I’d like to welcome Ben Burgess Jr. author of Love and Happiness. Thank you Ben for sitting down for a 10Q.
What is your writing process?
I try to write something every day. If I don’t have my laptop or my notebooks with me, I use the voice memos on my phone to record my thoughts and ideas so I can write them down later. I map out everything in my head first then I write them out.
Sometimes when I have writer’s block, I write anyway, and I make corrections or adjustments as I go along. I dedicate an entire year to writing one novel so that I can focus all of my energy making that story the best it can be. When I go through writer’s block, sometimes I’ll read books that are entirely different from the topic I’m working on to get my brain working.
While other authors would suggest that you should just write and not edit until the novel is completed, for me to be happy with my work, I constantly add and subtract from my work while writing it. (I’m not saying everyone should do this, but it’s what works for me.)
Once I’ve completed my novel, I edit it at least three times myself, then it goes to my editor. After I go over several rounds with the editor, I send it off to my proofreaders. Once that is completed, I read my work one more time and send it off to be published.
Describe your journey as an author so far.
My literary journey so far has been a rollercoaster ride. When I wrote the manuscript for my first novel “Monster” many literary agents and book publishers told me my novel was “too dark” or that it was good, but not great. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt like I should give up on my dream of writing a novel. I had numerous strangers test read my manuscript, and all of them told me it was good and I should pursue publishing.
I released “Monster” as an independent publisher and I am happy to say that I’ve won six awards for that novel, five awards for my second novel, and one award so far for my current novel. I’ve been featured in a European Magazine (Jocks and Nerds) for “Monster” and my dream is to have my novels adapted to film.
I’ve gone through good times and bad times with my work, receiving mostly positive reviews with some negative ones here and there, but the one lesson I’ve learned with this journey is never to give up. Keep fighting!
How do you stay motivated?
My biggest inspiration/motivation is my daughter. As a parent, I want nothing but the best for my child. I look at her as an extension of myself. I didn’t have a great childhood. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, I was insecure about myself, I lived in poverty, and I missed out on opportunities due to a lack of funds.
While my childhood wasn’t the best, I had a great role model, my Mother. I watched my Mom struggle to pay bills, work two jobs, put herself through school all the way up to her doctorate, and moved us out of the dangerous neighborhood we lived in into a house in the suburbs. She did all of these tasks on her own.
My Mother did the best she could to push for me to have better opportunities than she did.
She drove me to want more out of myself and to become the best person I could be. That is exactly what I wish to do for my child. I want to instill in her that strong work ethic and will. I want her to realize that with hard work and dedication, she can do anything she puts her mind to. I want her to see how I juggle being an NYPD detective, personal trainer, Father, and author. I love her, and I want to be that positive role model she looks up to like my Mother was for me. Every achievement, every award, every acknowledgment I receive, I want her to understand that I put 100% into everything I do. I pray that it pushes her to be a great person.
What has been your biggest obstacle while writing and how have you overcome it?
It’s incredibly hard to write from a female perspective. While women might have some similarities, all women are different. To interview, listen to, and talk to so many women to get the perfect tone for my characters, was very hard. It was also fun, educational, and enjoyable. By listening and researching women, I feel I have a better understanding of how some women think, and approach life (Just to be clear, I am in no way shape or form claiming to be an expert on women’s thoughts LOL. I know for a fact there is no way to master that.)
Why did you write this book?
As an author, I am a huge people, watcher. I looked at my life, my friends, family, and strangers, and I felt like I haven’t seen many books that both men and women could relate to. I thought a book about relationships and marriage told from both perspectives would help all readers (both men and women) to learn from the characters mistakes and see themselves and life in a different way.
What do you hope readers would take away from this book?
