Larry Benjamin was born in the Bronx, graduated from Adlai Stevenson High School and earned a degree in art history at the University of Pennsylvania, before becoming an award-winning author and blogger behind This Writer’s Life.
His allegorical novella, Vampire Rising, was released July 19. 2015. His semi-autobiographical novel, Unbroken, is both a 2014 Lambda Literary finalist, and a 2014 IPPY (Independent Publishers Book Award) Gold medalist. Damaged Angels, is a 2013 Rainbow Award Runner-Up. His debut novel, What Binds Us, was released by Carina Press in March 2012.
Vampire Rising is an allegorical tale telling the story of Gatsby Calloway, a vampire living in a world where his kind are feared and subjected to state-sanction violence and discrimination.
The Bronx Chronicle interviewed Larry Benjamin shortly after the release of the promotional Vampire Rising video trailer.
The Bronx Chronicle: What inspired you to write Vampire Rising?
Larry Benjamin: The genesis for Vampire Rising was the national debate over marriage equality. Arguing against it seemed, to me, ignorant and mean spirited. I thought the opposition to marriage equality would be something future generations would look back at in puzzlement. Kind of like how most people look back at the laws prohibiting interracial marriage. When someone argued against marriage equality, I said, simply, “In your opposing argument, replace the word “gay” with “black,” or “women,” “or “Jew.” That’s when it occurred to me that history repeats itself even as times change and that as a result there would always be some group looked down upon, trod on, robbed of their voice and their rights. I think one of the most poignant sections in the book is when Gatsby attempts to explain his Vampire experience, “I have been called unnatural, an abomination, a monster like Frankenstein’s—a monster so grotesque he could not be named, neither by the doctor who made him, nor by the writer who created them both!”
TBC: Are there historical roots to the discrimination and hostility you describe?
Benjamin: And I looked back and realized that throughout history religion was at the root of a lot of this hostility and discrimination and yes, hatred. As literature, I find the bible fascinating so I wanted to include biblical references within the story.
TBC: I’m familiar with movie previews but are video trailers for books or ebooks commonplace?
Benjamin: Video trailers for books aren’t common but neither are they uncommon. However, when I decided to put one together, I looked at what was out there and decided I wanted to do something different—in much the same way I attempted to reinvent the Vampire in Vampire Rising. I was lucky enough to meet Carolyn and Steve Fillmore of Middle Child Productions who totally understood my vision. And Carolyn, who read the book, brought her own interpretation into the project. That the three of us were all middle children seemed to give us a common ground.
With Vampire Rising, Benjamin took on the role of video producer.
TBC: Which was more difficult, writing the novella or producing the trailer?
Benjamin: The creative process was not unlike that of writing a book except the story was already told. I created a story board depicting key scenes in the book—I didn’t want to simply rehash the book’s blurb as book trailers tend to do; I wanted to tell the story, briefly and visually. The hardest part was finding the photos and capturing the feel of the book. Because the book plays with your sense of reality, I wanted the video to blur the lines between the fantastic and the ordinary, between the real and the imagined, as well, so we opted to create the video in black and white and gave it the feel of a documentary.
A reviewer at Prism Book Alliance recently wrote of Vampire Rising, “Larry Benjamin’s writing gives me a lot to chew on, particularly by way of his economical descriptions that manage to say so much. Right away, I was brought into this story.”
During early adolescence, Benjamin became enamored of the work of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and the influence of Fitzgerald may be found in his stories and in the names of his characters. On his author’s page, he quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald,
“An author ought to write for the youth of his generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.”
While Larry Benjamin may call himself a “Bronx-born wordsmith,” he is much more than that. He is a collector of first editions, a connoisseur of fine wines and food, and a community activist in his leafy East Falls neighborhood in Philadelphia.
Note: Larry Benjamin is the younger brother of our managing editor, Michael Benjamin.