Sara Barnes is about to find out. She thought that all she had to worry about was final exams, Christmas shopping and deciding whether she likes the cute freshman in the next dorm who’s got a crush on her.
But when she starts seeing dreams that aren’t hers, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about her friends, her classmates…and a strange, terrifying man whose dreams could get Sara killed.
“Dream Student” is the thrilling first installment of the Dreams series.
What’s your story about?
It’s about Sara Barnes, who we first meet as a college student in “Dream Student.” She’s pretty ordinary – shy, bookish, worried about classes and Christmas break and applying to medical school. And then she begins having very strange dreams – which is a big deal because, all her life, she’s never remembered her dreams. As the book progresses, she realizes that these dreams aren’t hers – she’s stepping into other people’s dreams. And one of those people might be a serial killer…
As the series progresses, Sara goes on to medical school and then on to becoming a doctor; she gets married and has children; and she continues to face difficult and sometimes deadly situations because of the dreams.
What genre would you consider your book?
I’d call it Paranormal Romance/Suspense
Give me some insight into your main character.
Sara’s really interesting. She’s got a huge heart and she’s extremely loyal. She’ll always do the right thing – her problem is figuring out what the right thing is! Sometimes the dreams she visits show her an obvious problem, with a clear (if difficult to accomplish) solution. But sometimes she has to figure out what the dreams mean, and even then there’s no simple answer to the problem they reveal. And picking up on interpersonal cues, body language, and so on is not her strong suit.
She’s also a little bit prone to overreaction, which also gets her into more than her share of trouble.
What makes your book different from others in its genre?
The Dream Series books combine mystery and the paranormal aspect of Sara’s talent for visiting other people’s dreams, with all the challenges of everyday life – things that anyone can relate to. Coping with family, stressful days at work, arguments with your spouse, all of that. I think I’ve done a good job of balancing all those elements in the books.
How did you come up with the title?
That took some work. For the longest time, I couldn’t settle on a title. Once I finished the final draft of the first book, I didn’t even plan on writing a second book, but the ending led straight into an obvious story for another book. And with two books, it made sense to have a common item for the titles. That became “Dream” and that led me to the title of the first book: she’s in college, so why not “Dream Student” and then book 2 immediately became “Dream Doctor”. The rest of the books followed similarly.
What’s your favorite part of it, without giving anything away of course?
I’ll give you something from each of the books…
In “Dream Student”, there’s a touching scene about midway through, where Sara has a heart-to-heart talk with her father about her new boyfriend.
In “Dream Doctor”, my favorite moment is Sara’s jealous freakout after she sees her (tall, blonde, gorgeous – and married) neighbor dreaming about seducing her husband away from her.
In “Dream Child”, it’s the scene in chapter one when Sara’s four-year-old daughter Lizzie explains how she “treated” a fellow train passenger who cut himself.
In “Dream Family”, which is a darker and more emotional book, my favorite part is chapter 15; I can’t say more without giving away spoilers. I love the whole chapter, I have to say.
In “Waking Dream”, I really enjoyed writing the flashback to Sara’s first kiss (which ends with her then-best friend ordering her to “get your tongue out of my brother’s mouth!”) followed shortly by a flashback to Sara’s mother attempting to give a 13-year-old Sara “the talk.”
In “Dream Reunion”, I really like the flashback to the moment back in college when Sara and Beth truly became friends; it’s something that was first mentioned in “Dream Doctor” and then referenced a couple more times in later books, but this is the first time it’s actually shown.
What are your writing ambitions?
First of all, just to keep writing, and to keep improving. I’d like to get my books in front of a bigger audience; I think they’re good enough, and relatable enough, that they can really take off and be a big success. I’d love to see them made into movies or a TV show, ultimately.
Do you outline and plot your book as you’re writing or does it go where it goes?
A little of each. I generally have an idea of the main plot, and what the ending will be. But how it gets there is not really mapped out, and sometimes the books take big turns I didn’t expect. “Dream Family” was originally supposed to be about a stranger who shares Sara’s ability to step into other people’s dreams (which is the plot of the next book, “Waking Dream”). I had an idea that at some point during the story, Sara would find herself spending a night in jail due to a misunderstanding. I planned to treat it as a minor roadblock to the plot, and possibly something she would laugh off later. But when I started writing the scene, it immediately became something different, and much darker. And I realized, THIS is what the books should be about – a really traumatic experience, where Sara is helpless and totally out of her depth, which seriously damages her, and how – or if – she can recover from it.
What is your favorite book?
“Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin. It’s just an amazing novel. It’s the most beautifully-written book I’ve ever read, and there’s just so much to it.
Are you self published or traditionally published? Do you wish you had gone about the process differently?
Self-published. I think I made the right choice, but I do wish I’d known more before I started. It would have been less expensive, and less stressful if I had.
When you aren’t writing, what do you do for fun?
Go to the opera; that’s one of my favorite things to do. Also, watch movies, read, cook, and – if my schedule and bank balance ever permit it, travel.
What's your biggest fear?
I don’t know – there are so many of them, it’s hard to pick just one! I’m very introverted, and I have a lot of social fears (maybe even phobias), so I’d have to say that.
Who is the most annoying character you've ever encountered in a book, on tv or in a movie?
Any character played by Gilbert Gottfried – I know that’s kind of the point of what he does, but he’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.
If you had Doctor Who's TARDIS, what time would you travel to?
New York City, October 14th, 1930
To be in the audience for the opening night of George Gershwin’s “Girl Crazy”. I love all the songs anyway, but look at who was on stage and in the orchestra that night: Ethel Merman, in her Broadway debut; Ginger Rogers, in the role that made her a star; Jimmy Dorsey , Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman all playing together in the orchestra pit; and George Gershwin himself conducting. As the man himself wrote, who could ask for anything more?
What's your secret guilty pleasure movie you don't want to admit you love?
“Tapeheads”. Directed by Mike Naismith (of The Monkees fame), starring a young Tim Robbins and John Cusack. It’s a ridiculous farce about the early days of MTV and music videos, and it’s absolutely hilarious.
What is your most prized material possession?
Used to have, unfortunately. I was given a tiny piece of moon rock that came from a meteor; according to the person who gave it to me, it was a piece of the oldest rock ever found on Earth…and two moves ago, it disappeared, and I haven’t ever found it, to my great regret.
If you could say anything to your readers, what would it be?
Where can we find you?
Amazon Author Page: http://viewAuthor.at/JJDiBenedetto