Writer/Actress Amber Benson has participated in numerous signing events at Dark Delicacies both alone and with other authors (see photo with author John Everson) along with asking my wife and I to help her at other signing events including one she set up at a supposedly haunted bar in Los Angeles. We have spoken often and I have never met a more down-to-earth person than her, but, like all of us, she has ambitions and desires that drive her life. Not content to sit on her laurels she has even changed the direction in which she has written the fourth book in her Calliope Reaper-Jones series, How to be Death.
"The fourth book is a lot like a locked room mystery," she said. "I took a lot of the P. D. James and Agatha Christie stuff I loved and I applied it to the fourth book. Because I've learned this in entertaining, that I need things that are challenging and will keep me invested as a writer. So that was sort of my way of doing that. It is interesting because I am playing around with voice and I'm playing around with perspective. So it's not in the first person the way the others (in the series) have been. There will be some first person but it is more of an omniscient narrator. There are a lot of different story things brought together and that's been really fun. I realize that I enjoy writing in third person much more than I enjoy writing in first person."
The Reaper-Jones series is for young adults and adults. But she intends to write more for the young adult audience also. Not only is it the fastest selling area in books today but she honestly enjoys it.
"That's what I would like to do. I would like to do another book for the Among the Ghosts story, a sister novel to that. Then I'm working on a YA thing that is much older than the middle grade from the boy's perspective. It's got monsters in it. It is sort of like The Monster Squad meets small town America. I want to do more in that young adult world. I think that writing for younger audiences is really fun."
And the major difference between writing for adults and young adults?
"Just the sex. The swearing and sex; you curtail that. I feel that the Calliope Reaper-Jones books skew younger. To me they are very light and fluffy. I feel that the first couple kids could read them and it was no big deal. Then the third book has some sex in it and I was like, "Eeeeww, maybe." So I think it is the sexual and the word content that is it to me. Society has a weird thing with sex versus violence. It is so ingrained from our past in this country especially. We're so puritanical and backwards about sex."
So now that Amber has established herself as an author and an actress the new horizon that beckons her seems to be the web. As head of her own small production company she has set her sights on a web series. It makes her happy.
"I want to be a maker of things. For the most part, yeah, I have a production company. I mean it is not like I have offices that I go to or anything like that. But I just produced and co-directed a web series. We just did two episodes and we're going to do more, called Girl on Girl. There are a couple of companies that are interested and if they don't bite we're going to put it on YouTube."
But I was told there is no money on the web. I spoke with director Tom Holland one time and he had just shot a web series. He said the experience was wonderful, but unfortunately, there is no money to be had there.
"It's about integrating advertising into the content," she answers getting excited about the prospects. "It's not about just having content and putting it up there, it's having content that excites people but then is also a way for an entrance into it of products. Right now, at this point, anyway. Girl on Girl is about two ditzy ABFAB girls who are looking to meet men and keep messing it up. They live in Los Angeles and they just make a mess of it."
"Yes, they are absolutely fabulous. They are very much like Patsy and Ednia from Absolutely Fabulous set in Los Angeles and a little bit younger. They get into all these situations. The episodes are less than five minutes. Yes, we're doing them for free now. But hopefully as we continue on the process we're going to bring in that other component. That's what I think is going to happen."
I recently read where the big studios are starting to dip their toes in the web series waters by backing a few things and seeing how they are received. Have you run into any of that?
"It's the wild, wild west. We're at the beginning of something and to me it is smarter to get in now before things blow up than it is to be riding coattails of other people who've put in the hard work ahead of time. For me it's about just doing it and making good product.
"I did a film called Strictly Sexual it's the number one most watched movie on HULU. I had no idea. People stop me and say ‘I loved Strictly Sexual.’ I don't know why. They thought it was porn. I'm sure that's why they clicked on it when it first started. It's like there is some sex but there's no nudity and you don't see anything. It's real benign in that way but it's a romantic comedy. I had no idea. I'm getting residuals. So I made it for a hundred dollars a day, for myself. There are movies that I've done that are legit, that weren't done independently, that I don't make as much money now in residuals
"Right now is the best time if you are creatively talented and business-minded. If you want to do something creative and actually make a business out of it, now is the time. You can do it. It is all out there and no one is telling you no. You have to diversify. You have to do lots of different things. That's what I've learned. If I wasn't writing I would be devastated. Acting pays nothing. I make enough to keep my insurance. That's about it."
In part three we wrap up our conversation with Amber Benson.
You can find Amber Benson occasionally making comments at her blog spot - http://amberbensonwrotethis.blogspot.com or on her Facebook site.
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies “The Home of Horror” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com. If you have any information on the optioning of horror books he would love to hear from you.