You Asked The Questions – He's Given The Answers!
1 – Craig Stuart
Never Dream of Dying was an excellent entry for the Bond series, and I enjoyed reading it. I am eagerly awaiting the next book. Do you have a title or working title for your next book yet?
Not yet! The title is usually the very last thing that happens. It's a collaborative process between myself, Glidrose, and the British and American publishers. The marketing people get involved as well. Sometimes it can be a real hair-puller. We're due to get a title soon, though, because Hodder & Stoughton needs to print their spring 2002 catalog.
2 – Desmond Hardison
Which of your novels would you love to see as a film?
Any of them! But if I had to pick just one, "High Time to Kill" would make an interesting one.
3 – Mark Notarian
I understand in "Blast From The Past" you answer a question that has bothered me since originally reading "You Only Live Twice" what ever happened to the unborn child of Kissy Suziki and James Bond, However I haven't been able to actually read the story is it available?
Currently the only place it's available in English is in Playboy, the January 1997 issue. There are still copies floating around and you might be able to pick one up on eBay. Note that Playboy had to cut 1/3 of this story for space reasons, so the full-length "director's cut," so to speak, hasn't seen the light of day in English. The full-length version has been translated and published in Italy and France, but so far nowhere else. Someday, if we ever assemble a decent amount of short stories, we'll do an anthology that will contain the full-length version of "Blast From the Past."
4 – "Agent M"
Mr Benson, when you are writing your novels do you try to make the character of 007 more similar to the James Bond of Fleming's novels or the James Bond of the movies, since there are obvious differences between the two versions of the character (which were both successful).
Well, we decided early on (Glidrose and myself) that my Bond would be a blend of the literary Bond and the cinematic Bond. The reason for this is that so many new and younger readers are not familiar with the Fleming novels. They are even out of print in America, but I believe that problem is being rectified soon. At any rate, most people these days who are not hard-core Bond fans only know Bond from the films. Therefore, it made sense to bring in elements from the film series that are what people perceive as being "Bondian". This goes for the overall books themselves. Now, as for the character of Bond, I try very hard to stay faithful to Fleming's Bond, with just a touch of the cinematic 007. My Bond is very human, as was Fleming's. You are not going to see my Bond be a walking encyclopedia who knows everything. My Bond makes mistakes, feels fear, broods, and has a lot of vices. Some fans criticized my Bond in "Doubleshot" for not acting "professional." The whole point of that story was dependent on the notion of "what if…?" What IF Bond was injured in such a way that he couldn't operate at 100% throughout an entire adventure? What IF he wasn't thinking clearly and was unable to make the best decisions? How would this effect him and his mission? I found that an interesting thing to explore.
5 – "Zencat"
What is your writing process? Do you write everyday? Do you write in the mornings or in the evenings?
It depends on what phase of the book I'm in. The entire process takes a year. The outline stage is the most difficult, as that is when I map out the entire book, chapter by chapter, in about 16-20 pages, single spaced. It takes 3 months, usually, to do this. The first month I'm not writing at all, I'm daydreaming. I'm thinking about the locations, the characters, the plotline. I also spend time researching the locations I'm considering to use in case something about them sparks an idea. Slowly but surely something starts to take shape and I begin to make notes. The second two months of this stage is spent writing and re-writing the outline until I'm satisfied. I write during various times of the day… I'm best in the mornings and late at night, with a long break in the afternoon. But sometimes I'm really into it and will work in the afternoon as well. Once the outline is turned in to Glidrose, I receive comments (sometimes) and receive a green light to go ahead. I spend the next two months doing something else if it's not a year in which I have to do a novelization. In 1997 and 1999 I had to use those off-months to write "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "The World is Not Enough", respectively. (I have only about six weeks to write those novelizations!) During this time I'm also collecting information and preparing my research trip, which is always extremely complicated and precise. The trip itself takes anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, and I try to visit all of the locations in the book. I take notes, take photos, sample the food, study the culture and people, and hopefully absorb enough of the places that I can successfully write about them. While the trips are always fun and exciting, they are exhausting and require a great deal of energy. I am constantly "on," from morning to night, taking notes, ingesting everything around me, meeting important people, sometimes giving interviews or making appearances, lugging my baggage around, and fighting jet lag! It's not easy at all. But it's very rewarding. Finally, I come home armed with tons of stuff and spend about two weeks organizing it. Then I start the nitty-gritty writing. It takes about 2-3 months to write the first draft, and again, I write mornings and at night, mostly, but sometimes I am writing in the afternoon as well. I spend another few weeks re-writing, and usually I show the 2nd or 3rd draft to a couple of trusted readers who give me comments. I do yet another draft and then turn it in to Glidrose. They will make comments. Sometimes I need to do another draft, other times not. Once it goes to the publishers, the editors at both Hodder and Putnam make comments. So I'm edited three or more ways! By the time I'm finished, a year has gone by and I have to begin the next one.
