Amber Benson Talks New Book, The Witches of Echo Park

You loved Amber Benson on Buffy The Vampire Slayer but Amber has been up to an awful lot since then and at this past New York Comic Con, I was lucky enough to sit down and talk to her all about it. Most recently, her book, The Witches of Echo Park released last week, two days before her birthday!

Happy Belated Birthday!

Now here’s my gift to all of you readers! Enjoy!

For those who haven’t picked up the book yet, do the witches have all of the power or all of the supernatural power?
There is supernatural power in the world and they are tapped into it… It’s less about “We’re doing crazy magic,” and it’s much more about being sensible…”How do I feel these things? How do I channel them to keep things in balance?” The first book is an introduction to a three book series so there’s a big bad entity called The Flood which basically wants to wipe all of humanity off of the face of the earth so those that are special are left behind and all of the others go away. I wanted to play with that a little.

Nice. So this is a trilogy? I’m wondering, are you planning any novellas in between each book?
We haven’t talked about that but I would love to do that! I love this world so much and I love writing these women. I wanted to write something that could pass the Bechdel test, make sure it wasn’t just women talking about dudes. It’s about women supporting each other and being there. They’re not perfect, they fight and have issues but in the grand scheme of things, they have each other’s backs and that’s important.

I was going to ask about the friendships. What was your favorite aspect about bringing the friendships to the forefront?
For me, I grew up having a lot of guy friends and in my 30s, I found these groups of women that were my soulmates, do you know what I mean? I wanted to write about that. To me, that was interesting. It’s about having each other’s backs, it’s about supporting each other. And the women that I’m friends with are all so different. They come from different walks of life, they grew up in different places, some are married, some are single, some are straight, some are gay, some have children, some don’t, some are artists, some are homemakers, you know. To me, that’s really important. I need that balance in my life and it was very important for me to create that balance, that safe place in the book.

In just the excerpt, I automatically fell in love with the imagery and the pacing. Was that easy or what were some of the challenges?
I wrote another series before this called The Calliope Reaper-Jones Series and they were super fun and light so what I wanted to do with The Witches of Echo Park was take it up a notch with like an Alice Hoffman feel. I wanted a literary feel and make it still accessible to everybody. I love words, I grew up reading literature. I love the way words feel and how they transport me to places so I worked really hard to create that magic.

It is magical, for sure and I love it. I also love the different points of views. What were some of the challenges you faced in making sure that each voice was distinct?
Oh, thank you! Well, more than making sure that each voice was distinct what was hard was to tell this story – it’s a large story. There’s a lot of stuff going on and it goes in and out of different times and so for me it was more about making sure that the perspective that I’m using to tell this part of the story made sense. The women are all slightly based off of my real friends, there are pieces of them. None of them are exactly alike but there are pieces so it was really easy to have them in my head while I was writing. I know their voices, I know how they are. So I stole from my friends. (laughs)

So I’m really interested in why you chose Echo Park for the location of the story of all of the places to pick.
I’m an East Sider. I live on the East Side of Los Angeles. Echo Park is really important to me, I love it. It’s so magical. You walk down the street and there are these stairs that lead to nowhere and there are these houses on the side of the hill that are only accessible by these meandering going to nowhere staircases. It’s botanic, as you walk down Sunset Blvd, you walk in the store and they’re selling saints candles and spells. There’s a very magical vibe to Echo Park. I walk down the street and I just feel like I’m somewhere special.

Now after Lyse finds out she has a destiny…do you think that she can also do what she wanted to do beforehand, whatever that may be?
I think right now she can’t but maybe as it continues on and the great overarching plot is resolved. I think she’ll be able to go back to the life that she wanted but I think she’ll be so changed that maybe she won’t want that life anymore.

I love that. Now, is there a line in the book when you were writing it, you thought, “That is awesome” and even when you see it now, you’re really happy about it?
(laughs) Well, it’s not so much a line… there’s a sex scene. It’s a ritual and it’s drug induced and there are antlers involved.

Wow, I think we should leave it at that.

(laughs) Yeah, I thought, “This is awesome and weird.”

And that, my friends, is my interview with the wonderful Amber Benson! Thank you SO much, Amber for your time. Stay tuned for my book review of The Witches of Echo Park later this week!

Amber Benson is what we call ‘a maker of things’. A prolific writer, she is the author of the five-book Calliope Reaper-Jones urban fantasy series for Penguin and the middle grade book Among The Ghosts for Simon and Schuster. Behind the camera, she co-directed the Slamdance feature film Drones and (co-wrote) and directed the BBC animated series The Ghosts of Albion. In her previous incarnation as an actor, she spent three years as ‘Tara Maclay’ on the cult television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer and later this year she will appear as head vamp ‘Amelie’ in Morganville: The Series for Geek & Sundry. Amber does not own a television.

The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson is in stores now.