Saturday, February 21, 2015

Author Saturday Spotlight: Ben Monopoli #Interview #Giveaway

A writer like Ben Monopoli doesn't come around very often. When a friend pretty much hounded me for months to read one of his books, I gave in. (I owe her big time) His books are addictive. I found myself eager to read more... and more... AND MORE! I asked Ben if he would be my spotlight author for today and he said yes. So after I stopped flailing I realized I needed to come up with some great questions. Ben's mind is a bit of an enigma for me. If you've read his books you get why I think that. Many times I was speechless, I had so many questions. What I admired most about Ben's work was his literary bravery. He writes for himself, and because of that he writes reality.

Take a look at some of his books and I URGE you to buy them:

Brazilian graffiti artist Mateo Amaral is looking for his heaven spot, the one perfect place to paint. His coworker Fletcher Bradford is looking for a heaven spot of his own, and his is even more elusive. Out since age 12, Fletcher's been around more blocks than Mateo has ever painted. He's dated all the jerks, all the creeps, all the losers in between. At 26 he's decided the only way to meet a nice guy is just never to give him a chance to prove otherwise. When he's introduced to Mateo, Fletcher expects to add another notch to his bedpost. But Mateo is different--and from him Fletcher will rediscover a long-lost feeling: surprise. What Fletcher finds in the trunk of Mateo's car will change his life in ways he never imagined--and may help him find what he's always wanted.

From the author of THE CRANBERRY HUSH comes an epic story spanning years and hemispheres and miles of painted walls. At times sexy and sweet, gritty and gut-wrenching, THE PAINTING OF PORCUPINE CITY takes readers along with Mateo and Fletcher on an adventure through the subways of Boston to the towers of São Paulo. Are you in?

Vince Dandro might be going through the quietest quarter-life crisis of all time. He lives alone, works in a comic book shop, and has a crush on his coworker he can't seem to act on. Like an old comic book, his life's colors have started to fade. Everything brightens when Vince's long-lost friend Griff appears on his doorstep in the middle of a blizzard. They were roommates in college, so close back then that Griff's girlfriend called them "lifebuddies" -- but Vince's love for Griff had ended the friendship, he thought, forever. They haven't spoken in years. Why has Griff shown up again? And, more importantly, can Vince handle his return?

Vince and Griff are two twentysomethings struggling to find their places in the world and in each other's lives. This is a story of friendship and love, both unrequited and requited, and of learning how to fly through the post-college void, which just might hold more than a cranberry hush

Boots McHenry and his boyfriend Ryan are young superstars in the North American Paintball League, a high-stakes sport where losers face exile -- five full years of it, on an island so secret no one can be sure it even exists. After Ryan has a tragic collision with an opposing team's paintball, the rules of the game force the boyfriends apart.

Boots is shattered without Ryan, so when his best friend Clemente Santiago suggests a daring, high-seas mission to find the island and reunite the pair, Boots jumps at the chance. They assemble a crack team to join them, including fashion model and mixed-martial-arts champ Colby Kroft, hunky-but-shy sea-captain Marcus Tumble, and Piper Pernfors, the ex who's aching to make Boots forget Ryan ever existed.

HOMO ACTION LOVE STORY! is a lighthearted, sex-filled adventure from the author of THE CRANBERRY HUSH and THE PAINTING OF PORCUPINE CITY. It's a perfect storm of beautiful fishermen, murderous pirates, blossoming romances, and secrets that call almost everyone's motives into question. Land, ho! This page-turner is sure to float your boat.

"That trick for monsters: if I closed my eyes and counted to three, would it all go away?"

Eighth-grader Ollie Wade is dreading the school dance. Unlike his four friends, it isn't because he can't land a date... it's because he doesn't want one. All he wants is to keep to himself and get through the night with his secret intact. Going stag might be his best defense -- if he's strong enough to do it.

Long before he was the key-touching guy from THE PAINTING OF PORCUPINE CITY, Ollie Wade was a boy discovering that his life would be more complicated than he ever imagined.

 First off, I have to ask you how you come up with the titles for your books? The Painting of Porcupine City, Cranberry Hush, Homo Action Love Story! A Tall Tale. I mean WOW, they are fun to say! How do you choose one?

First off, thank you for asking me to do this interview! It's really an honor to be included in your spotlight.

As for the titles, I'm glad you like them! There's no method, but I'll tell you how I came up with those three. 
"Porcupine City" was a title I had in my head for like a decade before the book existed. It bloomed out of an angsty period in college and it was only a matter of time before I used it on something. At first the book was called "The Fall of Porcupine City," to signify Fletcher's evolving outlook (anyone who's read the book knows that Porcupine City was something he needed to get past). But then the thing with the paint happened, and I liked the idea of Fletcher making Porcupine City beautiful rather than tearing it down.
"The Cranberry Hush" kind of named itself once I decided Griff would have synesthesia. The mood of the book is the color of cranberry. It works doubly well, actually, because the book is set on Cape Cod, home of the cranberry bogs.

