Hey, it's Monday again!
How did that happen?
Ready to start your week? No?
Put it off a little longer, as I sit down and talk to Benjamin Ryan.
Once upon a time, there was a military brat named Benjamin Ryan, who traveled the world and embraced every unique experience he encountered. Being the new kid in town wasn’t always easy, and as he struggled with weight issues, he also had to deal with the hardships of teasing, male friendship, and acceptance. But, he was determined to find his place in the world and used his love for writing to create adventures that would transport him to a different world, where he could see things from a new perspective. Through his writing, Benjamin Ryan discovered his authentic self and found a way to inspire others. Armed with degrees in Art History, Education and World Religions, he became a New York City public Special Ed teacher, where he uses whimsy, creativity, and acceptance to inspire the youth of tomorrow. And thus, Benjamin Ryan was born—an author that embraces the power of storytelling to inspire and create change. With a deep understanding of the struggles that come with being different, Benjamin Ryan creates content that speaks to the heart and soul of their audience. He is active on twitter in the writing community (@BRClothwrites), hosting writing prompts, engaging with life’s unique perspectives, and inspiring others to create their truths.
With over 35k followers and only one year on Twitter, I have to say I’m doing something right! The #WritingCommunity has been nothing less than inviting and warm, and becoming a part of it has given me a purpose I never knew I needed. To champion and cheer on fellow writers as they watch me go through my own writing experience is something I will always be grateful for; it humbled me.
Pre-order for the E-book: https://teawithcoffee.media/product/madame-eldridges-wayward-home-for-unruly-boys-ebook/
Book order and blurb:
https://teawithcoffee.media/coming-soon/ The book will also be available on Amazon and select book stores after August 1st.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek all the way — actually, Voyager. The ability to travel the universe and explore the different cultures and alien species that are out there is so much more spectacular and adventurous than the fight for good over evil or the quest to finding one’s true destiny. To uncover a place, a people, a technology or a reality never before seen is a magic that can only be experienced once. First contact is a gift from the universe.
A book that pleasantly surprised you?
The Bible. I have a degree in religious studies, and one of the things I learned the most during my days of diving into religious texts is how little the layman knows about what is actually written down. It wasn’t an apple that Eve ate, Moses wasn’t allowed into the promised land because he killed someone, and nowhere does it say there were only three wise men, and yet we continually perpetuate these “truths” to one another. Books surprise us all because we each take from them only what we want to, only what we chose to see. And it is for this reason that we can read the same book over and over and get something different from it every single time. This is why bookclubs work so well. Each unique perspective can change the narrative of any story.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
If done correctly, it should do neither yet both simultaneously. There you are, in a club, surrounded by people. As your body moves, your breath becomes short, and sweat pours down your neck. The fact that it’s 3 in the morning is inconsequential because the music is pulsing within you despite your hips hurting and your body fatigued. You feel most alive on that dance floor unaware of your own exhaustion. This is writing if done correctly. The exhaustion lulls you to sleep, but the excitement and thrill keeps you energized, thinking, writing, and dreaming…
What does your family think of your writing?
They think I need some more work, and maybe I do… “It’s fine, but I don’t know if anyone will think it’s funny,” or “Oh, so you wrote another book with magical realism, why do you do that?” They criticize because they love and want what’s best for me. I want to believe they believe in me as an author, but honestly, they have supported me no matter what I have done in my life. This is something I can’t take lightly. My favorite comment, however, came from my mother. After telling her I received several beta readers’ feedback in which all were through-the-roof amazing, she replied, “Who are these people? Do they even have credentials? How do you know what they are saying is true?”
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I never “realized” I wanted to be a writer because from the moment I could speak, I said I would become one. At the age of 7, I had a terrifying reoccurring nightmare, which sparked my desire to write it down. Yes I folded paper and stapled it into a book, and yes I still have said book. By age 10 I had won my school’s essay writing contest and by 11 won a fiction story contest in which I got to meet a real author. High school was plagued with poetry and lyrics. And by college, manuscripts were filling up my desktop’s storage. I always knew I would be a writer. Being an author is a different story. I knew I always had storied to tell, I just didn’t know if anyone was willing to read them until I was well into my adulthood.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Perfection is the trap many aspiring writers fall through. They write a chapter, then edit it. Of course they send it off to family and friends before working on it some more. They look up new fantastical words to add and move paragraphs around to make the flow better…and they never finish the whole book, but by golly what a beautiful first chapter they have! Your first draft should be bad, awful, terrifying that you even have it on your laptop. It should be riddled with spelling and grammar errors and filled with simple words and bad descriptions. You may have a terrible manuscript, but at least you have a completed manuscript. Then as the editing and rewriting and beta reading process unfolds, like a painting whose back ground goes down first before the delicate details are added, the complexities of perfection begin to emerge. It takes time and effort. If you are a new writer, don't focus on perfecting it, focus on finishing it. It’s going to be bad, and that is okay.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My interesting writing quirk is how I use music to influence my writing. I pick a song which I feel represents the story I’m working on. It doesn’t have to be the lyrics, just the tune. I play it on repeat for over an hour and think about the story, the characters, the amazing moments and the ones I'm stuck on. I create synapses in my brain associating the story to this/these song(s). When I walk I listen to the music and think of my plot. When I’m cooking I hear it and build ideas in my mind. When I'm writing I listen to it on repeat and the words come forth. Hearing the tune after a while helps me to be more creative and have clearer ideas of what I’m writing. It makes the story more emotional; it makes the story more real.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE through writing. I have written sentences I couldn’t believe came from me because of how poetic and strong they are. I have created characters that were so real to me, I cried actual tears when the manuscript was completed because I knew it meant I had to say goodbye. I wrote an entire book, this book in fact, “Madame Eldridge’s Wayward Home for Unruly Boys” in 5 1/2 days without a single outline or plan to do so. I didn’t know I had any of these incredible abilities inside of me until I decided to just start writing. I am a creator of worlds unseen and unheard of, and through them I can alter the real world and influence the people in it. That is surprising—that is incredible—that is powerful.
