Benji Bennett with two of his children, Robbie and Molly, then 4 and 2, at a book event in 2011.
SASKO LAZAROV/PHOTOCALL IRELAND
Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
“These days I don’t bother with the letters BA, MBS, BSc after my name as they seem irrelevant now but I did have very different life before I started writing books,” Benji Bennett has told the Irish Echo. “Holding a senior management role in Mobile Telecoms provider Vodafone I suppose I gained the business acumen and experience to set up and run an independent publishing business.”
Those who read Bennett’s essay in the St. Patrick’s Day issue of the Irish Echo, as will many others, know his before-and-after story well.
He recalled in that piece raising a glass and toasting with his wife Jackie their good fortune and happiness in the summer of 2007.
“Three days later my world was destroyed,” Bennett wrote. “Three days later the pain was so intense I wanted to die. Three days later my beautiful, energetic, happy, giggly little Adam was gone, taken suddenly by an undiagnosed brain tumor.”
He wrote: “At the very moment when Adam’s heart took its last beat, I kissed him a kiss that, I knew, had to last an eternity.”
Bennett later dedicated his life to writing and producing books to be read to children. “The simple idea that a child would be told they are loved by a parent every night in Adam’s memory helped me come to terms with why he had to go,” he said.
Date of birth:
Aug. 13, 1970
Place of birth:
Children: Harry 17, Robbie 11 and Molly 9 (Adam will always be 4)
Irish Book Award Winners: “Before You Sleep” & “When You Were Born.”
Irish Book Award Nominations: “Adam’s Pirate Treasure,” “Adam’s World Of Wonders” & “Adam’s Greatest Inventions.”
Others: “Adam’s Amazing Space Adventure,” “Adam Saves Christmas, “Adam And The Magic Rainbow,” & “Adam Saves The Seasons.”
What is your latest book about?
My 9th book “Adam Saves the Seasons” is an epic and perilous adventure where the season can’t change from Winter into Spring and the world is in danger. Adam and his friends travel to the enchanted world of Mother Nature and are set on a quest to find the Winter fairy, retrieve her magical crown and return it safely so Mother Nature can change the seasons.
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
As I run the business I don’t get to write as much as I would like. My routine is very seasonal. The beginning of the year is when I write. The pressure of the Christmas selling season is behind me it is the only time of the year where things are a little quiet so it is great to have the chance to get creative.
Usually I will have a general theme in my mind of what the adventure will be about and then the hardest part begins. The first sentence!!!! How will this adventure start? How do I set the scene? How do I portray what Adam is thinking? As they are children’s picture books I am extremely restricted on my word count and because they rhyme this adds a layer of complexity to my problems. To help me on my way I have to think of how I can make the illustrations tell the story as well as the words. This, I think, is one of my greatest creative advantages. As Director of the publishing business I have full control of how the illustrations will look and what they portray. So, when they come together with the words the illustrations work just as hard to tell the story and add atmosphere context and mood setting in each scene
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I often ask kids what is the most important thing about writing. The answers come back and include things like plot, grammar, character development, relationships between characters and of course spelling. But as I can’t spell without spellcheck my answer to this question is simply, “START”. If you don’t start to write a book you will never write one. Most authors I meet will always say the more I write the more creative I get. Oh Yeah! One other thing! I don’t think someone should write because they want to become a famous author as luck has a big part to play. Aspiring authors should write because they have something to say or have a passion about something or someone.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
To my disappointment reading for pleasure is difficult. Running the business, travel commitments and raising a gang of kids means I can just about get through a page of a book before I nod off which means it could take weeks just to read one book. But besides the business books I read here are 3 books I have read over my life that have an ongoing hold over me.
Firstly, “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkien. A magical adventurous read that has left me with a lens to allow me see magic and wonder everywhere I look.
“Losing my Virginity” by Richard Branson. This book has strongly influenced me to go it alone in the publishing industry. If Richard Branson can catch his big break with Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells,” I can make it with Adam’s message of “Love, Hugs and Kisses.”
Finally, my 3rd book has to be the one that gave me precious memories of reading to Adam. The wonderful Dr. Seuss was his favorite and I remember the giggles we shared at the craziness of his genius. It is no wonder I write in rhyme as for me it’s the only format that delivers a beautiful bonding reading experience to share with your children.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
“The Hobbit,” 100 percent. I do have an urge to make the transition form picture book adventures to novels for older kids. I don’t know when that will happen but hopefully it will be soon. Watch out Bilbo Baggins & Harry Potter, Adam’s coming and he’s gonna to take over.
What book changed your life?
The immediate answer to this question is “Before You Sleep”. It is a book that helped me through the most difficult challenge of my life and has helped me make sense of why Adam had to leave us. It’s success and how it has touched the hearts of so many gave me the confidence to give up my job at Vodafone and dedicate my life to bring families closer together through bedtime reading. Not only has it changed my life but I know it is changing the lives of so many children who share this book with mum and dad as they are told they are loved every night before they go to sleep.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
We have a very special place in a holiday park by the beach in Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow, in Ireland. It is here at this magical place that Adam spent his summers running around as free as a fairy swimming, laughing, kicking a ball and building sand castles. Thankfully we still spend our summers there and it is now become my spiritual home. Adam’s Bench over looking the soft sand of Brittas Bay beach is my special place of peace, tranquility and reflection. It is also lovely to know that parents and their children will think of Adam every time they sit on his magical bench and take in the view. I’m always taking photos of it so you will probably spot some of them on Facebok/adamscloud.
You’re Irish if…
You can tell a joke, laugh at yourself and be happy for other people’s good fortune.