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Of Honest Fame: Interview with M.M. Bennetts

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Educated at Boston University and St Andrews, M.M. Bennetts is a specialist in the economic, social and military history of Napoleonic Europe. The author is a keen cross-country and dressage rider, as well as an accomplished pianist, regularly performing music of the era as both a soloist and accompanist. Bennetts is a long-standing book critic for The Christian Science Monitor.

The author is married and lives in England.

Bennetts’ latest book is Of Honest Fame.

You can visit the author’s website at www.mmbennetts.com.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, MM.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Of Honest Fame is my second novel to be published, but before that I had a long career as a free-lance book critic for The Christian Science Monitor.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

At the time, I was desperately trying to sort out which path would be best.  I had more than one offer on the table.

One was from a well-known agency who wanted to turn my work into a series of novels, a sort of historical James Bond kind of thing, with huge commercial promise, perhaps, but they would have demanded that my first novel, May 1812, was cut nearly by a half.

On the other hand, I had this offer from a small publisher who loved my work as it was, loved the depth, research, texture and multi-layering approach to historical fiction I was taking and wanted it ‘as is’.  So, following a rather harsh edit after which a friend read it and told me I’d killed it, I restored it and went with the small press.  It was a decision which virtually made itself.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I don’t honestly know—probably a few frantic months.  Being a small publisher, they have fewer staff to collect into meetings, so things can happen rather more quickly there.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

The most tremendous moment is when you hold your proof copy in your hands for the first time and gaze down on the cover—the cover that’s yours and on your book.  After that, everything is just on the edge of surreal.  And to celebrate, I reread the ending.  Just to ensure that I’d got it right.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

There was a big launch party in London at the London Canal Museum, and I do remember I was blogging about those rather heady days beforehand as well.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I think I’ve grown more fearless as a writer and a stylist.  I’ve had to learn to trust my use of the language, of the cadences and rhythms and the poetry of the words themselves.  I’ve also worked very hard on being more alert to the world around me—all the time—so that I’m listening as much as possible to that inner voice in terms of imagery and description.  But at the same time, I’ve grown my demanding of myself, more willing to edit ruthlessly, but also more willing to face up to the harsher vicissitudes of the period about which I write.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

How utterly brilliant cover designers and artists are!  It’s been such a treat, such an undiluted pleasure to meet and be able to work with these ‘visionaries’ who turn our catalogues of words into these delicious, beautiful objects which call to us from across the room.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

I think being an author is one of the greatest privileges because it’s such an intimate thing, a book.  Through the medium of my books, I speak directly, mind to mind—my thoughts into the minds of the reader.  There’s no one else there, no intermediary.  And that’s something truly to cherish and respect.  You can’t get better than that.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Learn to accept criticism graciously.  Courtesy is always right.  And never, ever stop learning and growing as a writer.


2 Comments

  1. M M Bennetts says:

    Can I just say, I really enjoyed some of the questions here today. They were most thoughtful.

  2. Diiarts says:

    Thanks for this interview. Your readers might like to see a review of Of Honest Fame at http://bit.ly/aa1qPx and two giveaways at http://bit.ly/cGbjfm and http://bit.ly/bCvBr9.

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