Friday, September 6, 2013

Interview with J.J DiBenedetto, Author of Dream Student!!

What would you do if you could see other people’s dreams? If you could watch their hidden fantasies and uncover their deepest, darkest secrets…without them ever knowing?

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.



  1. What do you love about writing?

I enjoy building a world and creating (what I hope are) three-dimensional characters to live in it. I know it probably sounds silly, but by now, after five books, I’ve come to think of my characters as real people, and when I write it’s almost like checking in with old friends rather than making things up.

  1. What made you want to be an author?

I’ve always been making up stories since I was a little kid, and I started writing in high school. But it’s only in the last year and a half that I really decided to try and put my work out into the world. I was inspired by a friend’s success in selling her first novel. I said, “why can’t I do it, too?” and I dusted off the old and not-so-great original draft of what would become “Dream Student” and got to work on it.

  1. How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing ever since high school (school paper, yearbook, short stories in the school literary magazine – if you can call 16 pages once a year a “magazine”), and then through college. After college, I wrote a novel, which was the original version of “Dream Student” but it really wasn’t that good and I put it aside. I finally came back to it last year and really applied myself, and now I’ve got five books out!

  1. What is your favorite genre to write?

I didn’t intend to, but I find myself writing what I guess you can call paranormal romance. I wouldn’t call it my favorite genre, but these characters are my favorite characters, and Sara’s story is my favorite story.

I really want to write science fiction, and I have a couple of ideas that have been in my mind since I was in junior high school, but I’ve never been able to get them on paper in a form that I’m happy with.

  1. What is your favorite genre to read?

Science fiction, definitely. I’m a huge fan. Although I’ll read just about anything.

  1. Who is your favorite author?  Why?

I can’t pick just one! My favorite book of all time is “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin. I’m a huge fan of Stephen R. Donaldson, and also of Alastair Reynolds as well.

  1. What is Dream Student about?

It’s about Sara, a college student who discovers that she can see other people’s dreams. She thought she was perfectly ordinary, and all cared about was doing well in her classes and getting into medical school – but then the dreams began.

Most of the dreams are of her friends or classmates, which she finds strange and sometimes a little uncomfortable (do you REALLY want to know what your roommate or the person down the hall is fantasizing about in their most secret thoughts?), and some of the dreams concern a guy who’s got a crush on her, and who she might have feelings for. But then there are the nightmares coming from the mind of someone who might be a serial killer…

  1. Who are the characters in Dream Student?

The main character is Sara Barnes. She’s a junior in college, and a very smart but somewhat reserved girl who’s mainly concerned with getting accepted to medical school next year.

Her best friend and roommate is Beth, a much more outgoing girl who does her best to pry Sara out of her shell.

The boy who’s dreaming about Sara is Brian, a freshman from the next dorm, who’s had a crush on Sara for a month now, but who’s even more reserved and shy than Sara is – although he’s also got strengths he didn’t even realize he had, until Sara brings them out in him.

  1. What was the inspiration for this series?

I had the basic idea – what if you could see other people’s dreams? And that quickly led me to what I could do with that idea. It’s the perfect excuse for not going to the authorities when you suspect a crime is happening – the only proof is in your head, in visions that you can’t prove, that nobody else would even believe. So if you want to do something about it, you have to do it yourself.

From that premise, Sara came out more or less fully formed – she hasn’t changed, really, from the initial idea of the story to now.

  1. What advice would you give an aspiring author like me?

Just keep writing. And don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it, because you can.

That, and remember that your job doesn’t end when the book is finished – it’s just beginning. Selling your book, whether it’s trying to sell it to an agent or publisher; or you’re self-publishing and trying to sell it directly, is a job every bit as big and as tough as writing the book in the first place, or even bigger and tougher.


J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve university, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.

He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.

The "Dreams" series is James' first published work.


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