6 – Lorenzo Poulloura
Do you have any input regarding the cover design of your books?
Not really. The American publisher has asked me for suggestions on the last 2-3 books. I think I came up with the idea to do two faces looking at each other for "Doubleshot" and the Corsican knife on "Never Dream of Dying," but I have nothing to do with the execution of the artwork. Once it's done, I don't have any say in changing it. The UK publisher has never consulted me.
7 – "Zencat"
The UK editions seemed to have changed cover art style with the last book, "Never Dream of Dying,". Many fans didn't like it – the comment I heard was "it looked like a math book." Any feelings about what appears to be the new UK style?
I'm still perplexed as to why they went with a different style. I quite liked the UK covers. I don't think NDOD is bad, but it's different. I'm pretty sure it was a marketing decision and my editor or Glidrose had nothing to do with it.
8. – "Dent"
How do you research your novels?
As I mentioned above, a lot of it is done at the location itself. But prior to that, I usually begin with the idea for a place to set the story. I study some guide books as a preliminary starting point. I talk to people familiar with the places. I gather ideas for interesting locales and learn what I can about them. For other aspects, especially technical ones, I consult experts, just as Mr. Fleming did. He had "experts" all over the world whom he relied upon for information. I have the same-guys who are weapons people, guys who are military people, guys who are car people, etc. For the Jaguar XK8, I consulted with Jaguar engineers in Coventry. All of the gadgets that were in that car were either already real or they are on the drawing board. Some fans objected to the car as being over the top or something, but everything in it is possible. The engineers there made the suggestions for every piece of equipment and even drew up plans as to how they would fit inside the car. Other ways I research is to use the Internet, libraries, and the telephone. The Bond books have to have a certain travelogue quality to them, so research is important.
9 – "Dent"
Have you had any ideas which the publishers (or you) have scrapped?
No. There may have been some minor things here and there that didn't quite work, but nothing major. I've never had an outline rejected.
10 – "Zencat"
Does Glidrose give you access to their archives? For instance, have you ever read "Per Fine Ounce" by Geoffrey Jenkins that was supposedly commissioned by Glidrose but never published?
I've never asked to see it. I suppose they would let me, but I don't really have "access" to their archives, as you put it. I've never thought about it. I've never asked.
11 – "Zencat"
I know travelling to areas like Africa or the Middle East for research purposes can be a bit death defying and you'd rather not set a book in these locales for that reason. But don¹t you think if Fleming were alive today he¹d most certainly put Bond in these hot zones where a spy is still very relevant? You're so good with locations might you one day go for it and write a politically hot Bond book set in these locales? It could be your From Russia With Love.
True, these would be good locations for Bond, I suppose, and I'm not ruling them out. There are certainly places that, as an American, would be unsafe for me to travel to, such as Iraq or Iran. Our State Department tells us not to go to certain spots like that. When you think about it, though, the Bond series has never really hit upon real-world problems such as the Middle East conflict. It's too touchy a subject. The same with Northern Ireland. While today's real world spies are probably very concerned about these kinds of places, in Bond's world we deal more with a fantasized conception of the spy world.
12 – Greg Nolle
Are there any more nuggets of info about the new Japan book that you care to share with us? Is there still no title?
Only that Bond will be reunited with Tiger Tanaka, and that Goro Yoshida is the main villain (introduced in NDOD). You'll have to wait for the book to find out more!
13 – Pat Strange
When I read a Fleming book I always read an English edition because I've found the U.S. editions have been severely edited (especially the early books). I've also found this to be true of some of the Gardner books. Are there major differences between the UK and U.S. editions of your books? Which should I be reading to get the most authentic Raymond Benson experience?