"Homo Action Love Story!" is a play on those anime cartoons with names like Super Awesome Fun-Time Show or something. I love those kinds of titles, there's a happy hyperness to them. And I called the book a tall tale rather than a novel because I wanted to make extra sure no one took it seriously. 

 As a fellow New Englander I have a question for you, may seem weird. Do you find winter is a more productive time for your writing? In the summer we are all out more. Do most of your books get written around this time of year?
Good question, I was just thinking about this myself lately. I'm working on a book of short stories, and there's snow in most of them. I write all year round but my stories are often set during winter. It's not on purpose, I just seem to gravitate toward writing about snow. I guess snow lets everything slow down and become more thoughtful. And more romantic. Griff and Vince sharing a bed in August would not be nearly as cozy -- especially because you know Vince isn't the kind of guy to own an air conditioner. Plus snow gives a writer a ton of stuff to describe, so it helps fill in the setting of any story, and it's a good plot device because it's always posing complications -- the car can get stuck, the electricity can go out. Summer is a fluffier, sillier time. It was obvious that something called "Homo Action Love Story!" had to be a summer book. Gratuitous nudity is easier in summer. Winter is serious.

 In The Painting of Porcupine City, Fletcher makes a comment that he LOVES coming up with character names. Does the same go for you and can you share some names that have hit the cutting room floor?
Fletcher likes it more than I do, I think. I don't put too much thought into choosing names, I just go with ones that sound good or that my brain thinks are nice colors. One name I especially like is Vinicius Bittencourt, and I'm partial to Marcus Tumble, too. I think the only one of my characters with a symbolic name is Mike Stepp from "The Painting of Porcupine City" (so named because he's an emotional stepping-stone for Fletcher; it's not exactly subtle, haha). The name Boots McHenry was given to me by my friend Maggie. I don't usually change a character's name once I choose it so there aren't many on the cutting room floor. I think I've only changed one: Griff was named Blue in the first draft of "The Cranberry Hush."

 Homo Action Love Story A Tall Tale *sigh* I just adore that book. Is there a sequel to that coming? Would you do sequels or series?
I'm glad you like it! It was so fun to write. Everyone seems to want a sequel about Colby... and if there's anyone I'd want to spend more time with it would definitely be him. But we'll see. I get bored easily, both as a writer and a reader. Even great authors who I love, two or three books into any series and I'm usually ready for something different. With my own books I tend not to want to tinker with them much. "The Cranberry Hush" meant a lot to a lot of people and I wouldn't risk diluting that experience with a sequel. I got pretty far into a sequel to "The Painting of Porcupine City" before realizing it probably doesn't need to exist, at least in the way it was going. But "Homo Action Love Story!" is an exception; I'm not as protective of it. And it might be nice to see the boys in action again.

 Have you ever traveled for research ans if so where to? Also, Where would be your dream spot to go for research?
I've never traveled specifically for research but I'm sure I pick up stuff wherever I go. Travel has made me a better reader, too. I went to Florence, Italy, a couple years ago and then later happened to read a book set there. I recognized the author's descriptions of various piazzas and the river and stuff, and so I felt much more connected to the story than I would've otherwise.
Dream spot for research... Hmm.. It's hard to choose, I'll go just about anywhere!

 You do NOT write typical characters. Allow me to elaborate. Your characters are human. They make mistakes, they cheat, they lie, they do all the things we as people do. Many books don't have characters quite like yours. I get the feeling you really and truly do write for you, and I love that. What made you go the route of writing REAL people with ACTUAL problems instead of the fairy tales characters we read about all the time?
Wow, you were giving me easy questions and then boom, you pull out the big guns. I guess part of it is that I don't have a very good imagination when it comes to invention. My characters are all versions of me or my friends or people I've known. Their jobs are jobs that I've had. Their environments are places I've lived in or been to often. And their problems are problems that I've had or that people around me have had or that feel universal in some way. I can only write so many books because I've only had so many experiences, and they get used up. I'm so envious of writers who can pull stuff from their imaginations. Like have you read "Hell's Pawn" by Jay Bell? It's amazing, I'm in awe of that book and of Jay's imagination. Everything in my bag of tricks is real-world stuff (sometimes with a little twist...).
Another reason I write real-world stuff is that my books are time capsules for myself. They represent everything I understood about the world, and life, and relationships when I was writing them. I don't write to be a storyteller, I write to sort things out for myself. My books are my attempt to make sense of things, and sometimes to fix problems that aren't fixable in real life. I wrote "The Cranberry Hush" because I had lost touch with a friend and I kept wondering what would happen if I got him back; the book resolved it for me. "The Painting of Porcupine City" is about what can happen with a love that doesn't work out -- how do you pick up the pieces and build something good from them? Ultimately I think they're all hopeful books. Maybe even magical at times. But I do try to ground them in real life.
But then sometimes real life can go screw itself because you want some escapism. You want a gay-for-you ending. You want a villain to get eaten by a shark. You want to skinny-dip with models on a tropical island. "Homo Action Love Story!" was a release. It was a reward for good behavior for staying true to Griff and Vince's friendship. It has a place, definitely. But I think real life moves people in ways that fairy tales don't. A lot of people have poured out their hearts to me about "The Cranberry Hush" and "The Painting of Porcupine City." No one has ever done that with "Homo Action Love Story!"

