I decided that my pen name needed an interview about Demons in Cotton.
Quite a bland guy…
Interview with Ben Mire
The man in front of me looks disturbingly bland. Jeans, a grey t-shirt, and short cut hair slowly creeping its way up his scalp.
I scratch my forehead just to realize that I just gave him an excuse to look at my own thinning hair line.
“Ben Mire?” I ask and quickly stretch out my hand towards him.
He looks at it. Then he squeezes it, quickly. “Yes. And you must be David then? Welcome to my simple home. Have you had the time to look at the book?”
“Yes, it was… something.” I say as I scan the house behind him. A normal home in the suburbs. The author of the paperback in my backpack shouldn’t be living a normal life. All that darkness..
But… I think. In the calmest waters…
“Something might be the right term for it.” Ben says and turns around with slight smile on his lips. “Some ideas you just have to put in paper, right? Should we head in to the office? Or would you rather stay outside?”
I pull myself back into the moment. “Inside will be good.”
The smell of coffee meets me as I enter the hallway. Once again the normality of it all strikes me. Shoes in all sizes on the floor. Strollers just waiting for a child to go on an adventure.
I feel welcome here.
“I am sorry for the mess,” Ben says. ”I didn’t have the time to clean up. Shoes and coats to your left. Do you want coffee?”
“That would be lovely,” I say remembering my sleepless night after reading Demons in Cotton. Every time I closed my eyes, I pictured new horrors.
I have hugged my kids so many times this morning.
“I grew up in a culture where coffee was served seconds after the visitor entered through the door,” Ben continues. He hands me a cup filled to the brim with the black juice.
“Me too.” I say. “It was a proof of hospitality.”
“Exactly.” Ben smiles at me. “My office is upstairs.” He unhinges a baby gate and shows me up.
Along the wall, photographs create a wall of smiling faces. Some staring at the camera some occupied with a world so much more interesting. My hand squeeze harder around my backpack as a photograph shows Ben’s children laughing. I have similar photos at home. Demons in Cotton is about kids too.
I must hug them all again once I get home.
Ben’s office is a small room. In contrast to all other rooms, his office is in a strict order. One desk with a computer is in the left corner. Beside it is a book shelf full of binders marked with everything from bills to recipes.
“You have one clean work place,” I say.
Ben nods as he sips on his coffee. “I am quite the personal productivity geek, and, well, my office is the only room I can completely shield from the messiness of life.” He sits down on a chair by the desk and shows me a chair just next to it.
I put my cup down on his desk as I sit down.
“You will have to excuse me,” I say and pick up my newly bought notebook. Somehow my backpack has aged the notebook all the way into retirement. “This is the first time I interview a horror author.”
“If I understood you correct, this is the first time you interview anyone.”
“That is probably more correct,” I say. I put my pen to the crumbled paper that once was part of a beautiful notebook. “So, let’s start. Why don’t you begin with how you got the idea for Demons in Cotton?”
Ben leans forward. Involuntarily, I angle my notepad so he doesn’t see my scribbles.
“It was actually no special occasion that gave me the idea,” he says. “I was just doing the dishes at the moment and then…” Ben snaps his fingers. “Bang there the concept was.” He gets a wrinkle on his forehead. “Or to be honest, I had an image of a teddy bear protecting a little girl sleeping in her bed gnawing in my head for weeks before the idea finally struck me. The teddy bear held a wooden sword and a demon attacked them. The idea just needed to mature over time.”
“Okay.” I scribble the fastest I can.
“Yes. Then a lot of things was built on to it, and well the warrior moved into the teddy bear instead of the teddy bear being the warrior. And a whole lot of blood was added.”
“I can certainly see how that built some of the concepts in this book. But there is a lot else going on in this novel. Would you like to expand on them?”
“Sure.” Ben hesitates as he thinks.
“Without giving away too much off course,” I add.
Ben nods. “I would say the biggest driver for Demons in Cotton is fears.”
“Yes. I am a father as you might have noticed.”
It is hard to miss, I think as I think back at the toys on the ground floor and all the framed photos.
“A lot of this is based on my fears as a father.” Ben continues. “And all the shapes those fears takes.
As I write down Ben’s answer, I think back to my own fatherhood, and yes a lot of them are prevalent throughout the novel. Even though Demons in Cotton has taken a baseball bat and massacred them.
“The themes in Demons in Cotton,” I continue. “take a very dark and violent tone. Is this why you have chosen to write under a pen-name?”
