Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Benjamin Davis. I write a column “Conversations with Russians” for Russia Beyond. I am the Managing Editor of the magazine Sexography: an inclusive place for people to talk about and explore sexuality from all orientations, cultures, and perspectives. I am the author of The King of FU (Nada Blank, 2018) – An illustrated coming-of-age tumble down a rabbit hole of demented 90s nostalgia. Born with horns and covered in fur, our protagonist–after escaping the clutches of the umbilical cord–makes his way from childhood, through the bowels of adolescence, and into so-called “adulthood.”
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
The King of FU is a “poetic magical realism memoir” meaning that all of what happens in the book is based is based on my own experience. Many years ago, I decided I wanted to explore my childhood more; there were many things I couldn’t remember. I wondered if there was something sinister; a touchy-gym teacher, a murder witnessed, a conspiracy of some sort covered in a traumatic event.
Turns out I was just a weirdo.
Every time I remembered something; I would write it how I remembered. For example:
We lived smack dab
between a lake
and the town’s sport fields
(Sports are things people do
because they can’t kill each other
I would walk our prisoners
over to the field
to watch the things called Hot-girls
watch the things called boys
play a dumb thing called baseball
(A sport with a ball
that doesn’t bounce
and a club)
This was before I learned to masturbate
The book is illustrated by the artist Nikita Klimov. We met and worked together on a project called Flash-365 where I wrote a story and Nikita drew a picture every day from 2016-201. This is when Nada Blank contacted us asking to publish a collection of our work. We were not prepared to publish those stories yet, so we submitted The King of FU and the rest is the rest.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I am inspired by folklore and fairy tales. Much of my writing incorporates aspects of different characters from the folklore of different countries I travel to. Also, day-to-day interactions influence me greatly. I am an obsessive note taker and so when anything happens or anyone says something that triggers a mental-tangent, I write it down for later and when I sit down to create, I go to my notes first for recycled inspiration.
How do you deal with creative block?
I don’t really get it. Aside from my obsessive note taking (I could probably write for the next 10 years without coming up with a new idea), I am also a columnist, copywriter, teacher, contributor to multiple magazines and freelance journalist. I also read constantly and draw cartoons to keep things going in my free time. Basically, I just never give my creativity long enough to stop and think too much about itself; it just fell down a hill one day and hasn’t stopped rolling.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I think this is quite subjective. My personal philosophy is to never be boring for the sake of intellectually jerking yourself off, or just to write something beautiful.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Titles are my Achilles heel. But, when it comes to covers, I would highly recommend looking for an artist. There are many (many) talented people on the internet these days who are eager to collaborate. Going with some nonsense book cover generator is a waste of the world’s available talent.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I haven’t had any bad reviews yet. With feedback, it depends on the tone. If someone is giving me constructive negative feedback, I value it highly. If someone is just being a dick, or simply didn’t like my work. Oh well. Can’t please everyone.
How has your creation process improved over time?
The more I read, the more I write, the better I get. There are no discernible benchmarks. Somedays I wake up, write something, and think, well shit, I’ve gotten just a bit better. This can happen one week, then the next, then not again for three years.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
Since my book involved a lot of art, the process took a lot longer than I expected. Writing a book is a process, but it is only half the battle. Thankfully, the publisher handled everything, but being quite small organization, the artist and I were heavily involved and there were reprints and revisions, and it came out a year later than I’d expected. Which in retrospect makes sense. At the time, I was frustrated because I didn’t understand how much went into it.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Happy readers is where I find satisfaction. Just writing for my own kicks and then expecting people to enjoy it because it gives me satisfaction would feel like filming myself masturbating and then forcing everyone to watch. That’s fucked up.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
Most, if not all, of my creativity is driven by some element of emotion, but not too much, otherwise nothing I write would ever end.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Take notes. Read books. Talk to your cat.
What are your plans for future books?
I am working on two books right now. A book of magical realism short stories based in St. Petersburg, Russia and a novel.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I am way too comfortable talking about my pooping habits with strangers.
I am an obsessive amazon Alexa user.
I am a wildly over confident gin rummy player.