 What and who motivates and inspires you?

Well... There's a certain type of mood that has been very good for me creatively. The Brazilians call it saudade; it's like a longing. The romantic, heartbreaky variety has been a very rich vein for me and it's probably my trademark at this point. But I've been with my husband for almost twelve years so I keep having to go farther and farther back in my memory to tap into that feeling. 
Reading good writing inspires me too. Like genius-level writing, the John Steinbecks and the Ursula Le Guins of the world. It should be discouraging because they're so far beyond my abilities, but somehow it's not discouraging. I guess it's like watching a gold-medal skier and thinking, "That looks like fun, I want to do that!" So you strap on some skis and swoosh down a hill and you forget you're not a gold medalist yourself, because it's just so exhilarating to be in motion.
Music inspires me too. When I find a song or an album that suits the mood of the scene I'm trying to write, listening to it really helps get my brain going. 
Also -- and I think everyone says this -- my best ideas happen in the shower!

 Of ALL the characters you have written which one do you relate to the most and why?
Oliver Wade. Right now you only know him as the key-touching guy from "The Painting of Porcupine City," but he's about to get his own book. He's more me than any of my other characters and I feel a lot of love for him because of that. Not in a narcissistic way like he's so admirable or whatever -- I love him because he's a mess but I can see he's trying his best. When you look at yourself from an outsider's (or an author's) perspective it's hard to stay critical of yourself. You become a lot more forgiving of yourself and of things you did that in hindsight seem stupid. You'll see that you did things because you were lonely, or made mistakes because you were afraid. Even stupid little details like, "What was I thinking with that hairstyle?" What you were thinking was, you were doing the best you could, you thought it looked cool and you were trying. It's like that quote from Plato or whoever, "Be kind, for every person you meet is fighting a hard battle." It applies for yourself too because so were you! Ollie taught me that.

 Can you tell us about your future projects pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?
I love that "S" in "projects." You have such faith in me, Meredith. Haha. Right now there's only one project, the Oliver Wade book I mentioned. It's called "The Youth & Young Loves of Oliver Wade." It's twelve linked stories about Ollie's life, from age thirteen up to age twenty-eight when he meets Fletcher on a fateful day. (The first story, Stag, has been out for a while and is free most places.) It ties into "The Painting of Porcupine City" but it's not a prequel or a sequel; it's more of a companion. Here's some exclusive news: It also ties into "The Cranberry Hush." Again, not a prequel or a sequel but it places Griff and Vince in a certain context. I'm hoping to get the book out by May 2015. 

 How can your readers connect with you via social media and how can they follow your career?

People tell me I need to tweet more so I'm trying to tweet. If anyone wants to give me some encouragement by following me on Twitter, that would be awesome. I'm also on Facebook. Goodreads is a great way to follow me too. You're welcome to friend me anywhere!

Thanks again, Meredith! This has been fun.
I hope you all check out his books if you haven't already. He's an author this genre desperately needs! 

For the giveaway Ben is offering one of you a chance to win any of his ebooks. Your choice. Contest runs until February 27th. Winner is notified via email so check your spam. 

I want to thank Ben so much for doing this today and look forward to more of his work!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Ben Monopoli is a new to me author although I don't think that will be the case for much longer. Both those descriptions and your (Meredith's) reviews make him sound way to tempting for me to resist much longer :)

  2. Ben is a new author to me and his books have some amazing titles! Adding the books to my wish list.

  3. I really love Ben's books so I was delighted to see this interview. Thank you for asking such good questions, and thank you Ben for such illuminating answers. I'm so pleased to see that a new book is on the way!

  4. This is a new author to me. I love the fact that he writes what he knows and for himself. I really enjoyed the interview, good questions and answers. . All the books sound like they would be good reads. Thanks for a chance. Adding his name to books to keep an eye out for and buy.

  5. I have The cranberry hush on my kindle, time to read it! Thanks for the giveaway.

  6. Ben is a new author to me and after reading this post, I definitely want to check his books out. Thanks for the interview and contest.

  7. If Jay Bell recommends him, Ben Monopoli must be a good writer. I will definitely check him out.

  8. Cranberry Hish and The Painting of Porcupine City are included in my list of favorite books! Really appreciate books like these that make you think and compare to your own life.

  9. This is a new author and all the books appeal to me in different ways, thank you for a chance to possibly win one of them :)