Written by: Gary M. Kenny, CC2K Comics Editor
At first, everyone remembers Amber Benson as the lovable Tara Maclay, girlfriend to Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who was shockingly murdered. She acted on Buffy for three full years, never getting star credit until her final episode. Nowadays, Amber Benson is considered “a maker of things.” She’s a highly credited author : “Calliope Reaper-Jones urban fantasy series for Penguin and the middle grade book Among The Ghosts for Simon and Schuster.” Director: Drones and the BBC animated series The Ghosts of Albion. “Later this year she will appear as head vamp ‘Amelie’ in Morganville: The Series for Geek & Sundry” Today at NYCC’14 I got to speak to Amber about all these great works plus I got some information on her new book The Witches of Echo Park which debuts here and comes out nationwide January 2015.
CC2K: Hi Amber, thanks for taking some time with us today. Being an actor is tough work, now i don’t know from experience but one assumes.
Amber Benson: Ha ha ha, cute.
CC2K: Obviously everyone knows your work on Buffy, Supernatural, and now the upcoming web series Morganville (based off of the Morganville Vampire novels). I feel you’ve pushed what it means to be an entertainer. Especially with Ghosts of Albion, those novels spawned an animated web series and an RPG. You’ve written for comic books.You are a director, a producer, and a voice actor: Dark Shadows was amazing! You also narrated the John Scalzi book:Lock in.
Amber Benson: You basically having me relive my career.
CC2K: Well, the reason I brought up all these amazing accomplishments is because I’m wondering where did you find this drive?
Amber Benson: You know, I get bored really easily.
CC2K: Ha ha ha. I know the feeling.
Amber Benson: Growing up, I am literally about as close to being a hyperactive child as you can be without actually having to take drugs. My mom would put me in all this stuff: dancing and music, piano, and horseback riding; anything she could think of that would wear me out so I would go to bed at night. When I was doing ballet, they would do the Nutcracker Suite every year and this was back in Alabama of all places (where I grew up).
CC2K: So basically only ten people dancing on stage?
Amber Benson: There were a lot of people doing crazy art stuff; it (Alabama) was very cosmopolitan. So I did this Nutcracker Suite and I loved being on the stage but I did not like the dancing. I appreciate the dancing and I loved watching it, it’s just not something that I feel like I could ever do; be a ballerina. It’s so disciplined and you have to look a certain way and never eat. I loved being on stage and I loved hearing people clap.
CC2K: That’s it!
Amber Benson: I was hooked. My mom was like: you don’t like the dancing, well here’s this theatre program. I ended up going into theatre from that and I was just a little kid but I loved it. I think that’s where my love of art came from. I loved being somebody different, I loved being on stage, and I loved performing. Plus I wrote really bad poetry, I wrote short stories and plays. I loved films, I wanted to make films, and I was just interested in a lot things.
CC2K: Now it’s so easy. Back fifteen years ago it was hard to get involved or afford to do so. Now I can make a film on my cell phone. So I get it for kids nowadays but back then for you to just pushed off is impressive.
Amber Benson: I want to try it all. I want to do it all, I get bored with it, I need to be engaged. I think back when I was on Buffy (and I loved being on that show but) my character wasn’t in a lot of stuff. I would just be sitting in my trailer for long periods of time, so I am just going to write something. I would bring my computer and I would work. Then I would go and shoot stuff and then I would come back and work. I just tried to keep myself as occupied and entertained as possible. Now, as an artist you have to diversify. If you are like “I’m an actor” it’s really hard making a living just being an actor. You got to do fifteen things just to pay the bills at this point.
CC2K: Let’s talk about Morganville. You play Amelie an ice queen of a character. Oh and as a side note do you know what the name Amelie means? It means hard working and ambitious, so perfect casting on their part.
Amber Benson: Such a Capricorn Amelie and Amber, ambitious and down to earth. Getting stuff done.
CC2K: Are you having fun playing such a timid character?
