Bond is back with Benson's The Union Trilogy

union-trilogy.jpgContributing editor Karen Harper recently discussed his new James Bond thriller anthology The Union Trilogy with bestselling author Raymond Benson.

How did your background in theatre affect your style in these Bond books?
I would say my theatre background informed all of my creative endeavors. I had a great directing professor at the University of Texas at Austin (Francis Hodge) who taught me how to analyze stories, characters, dramatic action, and mood/tempo--all things that can be applied not just to directing plays or films, but to writing novels or scripts.  Basically, through directing plays, I learned how to tell a story--and learned what is important in a story that needs telling well.
What advice do you have for other authors writing vivid action scenes? 
I always say to "write in slow motion." Divide your fight or chase or whatever it is into individual seconds of action.  Then describe in detail those seconds. If something happens in real time in, say, a minute, then in manuscript form it lasts ten or fifteen. Stretch it out and make it visceral--you need to feel what the characters are feeling: fear, hope, exhilaration, whatever. What kind of noises do they hear? What do they see? What do they smell or taste? All these senses are important in writing action scenes.
You certainly have the perfect bio background to write James Bond novels.  What drew you to these books and this iconic character in the beginning?
I was a child of the 50s and 60s; thus, when the Bond films hit in the early 60s, I was right there to experience them on the big screen. You must remember that the Bond films were the "Star Wars" of the 60s--they were the blockbusters that everyone stood in line to see--and there was nothing like it until the studios and television began to imitate Bond with the zillion other "secret agent" titles. The 60s had a big "spy-boom" in entertainment...but Bond led the way.  I guess you can say I was just a fan who found a way to turn his love of the character into a career.

benson-raymond1.jpgTell us about The Union Trilogy.
The three books in the anthology were originally published in 1999, 2000, and 2001, respectively. Because 2008 is the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth, his estate is doing all kinds of things to celebrate--a new Bond novel by Sebastian Faulks, more young adult Bond novels by Charlie Higson, "Miss Moneypenny" novels by Samantha Weinberg, and--nice for me--a publication of these out-of-print books, plus a short story that originally appeared in Playboy Magazine in 1997 in a shortened form. The anthology will contain the full-length "director's cut" of the short story, plus a new Introduction that I've done.  
Since the novels in this anthology deal with The Union, what can you tell us about those bad guys?  Were they inspired by any real organization?
I conceived them as a blue-collar version of SPECTRE.  SPECTRE was the criminal organization that Fleming created for 007 in his later books, but they worked like a corporation. The Union is similar, but they don't have any qualms about doing low-rent jobs. I guess they work more like a mafia, with "cells" all over the world.  
How does it feel to be part of the James Bond legacy?
I'm still pinching myself. Over the years the Fleming Estate has hired several different authors to pen Bond novels--I'm gracious and humbled to be included in this group of talented men. One thing distinguishes me from the others--I'm the only American! Since 2002, though, I have left Bond behind and am doing my own original novels and other tie-in work. Earlier this year, the first in a series of "rock 'n' roll thrillers," A Hard Day's Death, was published along with my novelization of the popular Konami videogame, Metal Gear Solid.
Do you prefer stirred or shaken?
A:  Shaken of course, but I'm really not a martini fan. I prefer red wine, beer, tequila, and Irish whiskey!

harper-karen-small.jpgNew York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Karen Harper has been published for 25 years. She is the winner of the 2006 Mary Higgins Clark Award. A former college and high school English instructor, Harper currently writes contemporary suspense for Mira Books and historical novels for Putnam. She and her husband divide their time between Columbus, Ohio and Naples, Florida.

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