Q: What inspired the concept for Benders?
A: I was outside waiting for the bus one morning in Queens on my commute to my job. It was winter, and it was freezing. I’m not a winter-kind-of-guy. New York City winters simply don’t have the scenic glamour or playful fun of slopes, sleds, and snowmen in the lawn that other areas of the country have, and because of snow, ice, and bad driving, the buses in NYC can run a little slow. (Or it could just seem that way to a man who reverently wishes he were in the Southern Hemisphere during those months.)
As I waited braving the wind chill, I watched this young woman drive by in the warm, dry confines of her car. I thought, Stop and take me to work. Of course, she didn’t. But that moment is what got my imagination kick started for Benders as I made my way to work that morning.
Q: Your characters are very tangible to the reader...
How did you come up with your characters?
A: First comes the plot, the idea. After I’ve crafted my premise, sharpened it, I then decide what type of characters I would need to inhabit that world. I have always loved the idea of ordinary people being put into situations that require them to be extraordinary, so I usually create that average guy/girl you might easily know, who isn’t aware they have certain coping skills until they are forced to unearth them.
Q: Your cast is quite diverse: a Black protagonist, an interracial heroine, an Indian, a white antagonist, both Black and white peripheral characters. Why such diversity? Was this intentional?
A: Absolutely it was intentional. Diversity makes up America. I’ve grown up and lived my entire life in NYC, so I see that diversity every day, which exists despite what some TV shows would have you think. There’s no way I could ignore that reality and simply paint what most in the entertainment industry feel would sell in today’s market. I had to be true to myself and hope that my audience would see the richness in that diversity and be comfortable enough to go on that ride.
Q: Which Benders character was your favorite to write?
A: I really had no favorites. They were each a lot of fun to put together and live with. It was even more fun to watch each of them work within the storyline.
Q: What do you love/hate about Monty, Mieko, Reynolds, and Hazelton?
A: I love everything about Monty and Mieko. I enjoyed Reynolds playful side, but sometimes when I wasn’t in a playful mood, getting that tone right was a chore. I hated the fact that Hazelton was a misguided republican, but he was the perfect foil for Monty.
Q: What is your favorite scene in Benders?
A: I have two favorite scenes/moments in Benders. The early moments where Monty and Mieko meet and get to know each other because their rapport was a joy to write and read. Who doesn’t love “the candy bar seduction”? My second is the two-pronged attack at the end. That was a blast to write. The excitement of the confrontation in the structure and the humor going on beneath it with Reynolds and Donovan’s bickering made that last few chapters a lot of fun to work out.
Q: What was scene was the most fun for you to write? Why?
A: That would be the scene at the end with Push and Mieko. Despite all of his help, she still threatens him with bodily harm. When I wrote that I felt I stayed true to the characters and that I got it right. I love strong female characters, the kind who become soft for only that one special person but seek to put the rest of the world under her boot. Mieko is that kind of character in my mind.
Q: What was the most difficult scene for you to write/finish? Why?
A: Museum/Monty & Mieko’s fight was my most challenging scene. Both characters were handling their own realizations, coming to grips with their insecurities and discomforts, and I had to strike a specific yet realistic balance in their conflict all while trying to stay true to the characters regarding body language, word usage, and attitudes.
Q: Will there be a sequel to Benders?
A: Honestly, I have about 50 storylines waiting for me right now, so I don’t have a firm answer. As of today I’m deep into writing and editing my next novel, Charlie, so all I can say is that if readers clamor for a Benders sequel then I’ll write one, but there may be a wait.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from Benders?
A: I hope they come away from Benders thinking it’s a good read, that they were entertained by the story, and that they embraced the diversity of the cast of characters.
Q: How do you feel now that you’ve published your first novel?
A: There’s a quote by Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcell’s that connected with me in the days following Benders going live on Amazon and iTunes. After he and his team (which I won’t name here due to my NFL biases) won their first Super Bowl, he said, “For the rest of your life, nobody could ever tell you that you couldn’t do it.” That’s how I felt and still feel. For the rest of my life, no one can take this accomplishment from me, and that feels fantastic.
Mark Eric (Queens, NY) 04.08.14