“No.” Ben smiles. “I have chosen to go under a pen-name for Demons in Cotton and all my future novels. This is because my real name is so common in Sweden that no one would find it intriguing to read anything from that author. This might be something you also are used to?”
“A common name?” I write down his answer. “It doesn’t really bother me to be one in the masses.”
“Off course. There is comfort in belonging somewhere.”
Did he just ridicule me? I look up from my notes. But Ben sips his coffee and hides what could be a smile behind his cup. “Demons in Cotton is about a seven year-old girl and the warrior hiding inside her teddy bear. Tell the readers more of the plot.”
“Yes, Kelly and Gabriel. Gabriel understands that Kelly is his destiny the moment he sees her. And slowly he understands that the world where Kelly lives is full of evil who only wants pain. First in the form of Nightmares roaming the nights to feed on children and then as the real monsters who hide in plain sight. He realizes that he must fight if they ever will have the chance to survive.”
“Pain…” I say and some of the scenes that have haunted me the last night’s flash before my eyes. I shiver. “It is a recurring theme in your novel.”
“Very much so. Pain and the Nightmares it attracts.”
Ben observes me as I add more blue hieroglyphs to what will be my notes. “You know… Your phone has a record function.”
“It has?” I look up.
“Here.” Ben takes my cracked phone and with two pushes on the screen we are recording.
“Thanks.” I say and take back my phone. Oh shit, I think. “So, one thing that strikes me throughout Demons in Cotton is the kind of mysterious mythology you are hinting at.”
“You mean Light, Darkness, and Life?”
“Yes as well as the tree, the singers, the Nightmares.”
“It is all from a universe I built a long time ago and have been waiting to use.”
“Are you planning on using the mythology more?”
“I would love to use them more, and expand on this world.” Ben says. “I actually have some books in my head that dig deeper into this theme.”
“So you are planning sequels.”
Ben laugh. “Not really. More like self contained stories that use the same mythology.” Then he shrugs. “Or well one of them will be more connected than the rest, but by then I want to have the world more deeply built.”
“Okay,“ I say. “Will readers of Demons in Cotton get any pay off by reading these future books?”
Ben leans closer. “If things play out the way I plan. Yes, it will have big pay offs.” Then he leans back into his chair again and grabs his cup. “But off course they are self-contained, so a person who hasn’t read Demons in Cotton will still have a great read.”
“That sounds great.” My hand involuntarily stretch for the pen. I stop just in time for Ben to see it all. “Is there any of these ideas you would like to talk about?”
“Not at this point. It is all just ideas at this point. Some more worked out than others. But I have other ideas for projects completely separated from Demons in Cotton’s universe. And what comes next in the pipeline will be heavily influenced by my mood as well as how Demons in Cotton will do.”
“Are you scared Demons in Cotton will do poorly?”
“Not really.” Ben says. “I have understood that most people, or their works of any kind, go unnoticed by the public. That is especially true for debuts. I fear more that the few who reads it will hate it. But also that is something I have accepted. It is not something I can control. Demons in Cotton is as much about letting loose my little demons on the world and learn how this industry works as it is about my creative ego wanting to show the world what I can do.”
“But you hope people will enjoy it right?” I ask but his fear of people hating it I understand.
“Off course. I hope they will find the one story that will always stay with them in Demons in Cotton. That’s what every writer wants from their work.”
I reach for my cup and drink up the last drips of the dark elixir. “I think I just have one more question for you. How will you celebrate once Demons in Cotton hits the market. This is your first novel after all. Releasing it must feel huge.”
Ben laughs. “It feels like the biggest challenge I have ever taken on. I will probably sit down with a nice wine or a whiskey. And just breath. Take the moment. Then when the moment is over I will probably check the metrics every single second just because I can’t stop myself.”
“I would do the same thing,” I say. I turn of the recording and pick up my bag again. “It has been a pleasure meeting you Ben. I am sorry but the family life calls so I have to rush.”
“It is okay. It was nice meeting you too.”
Ben follows me down the stairs.
“When will the interview be up?” He asks.
“Probably in the next coming weeks,” I say and put on my coat and shoes. “But I’ll give you a heads up.”
Ben closes the door behind me. I walk out on the street. Then I turn around. In that house lives the author who wrote a book with so much darkness. It is a normal house for a normal family. I walk back again.
This is Ben Mire’s house, I think. It is my house. I open the door and take of my coat once again.
It is quiet. I walk up the stairs to the office. There I find my cup. It is the only cup on the desk. The phone is still there.
I sit down in my chair. I breath.
This is happening, I think, I will publish my first book.