These days there is not much difference between the UK and US books. My current editor at Putnam believes in retaining the British aspects of the books, including British spellings. There will always be minor, almost undetectable differences, simply because there are two different editors at two different publishers working with the manuscript. The only time I can think of where there was a significant change was for the novelization of "The World is Not Enough"… the UK publisher chose to cut the last few sentences of the book whereas the US publisher believed they should remain.
14 – "Zencat"
We all have ideas for a Bond book or film… Did you have the idea for "Zero Minus Ten" before Glidrose approached you?
No. When Glidrose came knocking at my door, it was a complete surprise. They asked if I'd be interested, and if so, please come up with an outline for a story. The "Zero Minus Ten" plot came about because I knew that if indeed the book were to be published, it would be in 1997, the year of the Hong Kong handover. So I went with that as the basis for the story.
15 – "Bridge"
What do you feel is your best and your worst?
That's like choosing between your children. I can't say what my "worst" is, although I think less of the two novelizations than I do of the original books. My favorites are "High Time to Kill" and "Never Dream of Dying". The short story "Midsummer Night's Doom" was written for Playboy at Playboy's request to do a special story for their 45th anniversary issue in which James Bond comes to the Playboy mansion and meets Hugh Hefner. I don't consider this story a real Bond story, it's more of a Playboy story, a bit of fluff that's kind of goofy, but with that in mind I feel I did a pretty good job with the parameters. But it's the story I like the least.
16 – Jacques Nexus
You always have an outline of your next adventure put together before you scout locations. How do you figure it all out? Do you have any general tips for fan fiction writers on how to construct narratives from A to Z?
To tell you the truth, I don't. Actually, I think the best advice I can give someone who wants to write is to read a lot. Read everything. Read what other people do. Familiarize yourself with the structure of successful novels. A lot of writing is instinct, putting yourself in the story and feeling your way through. What feels right? Where is it going? If it were a movie, how would it flow? (Sometimes visualizing it that way can help.) I studied dramatic structure in college and that was extremely helpful, so my theatre background contributed a great deal to the way I create stories. There are lots of books on the subject that could be helpful. The best way to do it is simply jump in and start writing.
17 – Jacques Nexus
Fleming relied on his wartime experiences when he wrote his novels. What's your source of inspiration from one novel to the next?
Anything and everything. Imagination helps. Frankly, the notion that "Fleming relied on his wartime experiences" to write his novels is not entirely true. There are bits here and there throughout his books that hark back to his time in Intelligence, but for the most part his books were fantasies, pure and simple. He was extremely interested in "schemes" and while he had a lot of experience in creating schemes during the war, the types of schemes he created for the Bond books have very little to do with World War II. Fleming had a great imagination, he had a love for adventure yarns, and he had a knack for creating interesting characters and situations. As for me, I'm inspired by any number of muses-music, images, a fleeting thought, the sighting of a beautiful woman, a newspaper article, something on the Internet, the 10:00 news, dreams, and whatever sparks curiosity and creativity.
18 – Jacques Nexus
Have you thought about returning any of the Fleming heroines, as well as any of your own for future adventures?
I try to be careful with bringing back Fleming characters. I do so only with the characters that I think will work. I haven't done so with any of the heroines, and I doubt that I will. The way I look at it as that the Fleming books are the base, the foundation for the Bond "mythology." I am allowed to draw upon this foundation. I was told by Glidrose that I am free to use or ignore anything by the post-Fleming writers (Amis, Pearson, Gardner). So I see that each author's body of Bond work is a separate series that draws upon the original Fleming foundation. Bringing back characters like Felix Leiter, Mathis, and Draco, makes sense. Some fans objected to what I did with Draco in "Never Dream of Dying." How could I make him a "bad guy"? I have news for you-he always was a bad guy. Draco was the head of the Corsican mafia, always was. He was a murderer, thief, racketeer, and smuggler– before Bond knew him. The two men entered into an uneasy alliance because of the connection Bond had with Tracy. The men began to respect each other and became friends. But Draco never went "straight." What I did with Draco made perfect sense. The entire genesis behind "Never Dream of Dying" was another "what if…?" scenario-and that was, "what IF Bond was put into a situation where he had to either kill his former father in law or be killed?" That's an intriguing notion. There was a slight problem in using Draco in that John Gardner mentioned in one line in one of his books that Draco was dead. Since nothing was specific, I decided that this information could very easily turn out to have been false. I say that if you're going to kill off a major character like Draco, you had better do it memorably! I did make a mistake in "NDOD," by bringing back Draco's henchman, Che-Che, because he died in OHMSS. I misinterpreted the one line at the end of OHMSS where Draco speculates that Che-Che might be dead… it's very vague. Oh well. Mistakes happen. There's not a book that exists that doesn't have at least one mistake in it. But I promise this-I don't plan to kill Tiger Tanaka in the next book!
