welcomes as our guest, New York Times Best-Selling Author Raymond Benson. Raymond is the author of 31 published titles, including the first four entries in the Black Stiletto series: The Black Stiletto, The Black Stiletto: Black & White, The Black Stiletto: Stars & Stripes, and The Black Stiletto: Secrets & Lies.

Raymond is most well-known for being the official James Bond 007 continuation author as he was the third-and first American-continuation author of the official James Bond novels between 1996 and 2002. 

In total Raymond penned and published worldwide six original 007 novels, three film novelizations, and three short stories. An anthology of his 007 work, The Union Trilogy, and a second anthology, Choice of Weapons, followed. His book The James Bond Bedside Companion was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award by Mystery Writers of America. Raymond has published several other best sellers and award-winning books as well as authored the novelization of a number of popular video games. Raymond lives in the Chicago area.

Norm: Good day Raymond and thanks for participating in our interview. 

How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?

Raymond:  I literally (no pun intended) fell into writing.  I was working as a stage director and music composer in the off- and off-off-Broadway scene in New York, when I decided there was no money doing that, so I became a writer (cue the cymbal crash). 

Norm: What has been the best part about being published?

Raymond:  I’ve been published since 1984, so for me personally it’s not such a novel thing (there’s that cymbal crash again), but I certainly don’t take it for granted.  It’s a privilege and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to sustain something of a career for 30+ years. 

Norm: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

Raymond:  Every new book is a challenge.  It’s never easy.  The real “challenge” is usually out of your control, and that is to tap into what readers want to buy, and really, you can’t predict that.  You have to just do the best you can, write what you heart tells you to write, and hope that the public will respond. 

Norm: How long does it take you to write a typical novel, including research, writing and editing time? 

Raymond:  I *average* two books a year.  Six months is about what it takes for a novel, although there have been some that were shorter and many that were longer!

Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing and do you have a specific writing style? 

Raymond:  I can’t pinpoint anything in my environment/upbringing that colors my writing other than what I read.  When young people ask me what is the most important thing to do to become a writer, I tell them to read a lot.  I suppose what I read as a child (Ian Fleming!) influenced me, and what I continue to read as an adult informs what I do.  That said, I think my style is a succinct non-flowery commercial fiction.

Norm: Is your work improvisational or do you have a set plan? 

Raymond:  I am a firm believer in outlines.  I’ve always outlined and always will.

Norm: What is your secret in keeping the intensity of the plot throughout the narratives of your novels? 

Raymond:  It’s an instinctual thing, really.  I studied theatre in school and college, and that inherently teaches you how *story* is structured.  You learn all the aspects of drama.  Add to that all the books I read, the films I see and study, and the plays I see and read—and you begin to have a feel for how a story unfolds, or rather, how it *should* unfold. 

Norm: Why were you drawn to being a continuation author of the James Bond 007 series? As a follow up, where did you get your information or ideas for the James Bond series and The Black Stiletto series? 

Raymond:  I was asked by the Ian Fleming Estate to write the Bond novels, probably based on my first published book, The James Bond Bedside Companion (1984), which was a non-fiction tome on the history of Bond with analyses of the existing novels and films.  I had a good feel for what the Bond universe was, so that helped.  Skip ahead nearly ten years after my stint as Bond author, and I started writing The Black Stiletto. With that, I wanted to create something that women would like.  I also drew on personal experience regarding Alzheimer’s (my mother-in-law had it) as well as my love of New York City and its history.  Many of my non-Bond novels up to the time I wrote the first Black Stiletto featured female protagonists.  I like writing female protagonists.  I think I’m pretty good at it, and I don’t know why, really.  Perhaps I’m channeling my inner Ingmar Bergman.  Or maybe I used up all my testosterone writing James Bond and now I’m relying on estrogen.  I can’t explain it.  I just find it comfortable these days to create stories about women.

Norm: What was your most favorite James Bond novel and why? 

Raymond:  Are you talking Ian Fleming?  That would be From Russia, With Love (1957).  It was a ground breaker for Fleming, very complex, and very unusual in its structure.  Bond doesn’t even enter the story until chapter 11.  It’s a brilliant piece of work.  It’s also my favorite Bond movie.

Norm: Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be? 

Raymond:  Of course!  We owe *everything* to readers!  Without readers, we would have no purpose in life.  And I do take comments by readers to heart. 

Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share? 

Raymond:  I would say—don’t think that!  Just write what you want, what you believe in, and do the best you can.  If you start second-guessing yourself, you’ll fall into a big fat puddle of muddle.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work? 

Raymond:  My WEBSITE is a good start..  The Black Stiletto has her own website, too, and it’s full of all kinds of fun stuff like videos, a free downloadable short story, a Black Stiletto song, and more.  Also note that The Black Stiletto is being developed as a television series!

Norm: What is next for Raymond Benson? 

Raymond:  I’m currently in the middle of my first science fiction novel, although it’s probably more science fantasy. 

Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer. 

Raymond:  I don’t know, maybe a question about my other activities as a musician and a film historian?  I am a working musician and have weekly gigs in the Chicago area.  I teach Film History at the College of DuPage, write Blu-ray reviews and articles for Cinemaretro , and perform a monthly live program with Chicago’s Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire, called “Dann & Raymond’s Movie Club,” in which we pick a topic, show clips, and talk to an audience.  We’re in our 9th season!

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your endeavors 

Raymond:  Thank you Norm!

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