What do you think makes a good story?
I know the answer to this: gossip. If you don’t want to tell it to a friend, it’s not a story worth telling. The story should have a character, a setting, a storyline, a “something” (dare I say all of the afore mentioned) which makes you want to tell someone about it. It can run the gamut of emotions, but has to be powerful or unique in such a way to propel discussion. A good story is one I want to tell others about. Make it gossip worthy and you have a delicious tale to tell.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I wrote a poem in high school about me and my insulin resistance struggle and my perpetual weight loss journey. It was abstract in the sense that it described my inadequacies about my body as a cocoon and the true me, a butterfly, ready to break free to trail summer winds in search of sweat nectar. Of course when I posted this on social media I had several people contacting my mother worried my poem was about ending my life. I had others who reached out to tell me how beautiful the words were and how much it meant to them. And to me, to this day, I read it and tear up, especially at the ending: “To change, metamorphosis, shed your skin, and start anew. How beautiful would it be to accept the hardest parts of me, as nothing more than a cocoon.” Words hold memories and meanings and thoughts. Worlds create whole universes and tear down single souls. Words are an invention more powerful than anything else we have created. Language is how we express our deepest selves and can hold the secrets we don’t wish to tell others.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Oh my, I don’t even want to count. I must have over eleven unfinished manuscripts with several chapters. All never made it to fruition. One even exists on my living room wall, written on chalkboard wallpaper; the first chapter eloquently displayed for the world to see. The story will go no further. But the story was instrumental in all my other stories coming to life. For as many failures as I’ve had is as many triumphs that I’ve had. To know what not to do is just as powerful as knowing what to do. And every failed story was a lesson learned. Maybe one day they will resurface and be rewritten. Or maybe they have already served their purpose. Anything is possible in the world of writing!
What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?
Stop assuming there’s an answer or reason or purpose. How incredible is it that we are here with all these amazing opportunities and experiences before us. Accept that this is something you have now that you never will again, and enjoy it. Enjoy life. Find your happiness and make it last. You have but one life to live, but one adventure to go one, but one treasure to find…don’t waste it.
What do you have coming next?
I have 4 other manuscripts written and ready to go…But as for my latest which I'm most excited about??? I have a Jewish comedy magical adventure, which I have to say, has made my beta readers pee their pants while reading. I take pride in that! And I need more support, and more beta readers! Come find me on twitter @BRClothWrites and join in on our fun! I would love to have each and every one of you be a part of the creative process and help inspire a movement to share our stories and our ideas with each other and the world.
Madame Eldridge whipped around, her skirts whirling about her like a storm. “You would do well to follow the rules of this house, Sassy.”
“My name’s not Sassy, you old bag,” he barked, without fear of a consequence. He pushed his wavy brown hair out of his face to get a better look at her. With his striking light honey eyes and solid build, his attractiveness typically gave him a pass for his snarky comments, but looks had little impact on Madame Eldridge.
Her crimson lips curled upward at one end, an eyebrow rose, and her eyes squinted, sparkling in the dimly lit room. Her fixed gaze on the boy who’d spoken suddenly shifted as she faced the roaring fireplace at the far end of the hall. She leaned on her carved spiral cane for support. It was blatantly obvious her large hips and tight waist could only have been made possible by a fitted corset. Despite that, her movements were graceful, made with an easiness that belied such discomforts.
“Until you have completed your stay at The Wayward Home for Unruly Boys, you shall have no name, and that goes for every last one of you,” Madame Eldridge announced, pointing her raised cane at each boy, as if poking them in the air.
Elliot studied her closely. The only item on her which had any color at all, besides her lipstick, was a large crimson jewel embedded in the top of the cane’s wooden handle. Her top hat, decorated with plumes of raven feathers and gray lace, reached high above her head. Even the ends of her fingernails, which protruded through the cut holes in her white-laced gloves, were painted black; a powerful color.
The boy huffed, offended by her conduct. “My name is Ishir. It’s an Indian name which means power.”
Madame Eldridge fixed her gaze upon the sassy boy once again.
“Oh, Sassy, you have much to learn before I’m done with you.”
Elliot cracked a smile as he tugged at his dark gray sweater-vest he was forced to wear. The yellow tie neatly fastened around his starched white shirt collar was choking. He wasn’t fond of uniforms, and presumed he wouldn’t be fond of Madame Eldridge either. His school required uniforms, and when his parents had informed him he would be taking a week off to join a behavior retreat, he never expected to be fastened into more tight clothing.
Madame Eldridge headed further into the dining hall. Seating herself in the center of the table, with her back to the entrance of the grand foyer, and in full view of the massive oak-paneled fireplace, she encouraged the others to follow. Elliot hesitantly joined her at the table as the other boys cautiously chose their spots. They were all dressed identically, though their expressions varied from excitement to distress. Sassy started to say a smart remark, but closed his mouth. He groaned when the only seat left was directly beside Madame Eldridge.
Elliot watched closely as Sassy begrudgingly sat.
“Your parents have entrusted in me the greatest of responsibilities - to transform you from unruly boys into respectable young men. While you are in my care this week, you shall do just that through activities and hard work. You will keep this boarding house clean and tidy, I don’t like a mess.”