Monday, January 7, 2013

Queen of Afternoon Tea Celebrity Author Interview with Ben Woodard

Celebrity Author Ben Woodard
Queen of Afternoon Tea Author Nancy Jill Thames

Welcome! Let me pour you a nice glass of iced tea since it’s your preference. I’ve concocted your special recipe of Black English, green, and Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger Teas according to your recipe. Would you care for some sugar? I take three teaspoons in mine. Please help yourself to some sliders – I know your favorite is a good ole hamburger, so I’ve done my version for our tea today. I made your recipe for shortbread for dessert. Readers can find the recipes at the end of our interview. Shall we begin?

Where do you live? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in Lexington, Kentucky with my wife Lynda. Our children are somewhat nearby and we have six grandkids that invade from time to time. We have a special basement room for the kids, but I’m sure the room is bipolar. When the boys come, it is a playroom with trucks and trains and planes. It morphs into a sedate tearoom when the girls come. And me? I can be a truck driver or tea sipper.

Are you a traditionally published or Indie author?

Indie, at the moment. I still send queries to agents and editors and would like to be traditionally published. However, I wouldn’t want to give up self-publishing. Fortunately, in today’s book world, writers can do both.

What are your hobbies? 

Right now, I have no hobby. I’m only writing and trying to sell books, but come summer I’ll take a break from writing and take to the outdoors. I love hiking, backpacking, bicycling, and just walking in my one hundred year old neighborhood with my wife.

Tell us about your current book. What was your inspiration?

$2.99 on
I grew up almost living in the local library. Reading was my escape and the library was my portal. I loved boys’ adventure stories and have been amazed at the reports that say boys don't read. So I decided to write the kind of stories I remembered. The result is “A Stairway to Danger.” The book sprang from stories that family members told me about growing up in a small town in Kentucky. Tales of lost gold and river caves, and fun. And of friendship that endures through adversity and danger. Boys don’t get a chance to read many stories like this anymore.

How did you become a writer? When did you start?

I became a writer thanks to my wife. She is a former bookstore owner and when she heard me make up stories for the grandkids, she asked me to write them down. This was about six years ago and I’ve written over twenty short stories since, and I’m constantly adding to them. I also joined a group called Spellbinders whose members tell stories in the local schools.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

I wrote a short novel that took me almost a year. I rewrote it almost fifteen times. What a struggle, but I had no idea of what I was doing. But I did finish it and self-published it. I felt like I had won the Pulitzer Prize.
My next was a full novel that I wrote during NaNoWriMo and I was amazed that I could complete a book in thirty days. I haven’t tried to publish this one yet, but I’m planning for it to be the last book of my series. 

Where do you like to write? 

I can write anywhere, but my favorite place is in the woods. Either at a park near my home or at a state park. I often escape for a couple of days, especially this time of year, and go to a state park and do nothing but write and walk. Since I dictate much of my writings, I walk into the forest and talk to myself. Thanks to cell phones, I don’t appear completely crazy any more.

Favorite author(s)?

From the classics, I like Mark Twain and Arthur C. Clark. Both can take you to new places and you will be convinced that you are there. I remember floating down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim, and glimpsing the first kangaroo-like creatures on “The Sands of Mars.”

As a boy, I loved the Rick Brant series written by John Blaine aka Harold Goodwin. They were true boy’s adventure books. The two young protagonists drove cars, flew planes and traveled around the world while they worked with scientists and fought the bad guys. I have almost the entire collection of books and I can still enjoy them.

For more contemporary writers, I have to mention Martha Bennett Stiles. Her writing is literary without being boring and I’m constantly astounded by her incredible use of language. She writes in many genres including those for children and adults. My favorite picture book is “Martha’s Island Magic.” She has a new middle grade book “Sailing to Freedom” written from two points of view.

My favorite children’s book author is Marcia Thornton Jones. Marcia has written 131 books. I think her middle grade book “Ratfink” is as good as many of the Newbery Books, and I’ve read all the Newberys of the last ten years. The book’s first line is one of the best ever. And the story teaches without being preachy. I recently bought two of her Bailey School Kids books for my grandsons for Christmas. They are chapter books, but I had to read them before giving them away.

On The Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is my favorite YA. She’s an Australian novelist and I sent her an email praising her book. I’m not completely sure why the book grabbed me. It’s not the type of story I would normally be drawn to, but I couldn’t put it down. I guess that’s the hallmark of good writing.

How many books have you written, so far? Do you plan to write more?

I have completed and self-published three short stories, one short illustrated book and one YA/Teen, my latest. I have rough drafts done of six more full-length novels. And tons of ideas. I will write more.

Would you like to share a link where we can purchase your books?

Sure, here is my Amazon page:
What about a link to your website?

Ben’s Hamburger Recipe

My favorite sandwich is the good ole hamburger. Made with lean beef, a thin whole-wheat bun, fresh tomato, pickle, stone ground mustard and mayo. Cooked rare.

Ben’s Recipe for Scottish Short Bread

I spent two years in the US Navy stationed in Scotland. This recipe was given to me by my Scottish landlady. While the recipe is simple, there are a few tricks.

3/4 cup of unsalted butter (use real butter, the best you can find)
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups of flour - not self-rising
dash of salt

Cream butter and sugar, work in the flour cutting in and blending with your hands (important) Spread onto a flat pan with the dough 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Baking is the key. Too short of a time and the shortbread is doughy. Too long and it’s too dry. You have to experiment. Thinner cookie-like rounds can be made, but need to cook less. Only until they start to brown. Enjoy!

Notes on tea photo

The tray is a Shaker design from Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. The tankard is from England, and, yes, I drink tea out of a tankard.
The arrangement is by my wife Lynda


I hope I don’t stop the hearts of the tea purists out there, but my favorite tea is a mixture that I usually drink iced. It has black English tea steeped four minutes, green tea steeped two minutes and Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger steeped six minutes. Good cold or hot.

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