Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dream Family BOOK IV by J.J. DiBenedetto

J.J.(James) DiBenedetto 

·         What is your book about?

This is the fourth book in the Dream Series, but it’s very different than the previous three books.  In “Dream Family,” Sara is mistakenly arrested and charged with a serious crime.  While she only spends one day and night in jail, she’s abused there, traumatized by the experience and basically broken.  The story of the book is Sara’s effort to deal with what happened to her and to recover from it. 

·         What inspired you to write this particular story (and/or series)?

The original idea for this book was that Sara was going to encounter someone else (outside her immediate family) who had the same ability to visit dreams that she does.  I had the idea that at some point in the story, as a minor obstacle, Sara would find herself spending a night in jail, but I envisioned it as a small subplot and maybe even something that would be relatively lighthearted.  But I went ahead and started writing the arrest/jail scenes, and they quickly became very serious and much darker than I had expected.  I realized that THIS was the story I should be telling – an experience that really damages Sara, and how does she cope with it afterwards? 

I didn’t really intend to make any sort of statement with this story, but I do feel strongly about the abuse of power, and the way that people in positions of authority can so easily dehumanize and abuse the people who find themselves in their power.   

·         Describe your writing in three words.

Immersive, emotional, honest.


·        Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Not really.  I’m much more in the “pantser” camp.  I have a general outline in my mind as to where the story is going, but that’s it.  Sometimes if I know for sure what’s coming up, I’ll write the scenes that I know have to happen, and that helps because then I’ve got something I know I need to work towards.

·         Are your characters in the book based on anyone you know?

The main characters all have various parts of me in them, which I think is true for every writer.  Some of the secondary characters are based very heavily on real people, though. 

·         Was there any research involved in your work?

This book required quite a bit of research.  I’ve never been arrested or in jail, and I wanted what Sara went through to feel true, so I had to do some digging to properly describe that (I will say that what she experiences is worse than what – according to what I’ve read – actually happens to people in the Arlington County jail).


·         What authors inspire or influence your work?

Everyone I read, really.  I definitely pick up ideas from every book I read.  I can’t honestly pick out one author that I’d say is a major influence, though.  There are some I wish I COULD write more like, though!


·         Do you need visual media to describe people or places? (Some authors use pics. out of magazines)

Not really, although I have done what I’m sure 99% of other authors do, and mentally cast my books as movies!   

·         Favorite snack when writing.

Something sweet.  Donuts, cookies, brownies, anything like that. 

·         Do you have a Muse?

I don’t think so.  The ideas, at least for the Dream Series, all seem to just come of their own accord, or proceed logically from the previous book. 

·         Once a character is fully developed do you set them free or do they still dance around your mind?

Oh, they’re still in my mind, having conversations and getting up to trouble.
They also sometimes make their own decisions about the story – this whole book is an example of that.  I really didn’t plan on having a day in jail impact Sara so strongly, but that’s how she experienced it.  I did have to overrule her on one thing in this book.  One of the signs that she’s not dealing with her experience is her inability to put her wedding ring back on (after it was removed at the jail).  She wanted to, midway through the book, have her break her own ring finger, to give herself an excuse not to put it on.  But I just couldn’t go that far.  I’m not sure if I made the right decision or not. 

·         Is the Thesaurus one of your best writing friends?

Actually, no.  I’ve got a pretty good vocabulary to start with, and I can usually come up with the words I need on my own. 

·         Who gets to read your drafts before they're published?

I have a good friend who’s a critique partner, and she sees every chapter as it’s finished.  I also have several regular beta readers. 

·         Share with us your biggest hurdles in the writing process?

Just keeping on track.  I really have to force myself to write sometimes, especially when there are so many distractions right at hand. 

·         Share the biggest hurdles in the marketing process.

All of it!  The biggest difficulty so far has just been learning what’s effective, and what’s a poor use of time (and sometimes money).  It’s hard because no one really knows, and there are no hard and fast rules for marketing success, or at least I haven’t found them yet if there are! 

·         What project(s) are you working on now?

