweetheart, and can remember being married to her for several years after the death of the wife he remembers going to bed with. As he bounces back and forth between two realities, he discovers that the moment things changed was five years before when his grandson was killed in a car wreck. It’s Bat’s desire that the reality where his grandson doesn’t die is the “real” one, but his overriding drive is to bring himself back to a single reality. Some of his friends (and one of his wives) are supportive, but many of his friends and relatives just think he’s crazy. Finally, Bat enlists one of his least favorite people —Garison Fitch — to help him set time right, only to discover that there is someone else out there actively fiddling with time, someone who may not be working toward the same end as Bat.

My most-recently published books are A Star Falls on Oklahoma (May 2012) and Last at Bat (June 2012). Star Falls is a Christian novel about a young starlet who drops off the grid for a while and then can’t decide whether she wants to go back to the bright lights or not. Last at Bat is the fourth book in the Bat Garrett series (and final book in this arc) and wraps up the story of how Bat met Jody, how they were set-up by the government, and how they both managed to grow up against their own will.

Paul: What inspired you to write this book?
Samuel: I love time travel stories, just because we all have something in our life we wish we could go back and do differently. Of course, if we could change history, might we also make things worse?

Also, I wanted to revisit the characters of Bat Garrett and Garison Fitch (and Jody & Sarah & Heather & et. al.) and see what had become of them. Writing about them years later in their lives (and mine) was like visiting with very old and dear friends and catching up.

Paul: Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Samuel: I have tried short stories, but have never been satisfied with the results. My novel Overstreet started out as a couple short-stories but by the time I had finished it, it was a 400 page epic novel of the old west.

Paul: Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
Samuel: At least one. I wrote a murder mystery set in Mayberry — with Andy and Barney and all the rest — and I think it’s a good story and captures the spirit of the show but, alas, those characters are copyrighted. I have a couple other novels that might or might not see the light of day. In both cases, I like the characters I created but am not sure the story I placed them in is strong enough.

Paul: How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your 'brand'?
Samuel: Still learning, and trying to learn more. Almost all my advertising right now is word-of-mouth and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Paul: What's your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Samuel: My favorite part is creating characters and worlds, most of which I would like to live in, at least for a while. My least favorite is the struggle of getting read. I have been pleasantly surprised by how much to heart some readers will take a character or situation. “No, he wouldn’t do that!” or “I’m so glad she finally got the job!” It’s wonderful when it seems like people are as emotionally invested in these characters as I am.

Paul: What do you do when you're not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Samuel: The above-mentioned cartooning, as well as ministering at a small church and volunteering with hospice. Also, my family and I love to play board games, as well as snow ski—when we can afford it.

Paul: Many thanks for spending time to speak with me, Samuel. I wish you the very best for the future.

About Samuel Ben White: Samuel Ben White (“Sam” to his friends) is the author of several novels of time travel and adventure. He is also the artist, author and distributor of the newspaper comic strip “Tuttle’s” (found at and the online comic book “Burt & the I.L.S.” (found at He is married, has two sons and lives in Texas.

Samuel's Author Site: Garison Fitch
Samuel on Twitter: @GarisonFitch
Samuel on Facebook: Garison Fitch
Samuel's latest book: First Time (The Legend of Garison Fitch) (Amazon)


  1. Thanks Paul!! I really appreciate this and hope a lot of people read it (and your other interviews and start buying lots of our books)!

  2. Extremely nice interview!!! I love getting to know the authors and more about their works.
    Thank you!!!

  3. Loved the interview, Paul. One of these days you will agree to sit for me for one ;)

    Best of luck to you, Sam. I have a few people to whom I shall suggest your book.