I want readers to find most of the messages on their own, but here are two:
- We all have to appreciate what we do have instead of criticizing what we don’t
- Sometimes we go through hardships and bad times because there is something good coming to us after we’ve grown from those experiences.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I was initially working on Love and Happiness after I wrote “Monster” I wanted to make a great relationship book, but feared that readers would think I was a “one trick pony” since Ken (The main character from Monster) makes a cameo appearance. My co-workers loved “Monster” and asked me to write a story with a Lesbian protagonist. I knew very little about the LGBT community, but my co-workers took me to a Lesbian bar named “The Cubbyhole” and after speaking with the women there, I was inspired to work on “Wounded.”
I felt that working on that story would be a good way to diversify my work. I feel everything happens for a reason because I believe I fully came into my style working on that book. I also believe that I learned what was needed to make sure that Love and Happiness had it’s own voice and wasn’t just a spinoff of “Monster.” Since each book takes me a year to complete and I stopped working on Love and Happiness to work on Wounded, it’s safe to say it took me about a year and a half to complete Love and Happiness.
What’s next for you?
My next project is titled “Daddy’s Girl” Which will be a story of the trials and tribulations of a single father raising a bi-racial daughter on his own. The daughter character in this book will be “Lynn” from my first novel “Monster.” Here, you will see her origin, and learn more about her character. After that novel, I will begin working on another novel called “Black and White.”
Why did you write in the romance genre? A genre dominated by women?
I write in the romance genre because I find it interesting and fun to write in. It doesn’t matter to me that the genre is dominated by women. The teaching and nursing professions are dominated by women also, but there are still great male teachers and nurses. I didn’t even think of that when I decided to write in the genre. I only wanted to write stories that I felt most people would connect to.
Men and women have different ways of thinking; you wrote Karen from a woman’s POV, what kind of mind-space did you have to get into to do that?
The hardest part of writing my book was writing from the female perspective. Being a straight man and trying to write in the voice of a woman is extremely difficult and challenging, but with a lot of research through interviews and observations, I dedicated the time to trying to overcome that challenge. Honestly, a piece of me is in all the characters. At one point in my life, I was Karen. Some points I was Chris. There are times when I’m similar to Pops and Lindsey.
To write as a woman, I have to put myself in a mental place where I think with more emotion. I feel that helps me to write better in a woman’s POV where I feel to write as a man, I have to be in a prideful mental state.
Title: Love and Happiness by Ben Burgess Jr.
Genre: African-American romance
Karen has it all: a handsome husband, beautiful twin daughters, a lovely home and a great job. Karen also has a secret; she’s cheating on her husband, with not one man, but two.
On the outside her life seems perfect, but on the inside Karen feels neglected, bored and unappreciated. Yearning for affection and excitement, she falls into the arms of first Raheem and then Tyrell. Out of fear of losing her husband and breaking up her family, Karen ends the affairs but things don’t turn out how she planned. When Karen’s dirty secrets are revealed she must fight to keep her family together.
Chris is doing all he can to hold his marriage together. He loves Karen but she grows more distant every day. When she starts coming home later and later, he suspects she is being unfaithful. When Chris accidentally takes her cell phone what he finds changes their lives forever.
When tragedy strikes, Karen must decide if she should sacrifice her happiness for her husband’s love, and Chris wonders if he should stay with Karen because he still loves her despite her infidelity. But if they do stay together, will they ever find love and happiness again?
Sexy and relatable, insightful and inspiring, Love and Happiness shows us both sides of Chris and Karen’s story, and reminds us that sometimes to have it all, you must first lose it all.
Purchase Love and Happiness on Amazon
About Ben Burgess Jr.
Ben Burgess Jr is the author of the award winning novels Monster, Wounded, the poetry book Times Have Changed and Life is Strange and the new novel Love and Happiness.
He is an active performer of spoken word poetry. Ben Burgess Jr uses his love of writing to inspire and influence youths to strive for what they believe in, and to never give up on their dreams.
His poetry book Times Have Changed and Life is Strange and his novel Monster are currently used in schools on the lower east side of Manhattan. Ben Burgess has a BA degree in Business Management, and a MA degree in Educational Leadership. He is the proud father of his daughter Jaelynn and is active in trying to improve urban neighborhoods and communities.