Today we interview J.J. (James) DiBenedetto, author of the Dream series of paranormal romance novels. What would you do if you could see other people’s dreams? If you could watch their hidden fantasies and uncover their deepest, darkest secrets…without them ever knowing?
Sara Barnes is about to find out. She thought that all she had to worry about was final exams, Christmas shopping and deciding whether she likes the cute freshman in the next dorm who’s got a crush on her.
But when she starts seeing dreams that aren’t hers, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about her friends, her classmates…and a strange, terrifying man whose dreams could get Sara killed.
And so begins the blurb for Dream Student, book one in the Dream series.
PYN: Tell us about your latest book!
JJ: My latest book is “Waking Dream”. It’s the 5th book in the Dream Series. The series follows Sara, a young woman who can see other people’s dreams. Over the first four books, Sara’s grown from a college student to a practicing doctor; from a single girl to a married woman and mother; and she’s faced killers, mobsters, corrupt politicians and more thanks to her dreaming talent.
In this new book, she’s got a new challenge – someone else who can dream like she can…but who’s using her talent for her own selfish ends, and leaving ruined lives in her wake. Now, Sara’s got her very own nemesis…
What prompted you to write this book or series?
I started with the idea of seeing other people’s dreams, and the character of Sara grew out of that. And with that, the thought that here was a good reason why the heroine doesn’t go to the police or other authorities when she’s a witness to a terrible crime. Because the only proof is in her dreams, and there’s no way anyone else would believe her.
From there, I got the first book, “Dream Student”. I realized there was a lot more story to tell, and so far it’s turned into five books with at least two more to go.
Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?
These books are a mix, I’d say. They’re more character driven, if I had to choose – I try to keep Sara and how the events of the story affect her at the center at all times.
What makes your book unique?
The blending of the paranormal and genre elements (romance, mystery) with everyday life and the struggles we all face. I’ve made an effort to balance those things in the books – yes, there’s a mystery to be solved, but Sara also has a job and a family and bills to pay, and I make sure that the reader doesn’t lose track of that. I think it’s really important, and it gives the books a grounding that makes them very accessible to readers.
What genre does your book fall into – paranormal mystery, paranormal erotica, para-romance, urban fantasy, YA?
That’s a tough question. These books cross several genre boundaries: paranormal, romance, suspense, mystery. If I had to pick one, I’d say paranormal romance.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
I have the general idea for the book, but the detailed plotting usually only emerges as the story goes on. I didn’t really have the ending for the first two books nailed down until I was ¾ of the way through them.
How did you develop the names for your characters?
They’ve generally just “come to me”. Sara was always Sara, and Brian was always Brian. I haven’t really had any trouble thinking up names for my characters and I’ve only had to change a couple because they ended up not feeling right as the story went on.
Yes, but very much PG-rated. Even though the books are written in the first person, from Sara’s perspective, she’s pretty coy about her sex life. The most explicit scene (and it isn’t that explicit, although I will say that it’s still pretty hot) takes place in the fourth book, and it’s very much “earned” by that point in the story.
How did you decide on the setting?
The first book is set where/when I went to college, so that was a no-brainer. The rest of the series just followed the lives of the characters, and where I’d put their families when they were first introduced.
Can you tell us one fun/interesting paranormal fact you learned in your book research?
I’ve learned quite a bit about dreams, especially “lucid dreaming” – the ability to control your own dreams.
Why did you decide to write paranormal?
It wasn’t a conscious decision – that’s just the story that came to me. I didn’t set out to write paranormal, or romance for that matter. It just worked out that way!
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
Whenever I can fit the time in – morning before work, lunch hour, when my wife’s gone to sleep – any free moments. As for a favorite place – I’m always thinking about the books, but I do all the actual writing in the bedroom at the computer.
What’s the first paranormal you read?
Anne Rice, “Interview with the Vampire”
Continuing the Dream Series – I’m working on book #6 right now. I’ve also got a non-paranormal adventure story (think “Romancing the Stone”, if I can pull it off).
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for hosting me!
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.
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