Amber Benson: We had such a ball. We shot for a few weeks in Dallas in May. That’s why my hair is super blonde, you go to Dallas and they bleach your hair. She (Amelie) has such a Grace Kelly-esque vibe; very quaffed, think amazing power suits and very intimidating. I like to say she’s very large and in charge. She’s the head of a group of vampires in Texas and she’s not a bad guy but she’s tough and you don’t want to cross her. It was so much fun. I got to boss Robert Picardo around. Who is lovely, just the sweetest guy and so talented. However, he’s my minion.
CC2K: so you smacked him around.
Amber Benson: Yeah, I smacked him around a little bit.
CC2K: When is the premiere:
Amber Benson: It looks like the end of October or early November on Geek and Sundry and we’ll have a few episodes to air.
CC2K: I’m pumped, I’m a fan of the series. So we covered lots of vampires so far. Let’s talk witches. Tell me about your new book: The Witches of Echo Park.
Amber Benson: So basically it’s about this chick (Lyse MacAllister), who lives in Georgia and she’s created this life for herself. One day she gets this phone call from her great aunt and her great aunt tells her she’s dying and that she wants her to come back to California. She shows up but unbeknownst to her, her great aunt is a master to a coven of witches and she wants Lyse to join the coven. That’s the jumping off point for the book. There is an over arching storyline that will continue over the course of three books about a corporate entity called the Flood that is trying to get rid of the witches. It’s a lot of fun.
CC2K: Sounds like it. Is the book just about Lyse MacAllister adventures in witchcraft?
Amber Benson: The book is really about women’s relationships with each other. To me that is very important. I have so many wonderful lady friends and we don’t just sit and talk about dudes. As much as we love dudes, we talk about a lot of important things. They have my back and I have their back. This book is sort of a mash note to them. I wanted to write something with this type of message, which is important to me.
CC2K: That is amazing. It’s important and it’s great to hear about a book with such a positive message. I’m excited to check it out in 2015. Are you doing a book tour?
CC2K: What is the writing process like for you? Are you someone who writes everyday in the morning? Or are you someone who needs to be in a cabin somewhere completely isolated? What’s the important factor for you?
Amber Benson: What’s important is: finding a story that moves me, if I’m not engaged and having a fun time writing then why would somebody want to read something I didn’t enjoy. I want them to have a much fun reading the story as I did writing it. I first like to sit down and do a vomit draft. Where you get everything out. You don’t critique it; you don’t judge it and you don’t rewrite it. You just get it on the page. After that then you go back for another pass and critique and change.
CC2K: Do you find that sometimes a good character will write itself?
Amber Benson: Some of my characters are really bossy. They take over saying “I’m not doing that. Why would I do that? You are going to have to rewrite that! I don’t think I would ever do that.” They are real people in my head. I just wait for something to inspire me.
CC2K: It’s always interesting hearing the writing process of an artist and how there are never two alike.
Amber Benson: People learn differently, people engage differently, I don’t think anybody does something the same way. We are all so unique. The things that move me aren’t going to move everyone else. I have a group of writers that I work with and we call ourselves “The Shamers.” We shame each other into doing work and getting off twitter. We meet at coffee places and we are all working on different things but doing it together. It’s a lot of fun and an exciting way to be creative. Sometimes we go to Ikea and sit upstairs at the restaurant and do our work and eat meatballs.
CC2K: Will you please convince them to make an audio version?
Amber Benson: We will be doing an audio book and I’ll be recording it myself!
CC2K: Amber you are the best. Thank you for taking some time with us today. Plus great font for the book.
Amber Benson: I know right, everyone says that.
You can preorder: The Witches of Echo Park now using the links below:
and you can follow her on twitter at @amber_benson.
Gary is a husband, father, fireman, comic reader, gamer, body builder, and rocker. He also is a co-owner of a bakery in upstate NY. He likes to tell everyone his favorite band is the Beatles, when his actual favorite band is the Alkaline Trio.