19 – Jacques Nexus
In "Never Dream of Dying" you stated, "…the battle and perhaps the war is over"…does this mean the Union could still return in future?
Who knows…? At the moment, though, I have no plans to do so. /p>
20 – Jacques Nexus
In "Zero Minus Ten" you introduced the concept of single-0 agents. Will that come back again one day?
Probably. If the story requires it. There is a scene in the next book at MI6 where I mention a meeting attended by Double-O agents as well as lower level agents.
21 – James Page
Would you like to see a common thread run throughout the next few Bond movies, to bring some continuity back into the series? Connery had the luxury of playing against SPECTRE, a factor that I'm sure made his stint as Bond all the more memorable. Do you think a similar mini-series within the series would be a good idea? (e.g. to smooth the transition to a new Bond if Brosnan retires, similar to when Lazenby stepped in).
Absolutely. Continuity is fun and creates anticipation among the people who are following the series. That's one reason why I made my last three books a trilogy of sorts, although they can each be read without reliance on the others.
22 – Jim
Would you/ are you permitted to kill a major character (ie Q/M/Moneypenny)?
I suppose if I had a good reason or an interesting situation for it to occur in, then I don't see why Glidrose would object. I have no plans to kill any of these "regular" characters because they are so much a part of the Bond mythology. (PS-Q is Major Boothroyd in the novels, we don't refer to him as Q except in the novelizations.)
23 – Dave Winter & Daniel Dykes
Do you think that you've gone too far with the sex in your books?
There seems to be some controversy regarding the level of sex in my books. Some think it's explicit while for others it's just right. We (Glidrose, the publishers, and myself) don't think it's "explicit" at all. Anyone who thinks that what I've written is "explicit" needs to re-examine the meaning of that word. I haven't written anything I'd be embarrassed to have my 12 year old son read. I've never used slang words to describe a sex act or parts of the anatomy, and I try to be tasteful and hopefully erotic. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Fleming's books were popular, they were thought to be extremely racy. I had friends who weren't allowed to read them because they were "too sexy." Today, they are very tame. But I firmly believe that if Fleming were writing today, he'd probably go further with the sex than I do! He was a guy who was very interested in sex, and would probably have been more explicit in those days if it had been the norm. Bond stories are supposed to have sex, and many times it should be gratuitous! (Remember that line in "Never Say Never Again"-when the armourer sees Bond and says something like he's glad 007 is back "so we can have some gratuitous sex and violence"?) What I do is a logical extension of the level of sex that existed in the Fleming books at that time. Some people objected to the sex scene in "Never Dream of Dying." What I described is certainly nothing out of the ordinary. If James Bond is supposed to be such a great lover in the bedroom, then he's going to work from a very full menu! The same old implied familiar sex act in the customary position is boring. Actually it's interesting that the few people who objected to the scene are all males…. while nearly all of the positive comments I've received on the scene came from women! What does that tell you?
24 – Dave Winter & Daniel Dykes
How do you handle your critics?
Well, there is a bit of bashing going on, isn't there? It's par for the course. No one escapes it. We all get bashed by somebody–John Gardner did–and still does, all of the actors get bashed, even Ian Fleming got bashed by his own wife and her friends, too! If the Internet had been around in Fleming's day, the literati would have had a field day. It's one of the drawbacks of the internet, I'm afraid. It now allows anyone to post anything about anybody with little regard for what effect it might have. I try to avoid and ignore it. The people who like my books have better things to do with their lives than bother to post cheap shots on the Internet! All of my accomplishments are a result of my focusing on the things I love, not on the things I dislike. Negativity is a waste of time. So I say, state your opinion if you must, then move on. Let's face it, I'm writing pulp fiction. I'm the first to admit that I'm not Ian Fleming and even he would say that he was writing pulp fiction. Most of my readers know this, go with the flow, and have fun.