I’m writing the next book in the Dream Series (#6), a short story that features Sara’s parents, and also an unrelated novel tentatively called “Queen of the Idiots”. 

·         Is there anything else you would like to say to your readers?

Thank you so much!

·         Thank-you for spending the Day in the spotlight, Oh Yes where can readers find you and your book(s) online? 

Dream Family Cover
“Why is this so hard for me?  Why am I having so much trouble?  Why do I feel so helpless, so hopeless?  What the hell is wrong with me?”
After tangling with murders and mobsters, not to mention medical school and three years of residency, Sara thought she could handle anything.  And then the police show up without warning at her new office and arrest her for a crime she can’t possibly have committed.  Sara’s confidence, and her grip on reality, is shattered during one terrifying night in jail.
Now, the very dreams that have endangered her life and driven her to the edge of madness may be the only thing that can help Sara find herself again…
“Dream Family” is the powerful fourth novel in the “Dreams” series..
Beth stays for almost an hour, before she’s got to get back to her office.  We didn’t actually talk much more about – about everything that happened.  She wanted to, but she didn’t have the heart to keep pushing me.  I’m very grateful.
My father brought Lizzie back just a few minutes ago, and now she and I are walking Beth across the street, to the Metro station underneath the Pentagon City mall.  Dad wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but I have to start acting like myself sometime.  If I can’t manage a walk of half a block in broad daylight with my daughter…
Anyway, we cross the street and the grassy field and then we go into the walkway through the mall’s parking lot.  That leads us into the food court of the mall, with Lizzie chattering at Beth the whole way.  We go through there, then through the doors and down the escalator that leads us to the entrance of the station.
Beth embraces me tightly.  “I know you don’t want to talk about it now.  But – please, talk about it with Brian.  Tell him everything you’re feeling.  You remember your wedding vows?”
…I’m standing at the altar, looking at Brian, my vision blurred both by my veil and my tears.  I’m giving my vows to him, the ones I spent hours and hours working on.  “All my joys are yours to share, all your sorrows are mine to ease, in calm and in storm, now and forever…”
…Beth is waving a hand in my face.  “Welcome back,” she sighs.  “You remember those words.  And remember that they go for him, too.  He’ll ease your sorrows, and throw a lifeline to you when you get caught in a storm, just like you do for him.  So let him.  If our places were reversed, wouldn’t you be telling me exactly the same thing?”
Yes.  And I’d be just as right about it as she is.  It sounds so simple, too.  “If our places were reversed, would you be able to do it?”
She starts to answer, but stops her herself before she gets a word out.  She can’t lie to me, any more than I can to her.  “Not without fighting myself every step of the way.”    She squeezes me again, so close that I can feel her heart trying to hammer its way out of her chest.  After a minute or two she steps back, and she takes my face in her hands.  She’s holding me in place as much with her eyes as with her hands.  For what seems like a long time she doesn’t say anything, then she whispers, just loud enough for me to hear, “Sara, I love you.  I always will.”
She keeps holding me there, willing me to feel everything she’s sending out to me.  I can’t move, can’t do anything except try to accept it.  I don’t know how long we’re there, before Lizzie inserts herself between us. “I love you too, Mommy!”
I break away from Beth and look down at my daughter.  She is so beautiful, so perfect.  I close my eyes, grit my teeth, lean down and pick her up.  It’s so hard, but I have to hold her in my arms.
“You see?”  Beth is fighting back tears, again.  “You have so many people who love you.  Brian, us, the twins, your parents – I could go on and on.  None of us are ashamed of you, or embarrassed about you, or anything else you’re probably telling yourself.  When I look at you, I’m not picturing you in a jail cell.  And I can promise you when Brian looks at you, he’s not seeing you the way you were in the courtroom.  I guarantee you that,” she says.  “And you know I never lie to you.  You know I can’t.”
“I know.  And I love you, too.” I answer.  It’s all I trust myself to say.  I know what she’s saying is true.  I just have to learn how to make myself feel it again.
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Image of J.J. DiBenedetto
J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.
He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.
The "Dreams" series is James' first published work.