Getting to know an author – Lily Benitez, author of ‘Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior’. We were lucky to catch Lily for an interesting author interview in which she discussed her inspiration as well as more about her current book and upcoming work.
What inspired you to write Shinobi 7?
I’ve always loved to write, ever since I was a little kid. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I enjoyed to write humor and action/adventure genres. Humor because it’s fun to make people laugh. Action/adventure because I like to immerse myself into a fight scene and actually feel the adrenaline leap off the page.
However, the inspiration to write a theme-specific novel didn’t jump out at me until I started getting into ‘ninjas’. You could say it hit me like a brick, it was so sudden. I’ve watched a lot of anime when I was younger so I already had a liking for Japanese/manga influences.
A love for the ‘ninja way’ became a huge passion of mine. I had characters in my head and their adventures constantly played through my mind. I decided to finally jot down my characters and story through writing and drawings.
There was an interruption in my writing when my family moved me to Mississippi. I lived in Southern California all my life beforehand. Although there was a culture shock that came from moving from a big city to a country state, I remained optimistic about my future. Within six months of moving to MS I found a karate class in the small town. I really liked it at first and now I love it. The Shotokan Karate classes only fueled my writing, as well as gave me insight to the details of my fight scenes.
I would definitely say the Martial Arts in general is my biggest inspiration. It’s more than just fighting, it’s the hidden mythology and good sportsmanship of the Martial Arts. It’s certainly shaped me as an individual and through my endeavours.
Which authors have inspired you?
I will say J.K. Rowling for starters. Not only did I like the Harry Potter series but I respect the author because she did Harry Potter in her own unique style.
There are a few other authors I can list, however, I’m mostly inspired by other indie authors out there like me. I think it’s more than awesome that there are other people out there like me who write simply because they like to write. We may never get famous or make a lot of profit… but we do what we love because we love to do it. I find a wealth of inspiration and camaraderie from other independent authors like me.
What is your favourite book?
I have a lot of favorite book series like ‘Artemis Fowl’, ‘Shogun’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Hunger Games’, and ‘Cirque Du Freak’. But if I had to single out one book that I love to read countless times, I would say ‘Coraline’ by Neil Gaiman. That’s a very enchanting book and the movie was just as amazing.
What hobbies do you enjoy when you are not writing?
Karate is a big one I do. Anything that can be done outdoors, running, swimming, roller skating, etc. I enjoy being active outdoors when I’m not sat down indoors. Sometimes when I write too long I feel sedentary and I have to go out and get active.
I love to draw, whether it’s illustrating my series or scribbling down on some notebook paper, I love to convey the images in my head down in a picture. Sometimes I’ll draw a character from my book series, look at him/her for a long time, then realise the proportion is off. I’d say my writing is a tad better than my drawing.
Cooking/baking is another hobby of mine. My grandma taught me how to cook. I don’t have a certain ethnic speciality (although I am pretty good at Mexican food). What my grandma taught me was how to take numerous ingredients, throw them in a skillet with some spices and make it taste good. Of course she taught me how to make many other dishes but she really instilled ‘don’t waste food’ into my head. That’s a good thing.
Tell us a little more about your book.
Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior takes place in Shaaku Den, an alternate world that is in a time of war. There used to be a secret society of shinobi clans that were hidden in the wilderness and forests of Shaaku Den. War broke out into the world when two of the shinobi clans came together to make one singular force known as ‘Blackthorn’. The two leaders of Blackthorn, Black Rose and Rengoku, were able to bring down the other clans and have taken over towns and villages, taking a lot of innocent lives with them.
There is only one shinobi clan left to fight back— the Kitsune Clan. After overcoming a devastation from the disappearance of the clan’s grandmaster, Kitsune Golden Tail, the school has decided to open its doors and let new recruits in to train.
So starts the story of six young individuals; Kuroi, Hanran, Cassie, Tabby, Yami, and Luna. They make it into the Kitsune Clan and learn the daunting teachings of being a soldier. War is here and a battle against Blackthorn is coming. Can they step up and become the soldiers the Kitsune Clan needs to win the war?
Do you have a character who you like writing more than others, who is more relatable?
The character Luna is like my alter ego put on pages. She’s certainly the easiest character for me to write about. I’m not sure if I would count her since she resembles me.
So, I would say my second most relatable character is Cassie. She’s a gentle young girl who would never choose to harm another living thing. However because of past tragedy, she’s put into a situation where she has to fight and sees no other choice than to join the training school. The story has a lot of underdogs but I see Cassie as one of the main characters who overcome obstacles.
Although, I will say, because the story goes from 1st point of view to 1st point of view for each main character, the reader will get into the character’s head personally. Each character is personalised and I think different readers will relate with different characters. Some of my friends who are guys found the male characters to be relatable. It’s all depending on the individual reader, which I find really cool.
Where did you get your idea for the story of Shinobi 7?
As soon as I started to get invested into the ninja genre the idea of writing my own ninja story struck me. But I wanted to personalise it; I didn’t want the story to be about people who were already powerful warriors. I wanted to write about individuals who have to become the powerful warriors. The six main characters of Shinobi 7 aren’t legendary ninjas with impeccable abilities— that’s something they have to train and keep pushing towards.
What is your favourite place to write?
I wish I could write in a Japanese garden with the Cherry Blossom trees, green grass all around, blue pond with all the fish, complete with an antique bridge and ancient shrines.
Unfortunately, that’s not a possibility for me. So I write inside my bedroom at my desk. My room is the only place I get peace and quiet. Maybe one day I’ll visit a Japanese styled garden (or Japan in general) but for now I’m fine with my imagination.
Do you have any rituals or writing quirks?
I’m at my most creative early in the morning, so most of the time I have a cup of coffee with me when I write. I suppose that’s a ritual even though there are times when I write late at night or in the afternoons.
I do have a rule for myself when I write— only write when it’s inspirational and fun. If I find myself stuck on one part of my story I try not to stress or over-think it. I take a step back and allow my mind to wander. It doesn’t take long until an idea strikes me like lightning. Sometimes I’m surprised with myself and wonder, Whoa, did I come up with that? This idea is awesome! And then I start typing away. I don’t want any part of my story to feel forced.
Do you have a favourite quote/ life motto?
No official quotes from books or movies come to mind. But I’ll reiterate what my parents and grandma always tell me, “Do what you love and whatever makes you happy. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you do it the absolute best you can.”
Are you busy with another book?
Yes indeed. Before I published the first Shinobi 7 book, I finished writing my second Shinobi 7 book. Now I’m one book ahead and I’m glad I made that decision because I don’t have to worry about finishing the second installment and spend my time marketing and advertising my first book. Now I’m writing my third one here and there and if everything goes right, my third will be finished by the time my second one is published. If everything goes right, that is. I’m hoping for the best!
Below is a link where you can view and buy Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior – be sure to check it out!