Interview with American Writer, Julia Benally

Photo: Julia Benally

Photo: Julia Benally

Biography:

It was a dark and stormy night when Julia was born to the Bear Clan in the IHS. Her head was showing when the mad doctor forced her mother to walk to the birthing chair. When she was five, she was subjected to that oven in the Arizona Valley called Mesa. Luckily, she returned home to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation before her hair burned permanently into a frizz ball. From the wild halls of Alchesay High School she went up to Brigham Young University in Utah and graduated with a B.A. in history. One day she’s going to have a huge house with a gigantic library full of beautiful books. Aside from writing, she enjoys swinging her nunchucks, and hopes never to knock herself silly. She loves to read, but is extremely picky about it, and she loves being in the forest. So far, Julia has been published in Snapping Twig Magazine, Sanitarium Magazine and A Shadow of Autumn Halloween Anthology.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you remember what your first published story was?

Julia Benally: My first published story was ‘The Bridges’ which came out in the Sanitarium Magazine issue five. It’s about a white man teaching on the Fort Apache Reservation. He’s real disgusted with the superstitions until weird things start happening to him and finally culminates into a horrific encounter between two bridges where you’re not supposed to be after midnight.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific theme you often write on?

Julia Benally: Personally, I don’t think I have specific themes. I just write about what I have seen and know about. Often my stories do have Native American/white relations, but these are more of a backdrop than a central theme, at least for me, since I live with it every day. The bulk of my stories are about Apaches, but whatever political mess or any kind of mess going on is strictly in the back drop, or don’t even surface. I just focus on them as people dealing with their situations like everybody else does.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell me about the book, “A Shadow of Autumn”?

Julia Benally: It’s a collection of fall and Halloween stories from fourteen talented authors. When Gwendolyn sent us an unfinished version for us to look over before publication, I peeked at “The Halloween Girl of Coldsprings” by J. Tonzelli and “The Balfour Witch” by Tawny Kipphorn. I love them! They are well written and captivating. Since then I’ve read more and I’m still loving it. My story “The Hairy Man” is about a Bigfoot encounter on my reservation.

Geosi Gyasi: What is the best time to write?

Julia Benally: I have the most time at night, but the best time is right after I run around in the forest because then my muse feels refreshed and I often get my best ideas in the woods.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your main interests as a writer?

Julia Benally: I once thought that I would like to shock people, but what I’ve discovered is that I find the most joy when a person who hates to read finds that they actually enjoy it when they read my stuff.

Geosi Gyasi: How would you describe your voice as a writer?

Julia Benally: My voice can get pretty sarcastic, but I’d like to say my voice is also lighthearted and a little mischievous at times. It’s also pretty blunt.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you know who reads your stories?

Julia Benally: I have no clue outside my family circle. There are people who have sampled some of my stuff because I handed it to them, but do they continue to read more? I don’t know. I only know Gwendolyn Kiste liked my last story “Megan’s House” enough to ask me to be in the Shadow of Autumn Anthology. She said she loved my story “The Hairy Man.” She was the first non-family member I heard from that said anything like that. So I just sit here and wonder if anything is happening at all with anybody else.

Geosi Gyasi: Who are your favourite authors?

Julia Benally: I love Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Bram Stoker, Harold Bell Wright, Timothy Zahn, Gaston Leroux, Richard Adams, Michael Crichton, Charlotte Bronte and Jeffery Deaver.

Photo: A Shadow of Autumn

Photo: A Shadow of Autumn

Geosi Gyasi: Do you gain anything from writing?

Julia Benally: If I don’t write I go through withdrawal. I have to carry a notebook and pen with me everywhere I go. It makes me happy to write.

Geosi Gyasi: What books did you read as a child?

Julia Benally: I read “The Egypt Game” which made me interested in anything Egyptian. I read dinosaur books, books about space, The Babysitters Club, and Little Golden Books. I remember one was about Cinderella and before I could read, I memorized it because I made my mom read it to me a million times. People would come over and see a little three year old girl “reading” out loud from the book and they’d be so impressed. For me, those pages literally came to life because I could see the characters moving on the page. I’ve been reading The Chronicles of Narnia for as long as I could remember and I picked up Sense and Sensibility from the library when I was in second grade. It took me months to finish it.

Geosi Gyasi: What has been your greatest moment as a writer?

Julia Benally: I had been searching for the center of my manuscript Pariahs for months and months. I needed it so that when I wrote my query letter, I could tell the agent in one short paragraph what the book was about. And one day, it hit me. I knew what the center was. Despite being published several times, I’ve never felt anything so exhilarating as when I found that center. I even threw myself a little party.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific genre you write?

Julia Benally: With everything I do, a bit of horror always leaks in, except in the fiction pieces. I also love Fantasy. I can make up anything I want and make up any rule I wish.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you write using a notebook or computer?

Julia Benally: I use a notebook first and then I transcribe. On the computer I do all the editing and changes I need.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your future literary ambitions?

Julia Benally: I would like to be published in as many magazines as I can in lots of different genres. I would like to be known as a prolific writer and not a one hit wonder. My ultimate goal is to publish a series of books I’ve been working on since I was an outcast twelve years old. If I could be mentioned in the same breath as Edgar Rice Burroughs and the classic authors, it would be a dream come true. One day, I want people to see a rising and talented author walking down the street and say, “There goes another Julia Benally.” It would be fun to have an occult following too.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell me a little bit about where you live?

Julia Benally: I live on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. There’s a Wal Mart thirty minutes away and a Safeway fifteen minutes closer. In the other direction are the hunting and fishing and hiking. In summer it’s full of campers hogging my favorite places and making life miserable for everybody working in the restaurants in town. The reservation is so full of ghost stories and haunted areas there’s no wonder why most of my stories are horror. It sounds so small town, but it’s not quiet. The crime rate rivals L.A.’s, the cops are stretched to the breaking point and the FBI men who investigate the murders have to switch out every few years to go to therapy. This place can be called Beauty and the Beast.

Geosi Gyasi: Are you comfortable being referred to as a writer?

Julia Benally: Oh yes. I love it and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I don’t care if people get awkward on me about it. They’re the ones who are being ridiculous, not me, and I know it. Those kinds strike me as illiterate anyway.

END.

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