Bio: Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his upcoming novel. He is Oxford’s only ever Quintuple Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and boxed competitively. Ben graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and an M Phil. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood.
Angela B. Chrysler: I want to take a moment to welcome Ben Starling, author of a love story (title reveal coming soon!) that will be released on January 21, 2016. Thank you so much for speaking with me, Ben. Tell us a little about yourself. What are your favorite things? What do you do when you’re not writing? Who is Ben Starling?
ABC: *smiling* so poetic. Stories always require some form of research. Where is your tale set and what kind of research did you do for it?
Ben Starling: Most of my research for this novel focused on the habits of whales and the history, myths and legends of the islands in which the story is set – an unnamed chain in the South Pacific. I also consulted with an experienced sailor to get some technical yacht and boat handling details right: the hero lives on a wooden sailboat.
I am a bit obsessive when it comes to researching oceans – and my upcoming novel is set in a marine environment. I wanted to get it right. But I also enjoy the research so much that days can pass as I follow up on details. Time very enjoyably spent though.
ABC: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Ben Starling: My upcoming novel was inspired by the loss of my partner at forty-five years of age to ovarian cancer, just thirteen weeks after her diagnosis. In the aftermath, an old friend challenged me to turn that grief into something positive. Remembering a conversation with a charismatic Polynesian fisherman (I visited there once) about his people’s vision of death and the afterlife, I began to write. The book kind of took off from there…
“What if to be with the man of your dreams… you had to give up your life? On the verge of losing her job, a side-lined journalist is forced to travel to the South Pacific to untangle a mystery where she meets a reclusive ex-boxer with a message. When a syndicate of corporate criminals invades paradise, she must either defend the island with her life or accept the plum promotion that will save her career.”
ABC: Who will this story appeal to?
ABC: Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?
Ben Starling: Nothing was hard to write – everything was hard to get just right…
ABC: Please describe your favorite scene or chapter in your book and tell us why it’s your favorite?
Ben Starling: I have interwoven three plots in this novel. It’s difficult to choose a single favorite scene because nearly every interaction affects more than one plot. Any scene that fails to do so would not have made it into the final manuscript! That said, I am pleased with the first human-whale encounter, as it represents an important moment in the protagonist’s arc and lays a subtle foundation for what lies ahead.
ABC: Which of your characters, do you relate to the most (or) who is your favorite character and why?
Ben Starling: Edward (Bear) Hamilton was the most fun to write – so astoundingly unaware of his shortcomings and flamboyantly unconcerned about his impact on others. The more horrible I made him, the more fun I had! I giggled the whole time I wrote him.
ABC: I once read that every author is simply a compilation of his/her favorite authors. Which authors have done the most to influence your writing and why?
Ben Starling: I don’t think I could ever write a patch on Hemingway or Wouk, but I sincerely admire them. Hemingway for his symbolism and the poignancy of the troubles of Santiago in Old Man in the Sea. And Herman Wouk for his spell-binding characterisations in Don’t Stop the Carnival. I loved those books. And I’m a devout fan of Maeve Binchy for her masterful plot structure and rich detailed backgrounds. You don’t just gain the pleasure of a story from her, you learn craft.
ABC: “Story” has always been the center of all human cultures. We need it. We seek it out. We invent it. What does “story” mean to you?
Ben Starling: To me the story can be many things: a guide, a warning, a metaphor, a diversion, an exploration, a historical remnant, a culturally-enforcing mechanism. A story should take you somewhere new. A good one keeps you there well beyond the last page.
ABC: What’s your favorite line from your upcoming book?
Ben Starling: I would be reluctant to quote a line from my book out of context as no line is an island. But here’s a snippet from the poem at the end:
A shift of power has started,
The temple columns downed,
The thronging meek are rising to
Displace the barking clowns.
ABC: Do you believe in love at first sight?
Ben Starling: Yes, absolutely! Why do I write love stories? Because nothing else matters…
ABC: Describe your ideal romantic date. Will you ever send one of your characters in a future story on this date?
In fact, I wrote that scene in this novel: sparkling tropical waters, a scented sunset, the characters relaxing on a classic sailboat after a previous disappointment, a deck lit with tea lights – all observed under the watchful gaze of a jealous seabird.
ABC: Tells us about your next project.
Ben Starling: Right now I’m working on a series of prequel short stories to be released from September 21, 2015. They are set in the same world as my upcoming novel. And maybe, just maybe my next hero or heroine will experience a date that’s equally romantic but then again… entirely different. Stay tuned!
ABC: Where can we learn more about you and your book?
Ben Starling: You can find me at on my website here.
ABC: Thank you again, so much for speaking with me.